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Advanced Introduction to International Humanitarian Law

Robert Kolb

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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Robert Kolb


When I was proposed to write this small book by Edward Elgar Publishing, I hesitated for a long time. I considered that having already written two manuals on international humanitarian law (IHL), one in French the other in English, there was hardly space, before significant further time elapsed, to write a third one without repeating myself. However, the friendly personnel of Elgar discreetly but firmly insisted on their proposal, and I finally reflected afresh on it. The solution I found was to write a piece covering new ground, under the quadruple flag to be mentioned in the next paragraph.

This book aims at providing an advanced, challenging, short and selective introduction to IHL. The word “advanced” is meant to connote the idea that the reader has acquired basic knowledge of the subject matter elsewhere and can now focus on specific aspects of this branch of the law. The word “challenging” is intended to convey the idea of an exploration, including difficult, controversial and sometimes unusual questions, as part and parcel of the following pages. Conversely, I will refrain from covering basic knowledge on IHL and will replace it by dwelling on some questions not devoid of arduousness. The reader who feels the necessity to refresh basic notions of IHL could do so with another introductory book of the present author, namely R. Kolb and R. Hyde, An Introduction to the International Law of Armed Conflicts (Oxford/Portland, 2008). I must stress again: this is not an introduction for the...

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