Peoples have been fighting for self-determination and equality ever since the time of colonisation. The principles that inform the legitimacy of those struggles from the period of decolonisation until the present day, namely the principle of equality of peoples and of belligerents have variably received legal recognition under international and humanitarian law. Since the wars of national liberation against colonialism, the fights for internal self-determination until more recently the operationalisation of the doctrine on the Responsibility to Protect, both principles have either come closer or moved further apart. Various international legal, political, judicial and humanitarian institutions have shaped the content and interplay of these principles in response to the human suffering on the battlefield. This article will examine how competing sovereignty or community interests within distinctive political contexts have been responsible for such divergent evolution in their relationship.