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Unit information: International Law and Armed Conflict in 2021/22

Unit name International Law and Armed Conflict
Unit code LAWDM0158
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Burton
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit is a unique course which requires students to study the intersections between the law on the use of force (jus ad bellum), the law of armed conflict/war (jus in bello), and when a state’s use of force and breaches of the laws of war attract international criminal sanction. It distinguishes key international crimes from the former international legal regimes, including crimes against humanity and genocide. This engagement with the intersections of different fields of international law is key for understanding contemporary global warfare, an important example being global counter-terror operations, which have been termed ‘internationalised’ non-international armed conflict. Students will learn which domestic and international adjudicatory mechanisms can enforce each body of law, and how their adjudication can have a bearing on the substance of the intersecting legal regimes.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Describe the international sources of law governing the use of force in the UN Charter, and in customary international law (pay attention to the roles of the UNSC and the ICJ).
  2. Describe the sources on the laws of armed conflict in the Hague Conventions, its Protocol (pay attention to the role of the ICRC and the ICJ).
  3. Describe the international criminal tribunals and courts, and their relationship with domestic courts, and the legal sources governing their functioning and interaction.
  4. Evaluate the law on what constitutes legal, illegal, and legitimate uses of force.
  5. Evaluate the distinction between crimes against humanity, genocide and other crimes under the laws of war.
  6. Critically assess which States fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC for which crimes (including the opening of preliminary investigations against the US, UK, and in Palestine and Ukraine).
  7. Critically assess the intersection between the laws of armed conflict and what constitutes a war crime that falls within the jurisdiction of the ICC (case study of human shields).
  8. Critically assess the relationship between the law on the use of force and the crime of aggression.
  9. Critically assess the role of force in contemporary international relations, including the war on terror.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a variety of asynchronous and synchronous activities.

Assessment Information

Students will be assessed by 2 x 3,000 word coursework assignments. Each 1 x 3,000 word coursework will amount to 50% of the overall mark. Both assessments will assess all of the Intended Learning Outcomes for this unit in the context of topics selected by the examiners.

Formative assessment opportunities will be provided during the year.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. LAWDM0158).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.