Selected Issues in Public International Law

The details
Essex Law School
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Monday 15 January 2024
Friday 22 March 2024
18 October 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA LM11 Criminology with Criminal Law,
BA LM12 Criminology with Criminal Law (Including Year Abroad),
BA LM13 Criminology with Criminal Law (Including Placement Year)

Module description

This module follows on from the introductory module in Public International Law and builds upon students' knowledge and understanding of general international law. Students will apply their acquired knowledge to selected specialist areas of international law:

i) the law of the sea
ii) the law on the use of force
iii) international human rights/international criminal law

Module aims

The aims of the module are:

1. To encourage students to be able to further apply their understanding of general public international law to selected special areas of international law
2. To understand the international institutional framework in the topic areas listed
3. To further develop the legal reasoning and analytical skills necessary for public international law
4. To encourage students to develop their own interests in the further study and research of these special areas of international law.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students would be able to apply the relevant rules and principles of public international law to the special areas covered during the course. This would include the ability to:

1. Discuss and critically analyse the general aspects of public international law to specialist areas of international law
2. Explain, apply and evaluate the rules of public international law governing key issues within these specialist areas
3. Apply, analyse and evaluate the sources of public international law that are relevant to these areas of law

Module information

The Law of the Sea

Part I of the module deals with how the oceans and seas are regulated. It explores the complex web of norms of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, identifies its guiding principles and how the Convention attempts to reconcile them when they enter into conflict. This part delves into the different zones in which seas are divided and the legal regime that applies to each one of them. It pays particular attention to how zones are determined and measured, both in standard coastlines and archipelagos, and then looks into the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, and the high seas. This part then analyses the issue of flags of convenience and introduces regional fisheries management organisations.

The Law on the Use of Force

Part II of the module will deal with the law on resort to armed force between States. Sadly, war has long been a constant of international relations and still features frequently in worldwide news. However, international law has gradually outlawed it in the 20th century, with a general prohibition on resort to international armed force being prominently enshrined in the United Nations Charter. This part of the module will explore the limits of such prohibition, its most well-known exceptions -- i.e. self-defense and authorizations to use force as part of the United Nations collective security system -- and the challenges posed to it by modern warfare and mass atrocities.

International Human Rights Law and International Criminal Law

Part III of this module explores how international human rights law and international criminal law address gross human rights abuses (such as killing, torture, and rape) and international crimes (such as genocide and crimes against humanity). Since the 1990s, there has been something of a shift in emphasis from state responsibility to individual criminal responsibility and international responsibility. This part of the module analyses how the UN Charter System, the UN Treaty System, the International Court of Justice, and the International Criminal Court are all being concurrently used in an effort to prevent and punish the ongoing gross human rights abuses and international crimes against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar.

Learning and teaching methods

With the removal of COVID-19 measures, we expect this module to be offered in person through a weekly hour lecture and a weekly hour tutorial in smaller groups. Your tutorials will enable you to discuss the readings in the context of specific tutorial questions, to obtain feedback on your pre-class preparation and to deepen your understanding of key concepts. 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 readings in the context of specific tutorial questions, 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 each tutorial. The quizzes will enable you to track your progress, understand what you are doing well, and give you clear feedback to help you manage your studies and your progress.


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 (LW219 PIL)    100% 
Exam  Main exam: Remote, Open Book, 24hr during Summer (Main Period) 
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
20% 80%


Coursework Exam
0% 100%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Lars Waldorf, email: lars.waldorf@essex.ac.uk.
Law Education Office, lawschoolug@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Avidan Kent
University of East Anglia
Associate Professor
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 10 (50%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
10 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Essex Law School

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