JJUA55302U Cancelled Comparative Emergency Laws

Volume 2023/2024

Do exceptional times require exceptional measures? And if so, how can we limit the inevitable damage to the ordinary legal and political system?
hese old constitutional questions are often conflated with the recent phenome-non of global terrorism, but they pertain to a much broader set of threats to the integrity of state and society, from natural disasters, war, economic col-lapse to, more controversially, migration and related issues.


This course offers a broad historical and geographic overview of the concept of emergency laws from the Roman republic to contemporary times, and from liberal democracies to autocracies. Perhaps counter-intuitively, explicitly and pre-emptively formulated emergency laws are not the prerogative of (Western) liberal constitutional democracies, but can be found and are taken seriously by decision-makers in very different types of states.
Balancing rights, procedural safeguards and freedom with security in order to better re-spond to existential threats turns out to be a fairly universal functional chal-lenge of any effective state.

This course will examine different theories of emergency powers, using vari-ous international case studies of exceptional crises.
We will examine how dif-ferent responses to exceptional security threats have challenged liberal concepts of democracy and the rule of law and, in some cases, international human rights law.
This underlying balancing is contrasted with the similar but distinct calculation occurring in non-liberal entities.

In order to better understand how the State can or should respond to inter-national terrorism and other security threats, this course will examine the major theoretical paradigms of emergency powers: the “extra-legal” model, the “legislative” model, the “neo-Roman” model, the “rule-of-law” model, and the “authoritarian” model.
In turn, these models will be considered in connection with specific historical events, in order to assess their effective-ness and drawbacks in simultaneously responding to emergencies and pro-tecting the constitutional status quo, that is upholding the rule of law and/or liberal democratic values.

To this end, the course will focus on theoretical readings about emergency powers, together with statutes, court judgments, and historical accounts of extraordinary events. Case studies will include the United States, Germany, Japan, France, China, Iran, East Timor, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Sweden, Argentina, and others in passing.

Learning Outcome

Identify and analyse complex and concrete legal problems surrounding different states of emergency, in their historical contexts;
- Present the wider policy and legal arguments behind the different theoretical models of emergency powers;
- Put the current controversies about responses to terrorism into historical, national, and international perspective, in order to test the relevance of different emergency powers theories.


- Analyse the impact of different emergency powers upon the concept of liberal democracy and the rule of law, consider their links to illiberal or authoritarian regimes, and understand their relationships to the nature of the state itself;
- Argue carefully and logically for and against specific legal positions in factual context, present the theoretical foundations for those arguments, and make reasoned choices in terms of public policy.                 


- Formulate and communicate ideas and legal issues; 
- Utilize international and foreign legal materials, and historical accounts, in a coherent, competent, and professional way.



Further information about the syllabus will appear in Absalon


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Knowledge of constitutional and international law, and a sufficient command of English.
The course is suitable to normal law students, not least Erasmus students, in good standing, as well as interested students from political science, sociology, and related disciplines. No formal requirements are imposed.
We follow the Socratic method and will thus rely heavily on student participation and informed discussions, as opposed to lectures. This means that students will have to do some reading and come prepared.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 356,5
  • Seminar
  • 56
  • Total
  • 412,5
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
Individual written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship