Public International Law

The details
Essex Law School
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
26 March 2024


Requisites for this module


LW219, LW356

Key module for


Module description

International law touches upon virtually every aspect of human social life and underpins large areas of international relations and cooperation: from trade to war; from environmental protection to the safeguard of human rights; from navigation to the exercise of jurisdiction by national courts. Yet, the effectiveness of the rules of international law is fostering the peaceful co-existence of all nations is challenged more and more often.

This module introduces to the main tenets of public international law and its institutions (such as the United Nations and International Court of Justice) in these challenging times. Students will learn to know about the nature and sources of this legal system, about the (legal and natural) persons who bring it to life, about responsibility for violations of the law and avenues to solve disputes peacefully. Throughout the module, we will consider examples of how international law plays out in the real world.

Module aims

The aims of the module are:
-To understand the sources of public international law; customary international law, treaty law, general principles and judicial decisions
-To analyse the principles, institutions, and processes of public international law, as well as recent developments
-To develop the critical reasoning, analytical writing and oral argumentation skills appropriate to this specific branch of law

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the term, students will be able to:

1. Identify and critically analyse sources of international law and discuss them accurately
2. Use primary and secondary international legal sources to develop, compare and evaluate multiple arguments and counterarguments for problems in international law
3. Accurately apply international legal concepts and sources to analyse and solve new legal issues, and to reflect on the efficacy of such solutions
4. Use critical reasoning, analytical writing and oral argumentation skills appropriate to this sui generis system of law
5. Present legal findings and sound legal advice to various stakeholders.

Module information

Indicative syllabus:

1. Introduction to international law
2. Sources of international law
3. The Law of Treaties
4. Statehood
5. Jurisdiction
6. Immunities
7. State Responsibility
8. International Organizations
9. Use of Force
10. International Dispute Settlement

Learning and teaching methods

For the academic year 2022-2023, the module will be taught with the following structure: - A weekly 2-hour lecture; - A fortnightly 1-hour tutorial. The hours and tutorial group allocation are provided through central timetabling and students should routinely consult their timetables to ensure they are in class on time. Students should regularly check the module Moodle page, where they can find essential and further reading for each lecture and assigned tutorial questions and materials. Students should come to lecture and tutorials prepared to engage with the assigned questions as instructed. Debate and discussion of the relevant topics is encouraged, both in and outside class.


  • Hernandez, Gleider. (2019-04-22) International Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Martti Koskenniemi. (2014) 'What is International Law For?', in International law, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., pp.32-57
  • Dixon, Martin. (c2013) Textbook on international law, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • (2018) International law, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Shaw, Malcolm N. (2017) International law, New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Multiple Choice Questions - Continuous Assessment (LW218 Intro to PIL)    100% 
Exam  Main exam: Remote, Open Book, 24hr during January 
Exam  Reassessment Main exam: Remote, Open Book, 24hr during September (Reassessment Period) 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
0% 100%


Coursework Exam
0% 100%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Antonio Coco, email: antonio.coco@essex.ac.uk.
Dr Antonio Coco, Dr Meagan Wong
Law UG Education Administrators: lawschoolug@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Avidan Kent
University of East Anglia
Associate Professor
Available via Moodle
Of 796 hours, 10 (1.3%) hours available to students:
776 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
10 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Essex Law School

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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