The Role of International Human Rights Law in the Interpretation of the Fourth Geneva Convention

Israel Yearbook on Human Rights, Vol. 52, 2022

27 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2022

Date Written: July 11, 2022


This article examines the role of international human rights law (IHRL) in the interpretation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. At their core, both sets of rules are dedicated to protecting the inherent dignity of the human person. In addition, the adoption of the Fourth Convention in 1949 as well as the ongoing development of IHRL since the end of the Second World War both reflect the growing humanization of international law. In many ways, therefore, the said rules pull in the same direction and they reinforce each other in situations of parallel application.

Against that background, this article argues that the Fourth Geneva Convention, as an international treaty, must be interpreted in light of the entire framework of applicable international law, which includes IHRL. Reliance on the prescriptions of IHRL treaties, however, is contingent on their scope of application and ratification status. To the extent that this co-application reveals conflict between rules from the two regimes, this must be resolved by recourse to established principles of conflict resolution, including the principle of lex specialis, by which a more specific legal norm takes precedence over a more general one.

Building on these general considerations, the article then argues that the role of IHRL in the interpretation of the Fourth Convention differs based on the specific context governed by that Convention. It probably carries the greatest weight in a State’s own territory, as confirmed by the renvoi to all ‘provisions concerning aliens in time of peace’ found in Article 38 of the Convention. However, IHRL also provides important normative clarification and additional protection in situations of belligerent occupation and in detention contexts.

Keywords: armed conflict, civilians, human rights, IHL, IHRL, lex specialis, occupation

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Mačák, Kubo, The Role of International Human Rights Law in the Interpretation of the Fourth Geneva Convention (July 11, 2022). Israel Yearbook on Human Rights, Vol. 52, 2022, Available at SSRN:

Kubo Mačák (Contact Author)

University of Exeter ( email )

Northcote House
The Queen's Drive
Exeter, Devon EX4 4QJ
United Kingdom
+44 1392 72 5607 (Phone)


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