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How does law respond to experiences of war, mass conflict and political transition? This question has animated conflicts throughout the world, from South Africa to the Democratic Republic of Congo, from Argentina to the Arab Spring, from the former Yugoslavia to North America, Syria to Australia. This subject explores the languages and institutions of international criminal law. It is an area of law that exists at the confluence of criminal law, international law, human rights and transitional justice. The discipline will be approached historically, critically and theoretically, and includes in-depth case studies of institutions, crimes, procedures, and country or regional situations.
Principal topics in the subject include:
- The history of international criminal tribunals and courts, from Nuremberg to the International Criminal Court;
- Core crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and aggression;
- Selected crimes, such as enforced disappearance, rape and sexual violence;
- Doctrines of criminal responsibility, such as individual criminal responsibility and modes of participation;
- Procedures of prosecution and testimony;
- Victims and international criminal justice;
- National and regional approaches to international crimes, such as Australian war crimes prosecutions, or the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights; and
- Alternatives to criminal trials, for example truth commissions and memory projects.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will have advanced and integrated understanding of, and the ability to critically engage with and reflect on, the bodies of knowledge associated with current international criminal law. In particular, the student will:
- Understand the legal complexities of attributing criminal responsibility for international crimes;
- Understand the legal structure of and the variety of approaches to the core international crimes, as well as important modes of participation and key defences;
- Evaluate contemporary theories of crimes against humanity and genocide;
- Understand the contemporary history development of international criminal law and its relation to discourses of criminal law, interntional law and human rights;
- Recognise the relationship between national and international jurisdiction for the prosecutions of international crimes;
- Comprehend the basic workings of the UN’s ad hoc criminal tribunals and the permanent International Criminal Court;
- Understand the variety of roles available to international criminal law in national, regional and local responses to atrocity, conflict and trauma; and
- Evaluate alternatives to international criminal prosecution, such as truth commission, amnesties and memorial projects.
This subject will build upon the research skills already developed within the JD program. On completion of the subject, students will have critically analysed at least one specific instance or example of the complexity of international criminal law as a discipline. A student who has successfully completed this subject will thus have the expert and specialized cognitive and technical skills necessary for research in international criminal law. In particular, the student will have:
- Cognitive skills necessary for critical reflection on the theory and professional practice of international criminal law;
- Cognitive, technical, and creative skills necessary for critically investigating, analysing, and interpreting the complex information, problems, concepts and theories associated with international criminal law;
- Cognitive, technical, and creative skills necessary for generating and evaluating complex abstract ideas, concepts, and theories in international criminal law;
- Communication and technical research skills necessary for justifying theoretical propositions, methodologies, conclusions, and professional decisions concerning international criminal law to specialist and non-specialist audiences; and
- Technical and communication skills necessary for designing, evaluating, implementing, analysing and theorising developments that contribute to scholarship about international criminal law.
Last updated: 10 November 2023