Protection of civilians in armed conflicts

  • Course description

    The aim of this course is that students learn and understand the concept of protection of civilians in armed conflicts, and the dilemmas involved, from legal and practical perspectives. It provides the students with tools to analyse and evaluate the protection needs of civilians with special emphasis on women, children, refugees and IDPs. Specific case studies are discussed extensively.
  • Main themes

    • Introduction to International Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflicts (IHL) as a main legal framework for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts
    • Material scope of application of IHL, personal scope of application of IHL, main principles of IHL, role of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in ensuring protection of civilians in armed conflicts
    • Introduction to International Human Rights Law (IHRL) as an additional legal framework for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, and the relations between IHL and IHRL
    • Notion of protection in armed conflicts – civilians as persons protected in the power of the enemy
    • Notion of protection in armed conflicts – civilians as persons protected against the effects of hostilities
    • Protection of civilian objects, cultural property in armed conflicts, women, children and refugees in armed conflicts
    • Relevance of the implementation mechanisms of IHL and IHRL for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts
    • Role of the international jurisprudence in determining the standards of protection
    • Role of monitoring missions and fact finding mechanisms in ensuring better compliance with the rules on the protection of civilians
  • Learning outcomes

    In conformity with the learning outcomes set out by the NOHA network, students should achieve the following learning outcomes by the end of this module:
    • Identifies main threats to civilian population as the whole and some specific categories of civilians and civilian objects during armed conflicts. 

    • Knows basic notions, concepts and principles relating to the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. 

    • Identifies challenges to practical application of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law in armed conflicts and ways of overcoming such challenges. 
    • Has proven the ability to apply key legal instruments in practice in the context of contemporary political developments. 

    • Has proven the ability to solve the legal cases taking into account multidimensional and multi-layered character of international legal regulations relating to the civilian status in armed conflicts. 
    Social competences
    • Is firmly convinced that “even wars have limits” and that there is no justification for 
excessive violence.
    • Is ready to advocate for the strict allegiance to the rule of law in international relations. 

    • Understands that indifference towards human suffering is a driving force behind further violence. 
  • Teaching and learning methodology

    The course is a combination of different methods of work - lectures followed by individual work on cases and then group discussions. Case studies will relate to a fictional armed conflict in a fictional region of the world. However, all facts will be based on real life events that occurred in different armed conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries.
  • Assessment methods and criteria

    30% - student’s regular participation in classes and in group discussions on case studies (as the course is relatively short and quite intensive, attendance at each of the classes is highly recommended)
    70 % - written exam composed of two questions testing theoretical knowledge and one fictional case based on facts known from the ‘evolving case’ discussed during classes. Using notes and other materials is allowed.
    The exam will try to assess the knowledge of the contents of the course and student’s ability to apply this knowledge in real life situations.

Last updated: 15 November 2016

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