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International Criminal Law




Admissions requirements

A 200-level course from the same track or permission from the instructor.


This course aims to provide an overview of international criminal law as a specific branch of public international law. The course traces the historical and theoretical underpinnings of the canon beginning with the Post-World War I "Leipzig Trials" progressing right through to the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the turn of the 20th Century, In so doing, considerable attention will be paid to the evolving theoretical and sociological foundations of international criminal justice, as well as the political circumstances which came to bear in the eStablishment of a ultiplicity of international and internationalized criminal tribunals. While seeking to understand the object and purpose of international criminal prosecutions, the course will focus primarily on the continued development of the law relevant to the subject-matter jurisdiction of international courts and tribunals. Specifically, the course will examine in detail the law pertinent to war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression. In getting to grips with the subject-matter jurisdiction of international criminal law, students will be required to digest and critically analyse selected jurisprudence from international and internationalized courtsland tribunals. Having dealt comprehensively with subject-matter jurisdiction, the course will then examine the potential modes of liability (i.e, the basis on which an individual may be found individually responsible) which may be attached to these crimes, In this respect, the course will look at controversial issues surrounding the notions of joint criminal enterprise and superior responsibility. Allied to this will be consideration of the possible grounds for excluding criminal responsibility, that is, the possible defences that may be forwarded by accused individuals. The course will conclude with an examination of the challenges facing international criminal justice. In this regard, the course will look at issues such as prosecutorial discretion, the balancing of peace with the pursuit of justice, and the central importance of the principle of complementarity in the future development of
international criminal law.

Course objectives

The primary objective of this course is to provide students with the foundational principles of international criminal law and international criminal justice more generally. In so doing, students will emerge with: knowledge of the historical and theoretical underpinnings of international criminal law; an understanding of the jurisdictional parameters of this body of law; the relevant modes of liability and possible defences applicable before international criminal courts and tribunals; and finally, the challenges facing the continued evolution of international criminal justice.

In weeks one to three, the course will chart the historical development of international criminal law from the post-WWI Leipzig Trials, through the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal and subsequent zonal trials, before looking at domestic prosecutions of international crimes and finally the revival of international criminal law with the establishment of the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the creation of the International Criminal Court. In weeks four to six, the course will look in greater detail at the development of substantive international criminal law, namely, war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, aggression and the attendant modes of individual criminal liability and possible defences. Finally, in week seven, the course will look at the current and future challenges the continued evolution and effectiveness of international criminal justice.

Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Employ various methods of legal reasoning.

  • Analyze statutes, cases, and other sources of law.

  • Discern relevant facts and apply a legal principle to those facts.

  • Understand the historical and current legal framework of international criminal law, including the institutions, subject-jurisdiction, modes or liability, defences and the principle of complementarity.

  • Appreciate the political and sociological context in which international criminal justice operates.

  • Critically analyze the contemporary challenges and debates relevant to international criminal law.

Students will be given the opportunity to demonstrate these learning outcomes in a
written assignment and end of course examination.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Seminars (two 2-hour sessions per week, Weeks 1 - 7) will form the main body of this course, and a Blackboard site will support in-class discussion and debate as well as hosting readings and related multi-media material. Students are required to take an active part in seminar discussions and may be called upon to present readings in class.


In-class participation and discussion of core readings, 20%, ongoing weeks 1-7
Essay (2000 words), 40%, Week 7
Examination, 40%, Week 8


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

All students are required to obtain a copy of R. Cryer et al. International Criminal Law (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 3'd edn,, 2OL4) (available at: Additional materials and readings will be posted on BlackBoard and via links to available online resources. Students are urged to pay particularly close attention to the course Blackboard site, which will be used as an active space for both practical and in class discussion purposes.


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


Block 2: Dan Saxon
Block 3: Joe Powderly


For the first meeting, read R. Cryer et al., An Introduction to International Criminal Law and Procedure - Chapter 1.