Courses & Units

International Humanitarian Law LAW623


This unit will be taught intensively. 9, 11 and 12,15,19 August - 29 August-2 September 2016


International Law purports to regulate military force in two key ways. The first we refer to as the jus ad bellum - the legal regulation of the circumstances in which resort to military force is justified. The heated public debate about whether or not Australia was legally justified in joining the US and the UK in invading Iraq in 2003 is a classic example of the interpretation and application of this area of International Law. The key treaty here is the UN Charter with its general prohibition on resort to military force and its principal exceptions in Chapter VII - UN Security Council authorisation of resort to force and the right of self-defence.

The second area of International Law we refer to as the jus in bello, International Humanitarian Law, the Law of War or the Law of Armed Conflict (all basically synonymous terms). Here International Law purports to regulate the actual conduct of military hostilities insisting upon a distinction between combatants and civilians, imposing limits on the targeting of military objectives, prohibiting the use of particular weapons and establishing minimum standards of treatment for prisoners of war and civilians affected by armed conflict.

The focus of this course is the second area involving International Law and the regulation of military force. Some would argue that war, of all human activity, is no place for law - or that any notion that law might regulate military conduct is naive and deluded. The International Committee of the Red Cross, with its multilateral treaty mandate as the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, profoundly disagrees with such scepticism arguing that law can indeed moderate the conduct of military hostilities. If there were no rules in war, military hospitals would be bombed all the time instead of only some of the time! There is no question that the relatively recent sharp increase in war crimes trials around the world has led inexorably to a surge in awareness of International Humanitarian Law and, some would argue, increased respect for this body of law. Allegations of Israeli war crimes in Gaza or Sri Lankan Government war crimes on the Jaffna Peninsula are but some of the recent high-profile examples of media fascination with International Humanitarian Law.


Unit name International Humanitarian Law
Unit code LAW623
Credit points 12.5
Faculty/School Faculty of Law
School of Law
Discipline School of Law
Coordinator Prof. Tim McCormack
Teaching staff

Prof. Tim McCormack

Level Advanced
Available as student elective? No
Breadth Unit? No


This unit is currently unavailable.


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3 2017: $1,324.00 2017: $1,561.00 090999

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(LAW250, LAW251, LAW252, LAW253, LAW254, LAW255, LAW256 & LAW204) OR

(LAW221, LAW222, LAW223, LAW224, LAW253, LAW204, LAW351 & LAW352) OR

(LAW221, LAW222, LAW223, LAW224, LAW225, LAW226, LAW204 & LAW205)



2000 word written assignment (30%); two hour open book examination (70%).

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