SOAS University of London

School of Law

International Criminal Law in Practice

Module Code:

This course considers the development and application of international criminal accountability in contemporary armed conflicts.  The course proceeds in three parts.  It first considers the constraints that international humanitarian law and human rights law place upon actors in both internal and international armed conflict, and the development of individual criminal accountability for international crimes.  This involves particular consideration of the challenges posed by internal armed conflict and non-state armed groups, where relatively little international law has direct effect.  It second considers the scope and effects of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in a number of contemporary armed conflicts, using recent and current case studies.  It third considers the responses that have been taken in the wake of armed conflict to punish violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law, through prosecutions and other procedures in domestic courts of countries that have experienced conflict and distant countries, through ad hoc international criminal tribunals and hybrid war crimes tribunals.  This final section concludes with a discussion of the early work of the International Criminal Court in countries such as Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya. The course design will build upon and be complementary to courses on the law of armed conflict, but will take a more interdisciplinary approach with an historical, political, and anthropological approach to the harms committed in specific conflicts and the myriad legal responses that have been designed to address those harms.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  1. a clear understanding of the relevant international human rights and international humanitarian laws governing activities in armed conflict;
  2. a clear understanding of the actual violations that occur in the context of contemporary armed conflicts;
  3. a clear understanding of how violations have been punished or otherwise addressed in practice before national, international, and hybrid courts.

Students will demonstrate this knowledge through written essays and memos, and class presentations of memos along with responses to other memos.  Students will be encouraged to participate actively in class through those presentations and responses.

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: 35% unseen examination, 65% coursework (one essay of 5,000 words (35%), two essays of 1,500 words each (10% each), two in-class oral presentations (5% each))

All coursework except the oral presentations may be resubmitted.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules