JJUA55094U Public International Law II: Advanced Inquiries - NOTE: Cancelled in the spring semester 2016

Volume 2015/2016

This course complements the basic instruction offered in Public International Law I: Fundamental questions:

Here we explore in greater depth a number of more complex areas of general international law. It is therefore aimed at those who have already had some formal instruction in the discipline and who wish to acquire a more solid substantive and methodological foundation in the field. It would benefit students who in their master’s degree have chosen other, more specialised fields of instruction in international law, or those who contemplate further post-graduate research or professional engagements in the discipline. The course is structured in four parts, beginning with those areas where public international law arguably is strongest and most firmly institutionalised, followed by an exploration of those regimes currently undergoing significant normative or institutional change. The third part examines the methodological challenges that have arisen in recent years and having studied an overview of critical and alternative theoretical visions, we will explore in the final part the continued practical relevance of the discipline and how research can contribute to keeping it that way.

Part I: Substantive Consolidation: Effective International Regimes

Week 1: The Law of the Sea
Session 1: Exemplary Character of the Law of the Sea
Session 2: Law of the Sea continued; Air and Space Law

Week 2: International Economic Law
Session 3: Trade & Investment: Theory and Legal Regulation
Session 4: The Institutional Alphabet Soup (IMF, WB, MIGA, GATT, WTO)

Week 3: International Environmental Law
Session 5: Fisheries, Pollution, Ozone, Climate Change, Nuclear Safety Session 6: Compliance and Enforcement

Week 4: International Adjudication
Session 7: International Court of Justice
Session 8: Multiplication of International Tribunals

Part II: Substantive Challenges: Changing Regimes

Week 5: International Law in Domestic Settings
Session 9: Economic Issues: Sanctions, Debt Collection
Session 10: Human Rights Issues: Torture, CSR, Refugees

Week 6:Regulation of Violence
Session 11: ius ad bellum: Collective Security and its Discontents
Session 12: ius in bello: Targeting, Torture, Renditions

Week 7: Conditioning Sovereignty
Session 13: Territorial Integrity, Self-Preservation & Interventions
Session 14: Self-Determination as a Legal Concept

Week 8: Changing Systemic Dynamics
Session 15: Fragmentation
Session 16: Constitutionalisation

Week 9: International Criminal Law: Ending Impunity or Imperialism?
Session 17: Development and Structure of the Regime
Session 18: Legal and Political Contention

Part III: Methodological Challenges

Week 10: Contested Histories
Session 19: Re-Interpreting Westphalia
Session 20: Colonial Legacies, Universality and Missing Voices

Week 11: Alternative Theoretical Visions
Session 21: Third World Approaches to IL, Critical Legal Studies, Feminist and related Critiques
Session 22: Economic, Sociological, Anthropological Approaches

Part IV: Relevance and Further Research

Week 12: Disciplinary Direction: Sophistry or Tribalism?
Session 23: Identifying Legal Questions that matter for further research
Session 24: Idealism and Despair.


Learning Outcome

At the completion of the course, students will obtain the following Knowledge and have:

  • Learnt the competing theoretical perspectives within the discipline of international law, such as critical legal studies, economic theories of international law, third world approaches to international law, etc. 
  • Understand the considerable differences in substantial complexities between different sub-fields of international law, from highly consolidated fields such as the law of the sea to relatively primitive areas such as the regulation of violence
  • Understand the simultaneous but countervailing pressures for fragmentation and consolidation of the international legal order
  • Comprehend the driving factors for the multiplication of international dispute resolution fora
  • Understand the economic and political factors that account for the greater sophistication and institutionalisation of some areas of international law (trade, environment, communications, human rights) rather than others (humanitarian law, use of force, aid)
  • Understand the scholarly debate about the changing nature and/or integrity of some parts of international law (prohibition of torture, preemptive violence, global administrative law).


Students will acquire the following Skills and be able to:

  • Identify the main proponents of major theoretical debates within the discipline
  • Identify the main economic and political factors that drive substantial and methodological innovations in the discipline
  • Identify the main contemporary challenges to the normative integrity of the discipline
  • Analyse the effectiveness of scholarly discourse to produce legal responses to concrete contemporary problems
  • Assess the continued relevance of international law as the language of international relations.


The course will therefore equip students with the following Competencies in order to:

  • Critically evaluate competing theoretical approaches to international law
  • Evaluate alternative historical narratives fo the origin of international law, especially with respect to revisionist propositions from a critical, feminist, third world, or economic angle
  • Evaluate institutional change in light of its effectiveness towards the management of global regulatory challenges, especially with respect to UN reform, the proliferation of international organisations and tribunals, climate change, etc.

The textbook used in the introductory part continues to be used, that is:

Malcolm Shaw, International Law, 7th ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Other readings will be distributed and made available via Absalon, with a combined workload of ca. 700 pages, including the following:

Rüdiger Wolfrum, “Means of Ensuring Compliance with and Enforcement of International Environmental Law,” Recueil des Cours, Vol. 272 (1999) pp. 9-154.

Eric A. Posner and John C. Yoo, “Judicial Independence in International Tribunals,” California Law Review, Vol. 93, No. 1 (2005) pp. 1-74.

Laurence R. Helfer and Anne-Marie Slaughter, “Why States Create International Tribunals: A Response to Professors Posner and Yoo,” California Law Review, Vol. 93, No. 3 (2005) pp. 899-956.

A comprehensive reading list will be supplied before the start of the course.


Students should have previously taken a basic course in public international law. Students from beyond the law faculty are welcome to join but should contact the instructor.
The pedagogical aims and methods are similar to this course’s fundamental companion, that is students are meant to acquire a solid grounding of the discipline and a thorough understanding of the discipline as a whole rather than merely factual expertise in isolated areas.

About half of each weekly session will be devoted to a lecture outlining the main substantive and theoretical acquis and to highlight the areas of scholarly contention, with the remaining half being devoted to an interactive discussion of the readings for that week.

The aim is to help students to create linkages between the different sub-fields of the discipline, differentiate between established positions and minority views, and distinguish genuinely legal from political or moral arguments.

The purpose of this class is a critical engagement with the discipline and students should therefore be prepared to respond to questions and actively engage in discussions.
There will be no powerpoints used in class.
This course is meant to complement the other more specialised offerings on specialised fields of public international law and therefore it should not be mutually exclusive with those courses.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 364,5
  • Seminar
  • 48
  • Total
  • 412,5
Type of assessment
Written assignment, 3 day
Written without supervision (homework assignment) 3 day
Censorship form
No external censorship
Exam period

Exam date: 11. - 14. of December 2015.


Exam date: 5. - 8. of February 2016.

Criteria for exam assesment

The course is evaluated by a written, open-book, three-day take-home examination limited to 5000 words excluding footnotes (less is better; quality not quantity counts!).

The exam poses three different types of questions requiring different writing and presentation skills: Students will have to:

  • write a professional memorandum giving concrete legal advice based on a case study, advising a fictitious government department on what to do in an international legal crisis
  • define concisely 15 concepts presented in the readings and place them into context
  • write a coherent essay arguing for or against a normative position of international law.


The criterion for evaluation is the student’s demonstration of the following knowledge, skills and competencies, that is being able to:

  • Identify and differentiate the different legal problems contained in a given international problem (case study)
  • Identify the applicable international principles and the exceptions to general rules that might apply to the given problem
  • Present and evaluate recent changes in international law leading to changes in some of these general and special rules
  • Propose concrete solutions and alternative courses of action for the given recipient of international legal advice (government department), clearly highlighting the respective strengths and weaknesses of different approaches
  • Identify, contextualise and evaluate key concepts proposed in the reading, with particular reference to the way they represent or alter the dominant interpretation of international law
  • Present and evaluate the main methodological and normative challenges within the discipline, clearly weighting the persuasiveness of different theoretical propositions
  • Communicate these findings professionally, persuasively, and rigorously.