Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment One essay of 5000 words  100%

Learning Outcomes

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

1. Display a knowledge and understanding of the main definitional elements and sources of international crimes.

2. Present critical and well-informed argument relating to the application of these definitional elements.

3. Explain and analyse the problems and contradictions encountered in applying current statutory provisions governing international crimes

4. Demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the main definitional elements and sources of international crimes.

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


1. Protected interest: the special interest of each individual international crime.

2. The contextual elements: in order for the offences of murder, torture or rape to be categorized under a particular international crime, say, war crimes or crimes against humanity, they must fulfill certain requirements which are known as the contextual elements.

3. Policy element: this involves examining the involvement of state or private organizations in the commission of international crimes. Not all crimes require this element.

4. Perpetrators: this focuses on the people who commit a particular international crime. For example war crimes can only be committed by the armed forces unlike crimes against humanity and genocide which are not subject to such a strict criterion.

5. Material Elements: this involves the targets of international crimes such as "groups" and the "civilian population".

6. Individual acts: these are the acts listed under each individual crime. For example murder as a war crime is different from murder as a crime against humanity.

7. Mental element: this deals with the specific mental element required for culpability for each individual international crime. For instance, unlike war crimes and genocide the mens rea for crimes against humanity comprises of the intent to commit the underlying offence, combined with knowledge of the broader context in which that offence occurs.

Brief description

The past decade has witnessed the commission of large scale war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, international armed conflicts and terrorist attacks. In order to be able to grasp, as well as participate in, current debates and controversies involving issues ranging from the invasion of Iraq to the September 11 attacks, an understanding of the conceptual identity of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, aggression and terrorism is vital.

This module will introduce students to the definitional elements of international crimes including aggression and terrorism. A recurrent theme is the search for elements which serve three simultaneous functions:

- sufficiently distinguish one international crime from another,
- help in distinguishing an international crime from an "ordinary" municipal crime (e.g., murder and torture),
- justify the exercise of international jurisdiction over inhumane acts that would otherwise be the subject of domestic adjudication.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written communication is developed by the presentation of information and argument in written answers and in a more informal way by the use of Blackboard to encourage communication among students and between students and staff. Oral communication skills are developed at the residential study schools. Written communication assesed only.
Improving own Learning and Performance Distance learning, by its very nature, requires strong individual learning and performance structures and this module further develops key skills in this area.
Information Technology The module is delivered almost entirely by distance learning which relies heavily on the use of electronic information resources and on-line learning and teaching.
Personal Development and Career planning Independent learning enhances time management skills. Studying the module will also develop an enhanced capacity for critical thought and the ability to work independently.
Problem solving By the examination and discussion of actual and hypothetical case studies.
Research skills By analysis of international conventions and appreciation of the context in which they have been promulgated.
Subject Specific Skills None.
Team work Team working skills will be encouraged and developed in group activities and discussions at the residential study schools.


This module is at CQFW Level 7