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The University of Southampton

LAWS6151 Armed Conflict in International Law

Module Overview

The promise of ‘never again’ following two World Wars remains an elusive ideal. In spite of the establishment of the United Nations and the extensive growth of international law in the post-Second World War era, armed conflict is more prevalent than ever before. The use of chemical weapons, starvation of civilians, sexual and gender-based violence, drones and terrorist financing are just some of the characteristics of modern warfare. This module explores the rules and principles of international law regulating the use of force in international society and governing the manner in which wars may be conducted. The module examines both the law concerning when it is permissible for a state to use force (jus ad bellum) and the law governing the conduct of hostilities once the decision to resort to force has been taken (International Humanitarian Law). Thus, the module covers two related areas. The first part presents a critical perspective on the rules and principles which prohibit or authorise the use of force in international relations and explores the difficulties in enforcing these rules. The second part addresses the humanitarian principles which attempt to limit the suffering caused by war and regulate the conduct of armed forces involved in military operations. Both parts are concerned with the relationship between international law and politics, and explore how contemporary issues such as the rise of non-state actors and new technologies challenge the fundamental principles of the law of armed conflict.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • A1. the prohibition on the use of force and the exception of self-defence
  • the political constraints on international humanitarian law
  • A3. the core concepts and principles of the law of armed conflict law and their application.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • B1. analyse, explain and critique core concepts and principles
  • B2. identify, critically evaluate and communicate legal arguments and opinions about the aims as well as the challenges of the law of armed conflict.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • C1. analyse complex written texts and evaluate different types of arguments;
  • C2. communicate arguments effectively and reference sources appropriately;
  • C3. develop, explain and defend arguments on the basis of evidence and through the analysis of literature.


The following topics are indicative of those which will be covered. This is a very dynamic field and changes in content, order, name and scope of topics may be necessary from year to year to keep pace with current developments. The precise content of the module in any particular year will be confirmed in a module overview document, which will be distributed via the course Blackboard site before the first lecture: - The prohibition of the use of force, self-defence and the crime of aggression - International and non-international armed conflicts - The United Nations collective security system, peace keeping operations - Humanitarian law principles of proportionality and distinction - Means and methods of war, such as unmanned vehicles (‘drone war’) and cyber war

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods: One 2-hour seminar per week Learning activities include: - Directed and additional reading, as per distributed reading lists reproduced on Blackboard; - Engagement with current legal developments media reports so that you can relate the materials being discussed to contemporary controversies.

Independent Study130
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list






MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework  (4500 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework  (4500 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework  (4500 words) 100%
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