Lex specialis

Lex specialis, in legal theory and practice, is a doctrine relating to the interpretation of laws and can apply in both domestic and international law contexts. The doctrine states that if two laws govern the same factual situation, a law governing a specific subject matter (lex specialis) overrides a law governing only general matters (lex generalis).[1] The situation ordinarily arises with regard to the construction of earlier-enacted specific legislation when more general legislation is later passed. However, then, the doctrine called "lex posterior derogat legi priori" may also apply, the younger law overriding the older law.[2]

It can be assumed that the legislators planned to override the previous legislation. There is also a view that conflicts of norms should be avoided by a systematic interpretation.[3] The principle also applies to construction of a body of law or single piece of legislation that contains both specific and general provisions.

The name comes from the full statement of the doctrine, a legal maxim in Latin: Lex specialis derogat legi generali.

See also


  1. International Principle of law Trans-Lex.org
  2. Zeller, Auslegung von Gesetz und Vertrag (Interpretation of law and contract; also Karl Larenz, Methodenlehre
  3. Yun, Seira (2014). "Breaking Imaginary Barriers: Obligations of Armed Non-State Actors Under General Human Rights Law – The Case of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child". Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies. 5 (1–2): 213–257. SSRN 2556825.