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Basics of International Humanitarian Law


Please note that the following description of the course is only provisional and therefore subject to change.

Admission requirements

Basic understanding of public international law and / or the sociological aspects of armed conflicts and justice. Participants should read the required literature before class.


This course intends to provide basic knowledge of international humanitarian law (IHL) and fundamental aspects of international criminal law (ICL) in the context of past conflicts, including the conflicts in Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Sudan and with reference to the functioning of international courts such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
This course will focus on and provide basic knowledge of:

  • the development of IHL and its present relevance

  • the protection of human beings in international and non-international conflicts

  • international terrorism and IHL-rules

  • the criminal prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity

Participants will understand the system of international humanitarian law, the interpretation of IHL treaties and identification of customary IHL-law and the interdependence between IHL and ICL.

Achievement levels
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:

  • Students will understand the system and basic principles of international humanitarian law (IHL), the interpretation of IHL treaties and identification of customary IHL and the interdependence between IHL and ICL.

  • Students will be able to discuss and identify the relevant rules of IHL, to discuss them by reference to relevant case law and authority, and apply to them to a case.

  • Students will be able to analyze and discuss existing conflicts and news reports by reference to the applicable rules of IHL.


See: bachelor.

Mode of instruction



  • Number of (4 hour) seminars: 5

  • Names of instructors: Prof. Dr. H. Fischer and guest lecturers

  • Required preparation by students:

Other methods of instruction

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Written exam (English)

Submission procedures

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature) for the course and the subjects taught in the lectures.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials

  • F. Kalshoven, L. Zegveld, Constraints on the Waging of War; An Introduction to International Humanitarian Law, 4th edition, ICRC, Geneva, 2011

  • Additional literature and case law (Blackboard)
    H. Fischer, International Humanitarian Law; Course Reader 2010-2011; Treaty Texts and Excerpts (Blackboard).

Course information guide:
Course outline; available on Blackboard


Recommended course materials


Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.
Exchange students have priority and will be registered for the course first. Any remaining seats will be available for students from Leiden University and other Dutch Universities.

Contact information

  • Co-ordinator: to be announced

  • Work address: Steenschuur 25, Leiden

  • Contact information:

  • Telephone number: 071- 527 7578 (secretary)

  • E-mail:


  • Institution: Public Law

  • Division: Public International Law

  • Room number secretariat: B1.21

  • Opening hours: 9.00-17.00 hrs

  • Telephone number secretariat: 071-527 7578

  • E-mail:



Contractual programme

Anyone interested in registering for this course as part of a Contractual Programme (Contractonderwijs), which includes examination, will find further information regarding costs, application and registration, conditions etc. on the website of Juridisch PAO (Legal postgraduate education).