This course will focus on selected topics in the law of war (or international humanitarian law). This body of law centres on the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their two Additional Protocols of 1977. We will examine issues such as the definition of armed conflict, the doctrine of military necessity, the significance of prisoner of war status, the relationship between international humanitarian law and human rights standards, and issues concerning implementation and enforcement. The course will consider the challenges posed to international humanitarian law by the changing character of armed conflict, the fragmentation of international law, and the evolving character of international relations. We will consider historical and current case studies to examine how humanitarian rules operate in practice.

Matthew Osborne

Matthew Osborne has extensive experience working as a lawyer and policy officer advising the government and military.

Matthew has served as a Permanent and Reserve Legal Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force since 2001. During this time he has deployed three times to Operations CATALYST (2004), SLIPPER (2013) and OKRA (2016) in the Middle East. Matthew has also participated in numerous multilateral exercises in Australia and overseas. Currently holding the rank of Wing Commander in the High Readiness Reserve, Matthew is recognised as an international law specialist by the Australian Defence Force. He has a long association with the Australian Red Cross and is an active member of the International Humanitarian Law Advisory Committee (Queensland). In his military and Red Cross roles he regularly delivers presentations on Laws of Armed Conflict.

Matthew’s experience in government has focussed on treaty law, use of force by the military and police as well as the implementation of international law obligations in domestic legislation.  He has worked in the International and National Security Divisions of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and in Law and Justice Policy in the Queensland Department of the Premier and Cabinet. Matthew also has several years’ experience providing advice to the Commonwealth and Queensland governments on the implementation of international maritime conventions into Australian law. Matthew continues to consult to government in his areas of expertise.

Matthew has relevant academic qualifications including: a Master of Laws (Australian National University); Master of Maritime Policy (University of Wollongong); Master of International Studies (University of Sydney); Graduate Diploma of Military Law (University of Melbourne); Postgraduate Diploma in Social Science (University of Queensland); Bachelor of Laws (University of New South Wales); and Bachelor of Arts (University of Queensland). Matthew is a current PhD scholar in Law at the Australian National University.

Course information

Course code

4 - 7 May 2017