Principles of International Law

Subject LAWS70173 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 7 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

March, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start 02-Feb-2015
Teaching Period 02-Mar-2015 to 06-Mar-2015
Assessment Period End 11-May-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 06-Feb-2015
Census Date 02-Mar-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 10-Apr-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: The total class time is between 24 and 26 hours.
Total Time Commitment:

The pre-teaching period commences four weeks before the subject commencement date. From this time, students are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.


This subject provides an introduction to the basic concepts and norms of the public international legal order. It is designed for those with no (or very limited) background in international law. Students who have completed an undergraduate subject in international law or have some professional experience are advised to consider other international law offerings.

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:


Dr Rain Liivoja


For more information:

Phone: +61 3 8344 6190

Subject Overview:

This subject is an introduction to the basic principles and rules of the public international legal order. It is designed as an introduction to international law and, therefore, provides students with an understanding of the foundational concepts of international law, its history and contemporary relevance, sources of international law and the role of some key international institutions, such as the United Nations (UN). The subject is grounded in both theory and practice so as to better demonstrate how international law works in dealing with a range of issues such as dispute settlement, self-determination, international criminal law and human rights law. Students will be encouraged to critically evaluate the position and relevance of international law in international politics and society by addressing past and current developments through case studies. The members of the teaching team are scholars in international law who have developed specific areas of specialisation in international law.

Principal topics include:

  • The nature, purpose and language of international law
  • Sources of international law
  • International legal personality
  • Jurisdiction of states and jurisdictional immunities
  • The responsibility of states and individuals for violations of international law
  • The role of the UN and regional organisations
  • Peaceful settlement of disputes and the functions of the International Court of Justice
  • Regulation of the use of force in international relations
  • The relationship between international law and municipal law.
Learning Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this subject should be able to:

  • explain the salient features of international law as a legal system, and compare and contrast these features with those of municipal law
  • identify, locate and interpret sources of international law
  • analyse matters of international concern and apply pertinent rules and principles of international law to them
  • construct, defend and critique arguments in support of particular propositions of international law
  • reflect critically upon and engage with theoretical debates relating to the structure, content and efficacy of the international legal system
  • undertake self-directed research on international law issues using printed and online resources.

Take-home examination (100%) (8-11 May)

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:

This subject has a quota of 30 students. Please refer to the website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

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