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International Law of Armed Conflict (Level 5)


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 5
  • Convenor: Ali Raiss-Tousi
  • Assessment: a 3000-word essay (100%)

Module description

The law of armed conflict (also known as international humanitarian law) deals with the jus in bello, i.e. the law that governs the way in which warfare is conducted. It comprises a set of established rules that seek to protect persons and objects that are affected by armed conflict and to limit the rights of conflicting parties to use the methods of warfare of their choice. It is thus distinct from (and a natural companion subject to) the Public International Law and the Use of Force module which deals with the jus ad bellum, or the legal justification for recourse to force.

Our emphasis throughout this module is practical. Examples are taken from real conflict situations, and since the law reflects political imperatives and military necessity as well as humanitarian concerns, we will seek to examine how, in practical terms, respect for the rules could be improved.

Indicative syllabus

  • Historical development of the law of armed conflict, its contemporary legal basis and fundamental principles
  • Types of armed conflict
  • Individual status in armed conflict - combatants, participation in hostilities and POWs
  • Protection of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked
  • The law of belligerent occupation and the protection of civilians
  • Protection of the environment and cultural heritage
  • Targeting
  • Means and methods of warfare
  • Implementation, enforcement and accountability

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the principles that define the law of armed conflict
  • identify sources of the law of armed conflict
  • identify key legal issues arising in this area
  • understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of international humanitarian law and its enforcement mechanisms.