The University of Southampton

LAWS3101 International Criminal Law: Confronting History and Ourselves

Module Overview

The International Criminal Law module provides you with an opportunity to engage in detailed analysis of an emerging field of law, exploring how its basic concepts and principles have developed and how ‘international crimes’ have been established and addressed through the implementation and application of common standards and general principles of international law. Beginning with a historical and structural overview, taking account of the contribution to the development of international criminal law made by the Nuremberg and Tokyo International Military Tribunals, the module adopts a case-study approach to focus on more recent and significant structural developments within International Criminal Law; in particular, the emergence of ad hoc tribunals (International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda) and the International Criminal Court and the crimes over which it has jurisdiction.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The International Criminal Law module aims to provides you with an opportunity to develop a critical awareness of the various legal, social and political strategies, mechanisms and institutions that have been developed to deal with crimes with an international or trans-national dimension and the new challenges that are emerging.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • explain the historical evolution of international criminal law, its structure, development and application before international and national courts
  • identify the various courts and tribunals set up to try international crimes and explain the differences between them
  • explain the essential elements of the crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against the peace and how and whether these may be charged and prosecuted
  • identify the general principles of international criminal law, the various modes of liability and their application to different types of cases, as well as the defences and grounds for excluding liability recognised at the international courts
  • explain the basic provisions of the procedural and evidentiary systems and the sentences and penalties that may be applied
  • describe the roles and rights of witnesses and victims and the measures available for protection, compensation, reparation and restitution
  • give an account of the nature and extent of obligations upon states to provide assistance and cooperation with regard to international criminal courts and war crimes cases
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • think critically about international dimensions and implications across a range of contexts
  • engage and apply comparative and critical approaches to a wide variety of issues
  • assess and evaluate competing and complementary solutions to the challenges of a globalized environment
  • deploy analytic and evaluative skills in relation to complex situations to construct a coherent and reasoned argument, orally and/or in writing
  • exercise the initiative and responsibility necessary to conduct a piece of independent research
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • demonstrate critical awareness of the relationships between international criminal law, its principles and mechanisms, and international law, including human rights law and international humanitarian law
  • evaluate the various strategies, mechanisms and institutions that have been developed to deal with crimes with an international or trans-national dimension
  • analyse the essential elements of international crimes in terms of the ways in which these have been charged and prosecuted before the courts
  • apply the principles and rules of international criminal law to a practical case study
  • assess the key challenges and implications for international criminal law of current events, such as the military interventions Iraq and the relationship between international criminal law and terrorism
  • evaluate the claims of key theoretical perspectives on international criminal law


The module will explore the developing field of international criminal law as it is being established by practice, including case-study discussion of the following aspects: - General principles of international criminal law - Prosecuting international crimes: international, hybrid & national criminal courts - Incorporation and application of international criminal law in domestic systems - Genocide - Crimes against humanity - War crimes - Aggression and terrorism - Responsibility and liability - Excluding liability: grounds and defences; immunities and amnesties - Evidence and procedure - Sentencing, penalties and reparations - Victim participation and witness protection The case study approach (eg. Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina) provides a concrete factual basis for discussion of the application of legal principles and rules set out in the various aspects.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module is taught by means of a weekly 2-hour seminar/lecture and fortnightly tutorials. Students will be expected to have read/watched all materials/media assigned for a particular class and, where appropriate, to take a full part in discussions about them. Preparation for and participation in the weekly seminars and tutorials will develop: - the knowledge required to satisfactorily achieve the stated module learning outcomes - your ability to challenge widely held assumptions about law and legal decision making and how these impact on legal practice in a global context; - your ability to assess and comment critically on the effectiveness of others’ legal argument and to discuss and defend your own argument; - your ability to engage effectively with key legal research skills - your organisational and time management skills

Preparation for scheduled sessions64
Completion of assessment task50
Wider reading or practice10
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

W. A. Schabas (2007). An Introduction to the International Criminal Court,. 

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Cassese and P. Gaeta (2013). Cassese’s International Criminal Law. 

G. Mettraux (2006). International Crimes and Ad Hoc Tribunals. 

Cassese (ed.) (2009). The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice. 

W. A. Schabas (2009). The UN International Criminal Tribunals: The Former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. 

W. A. Schabas (2009). Genocide in International Law: The Crime of Crimes. 

International Criminal Court.

L. Sriram, O. Martin-Ortega and J Herman (2010). War, Conflict and Human Rights: Theory and Practice. 

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

R. Cryer (2010). An Introduction to International Criminal Law and Procedure. 

Special Court for Sierra Leone).





MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment  (5000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (5000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment  (5000 words) %
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