Learning Gateways: Applying the Rules of International Humanitarian Law

Students learn about the concept of international humanitarian law, analyze photos, then use the chart of “Basic Rules of International Humanitarian Law” to discuss how the rules might apply to the people in each photo.

Materials :

Copies of Basic Rules of International Humanitarian Law chart [link to file]

Copies of International Humanitarian Law Photographs [link to file]

1. If students are not already familiar, explain the concept of international humanitarian law:

International humanitarian law is a set of rules that seeks to limit the effects of armed conflict for humans involved in, or close to, the conflict. The rules regulate the conduct of persons involved with armed conflict.

2. Discuss with students:

  • Why do you think such rules should be in place?
  • What types of rules do you think might be appropriate for international humanitarian law?

3. Share with students the chart: Basic Rules of International Humanitarian Law, and discuss the rules that are listed.

  • How do they compare with the rules you just brainstormed?
  • Are there any rules here that surprise you?
  • Are there rules missing that you think should be in place?

4. Explain to students that they will now look at some photographs of real-life situations then brainstorm which rules of international humanitarian law might apply. Distribute photos to students in groups, or individually. The photos have been selected to provide a glimpse into situations that are all relevant to international humanitarian law, including:

  • Soldiers interacting with civilians
  • Refugees, or persons displaced because of conflict
  • Hospital
  • Prisoner(s) of War

5. As students look at each of the photos, they should address the following questions:

  • What is happening in the photograph?
  • Who are the people in the photograph? What are their roles in the situation shown?
  • What rules from international humanitarian law might apply to the people in the photograph? Do you think these rules are adequate? Why or why not? 

6. If students are working in groups, allow them to share their photograph and ideas with the rest of the class. Discuss the photographs and the rules with the class:

  • Did you notice similarities or differences among the photos? If so, what?
  • Why do you think it is necessary to have international humanitarian laws that address these issues?

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