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Impunity: Law, Philosophy & Policy




Admissions requirements

Either International & Regional Human Rights or International Humanitarian Law.

International Criminal Law and/or Transitional Justice are recommended.


This course examines the legal, philosophical and political underpinnings for the legal, political and social condition known as “impunity.” It explores the questions of 1: what is impunity? 2) how does it impact individuals and societies, and 3) what are effective policies and strategies for combatting impunity. The course will use a series of events, the infamous massacres at Srebrenica, in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the summer of 1995, to study how impunity is created and sustained, and, occasionally, broken. Thus, each week of the course will focus on one of these aspects of impunity. The course will include guest lecturers who have participated in international criminal trials and other mechanisms for fighting impunity. This course will build on students’ knowledge of international criminal law, international humanitarian law, international human rights law and/or transitional justice by exploring the very basis of those bodies of law: the importance of accountability for international crimes. Students will be expected to complete extensive reading and research assignments to demonstrate their ability to think critically about this subject.

Course objectives

General Objectives

  • To give students a profound understanding of the concept of impunity – its normative roots in history and law, its treatment by legal philosophers, and policies that create and extend it.

  • To present students with theoretical notions and practical examples in order to better understand the problems and opportunities for conducting research on impunity.

  • To present and critique various research designs and approaches in impunity research.

  • To provide an overview of the state of the art in impunity studies today.

  • To challenge students to develop their own analysis of impunity by writing a paper on the roots or structures of impunity or mechanisms for combatting impunity.

Course Learning Outcomes

  • To be able to analyze the complex and ever-changing phenomenon of impunity

  • To be aware of leading currents in impunity and counter-impunity research

  • To be able to research and write an in-depth research proposal concerning impunity.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course will consist of fourteen sessions dedicated to lectures and discussion in a seminar setting. The first week will focus on providing the students with the necessary information about writing a research proposal and an introduction to the topic of impunity in general. Weeks 3-6 are devoted to the presentation and discussion of specific aspects of impunity and how to conduct research on them. The final week will be dedicated to presenting your own research proposals in seminar sessions to the instructor(s). Students are expected to actively engage in discussion and to provide evidence of their understanding of the potential pitfalls and opportunities for conducting research on the topics discussed per week by posting on Blackboard a 500 word statement prior to the start of each second lecture (see below for details).


  • Students will post on Blackboard three written assignments (500 – 750), excluding sources) prior to the start of every second lecture of weeks 3, 4, 5, and 6. These assignments are intended to familiarize and assist the students with crafting a research proposal. The assignment will be explained in detail in week two. These assignments will count for 30% of your grade (10% each).

  • Group presentation of the reading material for one of the seminars.

  • Students are required to write an individual research proposal of 3,000 words (+/- 10%, excluding sources), based on the research proposal template discussed in week one. Students are free to choose a topic, though it must fall within the broad field of impunity. The proposal counts for 40% of your grade.

  • During week 7, students are expected to give a presentation on their research proposals, briefly outlining their subject, research question, relevance of the research, which sources are used and which opportunities or obstacles for gaining access to those sources are envisioned, and tentative conclusions. The presentation must be short (the amount of time will be influenced by the number of students in the course), forcing students to be concise and to the point. Each presentation will be followed by a short discussion and questions. The presentations also provide students who are struggling with their research proposals with the opportunity to discuss their dilemmas with the rest of the class. The presentation will count for 10% of your grade. .

  • Active participation in discussions during class is required, and will count for 10% of the grade.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list



This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dan Saxon