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  3. International Criminal Law

International Criminal Law (LAWS70033)

Graduate coursework level 7Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2017
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 7
Subject codeLAWS70033
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject considers the rules, concepts, principles, institutional architecture and enforcement of something we call international criminal law or international criminal justice, or sometimes, the law of war crimes. The focus of this subject is international criminal law concerned with traditional ‘war crimes’ and, in particular, four of the core crimes set out in the Rome Statute (war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression). It adopts a historical, philosophical and practical focus throughout, and is mainly directed at the conceptual problems associated with the prosecution of war criminals and, more broadly, legalised retribution. Attention, in this respect, will be directed towards the moral and jurisprudential dilemmas associated with bureaucratic criminality and individual culpability.

Principal topics include:

  • The nature of law, war and crime and the purpose of war crimes trials
  • Concept of individual criminal responsibility for violations of international law
  • Elaboration of basic crimes
  • Universal jurisdiction
  • International criminal courts
  • International versus national jurisdictions and the concept of universal jurisdiction
  • Different models of international criminal courts and tribunals
  • The International Criminal Court.

Intended learning outcomes

This subject will focus on individual accountability for human rights abuses, including both the substantive law providing for such responsibility and the range of mechanisms available for holding individuals accountable.

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Be able to locate the law of war crimes in the great moral and political dilemmas of the last half century
  • Possess an advanced, detailed, and integrated understanding of the concept of individual criminal responsibility for violations of international law including recent developments in this field of law and practice
  • Assimilate the core crimes, as well as critical extensions of culpability, such as command responsibility, and key defences, such as duress or superior orders
  • Be aware of the historical development of international criminal law
  • Have a sophisticated appreciation the relationship between national and international jurisdiction for the prosecution of international crimes
  • Be conversant with the advantages and disadvantages of prosecutions compared to other methods of individual accountability, including the debate over amnesties and pardons
  • Understand the full range of non-prosecutorial mechanisms for holding individuals accountable, including truth commissions and civil suits
  • Comprehend the basic workings of the United Nation’s (UN) ad hoc criminal tribunals and the permanent International Criminal Court
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating to international criminal law and be able to critically evaluate existing legal theories, principles and concepts with creativity and autonomy
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse existing and emerging legal issues relating to the law and practice of war crimes law
  • Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information about the law and history of war crimes to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • Be able to demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a practitioner and student in the field of international criminal law.

Last updated: 31 August 2017