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OADH 3065 - International Humanitarian Law

Type d'enseignement : Lecture alone

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English

Voir les plans de cours et bibliographies


There is no strict prerequisite for this course but students should preferably have a previous knowledge of public international law and notions of international criminal justice.

Course Description

This course is an introduction to International Humanitarian Law (IHL), also called the law of armed conflict or the laws of war. IHL is a set of rules that seek to limit the effects of armed conflict, with the dual purpose of saving those who do not, or no longer, participate directly in hostilities and to restrict the use of violence to the strict military necessity. IHL is a branch of public international law that has close relations with other branches, such as international human rights law and international criminal law, but also with international politics and transitional justice. While analyzing its principles, sources, rules and jurisprudence, and using the most recent case studies (the Israeli-occupied territories, Afghanistan, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Syria, Mali, etc.), this course encourages a critical and interdisciplinary approach of IHL.


  • JEANGENE VILMER, Jean-Baptiste (Policy advisor on security issues at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Policy Planning Staff)
  • SCHILL, Anaïs (Etudiante doctorante)

Pedagogical format

Interactive lectures (questions and discussions by students are encouraged).

Course validation

A 2000-word book review, due in week 9 (40%) and a 5000-word research paper, including footnotes, due at the end of the term (60%), on a topic of the student's choosing with teacher approval.


Extensive reading, class attendance, book review and research paper.

Required reading

  • CLAPHAM Andrew and Paola GAETA, The Oxford Handbook of International Law in Armed Conflict (Oxford University Press, 2014)
  • CRAWFORD Emily and Alison PERT, International Humanitarian Law (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
  • DAVID Eric, Principes de droit des conflits armés, 5th ed. (Bruylant, 2012)

Plans de cours et bibliographies

Session 1: Introduction

  • Just War doctrine – Sources and principles of the law of armed conflict

Session 2: Scope of application

  • When does IHL apply? (internal and international armed conflicts) – Who is protected? (principle of distinction)

Session 3: Means and methods of warfare

  • Weapons (WMD, nuclear, anti-personnel landmines, cluster bombs, conventional weapons, etc.) – Methods of conducting hostilities

Session 4: The protection of combatants and prisoners of war

  • Definitions – “direct participation in hostilities” – Mercenaries and spies – Treatment of POWs – The sick, wounded and shipwrecked

Session 5: The protection of civilians

  • Women and children: Child soldiers, Human shields, Occupation and displaced persons (refugees and internally displaced persons)

Session 6: The protection of civilian objects, cultural property and the environment

  • Civilian objects : Cultural property and Environment

Session 7: IHL and Terrorism

  • Definitions of terrorism : The “War on Terror” – Torture

Session 8: The Challenge of robotization Part 1

  • Drones and targeted killings

Session 9: The Challenge of robotization Part 2

  • Lethal autonomous weapons systems

Session 10: The implementation of IHL

  • States – ICRC – UN (Peacekeeping forces and IHL) – NGOs

Session 11: Crimes and Responsibility

  • Crimes (of war, genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity) – State Responsibility – Command responsibility

Session 12: International criminal justice

  • Nuremberg and Tokyo: ICTY, ICTR and ICC – Hybrid jurisdictions – The peace versus justice dilemma

Short biography

Dr Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer holds degrees in three different disciplines: philosophy (BA, MA, PhD), law (LLB, LLM), and political science (PhD). He conducts interdisciplinary research on the theory and ethics of international relations and on international public law. In particular, he studies the ethics and laws of war, international humanitarian law, and international criminal law.
A former attaché at the French embassy in Turkmenistan, he was a postgraduate fellow of the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, Yale University, a postdoctoral fellow at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS Ulm) and at McGill University’s Faculty of Law, where he taught international humanitarian law, and a Lecturer in international relations at the Department of War Studies of King’s College London.
The author of 15 books including Pas de paix sans justice ? Le dilemme de la paix et de la justice en sortie de conflit armé (Presses de Sciences Po, 2011) and Ethique des relations internationales (PUF, 2013), he won an Académie Française prize for La Guerre au nom de l’humanité. Tuer ou laisser mourir (PUF, 2012).
Now a policy advisor on security issues at the French Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he is also teaching the laws and ethics of war at the Ecole Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (French military academy).