United States Air Force Academy

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Department of Law


cadet during a LOAC competition.

Each fall semester, cadets who are currently enrolled in or have previously completed Law 463, Law of War, are selected to participate in one of three LOAC/IHL competitions. Once selected, cadets are placed in Law 466, Advanced Law of War Topics, during the spring semester to expand their knowledge of the law and improve their ability to apply it to real-world situations. If you are interested in becoming a member of a team, or want additional information, please contact Professors Chad Austin or Shawn McKelvy.

San Remo LOAC Competition for Military Academies

Beginning in 2002, this annual week-long competition is addressed specifically to officer candidates worldwide to offer them enhanced training in LOAC and the opportunity to promote the respect of the rule of law. As armed conflicts become more complicated this domain is becoming increasingly vital to the profession of military officers and armed forces in general. Military academies from all over the world are invited to send a team of cadets to this unique international event. Each team is composed of three cadets and one instructor, however, once the team arrives, the cadets are assigned to mixed teams to increase the collaboration and interaction among participants. Lecturers and LOAC experts from various academies, colleges, and universities are also invited to participate actively to bring more expertise to this world-wide competition. During the first day, lectures are presented by various experts on LOAC. Cadets are encouraged to ask questions, provide comments, and participate in debates. During the next three days, the cadets participate in a Joint Operations Center, simulating a United Nations multilateral operation where countries participate in various types of fictitious military operations. The mixed teams play the role of legal advisors to the coalition commander and the competition favors free, open, and respectful exchanges between cadets and instructors, and strives to promote the development of friendships and cooperation among the participants. The Competition is sponsored by and held at the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in San Remo, Italy. DFL has participated in every Competition since its inception and sends three cadets each spring. USAFA cadets frequently place in the Top 5 of Best Individual Cadets and/or Best Mixed Teams to include the #1 Best Individual Cadet 5 times over the past 10 years.

Jean-Pictet IHL Competition

Beginning in 1988, the Jean-Pictet Competition is a week-long training event on IHL intended for students typically in graduate or law school programs studying Law, Political Science, etc. It consists in “taking law out of the books” through simulations and role plays, allowing the jury of the competition to evaluate teams’ theoretical knowledge and practical understanding of IHL. The situations are founded on a fictitious but realistic scenario of armed conflict. During the Competition, the group dynamics alternate meetings between the jury and one team, the jury and several teams, between two teams, etc. Participants and the jury have roles which change – for example, Red Cross delegates in the morning and combatants in the afternoon – encouraging the participants to consider the same situation from a variety of perspectives. Each team is accompanied throughout the Competition by a tutor; they receive learning materials regularly to assist with preparation and to improve their command of IHL (as well as Human Rights Law and Refugee Law). All tests during the competition are conducted orally and at the end of each session, the finalists compete in the international final, following which the Jean-Pictet Prize is awarded to the best team. Each year the Competition takes place in a different location (in recent years it has been held in Indonesia, France, the Republics of Georgia and Macedonia, Albania, and Mexico). DFL sends, if selected by the Jean-Pictet IHL Competition Committee, three cadets every spring. USAFA, as the only US undergraduate institution accepted, has performed well over the years advancing to the semi-final round on several occasions and made it all the way to the final round in 2022.

Clara Barton IHL Competition

In 2014, the American Red Cross created the Annual Clara Barton IHL Competition. Named after the founder of the American Red Cross, this event is a simulation-based competition for students interested in IHL. The Clara Barton IHL Competition is an experiential learning competition designed to introduce future attorneys to real-world challenges facing IHL practitioners during armed conflict. Modeled off of the world-renowned Jean-Pictet IHL Competition, participants engage in a variety of practical role-playing exercises, during which they will be asked to assume various professional roles and accomplish various field assignments. Unlike traditional moot court competitions, each round of the Clara Barton IHL Competition will present a new hypothetical case study, offering participants a unique, dynamic, and creative atmosphere to explore complex legal issues. The Competition tests participants’ knowledge of IHL and international public law, as well as their ability to present, advocate and defend legal positions with a diverse range of stakeholders in different simulated environments. The Competition is open to current law students pursuing Juris Doctor (J.D.) or Master of Law (LL.M.) degrees at U.S. law schools, as well as students attending U.S. military academies. In the 1st Annual Competition, USAFA placed first among 15 teams (USAFA, USMA, and 13 law schools) beating Harvard Law School in the finals. USAFA also won the 5th and 9th Annual Competitions. DFL sends, if selected by the Clara Barton IHL Competition Committee, three cadets every spring. The Competition is held at the Headquarters of the American Red Cross in Washington DC.

Become a Member

Each fall, cadets who are currently enrolled in or have previously completed Law 463, Modern Applications of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC), are selected to participate in one of three LOAC competitions. If you are interested in becoming a member of the team, or want some additional information, please contact your advisor.