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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UN Mission patrols disputed area in Sudan Short Course

Peacebuilding in Post-Conflict and Fragile Situations

13 April - May 2018

This course provides a concise and systematic treatment of the peacebuilding process in post-conflict and fragile situations. It adopts a holistic definition of peacebuilding that combines the socio-political issues with economic growth in a sustainable development perspective.

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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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doption of the Arms Trade Treaty by the UN General Assembly, 2 April 2013 Project

The Arms Trade Treaty

Completed in January 2013

The Geneva Academy team followed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiations and provided key information on the negotiations, notably via a daily blog.

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South Sudan, Warrab. An ICRC information session on the Law of Armed Conflict with soldiers from Warrab State. Project

Armed Non-State Actors and the Human Rights Council

Completed in January 2015

Launched in 2016, this project aimed to identify whether, to what extent and under what circumstances armed non-state actors incur obligations under international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights (HR) law.

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