Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module LAW44030: International Humanitarian Law

Department: Law

LAW44030: International Humanitarian Law

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.
Tied to


  • None


  • Fundamental Issues in International Legal Governance

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To develop an understanding on international humanitarian law (IHL) and the procedural and substantive issues relating to its operation. The courses will focus on the substantive law, its relationship with the law on the use of force, its historical evolution and its relationship with other substantive areas of public international law such as international criminal law and international human rights law. It will also consider questions particularly in the context of technological evolution. The topic allows for the consideration of international humanitarian law from a number of different perspectives while keeping a central focus on the substantive law itself. The course aims to provide both knowledge of the specific area of international law, and a greater understanding of the operation of international law through its focus on the specialised regime.


  • The course will cover the following indicative topics:
  • The History of IHL
  • Sources of IHL
  • The concepts of impartiality, neutrality and humanity
  • International and Non-International Armed Conflicts
  • The distinction between combrants and civilians
  • The principles of Distinction, Necessity and Proportionality
  • The law on targeting
  • The law on weapons
  • The law of occupation
  • The protection of cultural property
  • The law relating to non-state actors
  • Accountability for breaches of IHL
  • The relationship between human rights and IHL

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will have
  • A thorough knowledge of the fundamental principles of International Humanitarian Law:
  • A demonstrably in-depth knowledge of certain key aspects of the international humanitarain law and its relationship with wider issues in international law;
  • A familiarity with the contemporary issues regarding international humanitarian law, and its development
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • interpret and evaluate critically relevant documents within international humanitarian law and identify the theoretical and critical spproaches informing their interpretation;
  • appreciate how international humanitarian law interacts with other areas of international law and international institutions;
  • identify key issues within contemporary international humanitarian law
Key Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • demonstrate an ability to understand and analyse critically a wide variety of complex issues, drawing on a variety of materials;
  • develop expertise in conducting legal research using materials from a variety of national and international sources;
  • describe accurately and coherently the arguments and analysis of academic commentators;
  • write in a clear and structured way and to put forward ideas in a scholarly manner;
  • and demonstrate an ability to explore creatively complex issues in writing.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The course will be taught through seminars. Through the provision of structured reading list and class assignments to be prepared in advance seminars encourage independent reading and learning. Discussion in seminars will focus on theoretical, policy and practical dimensions of International Humanitarian Law with an emphasis on legal analysis and problem solving. Seminars will incorporate an unassessed student presentation. This helps to develop legal research skills, develop skills in critical analsis of a wide range of materials and requires clear and structured communication.
  • The course will be assessed by a summative essay of 6000 words. Assessment by essay requires an in-depth knowledge of key theoretical and practical issues in Internatioanl Humanitarian Law. It encourages the development of legal research skills and requires students to be able to interpret and evaluate relevant sources, including academic commentary, legal and policy materials. Finally assessment by essay tests the ability to write clearly and to explain complex arguments.
  • Feedback on formative and summative assessment to be provided in accordance with Law School feedback policies.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 15 Weekly 2 Hours 30
Preparation & Reading 270
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 6000 Words 100% Summative essay, different question

Formative Assessment:

One complusary 1500 word essay One class presentation

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University