In Search of Humanity: The Moral and Legal Discrepancy in the Redress of Violations in International Humanitarian Law

Steven van de Put*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Both international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) make extensive references to humanity. Yet the role attributed to humanity differs between the two. Humanity is seen in IHRL as the source of the rights, whereas in IHL it is interpreted as a moral obligation to avoid harm. This article challenges this perspective. Relying upon contemporary interpretations of IHL, it will be argued that, in a moral sense, IHL matches up closely with IHRL. Crucial here is that humanity, rather than reflect a utilitarian perspective to avoid harm, is worded in stronger terms. To reflect this accurately, it is argued that IHL is best seen as a reflection of TM Scanlon's contractualism as opposed to utilitarian reasoning. Relying upon the similarities in moral reasoning visible in both bodies of law, the article argues that this should also be reflected when it comes to redress for violations. In a concrete sense, the argument here is that this also presents a moral requirement to recognise individual claims within IHL. To give legal effect to this moral demand, it is suggested that IHRL might play a role in bridging the gap between the moral and legal considerations in IHL.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalIsrael Law Review
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Mar 2023


  • international humanitarian law (IHL)
  • redress
  • international human rights law (IHRL)
  • moral philosophy
  • contractualism

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