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Contemporary Issues - Privatissimum


Admission requirements

Admission to the PIL Masters programme.

Bound choice

a) Priv. track Gerneral PIL: Contemporary Issues in General Public International Law

b) Priv. track IHL: Contemporary Issues in International Humanitarian Law


In this course we will investigate and discuss fundamental developments in the contemporary developments of general public international law and international humanitarian law. The objective of the course is to engage students in a critical reflection at a theoretical level. The whole course relies on students’ own research. The research must be carried out within the theoretical framework that is provided. The background materials are not self-sufficient. Their only aim is to provide students with some preliminary information about the topic in which they must delve. Student must prepare the background materials for each class.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
The course has the following objectives: The objective of the course is to engage students in a critical reflection at a theoretical level on the system of general public international law or international humanitarian law and on fundamental developments in this area.

Achievement levels
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:

After a successful completion of this course, the student has gained a thorough knowledge of the theoretical underpinnings of fundamental developments in current international (humanitarian) law and a good picture of contemporary theoretical debates in legal scholarship and institutions.

Academic skills and attitude:
After a successful completion of this course, the student:

  • is able to write high quality papers on the theoretical aspects of complex legal issues;

  • is able to present and defend his findings, and to critically appraise the findings of other students;

  • is able to moderate a legal debate on particular issues.


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • 1 Introductory lecture in the first week (2 hours).


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 4 (1 per week, starting from the second week of the course)

  • Note for IHL: In order to keep the number of students in the seminars small, every week three (3) seminars will be offered.

  • Names of lecturers: Dr. Robert Heinsch, E. Irving

  • Required preparation by students: For each seminar, students are required to read the recommended materials and conduct their own research. They are also required to submit two research papers in total. Each week, students will present the outcome of their research as well as their critical assessment of the background reading. Each student will at least make one short presentation in the course of the 4 seminars, and is expected to actively participate in the seminar. Presentation and participation counts for 20% of the final grade.

  • Research papers must be submitted in class. As they constitute the groundwork for the discussion, papers not submitted in class will not be considered.

  • Attendance is mandatory. Missing one seminar is allowed for a valid reason ; missing two seminars – whatever the reason may be – means in principle that students are excluded from the course (there is no retake until next year’s course).

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Students must submit two research papers during the course as well as a final paper at the end; there is also a presentation.

  • 2 research papers (30%)

  • Presentation (20%)

  • Final paper (50%)

  • (NB There is no exam)

  • The 2 research papers need to be handed in BEFORE each class. The research paper aims at pinpointing one aspect of the sub-theme that is raised for each class in a concise, well-reasoned and well-researched manner. It is not sufficient to rely on recommended literature. Students are free to choose the topic of their papers themselves. The research paper must not exceed 1000 words including footnotes and excluding bibliography. In that regard, the topic chosen should not be too broad in scope. Everything in excess of this limit will be penalized through a reduction of the mark in proportion to the excess.

  • Every week, students will be asked to give a brief presentation of their research paper.

  • Students are free to choose the topic of their final papers themselves, provided that it relates to one of the themes of the seminars. Students are expected for the final paper to discuss the topic chosen in a well-researched and well-reasoned manner. It should not be longer than 2.000 words including footnotes, and excluding bibliography. The submission date of the final paper in hard copy will be announced in class and on Blackboard.

Submission procedures
Will be announced in class and on Blackboard .


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials
Will be posted on blackboard

Course information guide:
Outline as posted on Blackboard


Recommended course materials
To be announced on Blackboard


Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.

Contact information


  • Institution: Public Law

  • Division: Public International Law

  • Room number secretariat: KOG, Office B1.21

  • Opening hours: 9.00 – 17.00 hrs

  • Telephone number secretariat: 071-5277578

  • E-mail: