IRRC No. 242

State of Emergency and Humanitarian Law — On Article 75 of Additional Protocol I

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In a rich and abundant literature on the subject of international humanitarian law, two trends in the interpretation of the term “humanitarian law” stand out: one takes it in its broad meaning, the other in a narrow sense. According to the definition by Jean S. Pictet, humanitarian law, in the broad interpretation, is constituted by all the international legal provisions, whether written or customary, ensuring respect for the individual and the development of his life. Humanitarian law includes two branches: the law of war and human rights. The law of war, still following Professor Pictet's definition, can be subdivided into two sections, that of The Hague, or the law of war, in the strict sense, and that of Geneva, or humanitarian law, in the narrow sense. It is often difficult to distinguish clearly between these branches of law, and especially between the law of The Hague and the law of Geneva, because of the reciprocal influence each has had on the development of the other, to the extent that some well-known experts considered the traditional difference between them out-of-date and superfluous.

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