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Advanced Introduction to International Humanitarian Law

Robert Kolb, Professor of Public International Law, University of Geneva, Switzerland
This innovative book provides a thought-provoking introduction to international humanitarian law (IHL). Robert Kolb explores the field through questions – which are at times challenging and controversial – in order to get to the very essence of the subject and give a fresh perspective. The result is an exposition both of the law as it stands, through its written and unwritten rules, and also of the uncertainties, gaps, controversies and practical problems which have arisen. IHL is revealed as a living tool, an ever-adapting means to an ever-remaining need of protection during times of armed conflict.

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Extent: 232 pp
Hardback Price: $120.00 Web: $108.00
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 978 1 78347 751 7
Availability: In Stock
Paperback Price: $27.95 Web: $22.36
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 978 1 78347 753 1
Availability: In Stock
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  • Law - Academic
  • Human Rights
  • Public International Law
  • Terrorism and Security Law
  • Politics and Public Policy
  • Human Rights
  • Terrorism and Security
Elgar Advanced Introductions are stimulating and thoughtful introductions to major fields in the social sciences and law, expertly written by the world’s leading scholars. Designed to be accessible yet rigorous, they offer concise and lucid surveys of the substantive and policy issues associated with discrete subject areas.

This innovative book provides a thought-provoking introduction to international humanitarian law (IHL). Robert Kolb explores the field through questions – which are at times challenging and controversial – in order to get to the very essence of the subject and give a fresh perspective. The result is an exposition both of the law as it stands, through its written and unwritten rules, and also of the uncertainties, gaps, controversies and practical problems which have arisen. IHL is revealed as a living tool, an ever-adapting means to an ever-remaining need of protection during times of armed conflict.

Key features include:

• Focus on key questions, exploring the whole system of law and its practical working
• Covers the main principles, sources of law and implementation
• Leads the reader to think through the topic
• Concise and accessible, whilst taking a rigorous approach.

Reflecting on current questions regarding the structure of the law, this concise and readable book offers a thought-provoking view of the system as a whole and its practical working. It covers the main principles, applicability issues and implementation of humanitarian law, as well as shedding light on the challenges ahead. This thoughtful introduction will provide unique insights for academics, advanced students, government officials and practitioners interested in the legal construction of international humanitarian law.


‘The Advanced Introduction by Robert Kolb to IHL is a concise and brilliantly written journey through the most challenging aspects of the contemporary laws of war: the distinction between international and non-international armed conflicts, between combatants, fighters and civilians in asymmetric warfare and the so-called “war on terror”, the complex relationship between IHL and international human rights law, the geographical scope of the battlefield in times of cyber warfare and targeted killings by armed drones.’
– Manfred Nowak, Vienna University, Austria and Former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

‘A fascinating and inspiring presentation and discussion of the most crucial and controversial features of international humanitarian law with respect to its application in contemporary armed conflicts.’
– Professor Fausto Pocar, President, International Institute of Humanitarian Law, Sanremo, Italy and Judge and Former President, ICTY, The Hague, the Netherlands

‘Robert Kolb considers that this is not an introduction for the beginner. Indeed, those seeking a descriptive summary of all the rules of humanitarian law should consult another book or the applicable conventions. For all others, however, this also an inductive, refreshing, committed, yet nuanced introduction, focusing in depth on a few, central issues, and written by one who does not only master this branch of international law, but also the relevant legal, political and historical contexts.’
– Marco Sassòli, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Contents: Foreword 1. The Main Epochs of Modern International Humanitarian Law and their Related Legal Constructions 2. International Armed Conflict and Non-International Armed Conflict 3. The Sources of International Humanitarian Law and Their Subject-Matter Specificity 4. The Main Principles of International Humanitarian Law 5. Applicability Issues: Finding a Way out of the Quagmire 6. Combatants and Civilians: A Sometimes Difficult Divide 7. Targeting: A Context-Related Legal Set of Rules 8. Implementation of International Humanitarian Law: The Achilles Heel of the System 9. Conclusion: The Challenges Ahead Bibliography List of abbreviations Index