nl en

Contemporary Issues - Privatissimum


Admission requirements

Admission to the PIL Masters programme.

Bound choice

a) Priv. track General PIL: Contemporary Issues in General Public International Law

b) Priv. track IHL: Contemporary Issues in International Humanitarian Law


In this course we will investigate and discuss fundamental developments in the contemporary developments of general public international law and international humanitarian law. The objective of the course is to engage students in a critical reflection at a theoretical level. The different tracks within the course will consider legal developments from different perspectives and positions, and students will learn to adopt a perspective and construct arguments that support it. The whole course relies on students’ own research, carried out within the theoretical framework that is provided. The background materials are not in themselves sufficient, and their only aim is to provide students with some preliminary information about the topic into which they must delve. Student must prepare the background materials for each class.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
The course has the following objectives: to engage students in critical reflection at a theoretical level on the system of general public international law or international humanitarian law and on fundamental developments in this area.

Achievement levels
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:

After a successful completion of this course, the student has gained a thorough knowledge of the theoretical underpinnings of fundamental developments in current international (humanitarian) law and a good picture of contemporary theoretical debates in legal scholarship and institutions.

Academic skills and attitude:
After a successful completion of this course, the student:

  • is able to write high quality papers on the theoretical aspects of complex legal issues;

  • is able to present and defend his findings, and to critically appraise the findings of other students;

  • is able to moderate a legal debate on particular issues.


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • 1 Introductory lecture in the first week (2 hours).


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 4 (1 per week, starting from the second week of the course)

  • Note for IHL: In order to keep the number of students in the seminars small, every week three (3) seminars will be offered.

  • Names of lecturers: To be announced

  • Required preparation by students: for each seminar, students are required to read the recommended materials and conduct their own research. They are also required to submit two research papers in total (they account for a total of 30% of the final grade, 15% each). Each week, students will present the outcome of their research as well as their critical assessment of the background reading. Each student will at least make one short presentation in the course of the 4 seminars, and is expected to actively participate in the seminar. The presentation counts for 20% of the final grade. A third, more extensive, final paper accounts for 50% of the final grade.

  • Research papers must be submitted at the beginning of the respective week. As they constitute the groundwork for the discussion, papers not submitted in time will not be considered.

  • Attendance is mandatory. Missing one lecture or seminar is allowed for a valid reason ; missing two – whatever the reason may be – means in principle that students are excluded from the course (there is no retake until next year’s course).

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Students must submit two research papers during the course as well as a final paper at the end; there is also a presentation.

  • 2 research papers (30%). The 2 research papers need to be handed at the beginning of each respective week. The research paper aims at pinpointing one aspect of the sub-theme that is raised for each class in a concise, well-reasoned and well-researched manner. It is not sufficient to rely on recommended literature. Students are free to choose the topic of their papers themselves. The research paper must not exceed 1000 words including footnotes and excluding bibliography. In that regard, the topic chosen should not be too broad in scope. Everything in excess of this limit will be penalized through a reduction of the mark in proportion to the excess.

  • Presentation (20%). Every week, students will be asked to give a brief presentation of their research paper.

  • Final paper (50%). Students are free to choose the topic of their final papers themselves, provided that it relates to one of the themes of the seminars. Students are expected for the final paper to discuss the topic chosen in a well-researched and well-reasoned manner. It should not be longer than 2.000 words including footnotes, and excluding bibliography. The submission date of the final paper in hard copy will be announced in class and on Blackboard.

  • (NB There is no exam)

Submission procedures
Will be announced in class and on Blackboard .


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials
Will be posted on blackboard

Course information guide:
Outline as posted on Blackboard


Recommended course materials
To be announced on Blackboard


Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.

Contact information

  • Co-ordinator: Dr. Emma Irving

  • Work address: KOG, Office B1.27

  • Contact information: Appointments to be made via mail

  • Telephone number:

  • E-mail:


  • Institution: Public Law

  • Division: Public International Law

  • Room number secretariat: KOG, Office B1.21

  • Opening hours: 9.00 – 17.00 hrs

  • Telephone number secretariat: 071-5277578

  • E-mail: