28th Course on International Humanitarian Law

Warsaw, Poland

28 June to 8 July 2010

Organised by the Polish Red Cross

and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Overview of Course Content

In addition to the topics listed below, the course will include a distance-learning module providing

participants with an overview of international humanitarian law (IHL). The course will also include

an evening session on the activities and principles of the International Red Cross and Red

Crescent Movement.

Scope of application of IHL

Distinguishing armed conflict from other situations of violence, and understanding the legal

implications of the distinction.

• Definition of an armed conflict: cf. Tadic, Boumediene, Boskoski

• International armed conflicts (IAC)

• Occupation: beginning and end of occupation, scope of material application in the Hague

Regulations v. scope of material application in the Geneva Conventions

• Non-international armed conflicts (NIAC)

• Internal internationalised armed conflicts: can the two bodies of law (IAC and NIAC) apply


• Other situations of violence: law enforcement v. conduct of hostilities paradigms

Wounded and sick

Protecting medical facilities and personnel has been at the heart of IHL for 150 years, yet ensuring

respect for such fundamental humanitarian norms remains challenging.

• Protection and treatment of the wounded and sick: definitions; beneficiaries; respect; nondiscrimination;

rights and duties; protection during non-international armed conflict

• Protection of health care: definitions Geneva Convention IV – Additional Protocol I; duties;

status when fallen into enemy hands; protection during non-international armed conflict

• Protection of medical units, transportation and personnel

• Use and misuse of the emblem; perfidy

• Additional Protocol III


Upholding the dignity of prisoners of war and other persons deprived of their freedom, through

specific protection regimes, judicial guarantees and basic standards of treatment.

• Prisoners of War: status and treatment from capture to release and repatriation

• Detention and internment of civilians, including during occupation

- Detention of civilians directly participating in hostilities, "unprivileged belligerents":

protection under Geneva Convention (nationality criteria) or protection by Common Article

3 and Additional Protocol I Article 75

- Internment: grounds; conditions; rights of internees; transfers; release and repatriation

• Detention during non-international armed conflicts: treatment in accordance with Common

Article 3 and the international law of human rights (cf. Hamdam, Boumediene)



Tracing the evolution of the rules protecting civilians in war: from the law of occupation to the

principle of distinction.

• Definition of "protected persons" and relevant rules

• Legal status of aliens in the territory of a Party to a conflict

• Law of military occupation

- Rules protecting persons living in occupied territories

- Obligations of the Occupying Power

• The right to access protected persons (Protecting Powers/ICRC)

• Humanitarian assistance to protected persons

• Distinction between civilians and combatants and contemporary challenges to this distinction:

direct participation in hostilities

Conduct of hostilities

Understanding what makes a target legitimate and how to apply the principles of distinction,

precaution and proportionality to military operations.

• Principle of distinction, definition of the military objective, proportionality, precautions,

prohibited methods of warfare (human shields, perfidy, denial of quarter, starvation, etc.)

• Particular rules for air and missile warfare

• Special measures of protection: persons and objects associated with medical units and

humanitarian relief (includes objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population);

children; journalists; protected zones; cultural property; works and installations containing

dangerous forces; the natural environment


Preventing superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering by regulating means of warfare: a

presentation of the law’s response to technological developments in weaponry.

• General principles: prohibition of superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering; prohibition of

indiscriminate weapons

• Prohibited and regulated weapons

• Legal issues relating to the transfer of weapons: small arms and light weapons

• Regulating new weapons (Art. 36 API) and addressing new challenges (non-lethal weapons,

unmanned weapons, computer network attacks).

Influencing the behaviour of combatants

Ensuring respect for IHL by incorporating the law into domestic legislation and military doctrine.

• Obligation to ensure respect for IHL: obligation of States parties to a conflict and obligation of

third States and the international community (Common Article 1 and Article 89 Additional

Protocol I)

• Measures of prevention: practical measures; the obligation of States to incorporate IHL into

national law and to disseminate IHL to armed forces and civil society; the role of National

Committees on IHL; ICRC's understanding of prevention

• Roots of Behaviour in War: the difference between influencing attitudes and behaviour

Criminal repression

Punishing violations of IHL: an introduction to the legal instruments, courts, and case law that

make up international criminal law.

• Individual criminal responsibility

- Origins and development

- Violations of IHL attracting criminal responsibility: serious violations, war crimes,

genocide, crimes against humanity


Consequences of a Wall)

• Application of IHL by IHRL bodies and application of IHRL by international criminal tribunals

Refugees, IDPs and IHL

Clarifying the contribution of IHL to the international legal framework protecting refugees and IDPs.

• Definitions

• Principle of non-refoulement

• Protection of refugees under IHL: Geneva Convention IV, Additional Protocols I and II and

refugees as protected persons

• The contemporary challenge of internally displaced persons (1998 UN Guiding Principles)

• UNHCR and its mission, relationship with ICRC

• Deportation and forcible transfers as international crimes

Terrorism and IHL

Applying the law to acts of terror, terrorism and the fight against terrorism.

• IHL and terrorism

- No definition of terrorism under international law, but IHL prohibits acts the purpose of

which is to spread terror in time of armed conflict

- Most of the acts qualified as "terrorist acts" are prohibited under IHL.

• Applicability of IHL to the "War on Terror"

- Qualification of the situation and of the legal framework applicable: global conflict v. caseby-

case approach

- Status and rights of persons: notion of “unlawful combatant” and "enemy combatants",

grounds for detention and treatment (cf. Hamdan, Boumediene)

- Legality of targeted killings

- A need to revise IHL?

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