Law of Armed Conflict: Rules, Principles, Context

Course content

In the course of the seminar the students will be introduced to the core rules and principles of the laws of armed conflict and to some of the most important contemporary developments and challenges that are reshaping the law. Throughout, the seminar will focus on how the law operates in relation to the practice it governs, and the law will be contextualized in relation to different conceptions of war and the emergence of new technologies and new forms of government. To give a more comprehensive account of the challenges that face practitioners today, we will also consider issues usually seen as extrinsic to the laws of war, including issues relating to belligerent occupation, the legal aftermath of war, and the gradual erosion of the difference between war and civil war.

Among the topics covered are

• Principles of use of force

• Targeting

• Interface between laws of war and international humanitarian law

• War crimes

• Command responsibility

• Emergence of new wars

• Transformations of the legal conception of war

• Challenges of civil war

• Principles of belligerent occupation

• Jus post bellum

• War and complex emergencies

Learning outcome

The course aims to provide students with the analytical tools needed to

1) identify and critically reflect upon theoretical problems in the rules pertaining to war (laws of war and international humanitarian law) and

2) assess how these rules apply to a series of conflicts that fall outside their traditional scope.

Another learning objective of the course is to provide the students with an appreciation of the complex ways in which political change and technological developments impact the legal regulation of war.

The following textbook will be used:

Solis, Gary D., The Law of Armed Conflict. International Humanitarian Law in

War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), chap. v, vi, vii, viii, ix, x, xiv


Additional readings:

Blum, Gabriella, “The Fog of Victory”, European Journal of International Law (2013), Vol. 24, No. 1, 3.

Berdal, Mats, “The 'New Wars' Thesis Revisited” in Hew Strachan & Sibylle Scheipers (eds.), The Changing Character of War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Brabandere, Eric de, “The Concept of Jus Post Bellum in International Law” in Carsten Stahn, Jennifer S. Easterday and Jens Iverson (eds.), Jus Post Bellum: Mapping the Normative Foundations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Dinstein, Yoram, Non-International Armed Conflict in International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), chap. viii-xi.

Dinstein, Yoram, The International Law of Belligerent Occupation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), chap. ii, iii, xi.

Dinstein, Yoram, War, Agression, and Self-Defence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 20115), chap. i, iv.

Fleck, Dieter, “Jus Post Bellum as a Partly Independent Legal Framework” in in Carsten Stahn, Jennifer S. Easterday and Jens Iverson (eds.), Jus Post Bellum: Mapping the Normative Foundations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Kahn, Paul W., “Nuclear Weapons and the Rule of Law,” 31 New York University Journal of International Law & Policy 349 (1998-1999) (pp. 366-367, 373-390, 401-414).

Kaldor, Mary, New and Old Wars. Organized Violence in a Global Era (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2001), chap. iii-iv

Kaldor, Mary, The Baroque Arsenal (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), chap. i, ii, v.

Kalyvas, Stathis N., “Warfare in Civil War,” in Isabelle Duyvesteyn and Jan Angstrom (eds.), Rethinking the Nature of War (Abingdon: Frank Cass, 2005).

Kalyvas, Stathis N., “The Ontology of Political Violence: Action and Identity in Civil Wars,” Perspectives on Politics (2003) 1:3.

Meron, Theodor, “The Humanization of Humanitarian Law,” The American Journal of International Law (2000), Vol. 94, No. 2.

Neff, Stephen C., War and the Laws of Nations. A General History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), chap. iii, viii.

Schmitt, Carl, “The Turn to the Discriminating Concept of War” (1937) in Nunan, Timothy (ed.), Carl Schmitt. Writings on War (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011) (pp. 30-36, 62-74).

Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, III, 69-85.

Vattel, Emer de, The Law of Nations (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008 (1797)), book III, chap. i, iii, iv, xi, xii, xviii.

Walzer, Michael, Just and Unjust Wars. A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (New York: Basic Books, 2000 (1977)), chap. iii, xiv, xvi, xvii.

Whitman, James Q., The Verdict of Battle. The Law of Victory and the Making of Modern War (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2014), chap. vi (pp. 207-215, 223-237).

Readings for the seminar: 700 pages


Cases and guidelines:

Boumediene vs. Bush 553 US 723 (2008).

Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory Kadi and Al Barakaat International Foundation vs. Council and Commission (ECJ Combined cases C-402/05P & C-415/05P)

Prosecutor v. Tadic

IASC Guiding & Operative Principles on Civil-Military Relations and the Use of Military Assets Readings

The course presupposes that the students have a basic knowledge of public international law, including laws of war and international humanitarian law. All readings are in English and class discussions will be conducted in English. Students must be able to read,
understand and speak English at a reasonable academic level. They are expected to attend and participate actively in seminars.

By the end of the course, students are expected to have acquired the skills to analyze and propose reasoned arguments for complex theoretical problems relating to regulation of war. Moreover, they will have acquired an in-depth understanding of the way law, politics and technology interact in the regulation of war. The skills and competences which are required to succeed in the seminar will enable students to work in interdisciplinary contexts with theoretical analysis and problem solving relating to one of the most dynamic and controversial fields of law.

Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutter
Oral exam with preparation, 20 minutes
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Seminar
  • 48
  • Preparation
  • 364,5
  • English
  • 412,5