These two branches of law were merged with the adoption of Protocols I and II in 1977. Today, some people claim that is ill-adapted to contemporary conflicts, but no specific suggestions have been made as to which rules should be replaced or modified, or what should be the content of any new rules. These people implicitly request that exceptions be made to the detriment of some persons (such as “terrorists”) and that the existing rules be softened when fighting enemies who systematically violate , in particular those who do not distinguish themselves from the civilian population. Others, however, hold that is not protective enough: according to them, rules on the use of force and on detention should be brought closer to those of human rights law and additional categories of weapons should be prohibited. Finally, some people wonder whether it is realistic to expect armed groups to implement the existing rules of the of non-international armed conflicts. In formal international forums, States nevertheless continue to discuss and adopt protective rules for additional categories of persons and additional prohibitions of means and methods of warfare.
For the contention that a treaty becomes binding upon all nations when a great majority of the world has expressly accepted it would suggest that a certain point is reached at which the will of non-parties to the treaty is overborne by the expression of a standard or an obligation to which the majority of States subscribe. The untenability of that view is quite clear in the case of treaties establishing the basic law of an international organization or laying down detailed rules concerning such matters as copyrights or customs duties or international commercial arbitration [...] Treaties of an essentially humanitarian character might be thought to be distinguishable by reason of their laying down restraints on conduct that would otherwise be anarchical. In so far as they are directed to the protection of human rights, rather than to the interests of States, they have a wider claim to application than treaties concerned, for example, with the purely political and economic interests of States. The passage of humanitarian treaties into customary international law might further be justified on the ground that each new wave of such treaties builds upon the past conventions, so that each detailed rule of the Geneva Conventions for the Protection of War Victims is nothing more than an implementation of a more general standard already laid down in an earlier convention, such as the Regulations annexed to Convention No. IV of The Hague. These observations, however, are directed to a distinction which might be made but which is not yet reflected in State practice or in other sources of the positive law.
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Whether, in the total, there is an effective “international order” is a question of perspective and definition. Order is not measurable, and no purpose is served by attempts to “grade” it in a rough impressionistic way. How much of that order is attributable to law is a question that cannot be answered in theory or in general, only in time and context. Law is one force – an important one among the forces that govern international relations at any time; the deficiencies of international society make law more dependent on other forces to render the advantages of observance high, the costs of violation prohibitive. In our times the influence of law must be seen in the light of the forces that have shaped international relations since the Second World War.