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International criminal law

Module information>

Academic Direction
UCL, Queen Mary University of London
Modes of Study

International criminal law is a challenging but fascinating subject, and (sadly) likely to remain very relevant for the foreseeable future. What sort of conduct is regarded as so utterly unacceptable that it is a crime under international law? How is international criminal law created? And how can individuals be held to account for international crimes? This course will help you explore the answers to these questions – answers which, as you will see, are seldom clearcut. It will not turn you into an expert in international criminal law – that would take many years of study and practice – but it does aim to give you a solid basis on which to build, including knowledge and understanding of key institutions and processes of international law as well as the substantive law itself. If you study the course attentively, you will become familiar with both the most important primary sources of the law and leading scholarly commentaries on it. You will gain an awareness of many tensions, problems, controversies and ambiguities in the law, and you will develop critical and research skills that will help you monitor and assess further developments.

Students are advised that the subject demands some previous knowledge of public international law.

Module A: General context and international crimes before national courts


  • International law principles of State jurisdiction
  • Customary international law and treaty law
  • Direct criminal responsibility under international law
  • Treaty provisions requiring States to criminalise conduct (including terrorism and torture)
  • Piracy

Module B: International criminal courts and tribunals


  • Jurisdiction and structure of international criminal courts and tribunals
  • Co-operation with international criminal courts and tribunals
  • Investigations, prosecutions, evidence and procedure before international criminal courts and tribunals
  • Fair trial rights appeals, revision and enforcement of sentences before international criminal courts and tribunals

Module C: The core international crimes (crimes within the jurisdiction of international tribunals


  • The elements of international crimes
  • War crimes
  • Crimes against humanity
  • Genocide
  • Aggression and crimes against peace

Module D: General principles of international criminal law


  • Aut dedere aut judicare (“extradite or prosecute”) and unlawful abductions
  • Jurisdictional immunities
  • Modes of participation in crimes, and concurrence of crimes
  • Defences


Each module is assessed by a 45-minute unseen written exam.


It is strongly recommended you attempt Module A first.

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:

  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Human Rights Law
  • International Criminal Justice
  • International Dispute Resolution
  • International Justice
  • Public International Law

Apply via Postgraduate Laws.