Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
General Principles of International Criminal Liability and Defences
Academic Year
Distance Learning

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Other Private study on DL units; Preparation and submission of written assignment; Additional research and private study


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Module Assessment  Written Assigment of 5,000 words  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Display a knowledge and understanding of the general principles of international criminal law.

2. Present critical and well-informed argument relating to the implementation of general principles of International Criminal Law.

3. Demonstrate an understanding of the issues and controversies related to each principle.

4. Display a knowledge and understanding of rules on criminal liability emanating from several legal jurisdictions.

5. Locate and critically evaluate the relevant literature and materials in this field and use them in critical discussion of the subject.

Brief description

This module will enable students to study the legal problems associated with
extending and applying rules originating from domestic criminal law in the international criminal law domain and the practical difficulties of harmonizing principles distilled from various parts of the world in the adjudication of cases. This module will allow students to gain an insight into how other legal jurisdictions resolve similar issues.

This module will introduce students to the unique nature of international criminal law rules vis-a-vis similar doctrinal concepts under domestic law. Students will be exposed to major legal systems of the world such as Common Law and Civil Law as well as other systems in the supranational criminal law community.

International Criminal Law enforcement institutions, owing to their international status, have traditionally resorted to general principles of law to assist them in their search for applicable rules of international law. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have, for example, both resorted to national laws to assist them in determining the relevant international law. Similarly Article 21 of the Rome Statute establishes a hierarchy of sources of law that should be applied by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in implementing statutory provisions. This module examines the challenges faced by these institutions in harnessing and harmonizing principles from several major legal systems of the world for the purpose of resolving international criminal liability issues.


1. Locating individual criminal responsibility in the context of mass atrocities.

2. The responsibility of a superior for acts of a subordinate.

3. Modes of participation in crimes: making sense of who did what in situations involving a plurality of actors.

4. Official capacity and immunity: tensions between international criminal law and current general international law.

5. Grounds for excluding criminal responsibility: considering mitigating factors in the context of war.

6. Concurrence of Crimes: dealing with conceptual overlaps of international crimes.

7. Sentencing: theories and rules relevant for the punishment of war criminals.


This module is at CQFW Level 7