Course Syllabus


Semester & Location:

Fall 2023 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Core Course Study Tours:


Major Disciplines:

International Relations, Political Science, Pre-Law, Legal Studies

Faculty Members:

Ulrik Graff

current students please use canvas inbox to contact me

Time & Place:

Tuesdays 10.05-13:00

Location: N7-C21

Course description

This course provides students with a general understanding of the international legal regulation of armed conflict – including humanitarian law, human rights law and international criminal law. The aim of the course is to enable students to understand the legal challenges of current and future armed conflicts, as well as enable them to critically analyze and evaluate concrete cases using both legal and political analysis. This is achieved by applying knowledge from readings and classes to a number of contemporary case studies with a specific emphasis on the post-conflict Balkans.



Ulrik Graff 

Cand.jur (LL.M), University of Copenhagen, 2006. LL.BUniversity of Kent, 2004. Danish Defense Command. 


Course objectives

Through selected readings, class discussions, study tours and various assignments, the objectives of this course are for the students to:

  • Understand the historical development and nature of international humanitarian law.
  • Understand the main principles of international humanitarian law.
  • Be able to apply the rules of humanitarian law to concrete cases.
  • Be able to identify and distinguish between legal aspects and politics aspects of concrete cases.
  • Understand the interplay between humanitarian law, human rights law and international criminal law in conflict scenarios.
  • Gain an understanding of the reality and practical concerns affecting the implementation of obligations under international law;
  • Identify and discuss the main issues related to international accountability for war crimes.
  • Acquire a thorough hands-on experience with post-Cold War conflict in Europe/the Balkans – and the clash between theory and practice.
  • Increase their ability to write analytical papers using legal argumentation supported by political considerations where appropriate.


Course requirements

  • Three research papers;
  • Participation (preparation for class, active participation during discussions in class with inputs based on facts, law, analysis and reflection);
  • Group presentation of a court case, a UN Security Council Resolution, a relevant conflict or question.


Main themes

The course consists of three main sections covering the different phases of armed conflict.

1. Before War: the onset of armed conflict.
In this first section we will explore some of the multiple attempts made by both philosophers and political scientists at explaining human warfare at its recurrence throughout history.
Additionally we will look into the discipline of international law and its track record in curbing or even banning the use of armed force in international relations.


2. During War: The conduct of hostilities
When an armed conflict begins it has several legal ramifications – as all or parts of the body of international humanitarian law will come into effect regulating the means and methods of warfare available to the belligerent parties.
In this section we will look into a number of concrete cases regarding both detainment and targeting arising from contemporary conflicts such as the ‘War on Terror’ and the civil war in Syria.


3. After War: Winning the Peace?
Winning the war is not the same as winning the peace. Thus, in this section we will explore some of the multiple dilemmas posed by the aftermath of an armed conflict regarding reconciliation of aggressors and victims, retributive vs. restorative justice, rebuilding of institutions and the roles of both national and international courts in prosecuting international crimes committed as part of the war.
This section and the previous two thus fully prepare us to get the most of the long study tour to Bosnia – a country in the Balkans torn by war in the 1990’s and since struggling to gain its footing as a functional state at the edge of Europe.



  • Emily Crawford and Alison Pert, International Humanitarian Law, Cambridge University Press, 2015 [textbook].
  • Selected readings from academic journals, Security Council resolutions, court cases, legal opinions and textbooks relevant to the individual topics and international treaties and conventions (all to be made available on Canvas).

Study questions/reading exercises are assigned for each class. They are meant as a guide while reading the assigned texts – thus enabling students to focus on the essential issues that will be covered in each class.

Note: Some of the readings might be subject to change during the course, but students will receive any new readings in due time to prepare for class.



Late arrival to class: 

All students are expected to come to class on time. Repeated late arrivals will result in a meeting with the instructor.

Policy on late hand-in of synopses:

Papers handed in late will not be accepted.

 Use of laptops or phones in class:

The use of laptops is allowed only for taking notes. The use of mobile phones in class is not allowed.


Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on: 


Course Summary:

Date Details Due