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International Dispute Settlement


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

  • Public International Law

Recommended course(s):

  • Legal Methods


This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the law and practice of international dispute settlement. The course begins with an introduction to the obligation to settle international disputes peacefully and an overview of the fundamental principles of dispute settlement. The course then explores the non-judicial means of dispute settlement: negotiation, mediation, good offices, inquiry, and conciliation. Thereafter, the course focuses on the judicial settlement of disputes by international courts and tribunals, in particular the International Court of Justice, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea dispute settlement mechanisms, the dispute settlement procedures and mechanisms of the World Trade Organization, and arbitral tribunals in both inter-State and investor-State disputes. The course concludes by addressing select issues related to international dispute settlement, namely provisional measures, landmark cases (such as the South China Sea arbitration), and contemporary issues such as compliance with judicial and arbitral decisions and the politics of international investment law. Throughout the course, not only the “law”, but also the “politics” of dispute settlement will be addressed.

Week 1: Fundamental principles of dispute settlement
Session 1: Introduction to the course and key concepts
Session 2: Fundamental principles of dispute settlement

Week 2: Diplomatic and Legal Dispute Settlement Mechanisms
Session 1: Diplomatic means
Session 2: Inter-state arbitration

Week 3: Legal dispute settlement mechanisms: The International Court of Justice
Session 1: The International Court of Justice (1)
Session 2: The International Court of Justice (2)

Week 4: Legal dispute settlement mechanisms (2)
Session 1: Dispute Settlement Mechanisms under the Law of the Sea Convention
Session 2: Dispute Settlement under the World Trade Organization

Week 5: Legal dispute settlement mechanisms (3)
Session 1: Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Session 2: Preliminary objections and provisional measures in international adjudication

Week 6: Selected international dispute settlement issues (1)
Session 1: The South China Sea Arbitration
Session 2: The Politics of International Investment Law

Week 7: Selected international dispute settlement issues (2)
Session 1: Compliance
Session 2: Review session

Course Objectives

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  • Explain the foundations, the social and political context, and the workings of international dispute settlement;

  • Explain the differences between diplomatic and judicial forms of dispute settlement, and assess the advantages and disadvantages of each method;

  • Describe the functions of the international courts and tribunals covered in the course;

  • Discuss and evaluate the procedural aspects of judgments or awards of international courts and tribunals;

  • Apply legal rules on procedural issues to novel factual situations and draw analogies with existing case law.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will consist of lectures, class discussions, and occasional group exercises. Prior to each session, students are expected to have read the relevant section(s) of the textbook in addition to the other required readings. Students are also encouraged to delve into the recommended readings. Interactive lectures will introduce students to basic concepts and will involve discussions of the assigned readings. Beginning in the first week, each session will also include student presentations and discussions of assigned cases. Students are expected to contribute actively to the class discussions.

Assessment Method

Presentation/discussion/Class participation, 30%, Weeks 1-7
Essay, 30%, Week 5
Final exam, 40%, Week 8

Reading list

J. Merrills, International Dispute Settlement (Cambridge University Press, 2017)
Links to additional reading materials will be made available on Brightspace.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,