Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Definitional Elements of Substantive International Crimes
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. 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.

Brief description

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 'rrdinary? 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.


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 'rroups? and the 'rivilian 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.


This module is at CQFW Level 7