SOAS University of London

School of Law

International Criminal Law

Module Code:
15PLAH055
Credits:
15
Taught in:
Term 2

This subject will provide a comprehensive overview of the emerging discipline of international criminal law. The discipline will be approached historically, theoretically, and critically. First, the module will examine the historical origins of the fundamental principle of international criminal law – individual criminal responsibility – and trace the evolution of the international criminal tribunals that apply that principle. Second, the module will explain the core theoretical assumptions of the subject, focusing in particular on the rationales for punishment (retribution, creating a historical record, promoting peace and reconciliation, etc.) and for the creation and operation of international criminal tribunals. Third, the module will take a critical look at the discipline’s core theoretical assumptions, asking whether alternatives to international trials might better achieve the discipline’s stated goals.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This module will focus on individual accountability for international crimes, including both the substantive law providing for such responsibility, the range of mechanisms available for holding individuals accountable, and critical analysis of the law. A student who has successfully completed this subject will have advanced and integrated understanding of the body of knowledge associated with international criminal law. In particular, the student will:

  • Understand the concept of individual criminal responsibility for international crimes
  • Understand the structure and theoretical assumptions of core international crimes and critical approaches to international criminal law
  • Understand the historical development of international criminal law
  • Recognise the relationship between national and international jurisdiction for the prosecutions of international crimes
  • Comprehend the basic workings of international criminal tribunals, in particular the permanent International Criminal Court

Workload

  • Weekly 2 hour lecture

Scope and syllabus

This subject will provide an overview of the discipline of international criminal law. First, the module will examine the origins of the fundamental principle of international criminal law – individual criminal responsibility - and its operations through a variety of international crimes. Second, the module will explain the core theoretical assumptions of the law - focusing in particular on the rationales for criminalisation and for the creation of international criminal tribunals - and take a critical look at these core theoretical assumptions. Third, the module will look at the operation of international criminal law through national jurisdictions and international tribunals.

Principal topics in the subject may include:

  • The concept of individual criminal responsibility for violations of international law
  • The history of international criminal law
  • Core crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and aggression
  •  International and national prosecution of international crimes
  • The context within which the substantive law operates.

This module will allow students undertaking postgraduate modules looking at aspects of international law and justice to develop their understanding of the role of international criminal law and individual accountability as a feature of the international legal order

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 100% (4000 words)

Suggested reading

  • Cassese et al, Cassese’s International Criminal Law (Oxford University Press: 2013)
  • Cryer et al, An introduction to international criminal law and procedure (Cambridge University Press: 2010)
  • Schbas, An introduction to the International Criminal Court (Cambridge University Press: 2011)
  • Sliedregt, Individual criminal responsibility in international law (Oxford University Press: 2012)
  • Stahn et al, The emerging practice of the International Criminal Court (M Nijhoff: 2009)

Disclaimer

Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules