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Protection Norms and Human Rights: A Rights-Based Analysis of the Responsibility to Protect and the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

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In the international context, human rights are rarely secured by the black letter of law, but rather by the soft laws, political policies and moral prescriptions of protection norms. Two key international protection norms are the well-established Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (PoC) and - recently added in the last decade - the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). Yet there is substantial confusion about the specific nature of these two norms, their relationship to one another, and their relationship to the human rights that are held to ground and shape each of them. These questions are complex not merely because there are several distinct PoC norms, nor because all these norms differ one from another. The complexity arises because the relevant differences apply to separate dimensions of each norm. In this way it is possible for a norm to be in one sense narrower than another, yet in another sense to be deeper, and in distinct further senses to be both broader and weaker. With such intricacies in mind, this paper develops a five-dimensional rights-based analysis of norms and uses it to differentiate RtoP from three separate PoC norms, and to illustrate the distinct ways each protection norm provides multi-layered rights protection.


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