In Exploration 3A, students identified a number of violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) as well as the reasons for such violations, and then discussed how one violation can lead to others.
In Exploration 3B, they tackle dilemmas based on the actual experiences of combatants in situations typical of modern warfare. Combatants are faced with difficult decisions, in applying the rules of war when their own safety and the safety of their fellow combatants is at risk. Many such dilemmas arise when the distinction between civilians and combatants – or between civilian objects and military objectives – is unclear. This distinction has sometimes been blurred intentionally by combatants seeking safety or advantage.
This course is two 45-minute sessions.
- To be able to recognize dilemmas that may arise in respecting IHL in combat situations
- To understand the difficulties in respecting IHL when the difference between combatants and civilians is unclear
- Following the rules of IHL in situations of armed conflict sometimes creates dilemmas.
- Dilemmas may result from the difficulty of distinguishing between combatants and civilians.
- Sometimes people blur the distinction intentionally, and sometimes it is blurred when fighting takes place in residential areas.
- If there is any doubt about the civilian status of a person or an object, that person or object shall considered to be civilian.
Choose two or more dilemmas (from “Dilemma scenarios”) to use in steps 1 and 2. Be sure to include at least one of the dilemmas marked *, which deal with difficulties in distinguishing civilians from combatants.
In the Methodology Guide, review teaching method 9 (Small groups) and the material on teaching about consequences in teaching method 4 (Using dilemmas).
Dilemmas that combatants may face | 30 minutes
As they work out what action to take in light of the dilemma presented, they should keep in mind the following points:
In addition, encourage them to consider the following points:
After about 15 minutes, ask the groups to choose which action to take. Ask them to write down their choice and their reasons for it. In making their choice, they should take into account the rules of IHL as well as any other pertinent considerations.
Dilemma Decisions | 25 minutes
Reconvene the class, and have one student report each group’s decision. In their reports, students should be asked to:
The distinction between civilians and combatants | 30 minutes
Ask students to reflect on the following rule:
When planning or carrying out an attack, distinction must be made between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives.
– Paraphrased from Article 48, Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions
Help students understand the rule by asking them to give examples of:
Then discuss the following rule:
– Paraphrased from Articles 50 and 52, Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions
Use examples like the following to discuss how borderline cases contribute to dilemmas that soldiers face in respecting IHL:
Explain to students that if a civilian is involved in acts that directly harm the enemy by weakening its military strength, that person looses his or her protection against attack, although only for the duration of the act in question. Make sure that students understand that even under such circumstances, civilians do not qualify as combatants.
Closing | 5 minutes