Department of Political Science


War and International Law

Course Code


Course Tutor

Dr Nathan Derejko (Department of Political Science)


One 3,000 word essay

Credit Value


About this course

This course explores issues of war, peace, and human rights from the perspective of international law. In particular, we will examine the law on the use of force (the jus ad bellum), international humanitarian law (the jus in bello), international human rights law, and international criminal law. The themes in the course include: the prohibition of war in international relations, the exceptions to that prohibition (namely self defence, Security Council action, and the debated doctrine of humanitarian intervention), the rules and principles on the conduct of hostilities (especially those related to the protection of combatants and civilians), the principles and practice of UN action in the fields of peace-enforcement and peacekeeping, and the role of human rights concerns in these debates. Throughout the course, we will be asking whether existing legal frameworks are adequate for governing contemporary forms of conflict and how the law should be interpreted in light of the changing nature of war.

This course does not presume any prior legal training, but students are expected to engage with complex issues and topics and to develop a critical perspective in their understanding of the legal regime governing war, peace, and human rights. Seminars will include theoretical and conceptual discussions as well as sessions that will enable students to tackle doctrinal and interpretative aspects of international law as it relates to armed conflict. Upon completing the course, students will have a solid grounding in international law, will gain legal analysis skills that they can apply to contemporary events and cases regarding armed conflict, and will be able to critically engage with scholarly work and international case law in this domain.