Humanitys Law


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Teitel maintains that this framework is most evidently at work in the jurisprudence of the tribunals-international, regional, and domestic-that are charged with deciding disputes that often span issues of internal and international conflict and security. The book demonstrates how the humanity law framework connects the mandates and rulings of diverse tribunals and institutions, addressing the fragmentation of global legal order.


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Comprehensive in approach, Humanity's Law considers legal and political developments related to violent conflict in Europe, North America, South America, and Africa. This interdisciplinary work is essential reading for anyone attempting to grasp the momentous changes occurring in global affairs as the management of conflict is increasingly driven by the claims and interests of persons and peoples, and state sovereignty itself is transformed.

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Origins and Jurisprudence. An Emerging Transnational. The Practice of Humanity. Normative Directions. Humanity's Law Ruti G. For example, in her discussion of human security, Teitel sees convergence on a basic right to survival, regardless of whether one faces the threat of impoverishment and hunger or violence and persecution.

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Elsewhere, Teitel identifies the preservative core of humanity law with the preservation of communities. In some passages, Teitel also seems to identify the value of preservation with the survival of states and even the state-centric system itself in the face of destabilizing challenges. In accordance with the logic of humanitarian activism, humanity law seems to privilege rescue and protection in times of crisis over the pursuit of justice for past wrongs or demands for a broader range of rights. And in accordance with the logic of humanitarian law, humanity law also appears much more accommodating than human rights norms, avoiding confrontations aimed at altering internal governance in the interest of carving out a minimal set of protections and limitations on abuses of power.

However, the TRC explicitly relied on cate- gories derived from humanitarian law to narrow the scope of its mandate in an effort to alleviate ongoing political controversies. In theory, a human rights analysis would center on matters of internal governance and would have required critical scrutiny of the apartheid state with attention to an array of institutionalized and legalized abuses. To the extent that humanity law adopts the logic of humanitarian law, with its pragmatic minimalism and deference to power, this challenge remains somewhat muted.

The minimalism of humanity law enables it to generate consensus on basic protections and standards of treatment, but its emphasis on urgent relief and protection may also be Leebaw: Justice, Charity, or Alibi?

Geneva Conventions: Humanity’s bet against horror in armed conflict

Another way to examine the implications of this emphasis on protection and pres- ervation in humanity law is in relation to the rights of stateless peoples. Hannah Arendt famously wrote about the limitations of human rights as a response to the condition of stateless peoples during World War II. Instead of being empowered to act by human rights, those who lack political membership must then continue to rely on the charity of those who have the inclination or means to come to their rescue. He argues that in accordance with this framework, relief agencies seek to exert control over the popu- lation in the name of efficiency and technical success, rather than developing strategies for involving refugee populations in meaningful dialogue regarding governance of the camps.

More generally, Branch also observes that when a humanitarian intervention is justified in the language of crisis, and as an urgent response to human suffering, this will tend to imply that any kind of contestation, hesitation, or deliberation is somehow complicit in the suffering and therefore immoral. These observations underscore some of the Humanity Summer Teitel is very clear in warning that humanity law should not be confused with an idealistic vision of justice.

In this way, Teitel distances herself from certain variants of cosmopolitanism and legalism, while defending her central claim that humanity law is emerging as a distinctive norm, despite its many ambiguities. This minimalism, she suggests, gives coherence to the emerging norm of humanity law without eliding or denying politics.

Yet to the extent that humanity law retains the more expansive and idealistic rhetoric of human rights, it masks its own mini- malism, conflating justice with charity. However, she rejects the view that humanity law functions solely to regulate or limit violence and abuse.


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Humanity law, as Teitel portrays it, functions to obfuscate and legitimate some forms of violence even as it is mobilized to expose and condemn others. In her discussion of interna- tional criminal tribunals, Teitel warns that the expansion of humanity law has judicialized conflict in such a way as to mask the political dynamics of interventions, while simultaneously shifting attention away from political responses to conflict. Teitel raises additional concerns about the way that the ostensibly minimalist provisions of humanity law are invoked to justify the expansive and violent interven- tions.

More recently, the Security Council referred Libya to the ICC just as it was preparing a resolution for military intervention. She observes that there is a disconnect between the character of existing institutional mechanisms for authorizing multilateral inter- vention, such as the UN Security Council, and the values articulated in humanity law, adding that deliberative processes among state leaders are no guarantee that such proc- esses will provide an effective check on interventionism or that interventions will be just.

Teitel reminds readers that in the era following the Rwandan genocide and the Balkan conflicts, several prominent human rights advocates became ardent unilater- alists, dismissing multilateralism as fatally cumbersome in a context of crisis. She also notes that multilateral interventions are inherently shaped and limited by global imbalances of power and the elusiveness of consensus. Teitel observes that both Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush invoked human-centered discourse to justify violence. Although humanity law can serve as an alibi for those who wish to wage war, Teitel maintains that the same norms insist on jus in bello limitations and evaluate the justness of war in relation to its claims to protect civilians.

This is particularly significant in the context of counterterror wars, where war takes on a boundless char- acter. Teitel suggests here that humanity law places limits or provides certain checks on its own vulnerability to manipulation. Citing both internal and international responses to the U.

In this context, she quotes a speech made by General McChrystal before the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, in which he bemoaned the civilian death toll of the Afghan intervention, as well as its negative impact on the strategic goals of the troops stationed in Afghanistan. Her discussion of the U. It is difficult to read the quote from McChrystal regarding civilian casualties in Afghanistan, for example, without being reminded of the fact that civilian death tolls in both Afghanistan and Iraq have largely been hidden from the view of, or deemed irrelevant by, the U.

The U.

References in: Humanity's Law, Teitel , pp., $35 cloth - PhilPapers

Yet these minimalist provisions also concede a great deal. Although humanity rights are defined in relation to the goal of preserving human life, then, the protections found in the convergence of human rights and humanitarian law are not only minimalist but also fragile or tenuous, as compared with those found in the broader human rights framework. For this reason, some scholars have raised the concern that the merging of international humanitarian law and international human rights law will function to decrease basic protections by moving away from the stronger protections outlined in the human rights framework.

Humanity rights articulate protections that apply in the context of boundless war yet do not offer a clear basis for challenging the logic of endless war. In contrast, the human rights—centered approach has been mobilized to challenge the logic of endless war associated with counterterrorism by supplanting it with a criminal justice framework. However, as Teitel observes, this strategy is weakened by the way that international criminal justice institutions and the human Leebaw: Justice, Charity, or Alibi?

To the extent that humanity law accedes to or legitimates the violence of endless warfare, its efforts to minimize the most shocking or visible effects of war are likely to appear somewhat hollow. Rather, it is a way of saying that humanity law aids in defining the emergence of a new kind of order, that it represents a discernible departure from something that came before, and that it puts forth a new way of legitimating claims about power, authority, and community. As the rancorous debates about our own constitution convey, even long-established orders are available for different kinds of purposes, some of which may be emanci- patory, while others are manipulative and repressive.

Does humanity law offer a basis for the pursuit of justice and global community? Has it confused justice with charity? Or does it function as an alibi to legitimate global inequality and obfuscate the violence of powerful states?

Authors and Affiliations

In contrast, international relations realists and critical theorists tend to seize upon the appearance of such ambiguities in international law as evidence of its essentially insidious or inconsequential nature. For Teitel, the ambiguity, uncertainty, and internal tensions inherent in humanity law are aspects of its power, rather than its weakness, but also evidence of its avail- ability for multiple purposes and possibilities.

Private: Reshaping the Discourse of International Relations: An Excerpt from 'Humanity's Law'

Among the many ambiguities of humanity law, perhaps the most important has to do with its relationship to politics and political agency. The norms and practices that Teitel associates with the emer- gence of humanity law can appear profoundly antipolitical in character. Humanity rights seem to be placed primarily in the service of protecting and preserving human life, rather than fostering political empowerment and justice.

Victims do not necessarily claim political rights or an ability to pursue accountability for abuses of power but rather a minimal set of protections to preserve their lives. At the same time, Teitel develops an important theory of humanity law that is rooted in its inescapably political character. She insists that its legal institutions and Humanity Summer It strikes me that the role of humanity law as a basis for critical responses to violence will ultimately depend on such efforts to assert its potential to inform practices of political judgment, justice, and solidarity as against its minimalism and managerial antipolitics.

Teitel, European Journal of Interna- tional Law 23, no. Judith N. Shklar, Legalism Cambridge, Mass. Ruti G.

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Shklar, Legalism, Related Papers. By Bronwyn Leebaw. End Impunity! Sovereignty Transformed: a sociology of human rights. By Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider. Sovereignty transformed: a sociology of human rights1.

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