JJUA55086U  International Law and the Individual - NOTE: THE COURSE IS CANCELLED IN THE AUTUMN SEMESTER 2018

Volume 2018/2019

The relationship between international law and the individual is paradoxical. Indeed, international law has commonly been defined as the law that regulates the relations among states, whereas the relationship between states and individuals was considered to be the prerogative of constitutional law. However, after World War II individuals became the focus of the international legal order as never before. Today, it is common ground in both legal theory and practice that individuals play an important role on the international stage. But scholars and practitioners still struggle to determine the consequences of these developments for the international legal system as such, as well as for its relationship with the domestic legal systems. The vast increase in the international legal regulation of individuals during the second half of the 20th century was driven by the post-World War II idea that empowering the individual on the international plane would help to prevent future conflicts. But now this idea seems to be losing momentum, and the skepticism towards individual rights and duties under international law is growing. Whether we are witnessing the beginning of a normative ‘counter-revolution’, or just an ephemeral trend, remains to be seen. However, the 2016 Brexit referendum as well as the fact that political movements in a number of European states advocate withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights are strong indicators of a ‘re-nationalization’ tendency. The course explores the contemporary role of the individual across the board of the international legal system and assesses what normative ‘re-nationalization’ will mean for the future relationship between international law and domestic law in general – and in particular for the legal protection of individuals.

The overall aim of the course is to:

  • Provide students with a working knowledge of the contemporary role of the individual in the international legal system
  • Develop students’ understanding of a number of specialized fields of international law involving the interests of individuals
  • Develop students’ awareness of the differences between international law and domestic law and the importance of these differences from the perspective of the individual


To achieve this aim, the following issues will be addressed in the readings and class discussions:
1. The Structure of the International Legal System
2. The Concept of International Legal Personality in International Legal Theory
3. The Relationship between International Law and Domestic Law
4. The Capacity of Individuals to Bring Cases before International Courts
5. The Role of the Individual in International Human Rights Law
6. The Role of the Individual in International Humanitarian Law
7. The Role of the Individual in International Criminal Law
8. The Role of the Individual in International Investment Law
9. The Role the Individual in European Union Law

This course is part of iCourts Excellence Programme (iEP) – International Law and Courts in a Global World, see 'Remarks' below.

Learning Outcome

The course provides the students with knowledge of:

- The theoretical debate on the role of individuals in the international legal system
- The role of individuals in general international law as a matter of positive norms
- The role of individuals in a variety of specialized disciplines of international law, including International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, International Criminal Law and International Investment Law
- The differences between international law and domestic law pertaining specifically to the rights, duties and capacities of individuals

On the basis thereof the course provides the students with the following skills:
- The ability to interpret and apply international legal norms pertaining to individuals in order to ascertain their material rights and duties
- The ability to identify relevant factors concerning the procedural capacities of individuals, e.g. their competence to bring a claim before an international court

Based on those skills the course provides the students with the following competences:
- The ability to reflect upon both the benefits and the problems of regulating the conduct of individuals in certain specialized fields of international law
- The ability to reflect upon the overall consequences of transferring the regulation of individuals from the domestic to the international level – and back again

Required reading:

Jean D’Aspremont, ‘International Law-Making by Non-State Actors: Changing the Model or Putting the Phenomenon into Perspective?’ in Math Noortman and Cedric Ryngaert, Non-State Actor Dynamics in International Law, Ashgate, 2010, pp. 171-194 (23 pages)

Astrid Kjeldgaard-Pedersen, The International Legal Personality of Individuals (forthcoming), (350 pages)

Sandesh Sivakumaran, ‘Binding Armed Opposition Groups’, International and Comparative Law Quarterly, Vol. 55, 2006, pp. 369-394 (25 pages)

Ole Spiermann, ‘Twentieth Century Internationalism in Law’, European Journal of International Law, Vol. 18, 2007, pp. 785-814 (29 pages)

(total: 427 pages)

By the end of the course students will be competent to analyse and solve complex legal problems relating to regulation of the individual at the international level. Moreover, they will have acquired detailed understanding of the relationship between international law and domestic law enabling them to apply the specialized legal method that is required when tackling issues at the crossroad between legal systems.
Given the ever increasing regulation of individuals across the board of sub-fields of international law, the competences acquired during this course will benefit students pursuing a career in public administration as well as private practice both domestically and in an international setting.
The course presupposes a basic knowledge of public international law, e.g. equivalent to ‘folkeret’ at the BA-level. Students who have not previously taken a course on public international law must be prepared to acquire such knowledge on their own prior to the first seminar (reading material will be recommended by the teacher). All required readings are in English and class discussions will be conducted in English.
Students must be able to read, understand and speak English at a reasonable academic level. Students must be willing and able to attend and participate actively in the seminars and online activities.
Seminars: Seminars will include a significant amount of case work and student presentations. Students will get feedback on their work/presentations from both the teacher and each other (see further above at 6).
Blended learning: To ensure that the students’ learning activities do not only take place in the “classroom”, but also in between seminars, the course will involve online activities. Student wikis and blogs will be set up on Absalon to facilitate students’ reflection on and discussion of the course material online - under the teacher’s supervision.
Please observe, this course is part of iCourts Excellence Programme (iEP) – International Law and Courts in a Global World. Students who sign up for the iEP become iCourts Student Fellows and will get a unique opportunity to become part of the research environment of iCourts – the only centre of excellence in law in Denmark. The iEP is open to all Danish and foreign MA students at the Faculty. All iCourts courses may be taken individually but only students who complete at least three of the 15 ECTS courses offered by the centre will receive a certificate confirming their participation in the iEP. Read more about the programme: http:/​​​/​​​jura.ku.dk/​​​icourts/​​​teaching-and-doctoral-training/​​​master-excellence-programme/​​​
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
Oral exam based on synopsis, 20 minutes
Exam registration requirements

In order to attend the oral examination, it is a prerequisite to hand in the synopsis before the specified deadline.
The deadline is agreed upon with the course lecturer.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Exam period

Autumn: week 50, 2018 - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday


Autumn: week 4, 2019 - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Seminar
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 356,5
  • Total
  • 412,5