The Law of Armed Conflict

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
School of Law

Module overview

This half unit module provides an introduction to the law of armed conflict (international humanitarian law).  It will examine the history and sources of international humanitarian law, its relationship with the ius ad bellum, and the basic principles that have governed its development (such as the principles of distinction and proportionality).

Beyond the basic principles, it will examine a range of contemporary challenges to the law of armed conflict such as the problems inherent in and importance of classifying conflicts, privileged and unprivileged belligerents, the protection of the civilian population, and the regulation of means and methods of warfare. Emphasis will also be placed upon the relationship between international humanitarian law and human rights law.

The assigned readings will focus on various ways to think about the legal regulation of violence and on the history of legal efforts to organize and institutionalize international affairs. This module is designed to complement other modules offered within the international law subject grouping.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Ability to subject to critical analysis the sources of international humanitarian law and the key elements of English-language scholarship
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the history of ideas, legal doctrines and institutional structures developed to restrict the means and methods of warfare
  • Demonstrate an ability to think critically about the role international law may play in the limitation and legitimation of violence
  • Articulate and appraise different ideas, concepts, and approaches to international humanitarian law through concise yet sophisticated written and oral interventions
  • Carry out independent research in the field of international law using both library–based and electronic resources


  • Weekly 2-hour seminar

Method of assessment

  • Unseen written exam: 60% (2 hours)
  • Short Essay: 40% (2000 words)

Suggested reading

  • Turns D: The law of armed conflict (international humanitarian law) In: Evans M (Ed): International law, Oxford UP: Oxford: 2014, 4th edn
  • Henckaerts J-M, Study on customary international humanitarian law: a contribution to the understanding and respect for the rule of law in armed conflict, 857 International Review of the Red Cross 175 (2005)
  • Greenwood C: The relationship between ius ad bellum and ius in bello
    9 Review of International Studies 221 (1983)
  • Rogers AVP: Combatant status in Wilmshurst E Perspectives on the ICRC Study on customary international and Breau S (eds): humanitarian law, Cambridge UP:Cambridge: 2007
  • Epps V: Civilian casualties in modern warfare: the death of the collateral damage rule
    Suffolk University Law School Legal Studies Research Paper 1—39 (2011)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.