Document Type

Undergraduate Syllabus


Fall 2019



Course Number

DIPL 4198

Course Description

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a rapid and unprecedented expansion in law, institutions, and policy regarding atrocity crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity as well as abuses committed during war. International criminal law (ICL) has become a well-known, well-funded, and controversial enterprise of its own, along with the related field of transitional justice. ICL appears in both domestic and international courts and comes up frequently in the news, whether in relation to unresolved conflicts such as Syria, open cases like the indictment of Sudanese ex-President Bashir, or as a factor in national politics. The growth and prominence of the field has also provoked questions, including whether international criminal law can deliver on the promises it makes for justice, progress, reconciliation, peace, and reparation.

This course will examine the history, theory, and practice of international criminal law. Much of what we do will involve studying the doctrines of international criminal law: who can be held accountable for what actions and under which circumstances? In addition to these types of questions, we will be delving into the politics and policy of international criminal law. Is more international criminal law always a good thing? Is the International Criminal Court a neutral institution or is it irreparably biased? How effective and legitimate is international criminal law? How does international criminal law fit into the global legal order?

By reading and discussing case law and scholarly commentary as well as engaging in debates in class, students will also develop familiarity with legal reasoning and analysis. Law is, centrally, about making arguments; in reading and analyzing a wide variety of international legal cases, issues, and doctrines, students will become skilled at identifying, critiquing, and developing legal arguments. The course will also help students to develop critical reading and writing faculties that extend beyond the legal field. We will pay special attention to the intersections between international law and politics and to the relationship between law and justice.