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International Criminal Law




Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 200-level and 300-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact

the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.


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 multiplicity 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 courts and 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.

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.

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.




All students are required to obtain a copy of R. Cryer et al. International Criminal Law (Cambridge, Cambridge

University Press, 2010) (available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Introduction-International-Criminal-Law-

Procedure/dp/0521135818/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323885487&sr=8-1 ). 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.

Contact Information

Dr. Joe Powderly [j.c.powderly@cdh.leidenuniv.nl]

Weekly Overview

Week 1: The theoretical and historical underpinnings of international criminal law
Week 2: The Nuremberg Trials and the International Military Tribunal for the Far East
Week 3: Cold War Hiatus
Week 4: The core subject-matter jurisdiction of international criminal law(I)
Week 5: The core subject-matter of jurisdiction of international criminal law (II)
Week 6: Holding individuals to account – modes of liability and defences to int’l crimes
Week 7: The challenges facing the system of international criminal justice

Preparation for first session