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Norms of Protection

Responsibility to Protect, Protection of Civilians and their Interaction

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A series of humanitarian tragedies in the 1990s (Somalia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Kosovo) demonstrated the failure of the international community to protect civilians in the context of complex emergencies. These brought to life two norms of protection – Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and Protection of Civilians (POC) – both deeply rooted in the empathy that human beings have for the suffering of innocent people. Both norms raise concerns of misinterpretation and misuse. They are developing – sometimes in parallel, sometimes diverging and sometimes converging – with varying degrees of institutionalization and acceptance. This book engages in a profound comparative analysis of the norms and aims to serve policy-makers at various levels; practitioners with protective roles; academics and researchers; civil society and R2P and POC advocates.

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Interaction of the norms of protection

Norms and laws originate in various backgrounds and traditions, they advance historically in parallel and often overlap and interact. Questions arise as to whether, how and when their interaction is beneficial or counter-productive for international law and for world peace. In editing a major recent volume, Roberta Arnold and Noelle Quenivet (2008) looked comprehensively at this issue. They argued in favour of the complementarity of international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights law (HRL), but at the same time they acknowledged possible risks. They did not go so far as to advocate a “merger” of the two branches of law, as the title of the book provocatively suggested. They correctly concluded “that IHL and HRL are two distinct categories with their specific aims and fields of application. However, particularly in grey area situations such as military occupation or insurgencies, their complementary application may guarantee the respect of the rule of law” (ibid.: 592). Contributing a chapter for the same volume – on the protection of children as the most vulnerable group in the population – I argued in a similar way, that overlap between IHL and HRL could be problematic, but it could also be beneficial

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