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International Criminal Law


Admission requirements

Required course:

  • Principles of Public International Law


This course introduces you to the study of international criminal law as a specific branch of public international law. The course unfolds according to three main steps.
The first step consists in tracing the historical trajectory of international criminal law from the Post-WWII trials to the establishment of the International Criminal Court. In so doing, the course outlines the institutional development of this field through the establishment of a number of international and hybrid tribunals. Besides sketching the main features of these different judicial institutions, we will analyze the distinctive theoretical underpinnings informing the current international criminal law system. The focus will be in particular on the concept of individual criminal responsibility and how it reconciles with the framework of state crimes and collective criminality.

In the second step, the course will engage you with the legal definitions of the core crimes under international law (i.e. genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression), and the interpretations which international courts and tribunals have provided for those. Particular attention will be paid to the legal argumentation of courts and the different justificatory arguments used to build certain interpretations. Moreover, the role of courts in constructing applicable modes of liability will be considered.

The third step will be devoted to the treatment of controversial issues in international criminal law such as the crime of ecocide, the role of victims in international criminal proceedings, the balance between peace and justice, the involvement of private companies in the commission of international crimes, the interaction between the UN and the ICC, among others. The objective of this conclusive step is to enable a critical understanding of current ICL debates as well as to invite a constructive intervention on how to improve the current state of affairs through the law.

Course Objectives


  • Ability to critically examine legal decisions and to identify devices and techniques of legal argumentation;

  • Ability to formulate legal arguments based on relevant legal sources and authorities, both orally and in writing;

  • Analyse complex legal problems and apply relevant legal rules and principles to identified relevant facts;


  • Describe the evolution of the system of international criminal law historically and legally.

  • Identify and critically examine the distinctive traits of international criminal law as a legal field

  • Understand and analyse the current challenges to ICL from a legal point of view.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Two sessions per week (2 hours per session, weeks 1-7) will form the main body of the course. Depending on the circumstances, these sessions may be complemented by forum discussions launched on the course platform or small group role plays.

Students are required to take active part in class discussions.

Assessment Method

  • In-class participation and discussion of core readings, 15%, Weeks 1-7

  • 1200-word essay, 25%, Week 3

  • Small group assignment (Memorandum presentation), 20%, Week 6

  • Final in-class exam, 40%, Week 8

Reading list

  • Cassese, A. (2013). Cassese's International Criminal Law (3rd ed. / rev. by Antonio Cassese ... [et al.] ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Stahn, C. (2018). A Critical Introduction to International Criminal Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (available open access)

Readings requested for specific sessions will be duly indicated in the course syllabus.


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,


Dr. Letizia Lo Giacco (Block 2)
Dr. Jens Iverson (Block 3)