Exploration 3: Law in Action

3A. Identifying violations of IHL (one session)

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.

3B. From the perspective of combatants (two sessions)

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.

3C. Who is responsible for respecting IHL? (one session)

In Exploration 3A, students identified violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and considered why combatants violate the law and how one violation may lead to another. Exploration 3B focused on dilemmas, which included the difficulty in distinguishing between civilians and combatants – and between civilian objects and military objectives – on the battlefield.

In Exploration 3C, students explore the responsibilities of various people for making sure that IHL is respected.

3D. A case study: My Lai – What went wrong? What went right? (three sessions)

Exploration 3C introduced the subject of respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) during combat.

Exploration 3D presents a historical instance of soldiers committing a series of serious violations of IHL. Students examine this episode in the light of what they have learned in the preceding explorations. They trace what went wrong and what went right in applying the rules of IHL in this particular case. They study the various factors that may have played a part in the incident, the dilemmas the soldiers faced and their different responses to them.