International Human Rights Law and War Crimes

Clive Baldwin of Human Rights Watch has written a piece in yesterday’s Guardian entitled “Syria is bound by the laws of war.” Though I agree with much in this article, I’m not so sure about this claim:

“A key area in which many abuses take place in conflict is in the treatment of detainees, and so application of the law is critically needed here. Both IHL and international human rights law – which continues to apply at all times – protect all detainees, strictly prohibiting executions, torture and other abuse. The most fundamental principles of human rights law apply even during genuine emergencies, including the requirements that all detention is subject to judicial review and that only courts of law may try and convict people.”

First, it’s not obvious that international human rights law does continue to apply in times of war because of the law of occupation. Second, IHL already prohibits things like executions, torture, and many other abuses through the grave breaches provisions of the Geneva Conventions and expanded war crimes provisions of the ICC

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