The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law

« Calling things by the wrong name adds to the affliction of the world. » Albert Camus.

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Inalienability of Rights

Certain rights—namely, those in the category of human rights—are inalienable, or non-renunciable. This means that a person cannot willingly renounce these rights. This principle also applies to humanitarian law. Persons protected by the Geneva Conventions may not, under any circumstance, renounce the rights secured for them by these Conventions, in part or in their entirety (GCI–III Common Art. 7, GCIV Art. 8).

Human rights conventions establish lists of inalienable rights that may not be infringed on in any manner; they correspond to “non-derogable” obligations upon States.

Fundamental guarantees

Any document, no matter what kind, that contains a renunciation of an individual’s fundamental rights is invalid.

Fundamental guaranteesHuman rightsInviolability of rightsNatural law, religious law and positive lawProtected persons

For Additional Information: Olivier, Clémentine. “Human Rights Between War and Peace.” In The Essential Guide to Human Rights , edited by C. van den Anker, p. 157 and following. London: Hodder, 2004.

Plattner, Denise. “International Humanitarian Law and Inalienable or Non-Derogable Human Rights.” In Non-derogable Rights and States of Emergency , edited by D. Prémont, 349–63. Brussels: Bruylant, 1996.

Prémont, D. Non-derogable Rights and States of Emergency . Brussels: Bruylant, 1996.

Shelton, Dinah. “International Law and ‘Relative Normativity.’” In International Law , edited by Malcolm D. Evans, 145–72. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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