Introduction to Public International Law

The details
Essex Law School
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 26 April 2021
Friday 02 July 2021
21 August 2020


Requisites for this module


LW219, LW356

Key module for


Module description

International law and international organisations seem to be under attack as never before –whether it is the US withdrawing funds from the World Health Organization or Russia annexing Crimea from Ukraine or Brazil burning the Amazonian rainforest or Myanmar committing acts of genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
This module provides an introduction to public international law and its institutions (like the United Nations and International Court of Justice) in these challenging times. The first part of the module examines the theories and sources of international law while the second half looks at key aspects of international law, including: statehood and self-determination, state responsibility for wrongful acts, and immunities of state officials and diplomatic staff. 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 module students will be able to:
- Critically analyse the sources and system of public international law, including multilateralism
- Evaluate the rules governing state responsibility, acquisition of statehood, jurisdiction and immunities
- Apply the relevant principles and rules of public international law to specific cases

Module information

Week by week module syllabus:
1. Introduction to the United Nations and international law system
2. Theories of international law
3. Sources of international law: customary international law and general principles 4. Sources of international law: treaties and judicial decisions
5. Subjects of international law
6. Statehoodand state recognition
7. State responsibility
8. International responsibility of international organisations
9. Jurisdiction
10. Sovereign and diplomatic immunity

Learning and teaching methods

This module is taught through a mixture of pre-recorded lectures and 10 weekly 50-minute small group tutorials. Each week before your tutorials, the module teaching team will make availableon Moodletwo or more pre-recorded video lecturesthat they have prepared and produced.In total, the duration of each week's video lectures will be approximately 50 minutes.In most teaching weeks, you will be expected to have watched these lectures before the tutorials, although some of these lectures may be designed to be watchedafter the tutorials to recap on material discussed there.The module teaching team will also produce and make available on Moodle short guidance notes for each weekly tutorial. These notes will introduce the readings that must be completed in advance of each tutorial and will contain tips to help you understand and analyse those texts.

You will be expected to have completed the readings in advance of your tutorials. Your tutorials will enable you to discuss the readingsin the context of specific tutorialquestions, to obtain feedback on your pre-class preparation and to deepen your understanding of key concepts.To help you prepare in the best possible way for your tutorials, you will be completing regular Multiple-Choice Quizzes on Moodle. The quizzes will be based on the reading set for that week so that the quiz forms part of your preparation for eachtutorial. The quizzes will enable you to track your progress, understand what you are doing well, and give you clear feedback to help


  • 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
Practical   Multiple Choice Questions    20% 
Written Exam  Take Home Exam    80% 

Additional coursework information

80% Exam (or take-home exam) 20% Multiple-Choice Quizzes

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
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Ms Tuba Turan, Professor Lars Waldorf



External examiner

Dr Christopher Lloyd
Oxford Brookes University
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 22 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
22 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Essex Law School

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.