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Impunity: Law, Philosophy and Policy




Admissions requirements

Either International & Regional Human Rights or International Humanitarian Law. In addition, either International Criminal Law or Transitional Justice.


This course examines the legal, philosophical and political underpinnings for the legal, political and social condition known as “impunity.” It explores the questions of:

  • what is impunity?

  • how does it impact individuals and societies, and

  • 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).


  • In-class participation, 10%, ongoing Weeks 1-7

  • Two individual essays, 40% total, Week 7

  • Group presentations, 15%

  • Final essay, 35%, Week 8/9


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


Dr. Dan Saxon