Exploration 3A: Identifying Violations


In Module 2, students explored why rules are needed to regulate armed conflict. They also learned about the basic rules of international humanitarian law (IHL) and explored the consequences for victims when these rules are violated.

In Module 3, students go on to consider why people violate IHL and who bears the responsibility for ensuring that the rules are respected.

Using statements from people involved in armed conflicts, Exploration 3A prompts students to identify violations of IHL and to reflect on the reasons given for those violations. Students trace the way in which one violation can set off a chain reaction and brainstorm ways to prevent or to limit such violations.

This course is one 45-minute session.


  • To be able to identify violations of IHL
  • To recognize examples of the way in which one violation leads to another

Key Ideas

  • Violations of IHL often set off a chain reaction, leading to further violations.
  • People give various reasons for the violations of IHL that take place.
  • There are several ways to prevent violations of IHL and to limit their consequences.


  • Choose which passages (from “Voices from war – 2″) to use in steps 1 and 2.
  • In the Methodology Guide, review the material on teaching about consequences in teaching method 4 (Using dilemmas).
  • If possible, view the relevant chapter of the training film for teachers (Module 3).



Which Rule of IHL was Violated

(15 minutes)

  • Divide the class into pairs of students, and assign two or three of the statements from “Voices from war – 2″ to each pair.
  • Instruct the students to identify the various violations of IHL contained in each statement, using “What are the basic rules of IHL?”.
  • Ask them to record their answers in ‘Chart A’ on the worksheet, “Which rule of IHL was violated?”
  • Also, have students study the statements assigned to them and find the reasons that people give, or the reasons that they can imagine these people giving, for violating a particular rule.

    Have the class then examine together what the various reasons or explanations given by people have in common. One way to do this might be to group similar-sounding explanations together, by category.

    [For example: for security, for military advantage, obeying unlawful orders from commanders, the belief that civilians are aiding the enemy, because the other side did it, for revenge, out of desperation or other emotions, lack of resources, because they did not know the law]

    The worksheet provides an example using statement #1.


    How One Violation Leads to Another

    (15 minutes)

    Ask the class to find statements that show a link between one violation, and another that is a consequence of it.

  • Have pairs of students discuss violations of IHL that lead to more violations and ask them to fill in the appropriate columns in ‘Chart B’ on the worksheet.
  • Have students also indicate the rules of IHL that were violated.

    [For example: when one side places a gun on the roof of a hospital, the other side attacks the hospital as a consequence; or one side's killing a prisoner leading to the other side's killing prisoners in revenge; or a captor's cruel treatment of a prisoner that might lead to the captor then killing the prisoner or to other captors following his lead]

    Have students report on the chains of consequences that they have identified.


    Can we prevent violations or limit their consequences

    (10 minutes)

    Have the class choose one violation to work on as a group. Then have them brainstorm ways to prevent that violation or to limit its consequences.

    When a list has been developed, have students evalute their suggestions.

    Possible questions:

  • What consequences is each suggestion likely to have? What, in turn, would each of those consequences lead to?
  • Do you think that governments and those fighting would accept your suggestions? Why or why not? How would you ensure their implementation?
  • [For example: giving orders, training, monitoring, disciplining, punishing, making laws]



    (5 minutes)


    Can you think of examples from the news of situations of escalating violence?