Legal opinion

Expert opinion on the non-renunciation of rights under international humanitarian law

Professor John Cerone|Published 14. Jul 2017
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is the applicable body of law in the case of belligerent occupation, such as the now fifty-year-long occupation of Palestine. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 includes in article 8 a clause of non-renunciation of rights, meaning that the protected persons under the convention cannot legally abdicate their rights. The Legal Expert Opinion by Professor John Cerone examines the meaning and scope of the non-renunciation principle.

The legal opinion tackles a series of questions concerning the extent to which relevant rules of international law impact the agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel; Whether rights are waivable under IHL; How this rule is applied to the duties of States and the duties and rights of individuals; and how the non-renunciation of rights should inform the work of impartial humanitarian and protection organizations. 

It concludes that any restriction of rights of protected persons, irrespective of motive, which is not expressly sanctioned by the Convention, would “adversely affect the situation of protected persons” and would therefore be barred by IHL. According to this interpretation, special agreements may not restrict human rights in a way that it not expressly permitted by the Convention.

Further, it demonstrates that to the extent the organization is mandated to assist in the protection and promotion of the rights of protected persons, it could provide a useful rule in monitoring compliance with the Conventions, giving primary consideration to the best interest of the individual protected person.