International Law: Principles and Politics

Discipline: Politics and International Relations
Instructor: Bekavac
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 0925
End: 1040
Field Work: Day 2 - Antwerp - Monday, 15 September | Belgium Download Syllabus

This course will introduce students to the basic structures and principles of international law and its relationship to the larger realm of international politics. Topics will include the sources of international law – in treaties and international organizations – and its application across such various fields as: commercial law, including intellectual property, immigration law, criminal law, human rights law and the laws of war. The course will include learning to read American case law applying international law principles, and we will consider where international law is most robust and where it is largely ignored. Recent incidents where international law and other norms have come into question include: migrant rights to refugee status in the European Union and elsewhere; the right to hunt whales and other maritime protections; the rights to be accorded terrorism suspects held by various countries, including the United States; the seizure of Greenpeace demonstrators by Russia; the ownership of various important works of art seized during wartime; the law of piracy and the international rules against it. Students will be required to develop at least one paper on international law issues affecting countries where we will be visiting on shore.

Field Work

Country: Belgium
Day: 2 - Antwerp - Monday, 15 September

For our Field Lab during the Antwerp Port Stop we will spend a day at 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. Explore the history of the World Court and the ideal of world justice as embodied in these two institutions located in a neutral country.  Note the symbolism embodied in the buildings and decorations and consider the ongoing applicability of those symbols. 2. Become familiar with some of the practical difficulties of holding hearings in multiple languages with judges, lawyers, witnesses and parties drawn from differing languages, cultures, legal traditions and legal systems. 3.  Become familiar with the procedural systems developed to cope with the vast diversity of claims, evidence, expectations and political divisions represented in the courtrooms.