Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
International Humanitarian Law
Academic Year
Distance Learning

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Module Assessment  Written Assignment of 5,000 words  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Display a knowledge and understanding of the main sources of international humanitarian law and how they apply in international and non-international armed conflicts.
2. Display a knowledge and understanding of the obligations of States and armed groups towards victims of armed conflict, as well the rights of victims.
3. Identify and critically evaluate the main weaknesses of international humanitarian law in the protection of human rights during armed conflicts.
4. Locate and evaluate the relevant literature and materials in this field and use them in critical discussion of the subject.

5. Present critical and well-informed argument relating to the principal areas of international humanitarian law, as well as emerging issues in the field.

Brief description

International humanitarian law (IHL) is the specialized law on the protection of human rights during international and non-international armed conflicts. Governments, Non-Governmental Organizations and international organizations devote substantial resources to studying and dissemination of the subject. A full understanding of the role and importance of human rights requires an appreciation of their special role in armed conflicts, as well as the particular threats posed to human rights during such conflicts. This module will meet that requirement.

This module will introduce students to the legal regime with regard to the protection of human rights during international and non-international armed conflicts. There are separate, but related, legal regimes for each. The module covers the two principal areas of IHL: the direct protection obligations owed by States and individuals towards combatants and victims of armed conflict; and the means and methods of warfare.


Sources of IHL and its historical development - the principal treaties and origins of the law.
Scope of application of IHL - types of armed conflict; personal, temporal and geographical application.
Some basic concepts - fundamental principles on which IHL is based.
Protection of combatants - the principal rights and obligations of combatants; entitlement to prisoner-of-war (POW) status and the rights of POWs; protection of the sick, wounded and shipwrecked.

Protection of civilians - principal obligations of occupying forces towards civilians; special protections for women and children.

Protection of cultural property - outlines what is classified as cultural property and the protection obligations towards such property.

Methods and means of combat - the limitations on how a conflict is conducted.

Non-international armed conflicts - the more limited regime applicable to such conflicts and the principal protection obligations owed.

Refugees and IHL - the particular protection needs of refugees, including internally displaced persons.

Collective security operations and IHL - the role of United Nations and other international forces and their obligations when engaged in conflict.

Criminal repression of breaches of IHL - punishment of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The relationship between IHL and human rights law - the link between the two regimes and how human rights continues to apply simultaneously with IHL.


This module is at CQFW Level 7