Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Foundations of Public International Law
Academic Year
Distance Learning

Course Delivery



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

Learning Outcomes

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

1. Demonstrate an understanding of the justification for the international legal protection of human rights.
2. Display knowledge of the international legal and institutional frameworks for the protection of human rights.
3. Assess and explain the operation of the different mechanisms for the protection of human rights and evaluate their effectiveness.
4. Conduct research and find legal solutions related to the protection of international human rights.
5. Situate human rights issues in the broad context of international and national law.
6. Demonstrate critical and analytical skills and apply them to concrete cases and situations.

Brief description

This module will provide students with in-depth knowledge of the main issues concerning the legal regulation of international affairs. Many issues and problems related to both Human Rights and Humanitarian Law are strictly linked to the understanding of international law, and how it works in the contemporary world. Therefore, it is appropriate that advanced students have an understanding of the main issues related to the concepts and problems of international law. Some students may have studied International Law in previous studies, but some may not have done. The aim of this module is to promote understanding and illustrate problems that are faced by the regulation of international society and give the background knowledge to understand other and more specialized topics which are, or may be, related to international law.

The initial part of the module will focus on the concept of international law and its relationship with international politics. Then, the module will be divided into two main sections. The first section will deal with subjects and actors of international law. The second section will analyse the sources of the international legal system. Each of those two main issues will be then divided into more detailed subsections, each of them focusing on specific subjects and sources.


1. International law: history, philosophy and relationship with international politics and other disciplines.

2. States and the notion of statehood. The concept of the state in International law, requisites, rights and duties, and difficult borderline situations regarding the definition of states are addressed.
3. International Organizations: independent actors or instruments of states? International organizations have become major actors and subjects of international law. But sometimes they are perceived as part of the inter-state game among big powers. Here we shall explore the importance and the limits of international organizations.
4. Individuals and groups as subjects of international law: blurring the boundaries of international law, or creating a democratic international community? New subjects are sometimes difficult to define in international law. There is a trend to identify a variety of actors that play a very important role in the application and development of international law. They include rebel groups, non-governmental organizations, multinational corporations and individuals.

5. Treaties: the will of states. The main idea of a treaty is that states and other parties to it are bound upon ratification. But some legal issues arise, in particular when dealing with reservations and interpretation of treaties. Furthermore, states that have not ratified a treaty can be 'round? by the evolution of some treaty provisions into customary law.
6. Custom: the legal order of the international community. Rules are needed to develop relations among subjects of the international community. Customary law has played and still plays a very important role in providing legal rules, and some basic rules within the international community.
7. General Principles, Jus Cogens and Obligations Erga Omnes: is there a hierarchy of sources in international law?
8. Soft Law: from political commitments to legal obligations, and their interrelationship. Soft-law, mainly the result of the work of international organizations, is considered to be part of the political process that influences the evolution of international law. The nature and significance of this 'rnusual? source of law will be explored.


This module is at CQFW Level 7