‘Human rights’ is an exceptionally strong brand name. In comparison with this giant, international criminal law and international humanitarian law are little-known dwarves. In everyday discourse, as well as in writings by scholars from outside the law, human rights often seems to absorb international criminal law and/or international humanitarian law. For example, in contemporary critiques of the human rights project, criticism of the International Criminal Court holds a central place, regardless of the fact that it is not, as such, a human rights body. In other situations, the lines between human rights law and its next-door neighbours are blurred or contested. A prominent example is found in discussions of the ‘war on terror’.
Hence, when human rights lawyers explore the reality of fragmentation and the desirability of integration within the context of human rights law, it is meaningful to include in the scope of the analysis those parts of the broader human rights project that are, technically speaking, hosted by other legal disciplines. There is such a thing as human rights law ‘in the broad sense’.
This is why a research project on ‘The Global Challenge of Human Rights Integration’, sponsored by the Belgian Federal Science Policy (BELSPO, 2012 – 17), included a work package that focused on ‘the fuzzy borders of human rights law’. At the project's flagship conference in Ghent in December 2015, this resulted in a track on ‘Convergence and Divergence between International Human Rights Law and Other Branches of International Law’. A selection of the papers that were presented in that conference track has now been assembled in this volume.
In promoting scholarship that adopts a holistic perspective of the (broad) human rights project, the ‘Human Rights Integration’ project is not pursuing an agenda of unification. Its aim is much more modest and nuanced. An integrated human rights protection system is a human rights system in which the different actors, operating at different levels of jurisdiction, and with different mandates and specialisations, nevertheless share an awareness of being part of that bigger project, and reflect upon their role in it and their relationship to other nodes in the same network.