International Institute of Humanitarian Law (IIHL)

The International Institute of Humanitarian Law (IIHL) is an independent, non-profit organisation founded in 1970 at Sanremo, Italy. It is based in Villa Ormond, a classic turn-of-the-20th Century villa, generously provided by the Municipality of Sanremo.

The mission of the Institute is to promote the understanding and application of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), Human Rights, International Criminal Justice, Refugee Law and related issues.

The Institute’s primary role in achieving this mission is to deliver training in IHL and all related topics to participants coming from different regions of the world. The IIHL provides specific training which combines academic excellence with a practical relevance to current operations. Our participants include military personnel, lawyers, officials from governments and non-governmental organisations and other interested parties.

The Institute also promotes IHL through the organisation of high level conferences such as the annual Sanremo Round Table as well as producing publications which provide practical advice to operators in areas of IHL. 

The activities of the Institute are internationally renowned. As a result it enjoys consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and it has operational relationships with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), l’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Commonwealth Secretariat and UNESCO.

The IIHL is also a fully accredited NATO Partnership Training Education Centre (PTEC) and a member of the OSCE Network of Think Tanks and Academic Institutions. It holds consultative status with the Council of Europe and regularly cooperates with other International Organisations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the European Union and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The Institute has a liaison office in Geneva which interacts with the United Nations office, diplomatic missions and other humanitarian organisation in Geneva.

The international and impartial status of the IIHL provides a unique capacity to consistently attract participants from all corners of the globe. More than forty years’ experience of bringing diverse backgrounds and cultural experiences together in a unique multi-national environment has come to be known as “The Spirit of Sanremo”.

International Institute of Humanitarian Law
Villa Ormond Cavallotti 113
18038 Sanremo - Italy
Phone: + 39 0184541848
Fax Secretariat: + 39 0184541600


Colonel James Ae Johnston. LLB LLM (late AGC(ALS))
Director Military Department


Colonel Johnston is a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He practiced criminal law before accepting a British Army commission in 1996. After Sandhurst he deployed to Army HQ Northern Ireland at a time when the IRA remained fully operational. Maj Johnston subsequently served as a Brigade lawyer in Bosnia Herzegovina in 1998 and Kosovo in 2000.

In 2001 Lt Col Johnston deployed to East Timor as Legal Adviser to the Comd of the East Timor Defence Force. In 2002 he took a Masters in International Criminal Justice and the Law of Armed Conflict at Nottingham University. In Dec 04 he deployed to Basra, Iraq as the senior British military lawyer.

After Iraq, Lt Col. Johnston returned to UK to provide legal advice and training in interrogation, source handling and surveillance issues before his selection for Staff College at the UK Defence Academy. Lt Col Johnston is also an experienced Court Martial prosecutor and Solicitor Advocate and has appeared before the Lord Justices of Appeal in the Court Martial Appeal Court.

In 2012 Lt Col Johnston promoted to Colonel and posted to be Director of the Military Department at the International Institute Humanitarian Law in Sanremo, Italy.