Universität Wien FIND

Return to Vienna for the summer semester of 2022. We are planning to hold courses mainly on site to enable the personal exchange between you, your teachers and fellow students. We have labelled digital and mixed courses in u:find accordingly.

Due to COVID-19, there might be changes at short notice (e.g. individual classes in a digital format). Obtain information about the current status on u:find and check your e-mails regularly.

Please read the information on https://studieren.univie.ac.at/en/info.

030317 KU Laws of Armed Conflict (2020W)

3.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 3 - Rechtswissenschaften
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 28 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Meets Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 09:00-12:00 between 7-16 January 2021.
Contrary to the room announcements above, this course must meet online at

Thursday 07.01. 09:00 - 12:00 Hörsaal U12 Schottenbastei 10-16, Juridicum, KG1
Friday 08.01. 09:00 - 12:00 Hörsaal U21 Schottenbastei 10-16, Juridicum, KG2
Saturday 09.01. 09:00 - 12:00 Hörsaal U21 Schottenbastei 10-16, Juridicum, KG2
Thursday 14.01. 09:00 - 12:00 Hörsaal U12 Schottenbastei 10-16, Juridicum, KG1
Friday 15.01. 09:00 - 12:00 Hörsaal U21 Schottenbastei 10-16, Juridicum, KG2
Saturday 16.01. 09:00 - 12:00 Hörsaal U21 Schottenbastei 10-16, Juridicum, KG2


Aims, contents and method of the course

In this course you will understand why the law of war exists, how it came about and why it is so often honoured more in breach than in practice. This course offers a comprehensive overview of the rules regulating organised violence, usually involving states.

Contrary to popular understanding, military thinkers from Clausewitz onwards recognised that war is never absolute but always subject to “circumscribing and moderating forces.” In this course you will understand what these forces are, how they operate, what conduct they have endorsed or shunned and, perhaps most importantly, why.

Along the way, you will discover that for all its rigour and scope, this law is at once complete, precise, doctrinal – but incompletely observed. As Lauterpacht memorably put it: “If international law is, in some ways, at the vanishing point of law, the law of war is, perhaps even more conspicuously, at the vanishing point of international law.”

We will focus on the practical use and functional necessity of the law of armed conflict for the conduct of international relations and the maintenance of discipline and cohesion in national militaries, at times in contrast to the more idealistic aspirations of international humanitarian law. Heavy use of case studies will be made. You will learn that much of the apparent paradox of regulating killing and destruction fades away once the organisational imperatives of military life are taken into account.

Assessment and permitted materials

The grade for this course consists of one written, 48 hours take-home, open-book book exam of maximum 2000 words excluding footnotes (70%) and class participation (30%). The exam is aimed to motivate a renewed engagement with the course material and to cement the retention of the material.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Since Covid-19 forces us to limit the maximum number of participants to 22, we ask interested students to send a short motivational letter to emil.schiener@univie.ac.at. We want to make sure that those who will be registered for the course, value the opportunity and show this through their attendance. Attendance at all sessions is mandatory and active class participation forms an integral part of your grade.

Special emphasis will be placed on the understanding of operational challenges, functional necessities, historical legacies and comparative approaches. In short, you should be able to place doctrinal analysis into a broader context.

Examination topics

Formal basis for the exam is the textbook and additional literature provided in the syllabus.

Reading list

Students should purchase the textbook Gary D. Solis, The Law of Armed Conflict. International Humanitarian Law in War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

It is an extremely good idea to read the requisite chapters well before the course starts. Additional voluntary material in English will be electronically provided.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Fr 06.05.2022 00:15