In recent years, many international lawyers and scholars have noted a substantial convergence between international human rights law (“IHRL”) and international humanitarian law (“IHL”). This convergence is due in large measure to the distressing proliferation of violent internal armed conflicts in many parts of the world. Whether in Cambodia, El Salvador or Sierra Leone, these conflicts have served to highlight the chief inadequacies of IHRL and IHL and have, as a consequence, provoked discussion about how such inadequacies ought to be remedied so as to afford better protection to the millions of victims of such conflicts. Among the chief concerns in this debate is the prevailing confusion about the proper application of IHRL and IHL in the context of such conflicts, since many people continue to think that IHRL only applies in times of peace, and that only IHL applies in times of war. This confusion is compounded by the seeming absence in contemporary international law literature of any straightforward analysis of the interplay between the norms and institutions relevant to IHL and IHRL protections in the context of such conflicts.
Accordingly, this paper attempts to tackle this issue and begin to fill the gap in the legal literature by providing a modest but cogent account of the normative and institutional interplay between IHRL and IHL in the context of internal armed conflicts. The paper itself will be divided into three main sections: (i.) an analysis of the different types of conflict that are recognized under international law; (ii.) an examination of the applicable norms of IHL and IHRL in the context of internal armed conflicts; and (iii.) a brief review of the principal institutions with competency to provide redress for violations of IHL and IHRL committed in the course of such conflicts.
However, before proceeding, a few brief remarks must be made about the scope and design of the paper. First, this paper focuses exclusively on the provisions of IHL that relate to the protection of victims of internal armed conflicts, and does not examine the provisions of IHL that relate to the conduct of hostilities in such conflicts. Second, this paper deals with treaty-based sources of IHL and IHRL, and does not generally examine customary international law or jus cogens norms. Third, this paper focuses exclusively on international legal norms, and does not deal with any comparable protections under regional or national laws. Lastly, as an aid to the reader, this paper contains an appendix that sets out the principal acronyms and abbreviations used throughout the paper, together with their definitions.