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International Criminal Law




Admission Requirements

Similarly-tagged 200- and 300-level courses.


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

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. An Introduction to International Criminal Law and Procedure (3rd edition, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014) (available at: ).