International humanitarian law (IHL) establishes rules to protect civilians during armed conflict. One of the most important dictates that “civilians [shall not be the object of attack], unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.” This standard, known as “directly participating in hostilities,” sets the threshold for when civilians may lose the protection from direct attack he or she is otherwise afforded under IHL.

On 14 October, PHAP hosted a session introducing the concept of direct participation with Anne Quintin, Head of Sector for Legal Training at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The session reviewed the various criteria used to determine whether an individual is directly participating, and present key contemporary debates, including the application of this concept to the use of drone strikes.

Guest expert

Anne Quintin Anne Quintin is the Head of Sector for Legal Training at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Prior to this, she has held various positions within the ICRC, both at the Headquarters in Geneva and in the Washington, DC delegation. Anne previously worked for the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights as a teaching assistant on International Humanitarian Law. During her time in the US, she was also a Visiting Scholar at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, where she co-taught a course on National Security & International Humanitarian Law with Professor Michael Barnett. Anne is the co-author of the 3rd Edition of How Does Law Protect in War alongside Marco Sassòli and Antoine Bouvier. Prior to joining the ICRC, she worked for the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in San Remo and in Geneva. Currently enrolled as a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Law at the University of Geneva, Anne is graduated in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Kent (England), and holds a master degree from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (France) and an LL.M in international humanitarian law from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

Event host

Elizabeth Holland Elizabeth Holland Consulting Expert on International Humanitarian Law, International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP)


Recording (YouTube - faster loading time)

Recording (Adobe Connect - higher quality)

Session recording (downloadable audio podcast)

Learning objectives

  • Basic understanding of the concept and consequences of direct participation in hostilities.
  • Knowledge of the relevant treaty and customary international law relevant to the question of targeting based on direct participation in hostilities.
  • Understanding of the concept of direct participation in the context of targeted killing and drone warfare.
  • Awareness of the debates and various perspectives regarding what amounts to direct participation in hostilities.


PHAP members will have the possibility to undergo a two-part assessment after the session as part of the PHAP Continuous Learning Credits framework.

Part 1: Comprehension check

Part 2: Written reflection

To encourage peer learning among members, selected essay responses will also be published on the website, if approved by the writer. As a member, you can comment on the responses and read other members' comments.

Read the written reflections

PHAP Credentialing Program

PHAP Credentialing Program

International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action

This event will help you prepare for the PHAP Credentialing Program certification in International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action.

In particular, the event will address segment 3.2 and 3.5 of the certification assessment outline.

Read more about the PHAP Credentialing Program

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