CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS IN
INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW
Prerequisite: Public International Law or Human Rights Law
Meetings: Thursdays 4:20 to 6:10 pm
Evaluation: Grades will be based on class participation and a final research paper of approximately 20 pages.
This seminar will introduce students to the fundamentals of international humanitarian law (IHL, the laws of armed conflict, the laws of war, jus in bello), with a focus on contemporary issues such as the "global war on terror," asymmetrical conflicts, international justice, and the intersections of IHL and human rights law. It will be taught by Gabor Rona, former legal advisor in the legal division of the International Committee of the Red Cross and now International Legal Director at Human Rights First.
Traditionally, the study of IHL has focused on technical mastery of the Geneva Conventions and other IHL treaties by State armed forces. There is increasing recognition, however, of the importance of IHL to political leaders and policy makers, human rights advocates, humanitarian workers, lawyers involved in international criminal justice, non-State armed groups, journalists, the private sector, and the general public. Thus a contemporary course on IHL needs not only to expose students to the technical requirements of that law, but also to examine the dynamic relationships between IHL and other bodies of law, including jus ad bellum (the use of force in international relations), the law of state responsibility, human rights law, refugee law, international criminal law, and domestic law.
We will first address the sources, historical development, fundamental principles and fields of application of IHL. We will next study IHL rules governing methods and means of warfare and treatment of persons in the power of the enemy. We will then explore the application of these principles and rules to contemporary issues, including humanitarian intervention, pre-emption and prevention, civil wars, asymmetrical and counterinsurgency conflicts, the growth of international justice mechanisms, the increasing use of private military contractors, and terrorism.
Readings will be drawn from international treaties and their commentaries, jurisprudence, critical scholarly literature and contemporary journalistic and human rights reporting. The basic required text from which many readings are drawn is Sassoli and Bouvier's How Does Law Protect in War? (3d ed., 2011) International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Students will be provided with the basic text and also with copies of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, courtesy of the ICRC. Additional materials will be provided and suggested.