Accueil > International humanitarian law: its operational relevance in protecting victims of armed conflicts

OADH 4005 - International Humanitarian Law : Its Operational Relevance in Protecting Victims of Armed Conflicts

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn 2018-2019

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English


Basic knowledge of Public International Law. Knowledge of the United Nations System and the functions of its organs (in particular UNSC, UNGA, HRC, OCHA and humanitarian agencies). Knowledge and strong interest in international relations and geopolitics.

Course Description

Students are passionate about IHL and conscience of its importance. Gain a good theoretical and practical knowledge of IHL, its essence and fundamental principles, its historical development, main sources and instruments, its national and international mechanisms of implementation and repression of its violations /war crimes both in its dimension of the protection of persons (protected persons and objects) and the conduct of hostilities (means and methods of warfare). They know how to qualify an armed conflict and have a basic knowledge of international jurisprudence w/r to violations of IHL. Students shall know the respective nature of jus in bello and jus ad bellum, the differences and similarities of IHL and International Human Rights. Contemporary challenges of IHL will be addressed and debated, the existing IHL agendas in various multilateral forums will be presented and the present development and clarification processes commented. They examine practical cases and challenges of the implementation of IHL in peace time and in past and present situations of armed conflict (and armed violence). They know the mandate and actions of the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the UNSC, UNGA and UNSG's IHL agenda, roles main resolutions. They are familiar with the preparation of the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross (December 2015) and the reports and resolutions presented as well as with the preparation of the World Humanitarian Summit (Istanbul, March 2016). A full detailed syllabus will be distributed to the students before the beginning of the course. Concervation of the course can be made either in English or in Spanish.


ZAHND, Patrick (Continental legal and diplomatic advisor for the ICRC)

Pedagogical format

Formal lectures and open debates on chosen thematic/challenges. Practical exercises with concrete or fictitious situations. A document with large bibliography will be shared before starting the class. Reports on the consultations of States in follow-up of Resolution 1 of 31st International Conference of the Red Cross (2011). Students will be expected to read some documents about weapons issues: ATT, recent expert meetings on Autonomous weapons, nuclear weapons (humanitarian initiative, Declaration of the April-May 2015 NPT Review Conference.

Course validation

70% individual research paper to be handed within 2 weeks after the end of the class (topics to be chosen from a list of options) ; 20% active participation in class and assignments ; 10% working group. Oral and written presentation of the group reports.


Initial documents and bibliography to be known or read before starting the class. Documents to read and commented will be regularly shared with the student and recommended to prepare or support the different sections of the course. A few relevant websites (ICRC, UN) will be monitored.

Required reading

  • : war and law part and the Data Bases (as a regular reference and monitoring)
  • International Review of the Red Cross
  • “Principes de droit des conflits armés”, Prof. Eric David (a large complete, 1999, 2008, manual in French)
  • “How does law protects in war”, Marco Sassóli & Antoine Bouvier & Anne Quintin, 2011 Ref. 0739
  • ICRC report to the 31th International Conference of the Red Cross on the challenges of IHL

Additional required reading

  • “Le concept de conflit armé: enjeux et ambiguités”, Eric David, 2013
  • « Taking Armed Groups seriously : ways to improve their compliance with IHL », Marco Sassoli
  • International Humanitarian Legal Studies 1 (2010) 5–51