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This module explores the evolving field of international criminal law. The normative foundations and institutional structures for the international prosecution of mass atrocity crimes have proliferated in recent decades. The module will examine how the international community of nations goes about identifying the most serious international crimes, and punishing their perpetrators.
The module will examine the history, institutional architecture, political context, and conceptual underpinnings of international criminal law, as well as its forms of jurisdiction and enforcement. We will look closely at the courts and tribunals tasked with the prosecution of international crimes, in particular the International Criminal Court. Specific international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes will be examined in depth, and significant international criminal trials will be discussed. We will also look at the potential modes of liability which may be attached to these crimes, including the ideas of joint criminal enterprise and superior responsibility.
The practical and political challenges of investigating and prosecuting mass atrocity crimes will be discussed. The module will also examine some of the assumptions that underpin the international criminal justice project, such as:
- the necessity of retributive justice to conflict resolution;
- the effectiveness of criminal prosecution as a deterrent to the commission of abuses in war;
- the separation of civil conflict from underlying socio-economic conditions;
- the universality of international legal norms.
The module ultimately has two broad aims: to develop a thorough understanding of international criminal law’s structures and legal concepts, and encourage a critical analysis of those structures and concepts.