USC Gould Search

Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

International Criminal Law (Spring 2017)

  • Course Number: LAW-860
  • Class Number: 03620
  • Instructor: Hannah Garry

Course Description

This course is an introduction to international criminal law, which has rapidly developed in the past 20 years as a major response to the proliferation of mass atrocities around the globe. As such, the course will expose students to the prosecution, trial and punishment of individuals alleged to have committed crimes considered to be among the most serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The objectives of this course are: 1) to provide an overview of the field of international criminal law, the reasons for its rapid development in the past two decades, and the importance of understanding international criminal law with respect to current events; 2) to foster a clear understanding of the substantive law and means of enforcement of international criminal law internationally; 3) to analyze the efficacy and future of international criminal law as a means for punishing and deterring international crimes as well as in promoting international peace, reconciliation and security; and 4) to provide a foundation for those considering an internship or career in international criminal law.

In order to meet those objectives, we will begin the course with an historical overview of the evolution of international criminal law, with particular emphasis placed on the trials at Nuremberg and Tokyo post-World War II, and the explosion of international criminal jurisdictions from 1993 to the present. Next, we will discuss the definition of international criminal law, the sources of law that provide the basis for prosecution of international crimes, and the fundamental principles governing international criminal law. Thereafter, we will focus on the jurisdictional bases for enforcement of international criminal law. We will examine more closely the statutes and organization of international criminal courts and tribunals from post-WW II to the present including: the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals; the ad hoc international and “hybrid” criminal courts and tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and Lebanon, among other jurisdictions; and the permanent International Criminal Court. The interplay between national and international jurisdictions will also be discussed.

Following our study of jurisdictions, most of the course will be spent on studying the substantive law relevant for an international criminal case, looking at the legal elements of the so-called “core-crimes” in international criminal law—war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression. From there, we will discuss the legal elements for modes of liability for international crimes, that is, theories of responsibility connecting the defendants to the crime base. In addition, we will cover other topics that typically arise in an international criminal trial such as defenses, immunities and sentencing.

The texts for the course will be:

Van Schaack, B. & Ronald C. Slye, International Criminal Law and Its Enforcement, 2d ed. (Foundation Press 2010)

Slye, R. C. & Beth Van Schaack, International Criminal Law: the Essentials (Aspen Publishers 2009)

Students are advised that while this course is relevant and important for understanding how international law can be used to address the most serious human rights abuses, students should carefully consider whether to enroll for two reasons.

First, some of the cases studied involve intense facts that have been charged, describing some of the worst of the worst acts that human beings are capable of perpetrating against each other. These traumatic facts depict mass killings, sexual violence, torture, persecutions, and other acts of similar gravity. Students should consider whether they are prepared to be exposed to such facts.

Second, this course’s workload reflects the 4 units that are awarded. The course involves reading and analysis of case law that covers a lot of material, both in breadth and depth. The course is a mix of international law, criminal law, criminal procedure and international relations all in one. The law is still evolving, which requires creative thinking to address unresolved issues. Students are expected to have read all of the assigned reading prior to class and to participate in in-depth discussion of the cases each class period. In addition, approximately every other week, the reading will involve working through “casebook problems”, which we will analyze together in class, in order to solidify our understanding of how to apply the law to different fact patterns.

There will be cold-calling as needed to facilitate the discussion. While students will be allowed to seek excused absences, regular classroom attendance and participation are required and will be factored in to the final grade. Falling behind in the reading or failing to attend class repeatedly is likely to have negative repercussions on your grade because the material builds upon itself.

Course Details

  • Unit Value: 4
  • Grading Options: Numerical Only
  • Schedule: M/W 5:00 pm - 6:50 pm
  • Room Number: Room 12
  • Exam: In-class, open-book exam
  • Writing Requirement: No
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: No