LAWS3067/JURD7467 International Criminal Law
Lecturer: Sarah Williams and Souheir Edelbi
This course considers how society responds to serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law through individual criminal accountability as applied by international and national criminal courts and transitional justice mechanisms. We consider the history of international criminal law and the emergence of international institutions, as well as how national courts have the primary responsibility to punish those accused of these serious crimes. Although the course focuses on the International Criminal Court (ICC), it also examines the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. After considering the institutions, the course looks to the procedures before the ICC and the roles of the prosecution, defence, states and victims, including state obligations to cooperate with the ICC and the importance of fair trial rights and victims participation. We also examine in detail the crimes covered by these institutions, namely genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The course also discusses alternative mechanisms to criminal prosecution, such as amnesties, truth commissions and domestic reform.
International criminal law is a recently emerged discipline within international law. There are still numerous interesting legal and policy developments, with the ICC currently prosecuting cases in eight situations around the world, as well as investigating 20 others. This course helps students to
appreciate and understand many of the issues raised in the news today, for example, the recent summit on sexual violence in armed conflict held in London, ongoing calls for the Syrian and/or Israeli government to be referred to the ICC and the factors concerning the exercise of Australian criminal law in relation to violations committed in Sri Lanka. It is a constantly changing, but highly rewarding, area of study. A highlight of the course is also the reliance on practical methods of teaching, for example, simulations involving treaty negotiations, designing the peace and justice provisions for a peace agreement, and the presentation of arguments as if you were in the ICC.
If you have an interest in criminal law, criminology, human rights, international law or politics you may find this course particularly interesting and relevant. While public international law is linked to international criminal law, students have successfully undertaken this course without having studied that course, although some background reading may assist. Students have gone on from this course to represent UNSW in the International Criminal Court Moot Competition in The Hague, have completed internships at international courts, as well as starting careers as barristers, prosecutors, government officials and junior academics both in Australia and internationally.