Background

Current humanitarian action is characterised by a multitude of different actors of a varying nature. These actors mainly consist of relief agencies, donors and beneficiaries; and all three groups of actors comprise governmental as well as non-governmental agencies. The module "Legal Framework of Humanitarian Action" takes account of the fact that each and every humanitarian situation presupposes acquaintance of decision-makers, both on the side of implementing agencies as of donors, with the legal framework conditions. These framework conditions bear in particular on the right of a humanitarian actor to access, the protection of the mission itself as the protection of the individual relief worker.
The course will familiarize participants with the theoretical and conceptual contexts of the international legal framework of humanitarian action, both in – international and non-international – armed conflict as in natural and technological disasters. Participants will further enhance competences to carry out comprehensive analyses of conflict and non-conflict emergency situations, to develop a deep understanding of legal aspects of humanitarian action and to identify responsibilities in implementing humanitarian action and in assuming accountability.

Objectives

To improve the student's ability to carry out comprehensive analyses of conflict and non-conflict emergency situations. 

Familiarize participants with the theoretical and conceptual contexts of Public International Law and with International Humanitarian Law and International Disaster Relief Law in particular.

Enable participants to consider and apply international law in emergency situations, in particular the right of humanitarian actors to access, the protection of the mission itself as the protection of the individual relief worker.

 

Topics

Introduction to legal methodology and international law

  • Functions of law / of int'l public law
  • Areas of legal regulation
  • Notion of "international legal regulation"
  • Regulation vs. enforcement

Legal personality in and sources of international law

  • Legal personality

    • States
    • International organizations
    • "Traditional" subjects of int'l law
    • Individuals
    • Humanitarian organisations as "humanitarian actors"
  • Sources

    • International treaties
    • International custom
    • Principles of int'l law
    • "Guidelines" vs. "sources of law"

Basic structures of international humanitarian law (IHL)

  • IHL, human rights law and the Charter of the United Nations

  • Types of armed conflict

    • International armed conflicts
    • Non-international armed conflicts
    • "International disturbances and tensions"
  • The principle of distinction

    • Combatants
    • Civilians and the civilian population

Protection of (groups of) individuals and restrictions on weapons and methods of warfare

  • Protection of combatants

    • Wounded and sick
    • Prisoners of war
  • Protection of civilians

    • Civilian objects
    • Civilian population
  • Conventional weapons
  • Weapons of mass destruction

IHL regime of humanitarian action

  • Humanitarian action in international armed conflict

    • Within occupied territory
    • Outside occupied territory

Humanitarian action in non-international armed conflict

  • Treaty law
  • Customary law

Problem of a "right to humanitarian intervention"

  • Right vs. duty to offer humanitarian assistance
  • Concepts of "droit d'intervention"; "droit d'ingérence"; "human security", "right to protect"
  • State practice / customary law

Existing legal regulation for humanitarian action in non-conflict situations

  • UN GA Resolution 46 / 182
  • Oslo Guidelines on the Use of MCDA (Military and Civil Defence Assets)
  • Guidelines on the Use of MCDA to Support UN Humanitarian Activities in Complex Emergencies
  • Treaty law regulation

IDRL Guidelines (2007)

  • Characteristics of existing laws, rules and principles
  • Challenges in the field
  • Structure and content of the IDRL Guidelines