LAWSG174 Foundations and Principles of International Law

LAWSG174: FOUNDATIONS AND PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW
Credit value: 30 credits (15 ECTS, 300 learning hours)
Convenor: Alex Mills;
Kimberley Trapp
Other Teachers: None
Teaching Delivery: 20 x 2-hour weekly seminars, 10 seminars per term, Term One and Two
Who may enrol: LLM students only
Prerequisites: None (prior knowledge of international law useful but not essential)
Must not be taken with: None
Qualifying module for: LLM in International Law
Introductory video Currently there is no introductory video for this module
Assessment
Practice Assessment: Opportunity for feedback on one optional practice essay per term (two in total)
Final Assessment: One 3-hour unseen written examination (100%)
Module Overview
Module summary:

International law has a range of specialist fields or subject areas which are taught as modules in the UCL LLM programme – including, among numerous examples, international criminal law, international human rights law, international environmental law, and international investment law. But international law also has a ‘general’ part, which applies across all of these specialisms. Any international lawyer must understand not only their specialist area of practice, but also the general international law framework which gives their subject its foundations and within which the specialist subject areas operate. The general rules of international law are, however, more than merely a framework – they remain the most important rules for many of the most significant problems and disputes in international law.

This module provides an overview and analysis of the core general rules and principles of international law. It does not require previous knowledge of international law, but it will examine the material in more depth and with a more critical perspective than undergraduate treatments, and with a focus on the key contemporary problems and issues. It also seeks to examine broader themes in the development of international law – for example, the extent to which international law is modelled on the idea of ‘private law’ between sovereign states (including, for example, treaties as inter-state contracts), and the extent to which it is an emerging legal system, reliant also on public law ideas (including, for example, the role of peremptory norms as fundamental principles, or the debate about whether international law is undergoing ‘constitutionalisation’). The module will benefit any student who would like to develop further their understanding of international law’s core principles, including particularly students taking one or more of the specialist modules in international law who, wisely, would also like to enhance their knowledge and understanding of general international law.

Module syllabus:

Topics will include:

  • International personality – who are the ‘subjects’ or ‘actors’ recognised in international law? What ‘personality’ is possessed by international organisations, corporations, or natural persons?
  • Statehood and self-determination – what rules determine the status of entities whose statehood is disputed, such as Kosovo? What role is played by recognition or nonrecognition by other states, or by claims of self-determination?
  • Sources of international law – what rules govern the formation and identification of the sources of international law, including treaties, customary international law, general principles of law, and peremptory norms? To what extent are the sources of international law based on the consent of each individual sovereign state, and to what extent does international law recognise collective or majoritarian law-making processes?
  • State responsibility – when is a state responsible for a breach of international law, and what consequences follow from such a breach? To what extent do the rules on state responsibility recognise collective community interests, beyond the interests of directly affected states?
  • The jurisdiction of states – what are the limits on the regulatory powers of states? When can states assert authority outside their territory? When are states obliged to exercise jurisdiction under international law, including under the international minimum standard of treatment of foreign nationals, and under evolving individual rights of access to justice?
  • The immunities of states and their agents – what immunities are states and their agents entitled to before foreign courts? How can these immunities be reconciled with the rights of access to justice of individual victims of torture or other human rights breaches by foreign states?
    • The constitutionalisation and fragmentation of international law – to what extent is international law engaged in these two (apparently contradictory) processes, under which the law is gaining a more formal public and institutional structure, but also fragmenting into more distinct and less coherent specialisms?
Recommended materials:

Students should purchase a copy of Evans (ed), “Blackstone’s International Law Documents” (12th edn, 2015, Oxford University Press) (the 11th edition is also fine). This contains the text of key treaties and statutes which will be referred to during the course. The book may be taken into the exam at the end of the year, provided it is not annotated.

There is no set text book for the module. Reading will include case law, articles, and chapters from a number of the leading texts. In general, however, introductory reading will be assigned from one or both of the following books, and students may wish to purchase one or both of them:

  • Evans (ed), “International Law” (4th edn, 2014, Oxford University Press)
  • Crawford and Koskenniemi (eds), “The Cambridge Companion to International Law” (2012, Cambridge University Press)

For more detailed reference, we suggest:

  • Crawford, “Brownlie’s Principles of Public International Law” (8th edn, 2012, OUP)
  • Shaw, “International Law” (7th edn, 2014, CUP)
Preliminary reading:

Students who have not previously studied public international law, or who wish to refresh their
memories on the subject, may wish to read:

  • Dixon, ‘Textbook on International Law’ (7th edn, 2013, OUP)
  • Klabbers, ‘International Law’ (2013, CUP)
  • Lowe, ‘International Law’ (2007, OUP)