Skip to main content
Unit of study_

LAWS5183: War Law: Use of Force and Humanitarian Law

Semester 1, 2021 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

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).

Unit details and rules

Unit code LAWS5183
Academic unit Law
Credit points 6
Prohibitions
? 
LAWS3440 or LAWS3086 or LAWS3483 or LAWS6218 or LAWS6062
Prerequisites
? 
None
Corequisites
? 
None
Assumed knowledge
? 

None

Available to study abroad and exchange students

Yes

Teaching staff

Coordinator Ben Saul, ben.saul@sydney.edu.au
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment hurdle task Assignment - problem-based
Problem based question
70% Formal exam period
Due date: 21 Jun 2021 at 16:00
3500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Assignment hurdle task Short essays
3 x short essay questions
30% Week 08
Due date: 26 Apr 2021 at 16:00
2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
hurdle task = hurdle task ?

Assessment summary

  • Assignment – short essays: This assessment covers only international law on the use of force as covered in weeks 1-4. There are three equally weighted short essay questions. Released 26 March 9 am. Due 26 April 4 pm.
  • Assignment – problem question: This assessment covers only international humanitarian law as covered in weeks 6-11. There is a single problem-based question.Released 21 May 9 am. Due 21 June 4 pm.

A student must make a satisfactory attempt at all assessment tasks set out for this unit of study in order to obtain a Pass mark and grade (or above); otherwise an Absent Fail grade will be recorded as the student’s result for this unit of study.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range

Description

High distinction

85 - 100

  • Completely answers the question.
  • Contains striking originality of approach or analysis.
  • Demonstrates exhaustive or innovative research (where independent research required).
  • Exceptionally well written, structured and expressed.
  • Is otherwise exceptional in some way.

Distinction

75 - 84

  • Completely answers the question.
  • Achieves a critical and evaluative approach to the issues.
  • Content and structure is well organised in support of the argument.
  • Demonstrates extensive research and analysis to support a well-documented argument.
  • Generally well expressed and free from errors.
  • Has a clear structure and is well articulated.

Credit

65 - 74

  • Covers main issues fairly well in answering the question.
  • Contains no significant errors.
  • Demonstrates an attempted critical approach to the issues.
  • Demonstrates reasonably sound research and analysis in addressing the key issues.
  • Has a clear structure and reasonably clear expression.

Pass

50 - 64

  • Identifies the key issues, but does not follow through with a reasoned argument.
  • Contains some significant errors.
  • Displays satisfactory engagement with the key issues.
  • Offers a descriptive summary of material relevant to the question.
  • Superficial use of material, and may display a tendency to paraphrase.
  • Demonstrates little evidence of in-depth research or analysis.
  • Adequate expression.
  • Overall, demonstrates the minimum level of competence in the assessment and satisfies the requirements to proceed to higher-level studies in the degree or subject area.

Fail

0 - 49

  • Does not answer the question.
  • Contains significant or numerous errors.
  • Few or no identifiable arguments.
  • Content that is inappropriate or irrelevant.
  • Lack of research or analysis.
  • Difficult or impossible to understand through poor grammar, expression or structure.
  • Overall, does not demonstrate the minimum level of competence in the assessment.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

The late submission of a piece of assessment, which has not been granted an extension, will attract a penalty of 10% of the total marks available for the piece of assessment per calendar day or part thereof.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 1. History of the legality/illegality of war; 2. The prohibition on the use of force Seminar (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 02 1. Self-defence against states and attribution; 2. Self-defence against non-state actors; 3. Necessity and proportionality Seminar (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 03 1. Anticipatory/pre-emptive self-defence; 2. Invitation and consent: intervention in civil wars Seminar (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 04 1. Collective security; 2. Humanitarian intervention and responsibility to protect Seminar (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 06 1. Introduction to IHL, its history and sources; 2. Types of armed conflict Seminar (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 07 1. Types of armed conflict; 2. Classifying the actors Seminar (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 08 Conduct of hostilities: principles and methods of war Seminar (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 09 Conduct of hostilities: means of warfare - weapons Seminar (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 10 1. The law applicable to occupation; 2. Relationship to human rights law Seminar (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 11 Implementation and enforcement - criminal law Seminar (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: All students are required to attend 70% of classes (or as otherwise specified by the Unit Coordinator) to satisfy the pass requirements for each unit of study. Attendance requirements may be satisfied by in person and/or online attendance as specified by the Unit Coordinator. Failure to meet this requirement may result in a student being precluded from sitting the final assessment.
  • Word count penalty: A piece of assessment which exceeds the prescribed word limit will attract a penalty of 10% of the total marks available for the piece of assessment for every 100 words, or part thereof. The total word count for essay and other written assessments will: Exclude: bibliography; footnote numbers; cover page and Include: body text; headings and sub-headings; quotations; anything other than numbers and citations in footnotes.
  • Referencing guide: The Sydney Law School expects you to use the most recent version of the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (4th edition, 2018) for your footnoting style, although you should confirm this with your lecturer, and a link to the website where this is set out comprehensively is available at About the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC).

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed through Canvas.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

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

  • LO1. understand the substantive law in each of the topic areas
  • LO2. develop stronger skills of advanced legal analysis and reasoning
  • LO3. discuss the strengths and limitations of the relevant law
  • LO4. understand the political, ideological, ethical and philosophical implications of the law
  • LO5. outline the sources of the law and be able to research further in the area
  • LO6. develop enhanced skills of legal research and writing, including the ability to write in a clear and logical manner, using plain and concise language.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities
GQ1 GQ2 GQ3 GQ4 GQ5 GQ6 GQ7 GQ8 GQ9

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered.

Disclaimer

The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.