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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. Unfortunately, these rules are frequently violated during armed conflicts and this gives rise to the further question of how these rules can be effectively enforced.

Main Topics

  • History and scope of the law of armed conflict (including customary international humanitarian law)
  • Types of conflict and thresholds of applicability of the law: (i) international conflict; (ii) non-international armed conflict; (iii) self-determination movements; (iv) internationalized armed conflict
  • Law on the conduct of hostilities: (i) non-combatants; (ii) wounded, sick and shipwrecked; (iii) humanitarian personnel and the protective emblem; (iv) combatants and prisoners of war: status and treatment; (v) spies, mercenaries; (vi) methods of combat; (vii) means of combat; (viii) issues: nuclear weapons, arms control & disarmament, culture, environment
  • The problem of terrorism and terrorists: status, rights, asymmetrical warfare, necessity, and assassination
  • The law of occupation
  • The relationship between human rights law & humanitarian law
  • Implementation, responsibility and enforcement
Faculty Faculty of Law
Study Level


Offering Terms

Term 1



Indicative contact hours


Course Outline

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Pre-2019 Handbook Editions

Access past handbook editions (2018 and prior)

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