The University of Southampton

LAWS6132 Dispute Settlement in International Law

Module Overview

With the number of disputes between States increasing in recent years and the proliferation of fora in which those disputes can be heard, this 15-CATS module investigates the main international courts and tribunals before which such disputes can be brought, with emphasis on their practice and procedure and the jurisdictional requirements which need to be satisfied before they can proceed to decide on the merits of a case. Starting from the basic international law rules on the peaceful settlement of disputes, it will successively consider the methods of dispute settlement falling short of judicial settlement before turning to the role of the International Court of Justice as the legal organ of the United Nations, the methods by which it can be seised of a dispute, the possibility for third States to intervene in a case and in some circumstances be bound by its outcome, the circumscribed procedures for reconsideration by the Court of its decision in a case through a request for interpretation of its judgment or revision of a judgment in the light of new facts, and the jurisdiction to issue advisory opinions at the request of UN organs or specialised agencies. Analyses along similar lines will then be made of the specific dispute-settlement mechanisms embodied in particular treaties such as the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and – completing the picture by reference to international disputes to which one of the parties is a non-State actor – the 1965 Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of the module are to give you: - a sound knowledge and understanding of the dispute settlement system operating at inter-State level both generally and through specific treaty-based mechanisms; - an appreciation of the political and institutional factors influencing whether a dispute is settled by litigation or by some less adversarial means; - an opportunity to develop skills of analysis and synthesis of a wide range of both traditional legal and other primary sources, including relevant treaties, court decisions and pleadings both written and oral.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the nature and functions of the international system for settling disputes between States;
  • the key jurisdictional provisions limiting access to international courts;
  • the main fora for the settlement of inter-State disputes of both general and specific subject–matter and the advantages and disadvantages of each, as well the procedural features unique to each;
  • the principal alternatives to adversarial settlement of disputes.


The syllabus will focus upon: - the UN Charter provisions (Articles 2(3) and 33) on the peaceful settlement of disputes - relevant provisions of the Statute of the International Court of Justice (on jurisdiction, third parties, revision of judgments); - conciliation, mediation and arbitration (including the Permanent Court of Arbitration) - the dispute settlement mechanisms of the World Trade Organization and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (and variations on the latter in other associated treaties); - the 1965 Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Weekly seminars, with opportunities for individual or group presentations by students, depending on the number enrolled. Learning methods include: - Essential and additional directed reading, as per distributed reading lists reproduced on Blackboard; - Engagement with international legal affairs reports in news media, both online and in print, to ensure that you can relate the materials being discussed to current international disputes being prosecuted through both adversarial and alternative means.

Independent Study130
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Resources. The Hartley Library’s holdings on international dispute settlement appear broadly adequate to support this module, although the need for some additional provisioning at the margin cannot be excluded.



Class discussions


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay or problem question  (4500 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay or problem question  (4500 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay or problem question  (4500 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the core/recommended text as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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