Module code: LAW3006

Module provider

School of Law

Module Leader

BAKER RB Dr (Schl of Law)

Number of Credits


ECT Credits



FHEQ Level 6

JACs code


Module cap (Maximum number of students)


Module Availability

Semester 1

Overall student workload

Independent Study Hours: 120

Lecture Hours: 22

Tutorial Hours: 6

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework 3,000 WORD COURSEWORK 100

Alternative Assessment


Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module overview

This module is designed to introduce law students to the fundamentals of International Criminal Law. Today, the presence of a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) is a very real one within the international system. While there exists a great deal of debate and controversy on the ICC and its associated bodies within the world today, very little understanding exists on the actual legal mechanisms through which the Court and its predecessors, such as the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and Rwanda (ICTR), operate. Given the wide extra-territorial reach of these international criminal courts, an understanding of international criminal law is essential for any future attorney interested in international or criminal practice.

Module aims

This module aims to help students understand the interaction between international legal rules, on the one hand, and international politics, domestic politics, and historical factors on the other hand. The course begins with broad themes, and then moves on towards a detailed examination of how criminal acts are punished on the international level.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
Critically apply the methods and techniques tied to the traditional sources of international law. KCPT
Critically evaluate the role that the growth of international criminal tribunals has played in shifting the traditional sources of international law. KCPT
Critically evaluate and apply the physical and mental requirements of the main international criminal offenses as well as their defences. KCPT
Critically evaluate the central principles, concepts and history of international criminal laaw, and the relationship between them, with particular emphasis of the tensions which emerge KCT
Critically analyse and evaluate the content of key legal areas covered in this module with a particular ability to analyse the content of the law in areas where there is tension or a lack of clarity KCT
Critically engage with and evaluate the sources of international criminal law KCT
Critically engage in discussions regarding competing policy concerns and values which inform international criminal law and its development, and the relationship between them, in order to be able to propose and defend solution KCPT
Critical engage in scholarly debate regarding international criminal law, critically analysing the major tendencies within legal scholarship and the relationship between them KCPT
Critically engage with and apply knowledge of the primary and secondary legal authorities to solve complex problems and answer complex essay questions which seek to resolve tensions in the competing goals and content of international criminal law CPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Module content

Indicative module content:

Part I of the module shall explore the legal rules that constitute the international political-legal system, such as the prerequisites for the nation-state, the sources of international law, and the formal relationship between international and domestic law. Part II will investigate the instruments of international criminal law within the international system (as well as their relationship to domestic criminal institutions). In this part of the module we shall not only look at the specialized international criminal institutions such as the ICTY and the ICC, but we shall also explore the developments within international law which transformed the core principles of the international system, thereby making such tribunals possible. We will discuss in detail the novel doctrinal developments within international criminal law during the past two decades, such as the new objective mens rea standards employed by many international criminal tribunals, the doctrine of command responsibility for violations of the laws of war, and universal jurisdiction.


Lecture 1

(The Traditional Sources of International Law (Custom and Treaty)): The introductory materials you will survey in this section will introduce you two of the core sources of international law: custom and treaty. Customary international law finds its source in the widespread consistent practice of states. International custom is seen as a source of international law because the thought is that if states act in a certain consistent manner, then such states may be acting in such a manner because they have a sense of legal obligation (dubbed opinio juris). Treaty based or conventional international law finds its source in “international conventions, whether general or particular, establishing rules expressly recognized by the contesting states.” Think about the interplay between these two sources of international law, and how one can bleed into and become the other as you peruse the assigned cases.

Lecture 2 & 3

(Jurisdiction and Immunities): The question of jurisdiction is a key one in light of states as the primary actors in the international system. The assigned cases and materials will help introduce you to differing theories of jurisdiction within international law, as well as the shielding immunities enjoyed by certain state actors under special circumstances.


Lecture 4

(The Incorporation of Universal Human Rights Norms into International Criminal Law): The 1970’s and 1980’s saw a profound debate emerge within the field of public international law on the position of human rights obligations within the selection of customary and treaty based rules that traditionally constituted the corpus of international law. The debate itself began in the 1970’s with the International Court of Justice and a set of novel rulings that were issued during this period. Revisionist legal academics were able to use the legal framework provided by the International Court of Justice to advocate for a revised understanding of the framework of international law, one that would have a sound legal basis for the incorporation of universal human rights norms within the corpus of international law. Use the assigned sections of Rudy Baker’s contemporary article to gain a quick understanding of the legal and intellectual developments that made this movement possible. Then dive into Anthony D’Amato’s path-breaking piece from the early 1980’s that began to chart the course for the incorporation of universal human rights norms into international law. Finally, turn to the dissenting views Prosper Weil presents to these developments (c. 1980’s) --- have the problems he predicted come to pass?

Lecture 5

(The Growth of International Criminal Law: The ICTY, ICTR, and ICC): In the wake of the mass murder and systematic violations of human rights that occurred in the territories of the former Yugoslavia beginning in the early 1990’s, advocates for a universal system of international law were well placed to put their theories in action, culminating in the establishment, by the United Nations Security Council, of the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR). The establishment of the ICTY and ICTR, ad hoc international tribunals designed to judge serious breaches of international humanitarian law committed in the territories of the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda respectively, was a revolutionary act that continues to have repercussions in the field of international law to this day. While the ICTY and ICTR have, through their extensive jurisprudence, significantly expanded the strength and reach of human rights obligations within international law, this has come at the profound price of universal consent --- the basis of the traditional customary and treaty based rules that once exclusively constituted the corpus of international law. Ponder these repercussions as you read the assigned material.

Lecture 6

(International Criminal Procedure: Accusatorial, Inquisitorial, or Both?): As we begin our in-depth doctrinal discussion of international criminal law it is useful to take a step back and discuss the procedure through which such offenses are adjudicated on the international level. When speaking of forms of legal adjudication in the Western legal tradition, two models stand out as the dominant templates --- the inquisitorial model arising out of revolutionary France, and the accusatorial model emerging from feudal England. Developing out of different historical circumstances and placing value on different objectives, these two models of how “law” or norms are to be applied have come to increasingly define the way justice is administered around the world. Has one model become the dominant template in international adjudication or has a “mixed” or “hybrid” system emerged?

Lecture 7

(International Criminal Acts: War Crimes and Grave Breaches): Commencing in earnest at the tail end of the 19th century, international law began to develop a detailed set of rules designed to govern the conduct of armed conflict. These efforts culminated in the production of two important corpora of international conventional law: the laws produced in the 1899 and 1907 Hague Peace Conferences, later expanded into the laws produced in the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

Lecture 8

(International Criminal Acts: Crimes Against Humanity & Genocide): The concept of crimes against humanity in international criminal law was first articulated in Art. 6(c) of the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1945 in reference to the terrible actions undertaken by of the Nazi regime in Germany during World War II. Similarly, in the wake of racially inspired mass murder during World War II, genocide has come to be described as the “ultimate crime.” Of the assigned materials, article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court does a particularly good job of providing a good checklist of what sort of violations constitute such crimes.

Lecture 9 & 10

(Principles of Liability in International Criminal Law (i.e. Ancillary Offenses)): The materials in this section are designed to aid you in exploring the various forms of participation in international crimes, particularly as an accomplice and the attaching liability thereof.

Lecture 11

(Defenses in International Criminal Law): The concept of “defense” in international criminal law is neither self-evident, nor does it clearly possess an autonomous meaning. Instead, it derives its legal significance as a result of its transplantation from domestic criminal justice systems (both in the Anglo-American accusatorial and Continental inquisitorial traditions), through the appropriate processes of international law.

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The module will be delivered by eleven 2 hour lectures and six 1 hour tutorials. The module aims at fostering active and independent learning and enhancing students’ study skills. To this aim students should contribute fully to classes and engage to the best of their ability by having completed the Essential Reading for each seminar. To this end, the reading for each lecture will be limited to a reasonable amount (with the expectation then that the students will complete the reading).

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their internalization of the essential themes covered in the module, and in particular the assessment addresses all learning outcomes listed above.

In addition to the feedback given in lectures, students will also be afforded the opportunity to gain feedback via a formative assessment (1500 word coursework)

The summative assessment for this module requires students to produce a 3000-word essay, selected from a list of titles relating to topics covered in the lecture program.

Reading list


Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Criminology BSc (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law with Criminology LLB (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law with International Relations LLB (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law LLB (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law (JD Pathway) LLB (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2017/8 academic year.