Module Identifier LA36920  
Academic Year 2003/2004  
Co-ordinator Professor Ryszard W Piotrowicz  
Semester Semester 1  
Other staff Professor Christopher S P Harding, Ms Naomi J Salmon  
Mutually Exclusive LA10810, LA10910  
Course delivery Lecture   40 Hours  
  Seminars / Tutorials   8 Hours Seminar. Four, two hour seminars  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam2 Hours Seen Examination66%
Semester Assessment Essay: One assessed essay of 2000 words (required in week 11)  33%
Supplementary Assessment By retaking the failed element (ie written assignment or examination or both, as applicable)   

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
To promote an insight into and understanding of the salient features of the international legal system, in particular its distinctive law making process and methods of securing compliance; to explore in a more specific way the interaction of law and other forces at the international level and to develop an appreciation of the limits of law as a means of resolving international problems.

The coursework and examination are designed to encourage and enable the students to demonstrate their command of the principles and techniques of International Law.

Brief description

International Law has traditionally been concerned with the legal relations between sovereign States and although such States remain the most significant actors on the international stage, the subject expanded during the twentieth century to encompass the activities of international organisations - especially the United Nations and regional organisations such as the European Community - and also to some extent the position of individuals and non-governmental organisations. In a situation of fast-changing international relations it is also a highly topical field of law with a rapidly evolving content.

A study of international law in addition provides some insight into the relation between different types of legal order, especially the interaction of international and municipal law. Much international law of both a global and a regional character is not translated into national legislation and some areas of national law are more easily understood when it is appreciated that they represent an implementation of international obligations.

The first part of this module comprises an introduction to the nature and working methods of the international legal system. The sources, subjects and methodology of international law differ from those found in most national (municipal) systems, and a study of the operation of the international legal system supplies illuminating comparisons for students of law generally. Stress is laid upon the way in which international law may work effectively in the absence of a compulsory judicial system and types of sanction commonly found in municipal systems. The study of international law alongside a system such as English Law is therefore also an exercise in jurisprudence.

The second part of the module builds upon this foundation by examining in greater depth selected areas of substantive law. The approach at this stage of the course is thematic, relating legal rules to contemporary issues of international concern, such as the protection of human rights, the preservation of the environment, the world economic order, and the legal control of terrorism and other crimininal activities which cross national boundaries.

The module is offered as an elective for both students of law and students in other degree schemes.


To inculcate an appreciation of the operation of law in a broad (i.e., international), political and economic context and to develop an understanding of the specific methodology of law at the international level; to develop the ability to apply general concepts and principles of international law to specific problems of contemporary significance.


The course is taught through lectures and seminars. The lectures are intended to provide a framework for more detailed study of the subject and point towards critical analyses. Seminars provide the opportunity for discussion and analysis of the subject in greater detail. Further research into the subject is encouraged through the assessed written assignment.

1. Personality under international law

The concept of personality in different legal systems

States as legal persons: the concept of statehood

The role of recognition in the creation of statehood

The personality of international organisations

The personality of individuals at the international level

2. Sources of international law and the international law-making process

Treaties: types of treaties and the treaty-making process

Custom: the requirements of custom and its nature as a source of law

General principles of law

Subsidiary sources: precedent and legal writing

Resolutions of the UN General Assembly

Problems in the development of international law

3. The relationship between international and municipal (state) law

'Monist' and 'Dualist' approaches to this question

The extent to which international law is part of the United Kingdom legal system

The relations between the European Community and state legal systems

4. State sovereignty

The concept of state sovereignty: the distinction between sovereignty and other legal regimes in international law

The principles of non-intervention and the sovereign equality states

Methods of acquiring sovereignty over territory

The relevance of the principle of self-determination

5. The settlement of disputes in international law

Different methods of dispute resolution employed at the international level

The role of force in dispute settlement

The use of United Nations procedures

Dispute settlement in the context of the European Communities

6. Jurisdiction and immunity from jurisdiction

The bases of jurisdiction

Sovereign immunity

Diplomatic immunity

7. The basic principles of state responsibility

8. International co-operation in relation to the enforcement of criminal law, with special reference to War crimes

Crimes against humanity

Acts of terrorism

9. The international economic order

The concept of the 'New International Economic Order' and sovereignty over natural resources

Expropriation of foreign assets

Maritime claims for the exploitation of resources

10. The protection of the basic rights of individuals and groups under international law

Basic problems arising from state sovereignty and questions of legal personality

The major systems of protection, global and regional, established since 1945

Problems of standard-setting and enforcement

Detailed consideration of the system set up under the European Convention on Human Rights and comparison with other regional systems

Reading Lists

** Recommended Text
D J Harris (2003) Cases & Materials on International Law 6th. Sweet & Maxwell
A Cassese (2001) International Law OUP
** Recommended Consultation
M Dixon & R McCorquodale (2000) Cases & Materials on International Law 3rd. Blackstone
R Higgins (1995) Problems and Process: International Law and How We Use It OUP
I Shearer (1994) Starke's International Law 11th. Butterworths
S Blay, R Piotrowicz, M Tsamenyi (1997) Public International Law. An Australian Perspective OUP
P Malanczuk (1997) Akehurst's Modern Introduction to International Law 7th. Routledge
Brownlie (1998) Principles of Public International Law 5th. OUP
M Shaw (1997) International Law 4th. Cambridge


This module is at CQFW Level 6