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One of the most important areas of international law is the law regulating recourse to and the use of force. It is a unique body of law comprising two separate and distinct bodies of rules: the jus ad bellum, which is the law governing the legality of the resort to force, and the jus in bello, which is the law regulating the conduct of hostilities. The jus in bello is also referred to as humanitarian law, the law of armed conflict, or the laws of war. The law of armed conflict is a body of rules that was developed to protect the most vulnerable groups during armed conflict and to mitigate the deleterious effects of the methods of warfare.

The course is designed to provide an overview of the fundamental principles of the law of armed conflict (or international humanitarian law). It will place international humanitarian law within public international law more generally, and delineate its relationship to other areas of international law (such as the international law of human rights). Specifically, the course will cover the principles and rules relating to the protection of individuals during armed conflict, as well as rules relating to the means and methods of warfare, including weapons issues. We will also explore issues relating to the implementation and international and national enforcement of international humanitarian law.

Main Topics

  • the position of international humanitarian law within public international law
  • the relationship between rules related to the right to use force and international humanitarian law
  • the historical development of international humanitarian law norms
  • the principles determining the rules applicable in different conflict situations, or issues of classification of conflicts
  • rules related to the protection of persons during armed conflict, as well as situations of violence not amounting to armed conflict
  • rules and principles regarding the means and methods of warfare, including weapons issues
  • the relationship between international humanitarian law and international human rights law
  • implementation and enforcement of international humanitarian law,  including a brief overview of the international tribunals for the former  Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and the International Criminal Court, as well as  national enforcement of international humanitarian law
  • challenges and potential new directions for international humanitarian law, including issues raised by terrorism,
  • the role of the ICRC and the Red Cross Movement in armed conflict, and the work of governments, other international organisations and NGOs.
Faculty Faculty of Law
Study Level


Offering Terms

Term 2



Indicative contact hours


Course Outline

To access course outline, please visit:


Pre-2019 Handbook Editions

Access past handbook editions (2018 and prior)

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