This course provides a general introduction to international law, its structures, institutions, processes and principles. It is taught from a 'globalist’ perspective, and is not confined to any particular country's approach towards international law; it seeks to make the student aware of points of convergence and divergence with respect to how the legal orders of different states may relate to international law in general.
Our primary text is Giliker,Harris and Sivakumaran's Cases & Materials in International Law (Sweet & Maxwell, 2015). While no textbook is required, students wishing to consult a text may find the following useful: Vaughan Lowe, International Law (OUP, 2007), Brownlie's Principles of Public International Law (OUP, 2012), James Crawford ed., Malcolm Shaw, International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2018) and Martin Dixon, Textbook on International Law, 7th ed, (OUP 2013). A PIL Instruments Supplement composing the major international instruments we will refer to, will be made available in soft copy; hard copies may be requested from the Student Counter. There is a broad range of other secondary literature sources which the student may consult. Important ones have been identified, below.
The course will focus on foundational concepts underlying the international legal system and the application of legal norms. It will resist the temptation to take a whistle-stop tour through the most exotic international affairs and incidents. Both historical and contemporary material will be judiciously referenced to illustrate core ideas and the types of situations international law is called upon to address, unveiling the current state of the international legal order and the tension between law and politics, theory and practice, utopia and the real world.
While classic international law was primarily directed towards regulating the relationship between nation-states, this no longer accurately captures global realities. In the contemporary setting, there are a variety of non-state actors (international organisations like the UN, WTO, ILO, multi-national corporations, terrorists, individuals, ethno-cultural groups) who participate in international society. In terms of subject-matter, international law is a rapidly expanding field covering diverse fields of human activity, giving rise to specialist topics pertaining to trade, environmental law, human rights law, outer space etc...
International law will be different from any other subject you encounter in law school, and you should be careful not to draw simplistic analogies with domestic legal systems, given the distinct social context of international relations. Our focus will be on the operation of general international law norms and principles, the creation and modification of international law, the engagement between international and domestic legal systems, issues relating to personality (sovereignty, self-determination, recognition) and competence to hold rights, duties, immunities and to be subject to liabilities, the content of fundamental norms (ius cogens, erga omnes obligations) and the procedures and mechanisms for invoking and enforcing these norms to remedy international legal violations.
The goal is to enable students who successfully complete this course to
(a) appreciate the role and impact of law in contemporary world politics and national decision-making, against the historical context giving rise to the 'law of nations';
(b) be familiar with fundamental principles and legal norms and able to apply these in specific settings;
(c) be aware of the deeper critical and conceptual issues related to this discipline and the search and prospects for a 'desirable' world public order;
(d) attain a broadened understanding of the nature of 'legal systems', the role and limits of law as a method of regulation and an enriched jurisprudential appreciation of the phenomenon of 'law.'