Human Rights and Humanitarian Law As Competing Legal Paradigms for Fighting Terror
COLLECTED COURSES OF THE ACADEMY OF EUROPEAN LAW, HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW, VOL. XIX/1, Orna Ben Naftali, ed., Forthcoming
28 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2009
Date Written: November 11, 2009
In a recent article on the interplay between international law and politics, Marti Koskenniemi wrote that "much about the search for political direction today takes the form of jurisdictional conflict, struggle between competing expert vocabularies, each equipped with a specific bias" and that "[p]olitical intervention is today often a politics of re-definition, that is to say, the strategic definition of a situation or a problem by reference to a technical idiom so as to open the door for applying the expertise related to that idiom, together with the attendant structural bias." The "war on terror" in the first decade of the Twenty First Century exemplifies such political struggles over the governing legal paradigm. Not only is the meaning of the term "terrorist" itself controversial; the legal framework governing the fight against terrorism is also highly contested, and features an intense struggle between a human rights centered "law enforcement" paradigm and a more aggressive humanitarian law based "armed conflict" paradigm. Describing the paradigm struggle in Koskenniemic terms not only reveals, once again, the potential for the strategic use of the law; it also exposes the meta-differences between human rights law and humanitarian law. The considerable political capital and legal efforts invested in jockeying between the two competing paradigms casts doubt on the increasingly common narrative of the growing merger between human rights law and humanitarian law and the irrelevance of distinguishing between the two. Moreover, it is now clearer than before that the ideological tensions between the two camps supporting the competing paradigms cannot be avoided even if a mixed paradigm were to be developed to govern the fight against terror (as is increasingly alleged). Such a development may simply lead to the channeling of the same ideological struggles that had been held over the choice of paradigm to disagreement on the contents and direction of the new mixed paradigm. In Part One of this Chapter, I describe the jurisdictional struggle between the two principal legal paradigms that purport to regulate the international fight against terror: The law enforcement and the armed conflict paradigms. Arguably, many disagreements concerning the lawfulness of specific counter-terrorism, such as targeted killings or detention without trial, are actually disagreements on the applicable legal framework and the stories on the nature of the threat of terrorism that is being offered. In Part Two, I consider the emergence of a mixed paradigm which borrows contents from both human rights law and humanitarian law. I argue that such normative cross-over illustrates the difficulty of maintaining rigid paradigmatic distinctions in light of the complexities of the fight against terror; but also that some key differences in emphasis between the two paradigms nonetheless remain. Most significantly, I argue that the development of a new mixed paradigm merely re-contextualizes preexisting jurisdictional struggles over the proper legal framework to govern the fight against terror. Part Three concludes.
Keywords: international law, human rights, HRL, humanitarian law, terror, fighting terror, legal paradigms, politics, war on terror
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