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Law and policy of international courts and tribunals


This course is primarily concerned with the establishment, processes and functioning of international courts, tribunals and related institutions and mechanisms. The focus is principally on mechanisms for dealing with disputes involving states. Since the early 1990s there has been a significant growth in the number and in the activity of such bodies. International courts have become increasingly important actors in the international legal order. A development which some have referred to as the ‘judicialisation’ of international law. As you study this subject you’ll discover the reasons for and implications of these developments and examine aspects of the organisation procedures and practices of different international courts and tribunals.

Module A: Introduction to international dispute resolution


  • Introduction and historical background: from arbitration to the International Criminal Court
  • The concept of an international dispute
  • Participation in international disputes

Module B: Non-adjudicatory dispute resolution processes


  • The obligation to settle disputes peacefully
  • Overview of the processes for the peaceful settlement of disputes; negotiation; fact-finding; mediation; conciliation; arbitration and adjudication. Points of similarity and distinction; advantages and disadvantages; factors that influence recourse to particular processes
  • Fact-finding as a dispute resolution process; fact-finding by governmental and non-governmental actors; Inspection Panels; the role of fact-finding in disputes concerning violations of human rights
  • Negotiation and mediation

Module C: Role and functioning of international courts and tribunals: institutional aspects


  • Appointment and role of adjudicators
  • Role of registry/secretariat
  • Participants (and non-participants in proceedings) and their representation
  • Applicable law: procedural and substantive
  • Issues of access, including jurisdiction (contentious and advisory), standing and admissibility
  • Financing of international courts and tribunals and proceedings before them

Module D: Role and functioning of international courts and tribunals: procedural aspects


  • Third party participation, including intervention and amicus curiae briefs
  • Preparation and filing of written pleadings and the role of oral arguments
  • Provisional measures
  • Evidentiary rules and principles
  • The powers of the various courts and tribunals, including remedies
  • Interpretation, appeal and review


Each module will be assessed by a 45-minute unseen written examination.


It is strongly recommended you attempt the modules in order.

How to apply

You can apply to study a module individually as a standalone unit or as part of a Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or Master of Laws qualification. (In either scenario, they must be studied in order.)

These modules also contribute towards the following specialist pathways for Laws:

  • International Criminal Justice
  • International Dispute Resolution
  • International Justice
  • Procedural Law
  • Public International Law
  • Public Law

Apply via Postgraduate Laws.

Study Material

Academic Co-ordinator

Ruth Mackenzie

Ruth Mackenzie

Ruth Mackenzie joined the Faculty of Laws in March 2002 as Principal Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the Centre for International Courts and Tribunals (CICT). Ruth is a director of the Project on International Courts and Tribunals. She was a lawyer at the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD) from 1994 to 2003, serving as director of FIELD’s Biodiversity and Marine Resources programme from 1997 onwards. Before joining FIELD, she qualified as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. She teaches Public International Law, and LLM modules on Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes, International Law of the Sea and International Energy and Climate Change Law.