LAW 7197 - International Humanitarian Law and Disruptive Technology

North Terrace Campus - Trimester 3 - 2023

This course explores the legal impact of emerging, sensitive and disruptive technologies upon armed conflict. It tracks the legal issues across the `life-cycle? of these technologies: the legal issues related to acquisition, such as manufacturers liability and states responsibility for the design and development of these technologies; the issues related to their fielding during international and non-international armed conflict, as well as use in operations other than armed conflict, such as `grey-zone? operations and peacekeeping; and finally addresses the use of technology in enforcing compliance with IHL. Utilising contemporary examples, such as the use of evidence collection apps in the current Ukraine conflict for war crimes evidence, the course culminates with students writing a short assessment on how a selected technology can mitigate or exacerbate legal risk in armed conflict, and a research paper on a legal issue canvassed during the course

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code LAW 7197
    Course International Humanitarian Law and Disruptive Technology
    Coordinating Unit Adelaide Law School
    Term Trimester 3
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Intensive
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange
    Prerequisites LAW 7177
    Assessment Presentation, Written Legal Advice, Research Paper
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Lauren Sanders

    Course Coordinator - Dr Lauren Sanders CSC
    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    1 Describe the nature of the regulation of military capabilities by international law, specifically export controls, non-proliferation and weapons law
    2 Articulate the international law relevant to the design and development of military technology
    3 Critically evaluate the impact of international law on the development of future military capability design and acquisition
    4 Explain how international law influences the development and adaptation of technologies adopted by states
    5 Critically examine the operation and application of international humanitarian law in novel contexts
    6 Construct effective legal argument, both orally and in writing, and undertake independent and self-directed analysis on issues relating to the application of international humanitarian law to novel technology
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)

    Attribute 1: Deep discipline knowledge and intellectual breadth

    Graduates have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their subject area, the ability to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice including in multi-disciplinary or multi-professional contexts.


    Attribute 2: Creative and critical thinking, and problem solving

    Graduates are effective problems-solvers, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.


    Attribute 3: Teamwork and communication skills

    Graduates convey ideas and information effectively to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes and contribute in a positive and collaborative manner to achieving common goals.


    Attribute 4: Professionalism and leadership readiness

    Graduates engage in professional behaviour and have the potential to be entrepreneurial and take leadership roles in their chosen occupations or careers and communities.


    Attribute 5: Intercultural and ethical competency

    Graduates are responsible and effective global citizens whose personal values and practices are consistent with their roles as responsible members of society.


    Attribute 7: Digital capabilities

    Graduates are well prepared for living, learning and working in a digital society.


    Attribute 8: Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

    Graduates are self-aware and reflective; they are flexible and resilient and have the capacity to accept and give constructive feedback; they act with integrity and take responsibility for their actions.

  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    Course readings will be provided via MyUni prior to the course.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    Classes will be taught in an interactive, intensive mode over one week (four days). In advance of the intensive classes, there will be an online introductory session; there will be a further online session after the intensive classes to enable reflection on the material and provide a forum for discussing the research essays. Students are expected to have undertaken the reading provided and to come to class ready to discuss that material. The course will feature group discussions of topical issues on which students are expected to express opinions in light of the material covered in the course.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    For a 3 unit course the expected workload is 156 hours. This will be structured as 24 hours of teaching over the four intensive days and pre- and post- intensive online workshops, and 132 hours of personal study (including preparation for classes and completion of assessments).
    Learning Activities Summary
    Online Introductory Session: Tues 7 Sep, 1700-2000 ACST Seminar – course introduction (1 hour)

    Seminar – what are emerging, sensitive and disruptive technologies and what legal frameworks apply to them (2 hour)
    Tues 3 Oct (1300-1730 ACST)

    Seminar – the legal review of novel technology in armed conflict (2 hour)

    Seminar – manufacturers liability and state responsibility for novel technologies (2 hours)
    Wed 4 Oct (0900-1330 ACST)

    Seminar – autonomy and artificial intelligence in armed conflict (2 hours)

    Seminar – human augmentation (super soldiers) in armed conflict (2 hours)

    Thurs 5 Oct (1000-1700 ACST)

    Seminar – application of laws of targeting and novel technology in armed conflict (2 hours)

    Seminar – cognitive bias in targeting operations (2 hours)

    Seminar – classification of participants in armed conflict – open source intelligence analysts, cyber warriors and remote pilots (2 hours)

    Fri 6 Oct (0900-1330 ACST)

    In-class activity: identification of novel technology and discussion of legal issues associated with their use (2 hours)

    Seminar – the use of novel technology in the investigation of war crimes and other atrocity crimes (2 hours)

    Online Reflection Session: Thurs 12 Oct, 1700-2000 ACST

    Seminar – course themes and the future of technology and armed conflict (1 hour)

    Administration session/In-class activity – reflection on course content and discussion on assessment requirements, legal research methodology revision and research paper writing (2 hours)
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Task Task Type Due Weighting Learning Outcome
    Class presentation Individual, summative In class on Friday 20% 1,2,4,5,6
    Written legal advice - legal analysis of novel technology - 1500 words Individual, summative Monday 2pm, 3 weeks from first Monday of course 30% 1,2,3,4,5,6
    Research paper - 4000 words Individual, summative Monday 2pm, 6 weeks from first Monday of course 50% 1,2,3,4,5,6
    Assessment Detail
    Class presentation: 10 minutes (20%, compulsory) (due in class on Friday)

    Students will identify a novel military technology from a list provided, or may nominate their own, and present a brief outline of the capabilities it purports to be capable of, and then identify the legal issues This activity will allow for the students to be provided guidance on the content and additional materials for their first written assessment piece.

    Legal analysis of novel technology: 1500 words (30%, compulsory) (due 2pm, 3 weeks after first Monday of course)

    Students will be required to turn their in-class presentation into a 1,500 word legal analysis outlining the legal benefits and legal risks associated with their selected novel technology. They will be required to be succinct and refer to legal sources that prompt their assessments of legal risk related to the technology. They will be provided guidance on which issues to focus upon during their in-class presentation.

    Research paper: 4000 words (50%, compulsory) (due 2pm, 6 weeks after first Monday of course)

    Students will be required to write a legal research paper addressing a legal issue of their choice, discussed during the course. Students will be provided a list of potential paper topics, but are encouraged to select their own topic.
    Students will be provided with submission instructions as part of the assessment instructions for each item of assessment which will be made available on MyUni.


    Requests for extensions must be made electronically according to law school policy. Extensions will be granted only for unexpected illness, hardship or on compassionate grounds in accordance with University Policy. Work commitments, travel, holidays or sporting engagements are not unexpected circumstances.

    Late Submission Penalties:
    When an assessment is submitted after the due date, without an extension, 5% of the total mark possible will be deducted for every 24 hours or part thereof that the assignment is late, including each day on a weekend. For example, an essay that is submitted after the due date and time but within the first 24 hour period, and that has been graded at 63%, will have 5% deducted, for a final grade of 58%. An essay that is more than 24 hours late will lose 10%, etc.

    Word Length Penalties:
    5% of the total mark possible for a written assessment will be deducted for every 100 words (or part thereof) by which it exceeds a stipulated word limit. For example, a 3,000 word essay graded at 63% will have 5% deducted if it is between 3,001 and 3,100 words long for a final mark of 58%. If the essay is between 3,101 and 3,200 words long, 10% will be deducted for a final mark of 53%, etc. Word limits include all words in the text, in headings, in quotations, but exclude citations in footnotes. Any separate cover page, table of contents, bibliography or list of sources is excluded from the word limit. If the word limit is misstated, this may be regarded as academic dishonesty.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.