Geneva Summer Schools 2015 – International Humanitarian Law


The course methodology insists on the importance of a practice-based teaching of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the law protecting persons affected by armed conflicts, thus combining theory and discussions of contemporary conflicts. During the course of the programme, participants will:

  • Receive in-depth presentations on the basic principles and on some current controversies on international humanitarian law;
  • Participate in simulations, by representing parties to current armed conflicts;
  • Engage in interactive debates on “hot topics” in IHL with scholars and practitioners.
  • Reflect on the legal framework applicable to present conflicts.
  • Visit the International Committee of the Red Cross and discuss with its practitioners;
  • Realize that and how IHL is actually being applied in contemporary practice and that it guides those seeking answers to the legal problems arising from armed conflicts.
  • Receive teaching from a mix of eminent scholars, young researchers, military lawyers, and humanitarian practitioners from organizations based in Geneva.
  • 6 ECTS.

Course Program 2015 (Will be published early 2015)


At the end of the course, participants will:

  • Uderstand and apply the appropriate legal framework to the various situations of violence and differentiate between international and non-international armed conflict and internal tensions and disturbances;
  • Explain the different categories of protected persons during international armed conflict, their status and the rules applicable to them;
  • Explain the law governing the conduct of hostilities, including targeting of persons and legality of specific weapons;
  • Be able to apply the rules of international humanitarian law to contemporary armed conflicts;
  • Describe the interaction between the various legal regimes applicable to armed conflict situations, including – in addition to international humanitarian law – international human rights law and international criminal law;
  • Be able to participate in debates on the contemporary legal issues linked to armed conflicts.


In addition to individual participation in class, in order to obtain 6 ECTS credits, participants will be asked to submit a short paper on a topic selected from a list determined by the course director.


Professor Marco Sassòli (Course Director)
University of Geneva

Anne Quintin (Course assistant)
University of Geneva

Speakers: The course will be taught by a mix of eminent scholars, young researchers, military lawyers, and humanitarian practitioners. In particular, faculty will include professors from the University of Geneva, the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, and other top-ranking universities, as well as professionals from organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva Call, or the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission. In addition to the course director and course assistant, speakers already confirmed include:



The course welcomes applications from graduate or post-graduate students (currently enrolled in master degree or above) in law, international relations or related areas, Ph.D candidates, and humanitarian practitioners. Upper-year undergraduate students may also apply, and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Please note that this is a master-level course. Background in public international law is recommended, although not required.


Tuition Fees: 2500 CHF (with possibilities of receiving scholarships in the form of tuition reduction upon motivated request)

Deadline of application: April 15, 2015

Human Rights Council: Side Event, March 12

Religion-based reservations to the core human rights conventions and what they tell us about human rights, universality, religion and belief in the 21st Century

Thursday, 12th March 2015, 13h00-14h30
Restaurant des Délégués, Palais des Nations

Reservations to the core human rights conventions, made at the time of ratification, are often tabled based on concerns about the degree to which certain provisions of those conventions are compatible with the tenets of the world’s major religions. Such reservations can either be general in nature (limiting the application of all the provisions of the convention only insofar as they are compatible with the tenets of a given religion) or can be applied to cover certain specific provisions of the convention. Such reservations are extremely widespread and thus have significant implications both for the level of a given State’s commitment to a convention, and, consequently, to the level of protection afforded at domestic level.

Religion-based or religion-related reservations have been tabled by States from almost all regions of the world and cover a broad set of different religions and belief systems including Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism. Yet despite the large number of States, treaties, treaty articles, and religions in question, most reservations focus on a relatively small number of ‘frontier issues’ sitting at the boundary of universal norms and religious doctrine. These include, for example, inheritance laws, equality in marriage, blasphemy laws, apostasy laws, and family planning. Reservations are often tabled as a compromise between domestic actors that wish to sign and ratify the international human rights conventions and other domestic constituencies that are sensitive to the ‘frontier issues’ mentioned above.

The issue of religious reservations therefore offers a fascinating lens through which to view the relationship between universal human rights norms and the tenets of major world religions. To consider these and related questions, on 12th March, during the 28th session of the Human Rights Council, the Permanent Missions of Germany, Norway and Tunisia, together with the Universal Rights Group, will host a working lunch reception on Religion-based reservations to the core human rights conventions and what they tell us about human rights, universality, religion and belief in the 21st Century.

NB: valid UN accreditation for the HRC session is needed to attend the event.    

Protecting Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion or Belief for All

Enhancing Efforts to Consolidate and Implement HRC Resolution 16/18

Organized by FIDH in collaboration with ARTICLE 19, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights First, Universal Rights Group, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) & the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015, 16:30 – 18:00
Room XXII, Palais des Nations, UN in Geneva

Challenges to the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, as well as rising religious into- lerance and discrimination, increasingly threaten the ability of people around the world to enjoy their basic human rights.

Recent events starkly demonstrate the urgent need for the international community to comprehensively address this issue. All people, in all countries, of all faiths or none, are affected; the attacks against Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher Supermarket in Paris and the murders in Copenhagen; the murder of Muslim students in North Carolina; the anti-Muslim marches in Germany; the flogging of Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia; the on-going persecution of Mus- lims and other religious minorities in Burma/Myanmar and in Sri Lanka; the mass executions of Coptic Christian migrant workers in Libya… The list goes on.

In the face of violent attacks such as these, the universality of human rights is often questioned. However, as Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 and the Rabat Plan of Action make clear, the promotion and protection of all human rights, in particular freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, is the only way to effectively counter intolerance and discrimination and prevent associated violence.

In spite of the international community agreeing on a “road map” of action in resolution 16/18 and the Rabat Plan of Action, the increased attacks and threats against human rights defenders around the world demonstrate that pro- tection for rights on the ground is backsliding, and the space for civil society to freely operate to work against this trend is shrinking.

Blasphemy laws and broad or vague criminal prohibitions on expression deemed unwelcome by governments, or provisions on “incitement to hatred”, are applied to silence minority groups and dissident voices. Minority represen- tatives are denied the platforms to speak out and be heard, further exacerbating tensions. Violence against these groups is often incited by influential public figures with total impunity. Human rights defenders and journalists who attempt to inform the public and question social, religious or political taboos, are also at serious risk.

Join us during the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council to discuss:

  • What global and local challenges do we face in protecting and promoting the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and non-discrimination?
  • What more must States and other stakeholders do to translate 16/18 and the Rabat Plan of Action into legal and policy changes on the ground, to counter the backsliding in rights protection?
  • What must the UN do to consolidate the consensus of 16/18 and support its implementation?
Moderator: Andrew Smith, Legal Officer, ARTICLE 19
Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of religion or belief, UN
Ibn Adbur Rehman, Secretary-General, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Wai Wai Nu, Director, Women Peace Network Arakan, Burma/Myanmar
Michelle Yesudas, Lawyer, Lawyers for Liberty, Malaysia
Brian Dooley, Director, Human Rights Defenders Program, Human Rights First Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General, Reporters Without Borders
Introductory remarks by Nicolas Agostini, Representative to the UN, FIDH