Skip to main content
Unit of study_

LAWS5183: War Law: Use of Force and Humanitarian Law

A vital function of public international is its struggle against violence, both in preventing it from occurring and mitigating its effects once it gets under way. This unit explores two key areas of international law devoted to regulating intense violence involving governments or non- State actors: (1) International Law on the Use of Armed Force, and (2) International Humanitarian Law (also known as the Law of Armed Conflict or the Laws of War). The first part of the course considers the prohibition on the use of force under customary law and the United Nations Charter; exceptions to that prohibition in cases of self-defence by States or collective security action by the UN Security Council; controversies over pre-emptive self-defence, humanitarian intervention and the Responsibility to Protect; peacekeeping and peace enforcement; the role of regional and international actors; and the use of force by and against non-State actors. The second part of the course considers the origins, purposes and sources of international humanitarian law; its scope of application; the different types and thresholds of conflict; the permissible means and methods of warfare (including restrictions on weapons); the status and treatment of combatants and non-combatants and others (such as spies, mercenaries, unlawful combatants, terrorists, journalists, and private security contractors); the protection of cultural property and the environment; the relationship between human rights law and humanitarian law; and the implementation, supervision and enforcement of humanitarian law (including the prosecution of war crimes and the role of the International Committee of the Red Cross).

Code LAWS5183
Academic unit Law
Credit points 6
LAWS3440 or LAWS3086 or LAWS3483 or LAWS6218 or LAWS6062

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. critically analyse the substantive law in each of the topic areas
  • LO2. apply advanced legal analysis and reasoning skills
  • LO3. evaluate the strengths and limitations of the relevant law
  • LO4. examine in-depth the political, ideological, ethical and philosophical implications of the law
  • LO5. investigate the sources of the law and conduct further research in the area
  • LO6. employ advanced legal writing skills, effectively communicating complex legal concepts in a clear, logical and concise manner.