Week 1: The Nature of International Law
A primary purpose of international law is to govern the relationship between different sovereign states. We begin by examining the scope and history of this fascinating subject. This topic addresses the oft raised question: are international relations really under the rule of law, or is it more a matter of might equalling right.
Week 2: Sources of International Law
All systems of law require a degree of certainty as to what rules govern any particular act or event. This topic considers how those rules are created and where they can be found. It also looks at some basic principles of international law which, though traceable back to classical times, are very much alive today.
Week 3: The Law of Treaties
Treaties form much of the substance of international law. But what are treaties, how are they formed and how do they impact on states that sign them as well as those that do not? This topic also considers the issue of reservations: mechanisms whereby states seek to modify or avoid certain effects of treaties.
Week 4: Treaty Interpretation and Enforcement
Continuing our examination of the law as it relates to treaties, this topic looks at what is probably the most difficult issue of all: their interpretation. It also explores the various ways in which states might try to escape liability under a treaty, for instance by declaring it invalid, or by simply refusing to comply with it.
Week 5: The Relationship between International and National Law
What is the relationship between national and international law? If Australia were to breach international law, what effect can that have on the rights and responsibilities of ordinary Australians? This topic answers those questions, also giving thought to the part played by international law in other legal systems, such as those found in civil law countries.
Week 6: The Subjects of International Law
The concept of state sovereignty is central to international law. What is more, much is made of the right of certain peoples to self-determination. But what is a state? And what does it mean to have legal personality in international law? This topic considers issues such as what is involved when a state decides to recognise the existence of another state or government, as well as the increasing role of international organisations and other actors in international law.
Week 7: Territory and Jurisdiction
Territory is one of the fundamental forms of determining the scope of a state and its jurisdiction. Jurisdiction refers to the scope of a state’s lawful authority. This topic considers issues such as the extent to which one state can make laws relating to events that occur in another, as well as what laws apply on a ship or onboard a plane.
Week 8: Immunities from Jurisdiction
This topic examines the exceptions to the scope of jurisdiction, including sovereign immunity, the laws governing diplomatic immunities as they apply to persons, property and bags, and related concepts such as consular privileges and immunities.
Week 9: State Responsibility
To what extent can a state or an international organisation be blamed for the wrongdoings of its agents or officials? Are states responsible for the acts of their citizens or corporations? If foreign property is damaged in a riot or an insurrection, can the state be required to make restitution? This topic answers these and other questions relating to the responsibilities of states and international organisations in international law.
Week 10: Enforcement of International Law and International Dispute Settlement
Ultimately, states can settle their differences by going to war. Since 1945, however, concerted efforts have been made to find peaceful means of dispute resolution. This topic looks as institutions and procedures created by the United Nations, as well as mechanisms designed to encourage negotiation and compromise. It also examines the means by which international law can be enforced.
Week 11: International Court of Justice and other International Judicial Bodies
This week looks at the operation of the most established of international courts and tribunals, primarily the International Court of Justice. It examines the role of these courts and tribunals, their operations, and questions of jurisdiction. It will examine the development and effectiveness of international jurisprudence and what role it plays in the broader spectrum of international law.
Week 12: International Law and the Use of Force
Despite humanity’s efforts, the scourge of international armed conflict is yet to be eradicated. This topic examines the general prohibition on the use or threat of force, as well as exceptions to that rule in cases such as self defence or when military action is authorised by the United Nations. It also looks at situations that raise difficult legal and moral questions, such as the disputed right to anticipatory self defence, as well as military interventions against oppressive regimes or to prevent humanitarian disasters.
Week 13: International Law in an Disorderly World
International law is under incredible pressure and is facing unparalleled challenges, including the rise of nationalism, withdrawals from treaties and international organisations, and shifts in global power dynamics. This final topic will review some of the major challenges currently being faced, and the role of the international law in the chaos.