International Criminal Law

Quick Info
(2440.04)  Course
Instructor(s)
Professor H. Matthews
Winter
4 credit(s)  4 hour(s);
Presentation
Group exercises; student presentations/simulation exercise; pre-recorded lectures; guest lectures; synchronous in-class discussions. This course is being offered in Winter 2022 as part of a new e-Learning Pilot. It will be delivered entirely remotely using a combination of small group work building toward a capstone simulation exercise, pre-recorded lectures, and synchronous classroom discussion time.
Upper Year Research & Writing Requirement
Yes
Praxicum
No

Law in the face of mass atrocity reveals some of the most pressing issues confronting international law and politics. This course addresses the question of whether – and how – law can be used to regulate, humanize, and resolve political violence. Students will be introduced to the main concepts, rules and institutions of the field known as ‘international criminal law.’ It will explore the core international crimes of aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, as well as terrorism. Students will gain a strong foundational knowledge of the field, including how it is situated in the broader contexts of international humanitarian law, public international law, domestic criminal law and international human rights law.

In addition, this course will help students develop a critical toolkit with which to assess the global (individualized) legal regulation of political violence. The idea of the international criminal has preoccupied the global legal imaginary, especially since the end of the Cold War. He stands in, often at one and the same time, for the human rights violator, the political enemy, and the social, philosophical and theological scapegoat. However, while the core institutions, rules and structures of this (relatively) new legal field are now established, the goals of the field remain elusive and contradictory.

International criminal law is said to, variously: subject the use of force to the rule of law; punish and deter the worst international crimes; build an accurate historical record of mass atrocity and systematic human rights violations; provide redress and reparations to victims; address threats to international peace and security; facilitate social transition from armed conflict and totalitarian regimes to democracy; facilitate the resolution of disputes between both state actors and non-state actors; and provide a common global vocabulary through which to articulate the legal regulation of acts that ‘shock the conscience of mankind.’ But these objectives do not sit easily together, either from a practical or theoretical perspective.

This course approaches international criminal law as a global policy tool with myriad and indeterminate potential effects. We will look at ‘international criminal law’ as a global criminal justice project deployed by specific actors for specific purposes. This course invites students to engage with international criminal law as active political agents, asking whether, and how, this body of law and set of institutions and practices could be strategically deployed to secure progressive ends.

To facilitate this objective, this course is being offered in Winter 2022 as part of a new e-Learning Pilot. It will be delivered entirely remotely using a combination of small group work building toward a capstone simulation exercise, pre-recorded lectures, and synchronous classroom discussion time.

Throughout the course students will be asked to concretely evaluate the stakes of international criminal justice across a variety of jurisdictional contexts, asking how – and for whom – international criminal law might be a good or a bad thing. Historical, political, theoretical, emotional, and aesthetic lenses will be deployed to challenge students to evaluate doctrine and case law in light of fundamental questions of global jurisdiction, constituency, effectiveness and legitimacy. We will particularly emphasize the place of film in the practice, scholarly study of, and activism around, international criminal justice questions.