International Law: Principles and Politics

Discipline: Politics and International Relations
Instructor: Fowler
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 10:50
End: 12:05
Field Work: Day 1 - Antwerp - Thursday, 12 September | Belgium
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

This course introduces students to the role that international law plays within the larger realm of international relations. Where is law important, where is it less important, and why? The course will combine lecture with a law-school oriented case-study approach. We will consider laws of the seas and laws regarding diplomatic interactions. We will explore how international tribunals function, how international law has been used to outlaw piracy, slavery, and genocide, and how it is currently being used to combat organized crime, including drug trafficking. Students will learn how to read and analyze the opinions in a legal case, and the topics of the cases will involve issues ranging from the war-time capture of fishing boats to the destruction of naval ships in the Mediterranean, from the looting of artifacts to the hunting of whales. We will examine the 1980s hostage crisis in Iran as well as the role of law in various conflicts including the war on terrorism. The course will have a special focus on human rights, and the class will analyze cases dealing with refugees and stateless persons, with war crimes, with the shooting down of civilian aircraft, with a secret police political assassination abroad, and with treason and the imposition of the death penalty. We will analyze the historical evolution of international law and consider the future of this subject in the twenty-first century.

Field Work

Country: Belgium
Day: 1 - Antwerp - Thursday, 12 September

We will spend a day during the Antwerp port stop at the seat of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), or World Court, in the Hague, the Netherlands. While at the ICJ, we will see the magnificent Peace Palace, donated by U.S. philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to the United Nations, where the court sits and conducts its cases and which also includes the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hague Academy of International Law, and the Peace Palace Library, the leading international law library in the world. One of the Peace Palace attractions is the series of busts of prominent peacemakers, including Nelson Mandela, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Ghandi, and Jean Monnet. We will hear a one-hour presentation from officials in the Court’s Information Department, covering the history, workings, and activities of the World Court. And then, if possible, we will attend an actual hearing of the Court in the Great Hall of Justice, something broadly analogous to hearing a case being argued at the U.S. Supreme Court. While hearings are frequently held, the court’s calendar is not set this far in advance. In addition, priority in attendance at hearings is given to members of the diplomatic corps, guests of members of the Court, regular observers of the court’s activities, and only thereafter, members of the general public. Hearings consist of presentations by the agents, counsel and advocates. These occur either in English or French, with simultaneous translation, and can last from a few minutes to several hours. Should this opportunity present itself, I will give the class a briefing beforehand on what the case in question is about. Academic Objectives: 1. To visit the most visible and important international court in the world, a number of whose decisions the students will be reading in class 2. To hear a briefing and participate in questions and answers with an American official working at the Court as to its basic jurisdiction and procedures, as to the differences between a legal proceeding at the World Court and one in the United States, and as to why some international disputes are adjudicable (e.g., brought to an international court like this one to be resolved), while others are not brought to court, but are handled diplomatically, militarily, or otherwise (or are simply ignored).