Public International law is the body of rules recognised as legally binding in their mutual relations by States and other entities that have international legal personality, such as international organisations, of which the most prominent is the United Nations.
International Law touches on every aspect of international relations and a knowledge of the subject is vital to a proper understanding of what is going on in the world. Without international law, international life as we know it today, with all its facilities for international communication, travel, and commerce, would soon grind almost to a halt; for all these and a great deal more depend on an intricate and ever growing network of treaties and rules of general international law.
Public international law has always been recognised as part of the law of the land in this country; but in recent years its impact on national legal systems has noticeably increased. This is because of an unprecedented growth in the number of treaties and international institutions that have either a direct or indirect effect within national jurisdictions. Thus even in general practice of law, cases involving aspects of public international law are more and more frequently encountered. Without a knowledge of the subject, with its distinct technique, one risks not recognising a problem of international law even if one comes across it, let alone not knowing how to solve it.
The present course covers the fundamentals of general international law. It is complete in itself, but it is also an excellent preparation for further specialisation in the LLM, for which the University of London offers unrivalled facilities.
From the career point of view, apart from the fact that public international law forms an important part of any lawyers training, for those who specialise in this field mention may be made inter alia of the Diplomatic Service, the Civil Service, international organisations and multinational corporations. From a wider point of view, no well-informed citizen should be without a basic understanding of the operation of international relations and law.
Topics treated include (but not necessarily
in this order or in isolation):
Definition - history - functions.
- Foundations of International Law
The basis of international law - The creation and ascertainment of the rules
of international law and obligations: Sources and evidence of international
law - International law and municipal law.
- The Structure of the International Legal Order
The United Nations system - Law-making in international society - Settlement
of international disputes - Protection and enforcement of international
rights - Legal and illegal uses of force.
- Subjects of International Law
Concept of international legal personality - Acquisition and loss of international
personality - Continuity and discontinuit of international personality
- Recognition as a general device of international law - Types of international
persons - States - Principle of sovereign equality - Representation.
- State Jurisdiction
State sovereignty and State jurisdiction - Types of State jurisdiction -
Limitations under international customary law, including immunities - Limitations
under treaty law - Domestic jurisdiction - Human rights.
- Objects of International Law
Territories and their classification - Acquisition, transfer and loss of
national territory - Maritime frontiers and the regime of the high seas
- Airspace and outer space - The allocation of other objects of international
law among subjects of international law - The status of individuals.
- Law of Treaties
Definition - Underlying principles - Conclusion of treaties - Effects - Interpretation
- Invalidity - Jus cogens - Suspension and termination.
- International Responsibility
Definition of an international unlawful act - Imputability - Fault - Reparation
- International claims.
Method of study
The course is designed to place more emphasis on acquiring the skills
necessary to research, understand and use international law than covering
in detail every item on the syllabus. Students are expected to start
the course with a general overview obtained from reading an introductory
book. Work in both large groups and small groups consists of a variety
of participatory exercises.
A study pack specially prepared for the course and a book of international law documents will provide the great majority of the materials to be studied. (These materials may be taken into the examination).
Both second and third year students are given the option of assessment either wholly by a 3 1/4 hour written examination or by both a 3 1/4 hour written examination and in part on the basis of an 8,000 word essay, which counts for 40% of the assessment.
Akehursts Modern Introduction to International Law (7th ed., ed. Malanczuk, Routledge, 1997).
Evans, M.D., Blackstones International Law Documents (Blackstone Press; latest edition).
Study pack (See above)
Brownlie, I., Principles of Public International Law (Oxford University Press; 5th ed., 1998)