Advanced course in Law of Armed Conflict - Master



Mål og innhald

The Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) applies between parties to an armed conflict, be it an international armed conflict or non-international armed conflict (sometimes called an internal armed conflict). The subject of LOAC is therefore not when or if parties to a conflict have the right to resort to armed force - but the rules applicable between them if they do.

The use of armed force, unfortunately, remains characteristic for the international society. The manner in which armed force, when first used, can be applied is therefore a central question. And while much of the law rests on legal developments that took place in the aftermath of the second world war, technical and cultural development did not cease.

Technically the law is ever challenged by new methods of warfare. To mention but some examples;
- the use of over the horizon weapons have greatly expanded
- the use of drone technology has profoundly changed the nature of the battlefield
- the battlefield has been significantly extended by the addition of a cyber dimension
- the battlefield may again be changed by the introduction of artificial intelligence into man controlled, or entirely self-controlled, weapon systems.

International law has seen a significant influence of human rights law affecting all fields ¿ of course also LOAC. International criminal law has also seen significant developments, aimed among others at underpinning and strengthening LOAC. Significant attempts have furthermore been made at preserving human life and limit suffering, i.a. in the adoption of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction as well as the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Both conventions arguably resting on a changed view of the value of human life measured against military benefits. Both conventions also demonstrate the freedom States pursue under LOAC, non-signatories to both including some of the major actors on the international stage, and other States considering a withdrawal in order to enhance military capacity.

The Law of Armed Conflict exists in this constantly developing interplay, at all times central to the State. And when applicable, LOAC concerns a State's most fundamental interest; it's survival. As such LOAC is therefore also one of the most interesting fields in which to study international law, for no field attempts more directly to regulate the core interests of the State and to balance two more competing interests; to safeguard the life and health of humans while not unduly impeding military efficiency.

The Law of Armed Conflict is built around four principles; (i) Distinction between military and civilian targets, (ii) Proportionality, (iii) Military necessity and (iv) Limitations. The course will focus on these basic principles in depth.

As LOAC applies in situations where life is routinely taken, and suffering routinely caused, LOAC is also fraught with ethical dilemmas. The role of ethics in the determination of the law, as well as its implications for professionals working in the filed of LOAC, must thus be addressed and discussed.

This course will focus on general principles of the law of armed conflict and their application in two distinct fields. The law of armed conflict for the maritime domain is characterised by the law having been developed quite some time back, without major updates. As such, it represents a field of law where older sources must be applied to new situations. The course will also focus on the cyber domain, representing a new dimension to warfare, where the law is still to settle and where technological advances continually open new ways in which a perceived enemy can be influenced.

In relation to the program description for MAJUR, the course will
- Help student build an understanding of how national law and national decision making is affected by international law
- Gain a deeper understanding of how legal methodology may vary between different disciplines of law
- Emphasis the role of lawyers also in conflict situations and put to the forefront the deep ethical considerations that affect the determination of the law and how these may explain different views of the law
- How the law is affected by the development of new technologies
- Broaden the range of sources familiar to students
- Sharpen their ability to make an independent, critical and ethical assessment of what the law on any matter is
- Sharpen their ability to apply the law to fields which may not have been considered when central sources were created
- Broaden their competence to cooperate with lawyers with a different cultural background
- Broaden their ability to cooperate in interdisciplinary teams and benefit in their legal analysis from cross-disciplinary information



After successfully completing the course students will have a general knowledge of

  • Why States resort to armed conflict in their international relations
  • When international law permits the use of force
  • The historical development of LOAC
  • Different levels of conflict and the application of LOAC
  • The relationship between LOAC and International Criminal Law

After successfully completing the course students will have a good knowledge of

  • The method and sources of international law, with particular emphasis on questions and differences that arise in LOAC
  • The four central principles of LOAC, and especially their application in maritime and cyber operations
  • The meaning and importance of status as a combatant, non-combatant and civilians
  • The limitations LOAC presents on means and methods of armed conflict, especially as these apply to operations conducted in the maritime and cyber domain
  • The legal status, as well as rights and obligations that concern neutrals
  • Special questions that arise in maritime and cyber operations
  • The application of Human Rights Law in situations that are also covered by LOAC
  • The rules concerning protected persons and objects


After completing the course, the student should be able to independently analyze, discuss, and take a stand on issues that fall under LOAC.

This entails that students must be able to

  • identify, systematize and formulate LOAC issues based on comprehensive and complex fact
  • find and systematize relevant sources of law and carry out independent legal analysis of LOAC issues in a thorough, comprehensive, critical and balanced way
  • reason out a professionally sound position through clarification of tensions between different types of arguments that are valid under international law
  • identify ethical impacts on the determination of law, particularly in the field of study
  • discuss questions of legal policy that arise in the context of LOAC in a thorough and balanced manner

The student must also be able to convey and evaluate legal analyses and points of view in the LOAC context through

  • systematically prepared independent written analyses
  • orally present legal argumentation
  • to comment on and evaluate other students' analyses and to receive and make use of such comments
  • to work with others in groups to analyze LOAC issues

General competence

After completion of the course, students shall have

  • an understanding of LOAC as a separate discipline of international law
  • have insight in LOAC's place in international law and how it works in conjunction with and is affected by other disciplines of international law (like international human rights law and international criminal law), as well as how it works in conjunction with national law
  • be able to handle a field of law where sources are fragmented and to some degree dated
  • be able to work with international sources in English and be able to give oral and written legal advice in the English language

Studiepoeng, omfang


Studienivå (studiesyklus)





Faculty of Law, University of Bergen
Krav til forkunnskapar
Three years of law studies
Tilrådde forkunnskapar

Good command of English language.

A basic understanding of international law is not required but will be helpful.


This course overlaps with JUS2318 to a 50 percent reduction and JUS296-2-A to a 100 percent reduction.

The course combines well with

JUS2316/JUS3516 Law of the Sea and its Uses and JUS3523 International Criminal Law.

Krav til studierett

The course is available for the following students:

  • Admitted to the five-year master programme in law
  • Admitted to the two-year master programme in law
  • Granted admission to elective courses at the Faculty of Law
  • Granted additional right to study following completed Master in Law degree at UiB
  • Exchange students at the Faculty of Law

The pre-requirements may still limit certain students' access to the course

Arbeids- og undervisningsformer
The course will be taught through blended learning, combining the use of digital modules with seminar modules. Through these students will be given an overview as well as be invited (and required) to actively participate in knowledge sharing and production. In conjunction these forms of evaluation will encourage students to work together and share of experience and emphasis exchanges across legal cultures as well as fostering the ability to both orally and in written form present legal arguments within the field of LOAC.
Obligatorisk undervisningsaktivitet
Mandatory group assignment of maximum 1500 words. This is assessed as a pass/non-pass.
Home exam.
A-E for pass, F for fail.


Students who do not pass the home exam may re-sit in the following semester provided that the mandatory assignment has been approved and when the examination result is due to

  • legitimate reason for non-attendance (see Section 3-4, paragraph 3 b ii in the Supplementary Regulations)
  • failed result

For rules regarding voluntary re-sit, see Section 3-4, paragraph 1 c.

The reading list will be ready 1st July for the autumn semester.
According to the administrative arrangements for course evaluation at the Faculty of Law.
Hjelpemiddel til eksamen
Open book. Please note the rules concerning source citation.
The Academic Affairs Committee (Studieutvalget) at the Faculty of Law is responsible for ensuring the material content, structure and quality of the course.
Professor Knut Einar Skodvin
Administrativt ansvarleg
The Faculty of Law's section for students and academic affairs (Studieseksjonen) is responsible for administering the programme.