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The implementation of the legal rules governing the conduct of military hostilities is literally a matter of life and death. This subject briefly introduces the historical development of international humanitarian law and raises a series of questions around the effective implementation of the law.
- What is an armed conflict and how do we determine the legal character of a conflict?
- How do combatants distinguish between civilians and enemy combatants and how can protection for civilians in armed conflict—particularly women and children—be improved?
- Who can lawfully be targeted and killed and who can be detained?
- Which weapons are prohibited and which are permitted?
Principal topics include:
- The historical development of international humanitarian law and its rationale in a broader context
- The Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977 and developments in customary international law
- The unique role of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in armed conflict
- The relationship of international humanitarian law to other related areas of international law, such as arms control and disarmament, human rights, peacekeeping and international criminal law
- Implementation of the law through case studies
- Current issues for development of the law, such as the application of human rights law, the law of occupation and emerging technologies.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject should be able to:
- Critically examine and explain the historical development of the international legal rules, principles and institutions regulating the conduct of state and nonstate actors in armed conflict (i.e. International Humanitarian Law)
- Critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess the operation of the rules of international humanitarian law, and where relevant, other areas of international and domestic law
- Critically analyse the principal institutions for the implementation of international humanitarian law and the general legal framework that governs the conduct of hostilities in armed conflicts
- Independently research, analyse and engage with existing and emerging issues in the field such as military necessity, the application of human rights law, the law of occupation, the protection of victims of armed conflict and the regulation of new technologies of war
- Clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding the application of international humanitarian law in international and non-international armed conflicts to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences.
Last updated: 10 November 2023