This research guide for the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC) provides information about researching international humanitarian law (IHL) and the law of armed conflict (LOAC).
Its intended audience is PILAC researchers and anyone else interested in IHL/LOAC research.
Research Librarian Jennifer Allison, who is the Harvard Law School Library's PILAC liaison, created and maintains this guide. Her contact information is at the top of the page.
Below are links to more information about PILAC and its work.
Harvard's HOLLIS Library Catalog (https://hollis.harvard.edu) is the best way to find research materials in Harvard's libraries. All PILAC researchers will need to use HOLLIS in their work for the program.
Using HOLLIS effectively takes some practice and strategy. This section of the guide describes a procedure for using HOLLIS that is based on the types of research projects that PILAC has undertaken in the past.
HOLLIS has two search modes:
If you type a term in the search box on the HOLLIS home page and press Enter, HOLLIS will do an Everything search by default.
You will have more control over your search if you use HOLLIS's Advanced Search option. Do this by clicking ADVANCED SEARCH at top of the home page.
Start out by searching as broadly as possible for all of the materials that you might have access to that are related to PILAC's work, like this example:
Now, get to work narrowing down those results so that they are more tailored to what you want.
Here are some options for adding more search terms to the original query, based on the nature of the research that you are doing.
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) creates legal restrictions on waging warfare for the purpose of protecting non-participants. It is comprised of international treaties and customary law.
"Armed conflict" is the term used in international law to describe when a state uses its armed forces in connection with a dispute.
The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (MPEPIL) defines several important terms related to this concept. Links to those definitions, as well as other relevant resources, are listed below.
Basic definitions of these concepts are available in the Parry and Grant Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law:
In scholarly literature, jus ad bellum and jus in bello are often discussed together. They may be discussed under broader philosophical, religious, or moral principles using the terms just war theory or just war doctrine (jus bellum iustum).
Sometimes these are discussed in combination with a third principle, jus post bellum, which encompasses post-conflict legal norms.
In general, an armed conflict is considered to be "non-international" in nature when the party on one side of the hostilities is comprised of non-state actors, such as terrorists or insurrectionists.
This classification is important because it triggers the rules of engagement outlined in the Geneva Conventions Additional Protocol II of 1977. The original Geneva Conventions of 1949 only govern an "international" armed conflict between two sovereign states.
If there is a significant difference in military strength, technical capabilities, and/or other elements between the two parties in an armed conflict, it is generally referred to as an "asymmetric" armed conflict.
International law has specific rules for how warfare is to be conducted. Among the topics these rules cover include the protection of civilians, cultural property, and the environment. There are also rules for conducting cyber operations.
Changes to the nature of warfare over time have complicated the issue of whether and how civilians are engaged in armed conflicts. This issue is often referred to in the IHL literature as "direct participation in hostilities" and it comes up often in PILAC research.
According to the ICRC, the protection of civilians during armed conflict is a "cornerstone" of IHL. This includes not subjecting them to violence, but also to ensure that their access to food, water, housing, and medical care is not disrupted.
The United Nations established its Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect in 2005. This office is home to two special advisors: one on the prevention of genocide and the other on the responsibility to protect. They are tasked with "advanc[ing] national and international efforts to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity (atrocity crimes), as well as their incitement."
To find additional journals not listed in this guide, try searching these journal directories.
Some publishers offer series of works that discuss topics relevant to war, armed conflict, and international humanitarian law research. Click a series link below to view a list of the series titles in the Harvard Library collections.
Masters theses and PhD dissertations provide book-length information on topics of interest to PILAC and bibliographies of relevant research materials.
Manuals on the law of armed conflict serve two purposes: (1) establishing "an agreed version on the law of armed conflict" and (2) setting forth "state practice relating to the law of armed conflict."
(Source: Earle A. Partington, Manuals on the Law of Armed Conflict, Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (2016), https://opil-ouplaw-com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/view/10.1093/law:epil/9780199231690/law-9780199231690-e326.)
The US Naval War College's Stockton e-Portal includes links to armed conflict manuals from many jurisdiction on its manuals page: https://usnwc.libguides.com/c.php?g=86619&p=557511.
The ICRC also maintains a list of state manuals at https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/src_iimima.
This section lists miscellaneous collections of digitized documents that may be useful for PILAC research projects.
Includes online data aggregator services for armed conflict data.
The UN's Dag Hammarskjöld Library's online research guides are helpful for research involving UN documents and materials. Some of the more relevant of these guides to PILAC's research activities include the following:
The documentary history of the preparation of an international agreement is generally known as its Travaux Préparatoires. The resources below can be helpful in finding these materials for international treaties and agreements.
"The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols form the core of international humanitarian law, which regulates the conduct of armed conflict and seeks to limit its effects. They protect people not taking part in hostilities and those who are no longer doing so." (ICRC)
Below is a list of scholars and academics who teach and research IHL and armed conflict law. Links to websites with biographical information and, when available, bibliographies are provided.
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