Course Syllabus

International Humanitarian Law and Armed Conflict  - B 

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 Ukraine ICRC.jfif

Semester & Location:

Spring 2024 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Core course - 3 credits

Study Tours:

Geneva, Switzerland & Chamonix, France

Major Disciplines:

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

Expectations of the students:

Students must expect the course to focus on international law introducing the basic legal methods and the key sources of law, international humanitarian law, human rights law and international criminal law, which are essential to fully benefit from the course. Students are expected to combine their legal analysis with perspectives on international relations seen from states, IOs, and NGOs.

Faculty Members:

Dorthe Bach Nyemann & Steen Kjærgaard

Current students use Canvas Inbox to contact us

Time & Place:

Fridays 0830 - 1125

Location: N7-A20


Course Description

The recent armed conflicts in Ukraine, following the Russian aggression on Ukraine in February 2022, and more recently the renewed fighting in Gaza have set in motion the long-lasting debate on the constraints of international law to promote humanity and to restrain brutality on the battlefield when states and non-state actors are fighting existential struggles.

This course provides students with tools to analyze international humanitarian regulation of armed conflict in the context of international law.  The course aims to enable students to understand the legal challenges of the current and future armed conflicts, as well as enable them to critically analyze and evaluate concrete cases using legal, societal, and political points of view. Furthermore, the course seeks to widen the scope of actors and protections in contemporary conflict to critically assess potentials and challenges for enhancing compliance towards humanity - potentially beyond a purely legalistic approach. This is achieved by applying knowledge from readings, academic presentations, and debates in class including a moot court exercise.

The course is composed of three sections.

In the first section, we introduce the academic field of international law and provide the student with an overview of international law related to armed conflict (jus as Bellum) and international humanitarian law (jus in Bello) e.g. the sources of law, conflict classification, the basic legal principles and a broad overview of the most important rules regulating armed conflict. 

In section two, we dive into the contemporary challenges of IHL and engage the students in the analysis regarding issues i.e. the problem of diminishing compliance, modern technology and methods in warfare, and the interplay with European Human Rights Law (IHRL).

In section three,  we apply the law to selected cases and visit institutions that work directly with IHL issues to gain deeper insight into their perspectives and foster critical thinking and individual reflection among the students. Furthermore, we take a critical view of the security paradigm that IHL represents and discuss the important question of who is the referent object to security. what does it mean to be secure? and not least how that is achieved. We introduce the notion of Human Security.

Learning 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 including the humanitarian movement in Europe since 1859.
  • Understand and apply the general principles and rules of International Humanitarian Law.
  • Apply the rules of International Humanitarian Law to concrete cases in both international armed conflicts and non-international armed conflicts with a focus on the current armed conflict in Ukraine.
  • Understand the interplay between humanitarian law, human rights law, and international criminal law.
  • Analyze and discuss the challenges related to regulating the usage of modern technology in armed conflicts eg. artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), and cybering of the reality and practical concerns affecting the implementation of obligations under international law;
  • Identify and discuss the main issues related to enhancing compliance with International Humanitarian Law in contemporary conflicts and related to means and methods of warfare.
  • Be able to critically apply gained knowledge to the debate on the role, challenges and possibilities of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) as a top-tier protective regime for individuals and objects during armed conflicts.



Dorthe Bach Nyemann

Master in Politics and History from the University of Copenhagen 2000. Graduated in courses on International Law a Master of International Security and Law from the University of Southern Denmark in 2015. Worked as a teacher and planner of education at the Danish Army Academy for Junior Officers from 2005 to 2015. Currently employed at the Royal Danish Defence College researching cyber security and hybrid threats. Areas of expertise as a teacher are International Relations, International Law, and the art of writing large assignments. Engaged in international working groups related to the topic of my research. With DIS since 2021.

Steen Kjærgaard

Master of Arts in International Security from the University of Leicester (UK) 2018.  Army officer. Military Academy, Bachelor 1996. Graduated Joint Command and Staff College (MA) 2010. Currently stationed at the Royal Danish Defense College, as a military analyst. Served in the Danish Defense Intelligence. Lecturer at the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, San Remo, Italy (2010-2016).  He has been deployed to conflict zones and been with an IHL capacity-building program in Indonesian Commando forces, Koppassus, with the Norwegian Center for Human Rights (2013-2016). Whilst Senior Advisor to the government of Kosovo, a partaker in the promotion of IHL to the Kosovo Security Forces (2022-2023). With DIS since 2018.


During the course, the student must produce two smaller assignments and a final essay. Furthermore, the student must play a proactive role in the conduct of Moot court role play. Finally, and highly important for the success of this course the student must engage actively and participate with a positive attitude. This includes preparation for class, and active participation during class discussions based on facts, law, analysis, and reflection, however, most importantly students must get involved when we meet representatives from different organizations working with international humanitarian law.

See the assignment tab for instructional details.


Activity Weight Remark
Assignments during course 40%

1200 words  paper


Video Podcast 7 minutes

Final Essay 40% 2500 words excl. bibliography
Participation in class 20%

Academic Regulations  

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

The use of AI writing tools

  • in this course is restricted to specific stages such as brainstorming and making research plans or outlines. The primary content of assignments should reflect your knowledge, creativity, and critical thinking. As with all sources of information and ideas, ensure that all AI contributions are correctly cited. The ICRC community provides excellent sources and insights on the most relevant questions on IHL (listed below). These interpretations represent the best and most unbiased knowledge of IHL we have. In most cases using these sources will provide an outstanding quality of answers that you can not expect using AI tools. 

Excellent sources from the ICRC and The Geneva Academy

Readings for class

  • Emily Crawford and Alison Pert, International Humanitarian Law, 2. nd. Cambridge University Press, 2021 [textbook].
  • Find specific readings for each class under sections.

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.

Field Studies

Field Study 1:  Visit the Danish Institute of Human Rights / Dignity 'The Danish Institute against Torture

Field Study 2: Visit to the Danish War Museum and discussion on the application of IHL in casu the Afghan War.

Guest Lecturers

Dr Marc Schack; Regulation of cyber warfare. The Royal Danish Defence College

Dr Iben Yde; Regulating artificial intelligence in weaponry. The Royal Danish Defence College.

Others may also join us and we will meet a range of speakers at our study tours

Approach to Teaching

This course will be a combination of lectures and a discussion-based course using case studies as well as group work. The teaching will facilitate a reflective learning process as well as critical and constructive feedback, that aims to sharpen the analytical skills as well as the overall academic methodology of the students. Faculty strive to apply modern didactics and learning methods i.e. flipped classroom philosophy.

Reading reflection techniques will be applied.

Expectations of the Students

As the course is partly a discussion-based course and case studies, a high degree of student participation, preparation, and engagement is required. Throughout the course, you will also have to develop and practice your critical thinking by analyzing texts, concepts, and specific cases to understand the complexity of the field of international law.

Download the ICRC IHL app. We will use this throughout the course as the best source for an overview of IHL  

Download “Fighter not Killer” for free from either App Store or Google Play. You can find the app by using this link  Here you can learn the basic rules of IHL in practice.

Study Tours

Study tours are an integral part of the core course as we take the classroom on the road and see how the theory presented in the classroom is translated into practice in the field.

You will travel with your classmates and DIS faculty/staff on a study tour to Northwestern Jutland and Geneva in Switzerland. 

In the short study tour and throughout the core course week, we will explore the impact of antipersonnel landmines on civilians during and after an armed conflict. We will learn about the general regulation of means and methods of warfare and dive into the specifics of landmines. We will visit the Northwestern coast of Jutland to explore the role of landmines during the Second World War, the clean-up over decades afterward, and how demining takes place around the globe today including in Ukraine.

In the long study tour, we will travel to Geneva in Switzerland.  The overarching theme for the tour is to explore perspectives on the unique role the city of Geneva has as the international hub for humanity i.e. international organizations, peace processes, and not least International Humanitarian Law. In Geneva, we will visit the International Committee of The Red Cross and Red Crescent and follow the humanitarian trail of the Red Cross. We will particularly focus on the special status of the ICRC as the proponent for IHL and its efforts to enhance compliance with IHL. We will visit various international organizations focusing on the prospects of humanitarian mediation. Not least, we will enjoy the unique culture of central Europe and not least the Alps. 

 Expectations for study tours:

  • Participate in all activities.
  • Engage in discussions, ask questions, and contribute to achieving the learning objectives.
  • Respect the destination, the speakers, the DIS staff, and your classmates.
  • Represent yourself, your home university, and DIS in a positive light.

While on a program study tour, DIS will provide hostel/hotel accommodation, transportation to/from the destination(s), approx. 2 meals per day, and entrances, guides, and visits relevant to your area of study or the destination. You will receive a more detailed itinerary before departure.

Travel policies:

You are required to travel with your group to the destination. If you have to deviate from the group travel plans, you need approval from the program director and the study tours office.   

Course Summary:

Date Details Due