International humanitarian law (also known as the law of armed conflict or the law of war), is the primary body of international law that regulates armed conflicts. This bundle will briefly consider the historical background of this body of law, as well as the fundamental principles on which it is based.
Enforcing IHLIn this summary, we will explore the possibilities for the enforcement of international humanitarian law. We will consider criminal enforcement through war crimes law as well as a variety of non-criminal alternatives, including the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Committee, Protecting Powers, the ICRC and non-governmental organizations. We will pay particular attention to the controversial notion of belligerent reprisals.
Non-International Armed ConflictsIn this summary, we will consider some difficulties with the application of certain of those rules in non-international armed conflicts. We will pay particular attention to one of the principal differences between international armed conflicts and their non-international counterparts, namely the involvement of non-state armed groups.
Human Rights and IHLIn this summary, we will examine the relationship between humanitarian law and human rights law, both of which are applicable in time of armed conflict. Humanitarian law and human rights law have very different origins. Humanitarian law has been part of international law from its beginning; human rights law, in contrast, has been primarily a post-World War II development. Humanitarian law has traditionally been concerned with the reciprocal obligations assumed by States towards other States and their nationals; human rights law seeks to regulate the relationship between States and their own nationals. In the seminar we will consider three issues in particular: the interaction between the two regimes, the increasing influence of human rights law on humanitarian law, and whether there are any problems with the application of human rights law in time of armed conflict.
Means and Methods of WarThis summary considers the means and methods of combat. We will consider the approaches taken by international humanitarian law to these issues, paying due attention to the principles of distinction and unnecessary suffering.
The Law of TargetingIn this seminar, we shall begin to investigate the protections afforded to civilians by international humanitarian law. Our concern will not be with civilian protection during belligerent occupation, but, rather, the protections given to civilians when their state is not under occupation. This question has been raised acutely in the context of aerial warfare, so that our concentrations will focus on a case study— in the form of the aerial campaign conducted by member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between March and June 1999. Other materials which relate to civilians during warfare shall be given extended treatment in the seminar on the means and method of warfare.
Fundamental Guarantees of Humanitarian LawIn this seminar, we will consider (1) the fundamental guarantees afforded to persons hors de combat as well as the protections afforded to particular classes of persons. The classes of persons we shall consider are (2) the wounded and sick; (3) prisoners of war; and (4) women and children.
Classification of Combatants Under Humanitarian LawOnce we have identified the concept of an (international) armed conflict, we can then turn to the vexed question of the rules that govern the classification of combatants—that is the process which determines which combatants are privileged or unprivileged as a matter of international humanitarian law. The need for this purpose is rooted in the notion of prisoner-of-war status. We shall come to terms with the considerable energies that the law has spent on developing the rules for classification (principally the Hague Regulations annexed to the 1907 Hague Convention (IV) Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and the 1949 Geneva Convention (III) Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War) and on their revision (1977 First Additional Protocol). We will compare these rules against one armed conflict in which the issue arose, namely the armed conflict in Afghanistan.
Note that the notion of combatant does not exist in the law of non-international armed conflict (although, recently, the terminology of ‘fighter’ has been used to describe the same sort of person). This is important as combatant immunity and prisoner of war status does not exist in the law of non-international armed conflict.
Concepts of War - The Types of Armed ConflictIn this summary, we shall turn our attention to the situations in which international humanitarian law applies. We will explore the historical notion of ‘war’, as distinct from today’s notion of an armed conflict. We will also consider the distinction that the law draws between an international armed conflict and a non-international armed conflict. Finally, we will consider whether any other types of armed conflict exist in addition to international and non-international armed conflicts.
Principles of International Humanitarian LawThe purpose of this summary is two-fold: first and foremost, it is to set the scene of the kind of proposition involved by international humanitarian law—of the very idea of a regulation of hostilities and some of its key principles.
We shall then attend to the second purpose of this summary—and that is the intended function of international humanitarian law (jus in bello) when set against other aspects of the public international law corpus (such as the international legal regulation of force (jus ad bellum), human rights and international criminal law).