Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC)

Started in May 2007

A Unique Online Portal

The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts project (RULAC) is a unique online portal that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL). It is primarily a legal reference source for a broad audience, including non-specialists, interested in issues surrounding the classification of armed conflicts under IHL.

RULAC provides information about:

  • The definition and categories of armed conflict under IHL
  • The legal framework governing armed conflicts
  • Whether a situation of armed violence is an armed conflict pursuant to IHL criteria
  • Parties to these armed conflicts
  • Applicable IHL


 RULAC is still under development and new entries continue to be regularly added.

An Independent and Impartial Assessment

While there are many different definitions of armed conflict used for different purposes, the question of whether or not a situation of armed violence amounts to an armed conflict under IHL can have far-reaching consequences in the international legal system. Most importantly, states and international organizations involved in armed conflicts will have rights and duties that do not exist outside that context. In addition, war crimes can only be committed in connection with an armed conflict, the law of neutrality may be triggered and arms control treaty regimes may be affected.

The classification of situations of armed violence is fraught with difficulties. Many states deny that they are involved in armed conflicts, arguing instead that they are engaged in counter-terrorism operations. Others apply IHL to situations that do not amount to an armed conflict. Moreover, contemporary armed conflicts are increasingly complex due to the multitude of state and non-state parties involved.

RULAC provides an independent and impartial assessment based on open source information of whether or not a concrete situation of armed violence amounts to an armed conflict. It thus strives to promote a more coherent approach classifying conflicts, and, ultimately, to foster implementation of the applicable legal framework, a key element for accountability and the protection of victims.


RULAC is supported by students from the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex. In accordance with the RULAC methodology, a team of postgraduate students actively review contemporary situations of violence in order to determine whether they constitute an international armed conflict, a non-international armed conflict, a situation of occupation, or whether these situations fall short of the required legal threshold. The students are part of the LLM in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. More information on the University of Essex Human Rights Centre is available on the website.


Picture of Sandra Krähenmann

Sandra Krähenmann

Research Fellow

Sandra Krähenmann's research focuses on the theory and practice of international law that applies in armed conflict and other situations of violence.


Map of the Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts online portal News

RULAC: Updates on the Armed Conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria, South Sudan, Turkey and Yemen

19 February 2018

Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC) online portal features updated entries on the armed conflicts taking place in Iraq, Libya, Syria, South Sudan, Turkey and Yemen. These integrate recent developments like the Turkish offensive in Afrin, Israel’s largest scale aerial attacks inside Syria, and the divisions and infightings in Yemen.

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Map of the Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts Online Portal with non-international armed conflicts News

Non-International Armed Conflicts Added to our RULAC Online Database

25 September 2017

Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC) online database features new non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) that are taking place in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Somalia. It provides, for each conflict, the factual and methodological basis for its classification and identifies the parties and the applicable international law. Visitors can discover these new NIACs either by browsing the map or by browsing conflicts by type or region.

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Map of the Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts Online Portal with military occupations News

Nine Military Occupations Added to our RULAC Online Database

17 September 2017

We added nine military occupations to our Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC) online database. Visitors can discover them either by browsing the map or by browsing conflicts per types or regions.

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Gaza City, 2014. Palestinians check the remains of Al-Basha, a building that was destroyed by an Israeli air strike. Event

Public Pleadings by LLM Students on the Summer 2014 Gaza Conflict

June 2018, 09:00-16:00

In the framework of the LLM course on international humanitarian law (IHL), students will plead for Israel and Palestine arguing that the side they represent has respected IHL while the adverse side has violated IHL.

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Syria, 2016, outhwestern Aleppo. The ICRC meets displaced families living in collective shelters. Geneva Academy Wednesdays

Extraterritorial Non-International Armed Conflicts: Classification and Applicable Law

April 2018, 18:30-20:00

This Geneva Academy Wednesday proposes to discuss these current issues on classification and applicable law under international humanitarian law.

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East Timor, Dili, burnt houses Short Course

The Law of Non-International Armed Conflicts and Other Contested Issues

26 April - May 2018

This course examines one of the main purpose of international humanitarian law (IHL), which is to mitigate human suffering caused by war. It enables a careful evaluation of the various IHL rules intended to help protect vulnerable persons, such as civilians and prisoners of war, as well as property during armed conflict.

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U.S. Army Soldiers from the 101st Airborne based at Fort Campbell, Ky., protect the Project

The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers

Completed in January 2008

The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers is the result of an active collaboration between members of the private security industry, the Geneva Academy, Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs and Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).

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Syria, Aleppo, Sheikh Massoud neighbourhood, near the frontline. Fighters of the Free Syrian Army. Project

‘Foreign Fighters’ and Counter-Terrorism

Started in January 2014

Against the background of the mobilization of ‘foreign fighters’ for the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the Geneva Academy undertook various research projects to highlight and clarify a range of international law issues that arise through their participation and measures taken to stem their mobilization.

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