LL4A9      Half Unit
Law in War

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Stephen Humphreys


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Human Rights, MSc in Women, Peace and Security and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places and we cannot guarantee all students will get a place.


Some prior knowledge of international law is useful but not essential. LL4A8 is useful but not essential.

Course content

This course covers the international law governing the conduct of hostilities (jus in bello, also known as the law of armed conflict (LOAC) or international humanitarian law (IHL))--as distinct from the law on the resort to force (jus ad bellum), which is covered in a separate course (LL4A8). The course will take a critical and historical approach to the international regulation and facilitation of armed conflict. As well as the laws governing the means and methods of war (‘Hague’ law), the ‘protected’ groups hors de combat (‘Geneva’ law), and the distinction between international and non-international armed conflict, the course will cover ‘lawfare’ more generally: the recourse to law as a means of waging war. It will examine the application of the laws of war, including occupation law, in historical, actual, and ongoing conflicts, including recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, the 'war on terror', and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Students can expect to have a thorough grasp of the principles and regulations governing the conduct of hostilities, the context and efficacy of enforcement mechanisms, and a critical understanding of the normative and political stakes of international law in this area.


This course will have two hours of teaching content each week in Lent Term, either in the form of a two hour seminar or an online lecture and one hour class. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of Lent Term.

Formative coursework

Students have the option of submitting a 1,800 word essay to be submitted at the end of week 6.

Indicative reading

It is worthwhile acquiring the following book: Yoram Dinstein, The Conduct of Hostilities Under the Law of International Armed Conflict (Cambridge UP, 3rd ed., 2016). The following book of primary texts may be taken into an exam (unannotated) and may be worth acquiring: Roberts and Guelff, Documents on the Laws of War (Oxford UP, 2000); Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars (Basic books, 4th ed. 2006); David Kennedy, Of Law and War (Princeton UP, 2006): Geoffrey Best, War and Law Since 1945 (Oxford UP, 1997). Current debates in this field are very lively on blogs such as Opinio Juris, EJILTalk! and Lawfare. Detailed readings for each seminar will be made available on Moodle.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the summer exam period.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills