LEGAL451-19A (HAM)

International Criminal Law

15 Points

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Division of Arts Law Psychology & Social Sciences
Te Piringa - Faculty of Law
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Paper Description

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This module will explore a variety of issues concerning International Criminal Law. The topics covered will include issues such as: the history and philosophy of international criminal law; the structure, jurisdiction and operation of international criminal courts and tribunals; international crimes; modes of criminal liability such as superior responsibility and joint and indirect perpetration; circumstances excluding liability and general principles governing international criminal trials.
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Paper Structure

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International criminal law is taught through a weekly two-hour lecture. Students will be guided in respect of reading for each lecture.

​​​Topics covered will include:

1. The History and Philosophy of International Criminal Law

This topic will trace the deveolopment of international criminal law since the end of World War II. In particular, it will examine the normative and conceptual foundations of international criminal law

2. The Structure, Jurisdiction and Operation of International Criminal Courts and Tribunals;

This topic will consider the merits and flaws of international criminal justice by critqueing the international rules on states' jurisdiction over international crimes; the principle of complementarity at the International Criminal Court and how the international criminal courts and tribunals operate in practice.

3. International Crimes (War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity, Genocide and Aggression)

This topic will examine the objective and subjective elements of these international crimes with reference to Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute and customary international law.

4. Modes of Criminal Liability (Superior Responsibility and Joint and Indirect Perpetration)

This topic will analyse the controversy surrounding the doctrine of joint criminal enterprise with special reference to the jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. It will examine the doctrine of indirect perpetration with reference to the first two cases before the International Criminal Court. This topic will also examine the constituent elements of the doctrine of superior responsibility with special reference to Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo trial at the International Criminal Court.

5. Circumstances Excluding Liability for International Crimes

This topic will examine whether a person alleged to have committed an international crime can invoke any jusitifications or excuses for the perpetration of crimes. In particular, the right to self-defence; necessity and duress will examined in detail.

6. General Principles Governing International Criminal Trials

This topic will consider whether debates concerning the principle that judges must be independent and impartial; the presumption of innocence; the accused's right to a hearing without undue edlay and how the equality of arms doctrine has been applied so far by international courts and tribunals.

This paper will run for one semester only. There is one teaching component in this paper: lectures. The whole class must attend lectures.

Learning and Teaching Strategy

International Criminal Law implements the 'Teach Smart' strategy for learning and teaching. This strategy places a particular emphasis on enhancing analytical skills, increasing the opportunities for feedback and self-reflection, and fostering independent learning skills in students. The aims of the teaching and learning strategy in International Criminal Law are:

· To help you structure your independent learning time in the paper by giving both pre-and post-seminar activities to complete;

· To give you the opportunity to develop and refine your communication skills which are demanded by every prospective employer;

· To increase the use of IT support materials to facilitate your learning, such as podcasts published on Moodle following each seminar;

· To create a learning and teaching environment where you can become a more effective learner through self-reflection and giving you the opportunity to consider your own areas of strength and weakness;

· To increase the opportunity for timely and effective feedback throughout the paper.

Teaching Delivery

1. Pre-Lecture Reading and Materials

You will be provided with a reading list and brief handbooks which cover the basic principles of the area of Law under investigation. The reading list and each handbook is designed to be read before attending the corresponding lecture and provides a structure through which you can start your learning around a topic. Each brief handbook contains various short-form questions so that you can test your knowledge and understanding of the core principles. The handbooks are cross-referenced with your reading list so that you can consult the textbooks/articles/cases etc in order to gain further knowledge of the area before attending the lecture.

2. Lectures

These are designed to offer a critical analysis of the more complex areas of the syllabus and will examine the basic principles of the law as they relate to the substantive legal topics on the syllabus. The basic principles will also be understood through the pre-lecture work completed under 1 above. Lectures will also offer an opportunity to understand the development and content of space in a practical context through the use of real-world examples and hypothetical scenarios. Lectures will not only focus upon the fundamental principles of the area but will be driven by applying those principles and authorities to complex factual situations and developing higher-level skills of analysis and critique. Lectures are designed to further test and refine your knowledge and understanding and also to develop other key skills, including but not limited to, problem solving, assessment technique and treaty interpretation. The handbooks for each lecture will be available one week on Moodle.

If you cannot attend a lecture, please email the paper convenor, Dr Anna Marie Brennan, directly to let her know.

3. Drop-In Session (Optional)

The Drop-In Session is designed to consolidate learning from lectures. It also enable students to receive timely clarification of any areas where they consider their knowledge and understanding to be weak. This session will have a structured exercise which you must consider prior to attending – this exercise is designed to facilitate personal reflection on your level of performance. The work-sheet for the Drop-In Session will be available on Moodle. Note that whilst attendance at this drop-in session is optional, it is expected that the work for the drop-in session will be completed.

4. Post-Lecture Feedback

After every lecture, Dr Anna Marie Brennan will release a brief summary, available through Moodle. The aim of this summary is to offer you feedback on student understanding and performance and clarify any areas of particular difficulty across the cohort. The summary will be released following each lecture and will be based on my own reflections. Your learning around a topic does not stop once the lecture is over. You should use the summary as a diagnostic tool which allows you to reflect critically on your understanding and help identify areas of uncertainty or misunderstanding whilst reinforcing those areas in which you are confident and guiding further work accordingly. They should be used in collaboration with the drop-in session materials which allow you to further test, develop and refine your understanding around a topic.

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Learning Outcomes

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Students who successfully complete the course should be able to:

  • Learning Outcomes
    • ​A critical knowledge and understanding of the key areas of international criminal law, including its development and political and institutional aspects.

    • The ability to effectively critique the general principles of International Criminal Law, including the Rome Statute.

    • An enhanced understanding generally of the specific workings of international law, especially treaties, customary international law and how international crimes are investigated and prosecuted.

    • An appreciation of some of the key international criminal law issues confronting New Zealand.

    • ​The ability to effectively critique exisiting arguments and to develop new arguments about a range of legal issues relating to international criminal law including but not limited to crimes, superior responsibility, the structure and jurisdiction of international criminal courts and tribunals, joint perpetration, indirect perpetration, superior responsibility and circumstances excluding liability.

    Linked to the following assessments:
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This paper will be assessed by means of coursework, which will be an essay of 3,000 words (excluding footnotes and bibliography). Students will be given a range of options from which they must choose one question. A drop-in session will be scheduled in the second half of the module to provide guidance to students on the completion of the coursework.
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Assessment Components

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The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 100:0. There is no final exam. The final exam makes up 0% of the overall mark.

The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 100:0 or 0:0, whichever is more favourable for the student. The final exam makes up either 0% or 0% of the overall mark.

Component DescriptionDue Date TimePercentage of overall markSubmission MethodCompulsory
1. Attendance and Participation
  • In Class: In Lecture
2. Research Proposal
15 Mar 2019
2:00 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
3. Online Test
27 Mar 2019
2:00 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
4. Research Essay
23 May 2019
2:00 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
Assessment Total:     100    
Failing to complete a compulsory assessment component of a paper will result in an IC grade
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Required and Recommended Readings

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Required Readings

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There is no course materials book(s) for this paper.

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Recommended Readings

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Highly Recommended

  • Robert Cryer et al, An Introduction to International Criminal Law and Procedure, 3rd edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014)

Further material may be provided on the paper site on Moodle (, the University of Waikato’s online learning system. Any such material is provided on the following terms:

University of Waikato owns the intellectual property rights, including copyright, in and to this site, or has acquired the necessary licenses to display the material on the site. As a student of the Te Piringa Faculty of Law, you are granted a limited license to use (access, display or print a single copy) the material from the papers in which you are enrolled for the purposes of participating in the paper only, provided the information is not modified. Materials may not under any circumstances be copied, stored, distributed or provided in any form or method whatsoever to any third party. Any other use of the material is prohibited. None of the material may be otherwise reproduced, reformatted, republished or re-disseminated in any manner or form without the prior written consent of University of Waikato. To obtain such consent, please contact the Te Piringa Faculty of Law.

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Online Support

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Online support for this paper is provided via Moodle.

If you require assistance with Moodle, or encounter any problems, please contact the Help Desk. You can send a message to Help Desk by using the instant message service in your paper (from the participants list within the People block). Alternatively, you can email them directly at or call 838 4008.

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Students should expect to spend 150 hours in total on this paper. In addition to lecture attendance, significant time will need to be spent on background and complementary reading. Students should allow for periods of more-focused research time in the preparation of assignments.
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Linkages to Other Papers

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Restrictions: LAWS451

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