Fighters in International Criminal Law [PhD] (completed)

Joanna Nicholson's PhD project focuses on the principle of combatant immunity or the combatant privilege.


Combatant immunity or combatant privilege is the idea that combatants can legally injure, kill and destroy during an armed conflict, providing that their acts occur in accordance with international humanitarian law. 

By the same token, combatants themselves can be injured or killed during an armed conflict without their attacker incurring criminal liability, again providing that they act in accordance with international humanitarian law.



The thesis will examine the legal basis for combatant immunity:

  • what is it
  • to whom does it apply
  • what is the historical basis of combatant immunity
  • what is the philosophical basis of combatant immunity
  • when does it apply
  • does it exist in all types of armed conflict 

The thesis shall proceed to examine how the concept of combatant immunity is applied in international criminal law, for example in the law regarding duress and in the law regarding crimes against humanity. It shall question whether the notion of combatant immunity is being applied correctly in international criminal cases, and whether it should be applied differently.



  • Associated with the Faculty of Law PhD programme.
  • Supervisor: Jo Stigen
  • Co-supervisor: Nobuo Hayashi
  • Project period: 2011-2014
Published Mar. 30, 2012 10:03 AM - Last modified Apr. 1, 2016 1:50 PM