This is an introductory course on public international law, which is the body of rules governing relations both between states and, increasingly, between a diverse set of actors, including individuals, civil society, international institutions, NGOs, and corporations. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the foundational rules of the international legal system, which are vitally important to a wide range of global policy challenges such as waging war, combating terrorism, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, protecting human rights, preserving the environment, promoting world trade, and managing the global commons.
This course is divided into two parts, the first of which focuses on the sources and subjects of international law. The sources of international law are treaties, custom, general principles of law, and the opinions of jurists and court decisions. Special attention will be given to the processes of making and interpreting treaties, and to the formation and evolution of custom. Discussion of the subjects of international law, which are the actors governed by international law, will extend to states, including examining the elements of statehood, state recognition, the changing nature of sovereignty, and the relationship between international and domestic law, with a focus on the United States. We will also discuss the status, rights, roles, and obligations of other actors, including individuals, international organizations, and corporations.
The second part of this course introduces students to specific areas of international law, including: the use of armed force, international criminal law, international humanitarian law, human rights law, the law of the sea, state responsibility, and international trade law. These areas may be revised if warranted by current events.
In-class discussions and assigned readings will frequently extend beyond the rules of international law to consider policy aspects of issues examined during the course. No previous courses or practical experience either in international law, international relations, or political science are required for this course.
This course is available to students who have not previously taken a course in public international law.