International Criminal Law

Subject LAWS70033 (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 7 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2014.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: The total class time is between 24 and 26 hours.
Total Time Commitment: Not available

Successful completion of Principles of International Law or equivalent

Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis and critique of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and to critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact the Disability Liaison Unit:


For more information, contact the Melbourne Law Masters office.

Phone: +61 3 8344 6190

Subject Overview:

The subject looks at the rules, concepts, principles, institutional architecture and enforcement of something we call international criminal law or international criminal justice, or, sometimes, the law of war crimes. The focus of the subject is the area of international criminal law concerned with traditional ‘war crimes’ and, in particular, four of the core crimes set out in the Rome Statute (war crimes, torture, genocide and aggression). It adopts a historical, philosophical and practical focus throughout, though the subject is mainly directed at the conceptual problems associated with the prosecution of war criminals and, more broadly, legalised retribution. Attention, in this respect, will be directed towards the moral and jurisprudential dilemmas associated with bureaucratic criminality and individual culpability.

Principal topics will include:

  • The nature of law, war and crime and the purpose of war crimes trials
  • Concept of individual criminal responsibility for violations of international law
  • Elaboration of basic crimes
  • Universal jurisdiction
  • International criminal courts
  • International vs national jurisdictions and the concept of universal jurisdiction
  • Different models of international criminal courts and tribunals
  • The International Criminal Court.
Learning Outcomes:

This subject will focus on individual accountability for human rights abuses, including both the substantive law providing for such responsibility and the range of mechanisms available for holding individuals accountable.

A student who has successfully completed this subject should:

  • Locate the law of war crimes in the great moral and political dilemmas of the last half century
  • Understand the concept of individual criminal responsibility for violations of international law
  • Assimilate the core crimes, as well as critical extensions of culpability, such as command responsibility, and key defences, such as duress or superior orders
  • Be aware of the historical development of international criminal law
  • Appreciate the relationship between national and international jurisdiction for the prosecution of international crimes
  • Be conversant with the advantages and disadvantages of prosecutions compared to other methods of individual accountability, including the debate over amnesties and pardons
  • Understand the full range of non-prosecutorial mechanisms for holding individuals accountable, including truth commissions and civil suits
  • Comprehend the basic workings of the United Nation’s (UN) ad hoc criminal tribunals and the permanent International Criminal Court.

Take-home examination (100%) (16 – 19 January 2015)

Prescribed Texts:

Core subject materials will be provided free of charge to all students. Some subjects require further texts to be purchased. Details regarding any prescribed texts will be provided prior to the commencement of the subject.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:

Download PDF version.