International Humanitarian Law in Theory and Practice

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  • Welcome to this course!
    • It is great that you are joining us! In this course you will get a deep insight into the law that governs armed conflict. Before you start with “International Humanitarian Law in Theory and Practice”, we invite you to first take a look around the course content. As you will notice, this MOOC starts with an introduction module in order to help you study successfully in an online environment, and to familiarize you with international humanitarian law. If you encounter any difficulties while studying, please let us know in the forum. For technical difficulties or questions regarding the course certificate, you can always contact the Coursera Learner Helpdesk. We truly hope that you will enjoy this course. Good luck!
  • Introduction to International Humanitarian Law
    • In the first week, we will introduce you to the basic concepts of IHL, its history and place in the international legal order. We will discuss two different areas of IHL, “Hague law” and “Geneva law” respectively, and its main legal instruments. At the end, we will look at armed conflict and the protection of war victims from a human rights law perspective, in an engaging discussion with Prof. Helen Duffy.
  • Conflict classification
    • In this second week, we will study the scope of application of IHL. IHL regulates armed conflict, and therefore we will start by exploring the two different types of armed conflicts: international and non-international armed conflicts (IACs and NIACs). We will also look at the different rules that apply to each type of conflict. In this module, we will furthermore discover special situations of conflict, like belligerent occupation, foreign intervention and NIAC-spill over, which can impact the character of a conflict. At the end of this week we will touch upon situations below the armed conflict threshold, and Prof. Robin Geiss will tell us all about the so-called “global war on terror”.
  • Conduct of hostilities
    • In this week, we will look through the eyes of combatants and other fighters, and learn how military operations should be conducted. We will familiarize ourselves with the most important principles that need to be applied on the battlefield including those of distinction, proportionality, precautions and the prohibition of unnecessary suffering. We will discover that civilians who refrain from hostilities should never be targeted. At the end of this module we will see that IHL also sets limits to the weapons that can be used by combatants, and Prof. Michael Schmitt will share his viewpoint on whether armed drones and other modern technologies like cyber warfare are lawful under IHL.
  • Protection of persons
    • In this module we will look through the eyes of sick and wounded soldiers, detainees, enemy civilians and vulnerable persons in conflict, including children and women. We will discover how IHL safeguards persons who are not - or not anymore - fighting. Together, we will find out that each person should be treated humanely; that detainees should receive water and food; and that young children should never be recruited by the military. At the end of this module, Vincent Bernard from the ICRC will discuss with us the biggest challenges to protect persons who refrain from fighting, and will give us an insight into various IHL success stories across the globe.
  • Implementation and enforcement
    • In this final module, we will look into the implementation and enforcement of IHL, which is crucial to increase respect for IHL. After discussing different enforcement methods, we will highlight two methods: Demands for compensation and criminal prosecutions. Here, we will learn how war victims can claim compensation and how States and International Courts and Tribunals can initiate criminal prosecutions for war crimes when serious violations of IHL have been committed. At the end of this module, Jeroen van den Boogaard from the Netherlands Defense Academy will explain what the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, as well as the military can do in order to make wars more humane. He will also inform us what everyone can do to increase respect for IHL.