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Non-Application of Civil and Political Rights Treaties Extraterritorially During Times of International Armed Conflict


Do the protections provided by the core international human rights treaties apply extraterritorially, outside the government-governed relationship, during periods of armed conflict and military occupation? The traditional view has been that human rights are essentially applicable in peacetime while humanitarian law (i.e. the law of war) governs situations of armed conflict and military occupation. More recently, a conflicting school of thought, reflected in decisions of the ICJ and the UN treaty bodies, has concluded that the law of war no longer automatically excludes the law of peace. But, while these views are entitled to respect, the international human rights instruments (unlike the regional human rights instruments) do not grant the treaty bodies or any other entity the authority to issue legally binding views on the nature of state obligations under the treaties. Applying the standard rules for treaty interpretation leads to the conclusion that the international human rights treaties apply in the context of armed conflict only with respect to acts of a state's armed forces executed within its own territory.

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Theodor Meron , The Humanization of Humanitarian Law, 94 Am. J. Int'l L. 239, 240–41 (2000)

Michael Dennis , New Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 94 Am. J. Int'l L. 789 (2000)

Michael Dennis , Application of Human Rights Treaties Extraterritorially, 99 Am. J. Int'l L. 127-29, 131-32, & 139–41 (2005)

Theodor Meron , Extraterritoriality of Human Rights Treaties, 89 Am. J. Int'l L. 78, 79 (1995)

Theodor Meron , Applicability of Multilateral Conventions to Occupied Territories, 72 Am. J. Int'l L. 542, 550 (1978)

Adam Roberts , Prolonged Military Occupation: The Israeli-Occupied Territories Since 1967, 84 Am. J. Int'l L. 44, 99 (1990)

David J. Scheffer , Beyond Occupation Law, 97 Am. J. Int'l L. 842, 859–60 (2003)

Kenneth Watkin , Controlling the Use of Force: A Role for Human Rights Norms in Contemporary Armed Conflict, 98 Am. J. Int'l L. 1, 2628 (2004)

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Israel Law Review
  • ISSN: 0021-2237
  • EISSN: 2047-9336
  • URL: /core/journals/israel-law-review
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