International Law of Armed Conflict

The details
Essex Law School
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
27 May 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for

LLM M20012 International Humanitarian Law,
LLM M20024 International Humanitarian Law

Module description

The risk of both individual and large-scale violations of human rights is perhaps greatest in time of armed conflict, whether internal or international. Rules of international law have been designed to protect vulnerable groups not taking part in the hostilities and to regulate the conduct of the fighting to reduce, so far as possible, the risk to civilians, while taking account of military necessity.

The module starts with an introduction to the concept of legal regulation of war and the general underlying principles, to provide a context. This is followed by an examination of the classification of armed conflict and the different types of conflict recognised in international law. Then follows a detailed examination of the law on the conduct of operations and weapon use before turning to the rules designed to protect the 'victims of war'. The module includes a class examining the means available to prevent and to punish violations of the rules, and ends with a consideration of the interplay between the regimes of human rights and humanitarian law.

The emphasis throughout the module is practical. Examples are taken from real conflict situations. Since the law reflects not only humanitarian concerns but also political imperatives and military necessity, the module seeks to examine how, in practical terms, respect for the rules could be improved.

Module aims

The aim of the course is to gain an understanding of the principles and rules of international law applying to armed conflicts, also known as International Humanitarian Law.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the course, the students will be expected to have achieved the following:

1. Discuss and evaluate the role and nature of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC)
2. Explain and apply the rules governing the conduct of hostilities.
3. Explain and evaluate the protection of civilians under LOAC
4. Discuss the implementation and enforcement of LOAC
5. Understand the distinction between LOAC and international human rights law
6. Apply the relevant principles of LOAC to specific cases

Module information

Course outline. This can be subject to change.

Seminar 1
The Principles of International Humanitarian Law

Seminar 2
The Classification of Armed Conflict

Seminar 3
Conduct of Hostilities 1 (military objectives, proportionality)

Seminar 4
Conduct of Hostilities 2 (use of weapons)

Seminar 5
Individual Status in the Conduct of Hostilities: Civilians and Combatants

Seminar 6
Detention in Armed Conflict

Seminar 7
Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked; the Laws of Occupation

Seminar 8
Implementation of IHL, War Crimes, and the Mechanisms of Justice

Seminar 9
LOAC and Human Rights Law

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be taught via weekly 2-hour seminars. The module teaching team will upload all relevant teaching materials on Moodle. You will find reading lists, the textbook, weekly handouts or PPS notes on Moodle. The materials in question are designed both to help you navigate the material to be covered in the seminars and to equip you to analyse the required readings. You will be expected to have completed the required readings in advance of your seminars.


  • (no date) Occupation and other forms of administration of foreign territory: expert meetings report - ICRC., pp.16-49
  • (no date) Hague Regulations.
  • (no date) Geneva Convention III.
  • (no date) Declaration of St Petersburg 1868.
  • (no date) 'Summary of the Airstrike on the MSF Trauma Center in Kunduz, Afghanistan on October 3, 2015; Investigation and Follow-on Actions', United States Central Command..
  • Henckaerts, Jean-Marie; Doswald-Beck, Louise; International Committee of the Red Cross. (2005) Customary international humanitarian law: Volume 1: Rules, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • (no date) Al-Skeini v. The United Kingdom, Judgment, European Court of Human Rights, Application No. 55721/07, 7 July 2011.
  • (2016) Routledge handbook of the law of armed conflict, Abingd: Routledge. vol. Routledge handbooks
  • (no date) Geneva Conventions.
  • (no date) Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, I. C. J. Reports 2004.
  • Prud'homme, Nancie. (2007) 'Lex Specialis: Oversimplifying a More Complex and Multifaceted Relationship', in Law Journal Library. vol. 40, pp.356-
  • (no date) Interpretive guidance on the notion of direct participation in hostilities under international humanitarian law - ICRC.
  • (no date) How is the Term "Armed Conflict" Defined in International Humanitarian Law?.
  • (no date) Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War (Protocol V to the 1980 Convention), 28 November 2003.
  • (no date) Al-Jedda v. The United Kingdom, Judgment, European Court of Human Rights, Application No. 27021/08, 7 July 2011.
  • Centcom Report on the Kunduz Hospital Attack: Accounting for a Tragedy of Errors - Lawfare, https://www.lawfareblog.com/centcom-report-kunduz-hospital-attack-accounting-tragedy-errors
  • Rogers, A. P. V. (2012) Law on the battlefield, Manchester: Manchester University Press. vol. Melland Schill studies in international law
  • Randall, Thomas E. (2011) 'Evolving Role of the Legal Advisor in Support of Military Operations, The', in Law Journal Library. vol. 50, pp.17-
  • (no date) Geneva Convention IV.
  • Kleffner, Jann K. (2013) 'Protection of the Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked', in The handbook of international humanitarian law, Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press., pp.321-357
  • (no date) Hampson, F., & Lubell, N. Amicus Curiae Brief submitted to the ECHR in Georgia v. Russia (II), June 2014.
  • Droege, Cordula. (2007) 'Interplay between International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law in Situations of Armed Conflict, The', in Israel Law Review. vol. 40, pp.310-
  • (no date) UN Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effect 1980, and Protocols.
  • Dinstein, Yoram. (2016) The conduct of hostilities under the law of international armed conflict, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • (no date) Geneva Convention.
  • (no date) Geneva Conventions | International Committee of the Red Cross.
  • Pejic, Jelena. (2002-3) 'Accountability for international crimes: From conjecture to reality', in Revue Internationale de la Croix-Rouge/International Review of the Red Cross. vol. 84 (845) , pp.13-
  • (no date) HRC General Comments: 29: States of Emergency; 31: The Nature of the General Legal Obligation on States Parties to the Covenant.
  • (no date) Al-Skeini and Others V. The United Kingdom, Application No. 55721/07, Judgment, 7 July 2011.
  • (no date) Bankovic and Others v Belgium and 16 Other NATO Member States, Application No. 52207/99, Admissibility Decision, European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber, 19 December 2001.
  • White, Nigel D.; Henderson, Christian. (c2013) Research handbook on international conflict and security law: jus ad bellum, jus in bello and jus post bellum, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
  • Hampson, Francoise. (2010) 'The principle of proportionality in the law of armed conflict', in The Geneva conventions under assault, London: Pluto Press., pp.42-73
  • Murray, Daragh. (2016) Practitioners' guide to human rights law in armed conflict, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • (no date) National Transitional Council/ Free Libyan Army, Frontline Manual.
  • (no date) OHCHR | Yemen: United Nations Experts point to possible war crimes by parties to the conflict.
  • (no date) Legality of Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons, ICJ, Advisory Opinion, July 8, 1996.
  • Lubell, Noam. (2012) 'Human rights obligations in military occupation', in International Review of the Red Cross.
  • (no date) 1907 Hague Convention IV Regulations.
  • (no date) Case concerning armed activity on the territory of the Congo, (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda), judgment of 19 December 2005, para. 216-9.
  • (no date) Convention on Cluster Munitions, Dublin 30 May 2008.
  • Lubell, Noam. (2012) 'The War against Al-Qaeda', in International law and the classification of conflicts, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • (no date) Protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949.
  • (no date) Statute of the International Criminal Court.
  • (no date) Amendment to Article 1 of the above-mentioned Convention:.
  • (no date) Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, 18 September 1997 (The Ottawa Treaty).
  • (no date) Commentary on the Additional Protocols of 8 June 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, ICRC Geneva.
  • (no date) Juan Carlos Abella v. Argentina, Case 11.137, Report No. 55/97 OEA/Ser/L/V/LL.97 Doc.38.
  • (no date) Commentary for Geneva Conventions I-IV.
  • (no date) Commentary of the First Geneva Convention, Geneva, ICRC, 2016.
  • (2004) Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
  • Searching for Ground Truth in the Kunduz Hospital Bombing, https://theintercept.com/2016/04/28/searching-for-ground-truth-in-the-kunduz-hospital-bombing/

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay (LW803 International Law of Armed Conflict)    100% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Noam Lubell, email: nlubell@essex.ac.uk.
Professor Noam Lubell



External examiner

Prof Dino Kritsiotis
University of Nottingham
Available via Moodle
Of 32 hours, 24 (75%) hours available to students:
8 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Essex Law School

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.