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Historical experience demonstrates that, without justice, it is exceedingly difficult to establish an inclusive and lasting peace. And yet, while States pay significant lip service to the importance of accountability, all too often it is the victim of - or is otherwise shaped by - real politik. For this reason, an expert international criminal lawyer must be a master of both law and politics.
With this in mind, this subject will explore why, how and when individuals can be held individually criminally responsible for serious international crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), other international mechanisms, and national jurisdictions. In addition to considering the substantive rules of international criminal law, students will explore a range of legal policy issues relating to the prosecution of serious international crimes, and critiques of the international criminal justice project, including through case studies on Afghanistan, Palestine, the Rohingya, ISIS and the crime of aggression. Drawing on the lecturer’s experience in relation to the practice of international criminal law, and the insights of other senior practitioners, the subject is focused throughout on contemporary issues of international criminal law that are of real relevance to practitioners and scholars alike.
Principal topics include:
- The nature of law, war and crime, and the relationship between peace and justice;
- The development of international criminal law, including the contribution of the ad hoc international and mixed criminal tribunals;
- The Rome Statute crimes (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression) and their relationship to customary international law;
- The modes of individual criminal responsibility and the defences recognised by international criminal law;
- The ICC’s personal and temporal jurisdiction;
- The proceedings and practice of the ICC;
- The stakeholders of international criminal law (including victims, witnesses and defendants);
- The role of new ad hoc criminal mechanisms (such as the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria); and
- The prosecution of international crimes in national jurisdictions, including on the basis of universal jurisdiction.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject should be able to:
- Identify and examine the theoretical underpinnings of international criminal law and its relationship to other branches of international law;
- Contextualise the historical development of international criminal law by reference to the work of the ad hoc international and mixed criminal tribunals;
- Possess an advanced, detailed, and integrated understanding of: the Rome Statute crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression); the legal bases on which an individual can be held criminally responsible; and the ICC's jurisdiction;
- Possess an understanding of the relationship between national and international prosecutions;
- Possess an insight into the practical issues, political challenges and conceptual fault lines of modern international criminal law; and
- Critically analyse the effectiveness of international criminal law.
Last updated: 10 November 2023