International Humanitarian Law (LAWM684)

Staff - Convenor
Credit Value15
Academic Year2012/3
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

To undertake a detailed study of International Humanitarian Law, with particular emphasis on the protections available to civilians in the context of armed conflicts and related complex emergencies. This module will focus on the various legal instruments (including relevant case-law) applicable at the international, regional and national levels. Our approach will necessarily be a critical one and ultimately lead to a considered view of the practical effectiveness of this body of law.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate detailed knowledge of the core principles and case-law that defines International Humanitarian Law;
  • 2. demonstrate a detailed understanding and critically analyse the impact of International Humanitarian Law norms and case-law on domestic law;
  • 3. demonstrate a detailed understanding and critically analyse the theory and practice of the International Criminal Courts and Tribunals in their interpretation of Humanitarian Law norms;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. effectively use primary and secondary sources of International Humanitarian Law;
  • 5. apply general principles of public international law to International Humanitarian Law;
  • 6. identify key legal issues arising in this area as well as practical problems generated by a particular instrument;
  • 7. address contemporary issues in International Humanitarian Law and policy with reference to an array of legal and non-legal material

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. engage in independent and group research, including presentation in written and oral form for group discussion;
  • 9. research, study, identify and organize material in order to produce arguments that are coherent and complex while complying with strict timelines.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover the following topics:

  •         Introduction to International Humanitarian Law, the Hague Law and the Geneva Law

  •         Armed conflict and means of warfare

  •         Combatants and Civilians

  •         Violations of International Humanitarian Law: Grave Breaches and War Crimes

  •         Enforcement of International Humanitarian Law

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning & Teaching Activities 155 x 3 hour seminars: The main teaching method for the first term consists of fortnightly seminars requiring active participation by all students under guidance of the course tutor. All students should read the seminar paper in advance as well as study the material recommended on the tutor's handout.
Guided Independent Study 35Preparation of seminar paper For each seminar at least one student will research, write and present an introductory paper on the seminar topic to the rest of the group.
Guided Independent Study 45Preparation of assigned seminar readings (including seminar paper)
Guided Independent Study 55Preparation of the assessed/summative essay

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar Paper: A seminar paper, forming the basis of a presentation to the group, which is formatively assessed and does not count towards the end-of-module summative assessment. .The seminar paper itself should be no more than 4,000 words . 1-7, 9Oral (module convenor and seminar group) and individual oral feedback from the module convenor.
Oral Seminar Presentation: an oral presentation to the seminar group on the basis of the seminar paper as prepared and submitted to the class The presentation may be up to one hour and students are encouraged to use relevant A/V and IT resources including PowerPoint slides, film/audio clips, etc.1-8Oral (module convenor and seminar group) and individual oral feedback from the module convenor.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written Essay1003,750 words1-9Written with percentage grade

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written EssayWritten Essay (3,750 words)1-9August/September assessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Fleck, Dieter (ed), The Handbook of Humanitarian Law in Armed Conflicts, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, 2009.

Green, Leslie C., The Contemporary Law of Armed Conflict, Third Edition, Juris Publishing, Manchester University Press, 2008.

International Committee of the Red Cross, Commentary of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, Geneva: International Committee of the Red Cross, 1989.

Sandoz, Yves, Swinarski, Christophe and Zimmermann, Bruno (eds), Commentary on the Additional Protocols of 8 June 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative web based resources e.g. Webct:

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC):

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia Sources:

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Sources:

Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Sources:

International Criminal Court Sources:

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

American Journal of International Law (AJIL)

European Journal of International Law (EJIL)

International and Comparative Law Quarterly (ICLQ)

International Review of the Red Cross

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date

March 2012

Key words search

International Humanitarian Law; Geneva Convention; Hague Convention; Law of Armed Conflict; International Law; Red Cross; ICRC