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Last modified: 31 May 2022 13:05

Course Overview

The course explores the history, nature and salient features of the principles of  ‘the laws and customs of war’, also called IHL; they are enshrined, inter alia, in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977. The principles of distinction, humanity, necessity and proportionality as applied to contemporary armed conflicts are examined.  The course emphasises the rules and challenges pertaining to civilian immunity, occupation, legal controls on weapons and how IHL is implemented and enforced. It also clarifies the differences/similarities between IHL and international human rights law and the law on the use of force.  

Course Details

Study Type Postgraduate Level 5
Session Second Sub Session Credit Points 30 credits (15 ECTS credits)
Campus Aberdeen Sustained Study No
  • Professor Zeray Yihdego

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Any Postgraduate Programme
  • Either Law (LS) or MSc International Relations and International Law

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?

  • Diploma in Professional Legal Practice (Studied)

Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

Part I - Introduces IHL

  • Nature, sources and scope of IHL;
  • Basic principles of IHL—distinction, humanity, proportionality, necessity; and
  • IHL and general international law.

Part II - The Conduct of Hostilities: 

  • Combatant status, definition & controversies;
  • The conduct of combat and the Protection of combatants –rules;
  • The protection of civilians; and
  • Legal controls on weapons.

Part III - Protection of victims of Armed Conflict: Prisoners of war , the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, and civilians. Part IV- Particular Types of Conflict:

  • Belligerent occupation—the rights and duties of the occupying power vs. the population;
  • Peacekeeping and peace enforcement and IHL; and
  • Internal armed conflict.

Part V - Implementation and Enforcement :

  • Dissemination and enforcement of IHL—general principles, difficulties, duty to disseminate, protecting power, and the role of the ICRC; and
  • Criminal sanctions.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

  • 1 Seminar during University week s 26, 28, 30, 32, 34, 39

More Information about Week Numbers

Summative Assessments

2000 words essay 40%

2500 words essay 60%


Resit: resubmission of failed elements

Formative Assessment

There are no assessments for this course.

Course Learning Outcomes

Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
FactualRememberILO’s for this course are available in the course guide.

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