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International Humanitarian Law




Admissions requirements

Principles of Public International Law


International Humanitarian Law (“IHL”) (also known as “The Law of Armed Conflict” or “The Law of War” or “Jus in Bello”) regulates the conduct of soldiers and their commanders during wartime. IHL attempts to balance the principle of “Military Necessity,” i.e. the requirement that soldiers do their jobs so that armies can win battles and wars, and the principle of “humanity,” which attempts to reduce the suffering caused by war.

Thus, IHL sets legal standards that attempt to regulate hostilities and protect innocent persons “amid the ambiguity and brutality of combat.” For example, no moral person would accept the mistreatment or execution of prisoners, deliberate attacks on civilians, or the destruction of civilian property. Much of warfare, however, is gray, rather than black-and-white. Difficult decisions must be made about the amount of acceptable “collateral damage” to civilians under IHL. What kinds of precautions must soldiers take before launching an attack that may injure civilians? If a civilian briefly picks up a weapon, can he or she be a lawful target? Are commanders always responsible for war crimes committed by their subordinates? How do law, policy and military imperatives combine to produce the difficult decisions that soldiers and commanders must make in the battlespace?

This course will use realistic examples to assist students to understand not only how law is supposed to regulate armed conflict, but also how the law is applied during the chaos and stress of combat. Thus, the course combines theory and practice to illuminate issues and challenges that are alive today in places as diverse as Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Yemen and Mali.

Course objectives


  • Conduct research on issues and cases in the area of IHL

  • Apply IHL to complex contemporary scenarios and challenges

  • Write qualitative legal papers on issue or cases necessitating the reviewing and application of IHL

  • Orally defend legal arguments relating to IHL issues by way of a moot court exercise


  • Understand and interpret the law and principles that govern the conduct of war (IHL)

  • Identify the current challenges faced by IHL .

  • Critically reflect on the successes and failures in current (and past) efforts to Improve adherence to IHL principles in national and/or international context.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

This course combines class discussions with lectures and “moot court” debates based on hypothetical scenarios as well as the decisions of the International Court of Justice, the ad-hoc International Criminal Tribunals and the permanent International Criminal Court. Accordingly, two weekly interactive seminars – and their preparation – will provide you with the opportunity for thoughtful participation in class discussions and mock courtroom debates, based on the careful analysis of required readings and group work. Written work (one newspaper article analysis in week 2, a 1500 word essay at the end of week 4 and a 3000 word final essay due at the end of week 8) will give you the opportunity to demonstrate your critical appreciation and effective application of the principles and rules of IHL, as well as your ability to conduct research by applying your improved skills and knowledge to this interdisciplinary field. To that effect, your oral debate and written essays will address complex IHL challenges, past, present or in the future.


In-class participation – 10% – Ongoing Weeks 1-7
Individual written assignments

  • analysis of a newspaper article, 15% - week 2

  • 1000 word essay – 20% - Week 4
    Moot court – 20% - week 6
    Final research essay (3000 words) – 35% – Week 8


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Course textbook to be purchased by students: Emily Crawford & Alison Pert, International Humanitarian Law, Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Additional required reading material will be made available on Blackboard.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr Hanne Cuyckens