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Regular version of the site
Bachelor 2019/2020

Human Rights in International Law

Type: Elective course (Law)
Area of studies: Law
When: 2 year, 4 module
Mode of studies: Full time
Instructors: Polina Malkova
Language: English
ECTS credits: 6

Course Syllabus


The course on Public International Law examines the nature, principles, and instruments of Public International Law (PIL) studying in depth the structure and mechanisms of the international legal system, analyzing and discussing the main issues that challenge the international community.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • This course is primarily aimed at providing the students the necessary tools to understand and study the nature, principles, and role of Public International Law (PIL) as well as to analyze, discuss the relevant issues in this field and master the structure and mechanisms of the international legal system. During the first part, the course will cover a wide array of introductory and substantial topics such as the sources and subjects of PIL, states sovereignty and jurisdiction, territory, the UN legal system, the prohibition of the use of force and the right of self-defense. After the necessary introductory session, we will look at the specific branches of PIL, such as International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, International Criminal Law, International Economic Law, International Maritime Law, and International Environmental Law. Moreover, the course will deal with current and emerging issues of PIL, such as terrorism and migration. The course will analyze and discuss a number of international cases law decided by national and international сourts, as well as treaties, UN resolutions and other international legal instruments.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • The students should gain the following knowledge and understanding the role and importance of international law in the regulation of public relations;
  • The students should gain the following knowledge and understanding the basic principles of PIL, its main features (sources, subjects), the structure and mechanisms of the international legal system, the role and functioning of the International and Regional Organizations; as well as the role, functions and procedural mechanisms of the international and regional courts, special tribunals and quasi-judicial human rights bodies;
  • The students should gain the following skills and abilities • to learn and use specific terminology and sources of PIL; • to develop practical abilities of legal research and analysis of customary law, treaties, soft law, decisions, and doctrines; • to use appropriate referencing and bibliographic methods; • to read and correctly analyze case law (International Court of Justice, ICC, ICTY; ICTR, ECtHR, EUCJ, and international arbitration court) using lawyering skills and legal argumentation);
  • Students should gain the following competencies and abilities • to develop a professional methodology to work, learning to conduct exhaustive legal research, correct identification of relevant judicial decision and applicable law, which will be necessary for the fulfillment of their future scientific and professional tasks; • to apply a systematic legal approach and using comparative methods;
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Introduction to Public International Law (PIL)
    The basic principles of the international legal system. Definition of Public International Law. Is Public International Law a real law? Specific features of Public International Law. Difference between Private and Public International Law. PIL and European Law (EU Law). PIL and Domestic Law. The different branches of PIL: special and “self-contained regimes”. The historical background of PIL. Natural Law vs Positive Law. The Second World War and the new concept of PIL. Expansion and fragmentation of PIL. The contribution of Russian and Soviet scientists to the science of PIL. Emerging issues and new challenges in PIL.
  • Sources of Public International law
    The distinction between “source” and “norm”. Differences between formal and material sources. Definition and classification of the norms. Hierarchy of the PIL sources. Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Definition and characteristics of “Jus cogens”. Definition of Customary Law. State practice and “Opinio juris”. Regional and Local Customs. Treaties: Definition and categories. Soft Law. Judicial decisions. Doctrine. International Organizations’ acts. Codification of norms of PIL: the International Law Commission.
  • The Law of Treaties
    International treaty: definition and types. Sources of the Law of Treaties and history of its codification. Conclusion: the main stages and the power to conclude treaties. Methods of expressing consent. Reservations: concept, types, conditions of validity. Effect of treaties in time, space and members. The effect of a treaty on third states. Modifications and termination of treaties. The principle of “pacta sunt servanda”: International treaties and national law. Interpretation of treaties: concept, types, methods, and principles. Conditions of validity and invalidity of treaties. The consequences of invalidity. Termination and suspension of an international treaty The impact of war on international treaties. Ensuring compliance with international treaties.
  • Public International Law and Municipal Law
    Monistic and dualistic approach. The interplay between the PIL and Municipal Law. Domestic implementation of Public International Law. -International customary norms in Municipal Law. -Treaties in Municipal Law. Automatic incorporation v. statuary implementation. Self-executing and non-self-executing PIL’s norms. Municipal Law before International Courts and Tribunals.
  • Subjects of Public International Law – States and Their Recognition
    Classification: States, International Organizations, National Liberation Movements, Individuals. State as a subject of PIL: definition and the test for statehood. Recognition of States. Duties and powers of States. State jurisdiction and Sovereign Immunities. Principle of self-determination: internal and external dimensions. Minority rights. Succession and annexations. What happened to previous legal obligations? National Liberation Movement (NLM). NLM’s International Legal personality. De facto States and non-recognized States. Puppet States. Failed States.
  • Sovereignty, Jurisdiction and Diplomatic/Consular Privileges and Immunities
    The principle of domestic jurisdiction. Legislative, Executive and Judicial Jurisdiction. civil and criminal jurisdiction. Territorial, Nationality, Passive Personality, Universality Principles. Extraterritorial Jurisdiction. Extraterritorial Jurisdiction and Human Rights Treaties. Immunities: definitions, types and functions. Sovereign Immunity. Absolute v. Restrictive approach. Jure gestionii v. Jure imperii. State immunity and the violations of human rights. Bodies of the State covered by immunities. Diplomatic immunity: sources, privileges, property, personal. Diplomatic representation: opening, composition, functions, termination of activities, privileges, and immunities. Personnel of a diplomatic mission: the concept, composition, beginning, and termination of functions, immunities, and privileges. Permanent missions of States with international organizations. Special missions, state representations at international organizations, headquarters, and international organizations. Consular immunity and privileges: concept and source. Consular headquarter, archives and properties.
  • Territory and Borders
    Classification of territories in accordance with PIL. The concept of territory in PIL. Territorial sovereignty. State border. Settlement of border disputes. Acquisition and loss of State territory. Effective control. Territorial integrity, self-determination. Uti possidendis. The jurisdiction of the State and its limitations. Border and international rivers. International channels: the legal regime. The law of outer space. The legal regime of the Arctic: the concepts of “Arctic” and “ Arctic States”. The “sectoral principle”. Problems of delimitation of the continental shelf of the Arctic ocean. Features of the regime of navigation in the Arctic ocean. Antarctica: legal status and use. Preservation of the Antarctica ecosystem.
  • International and Regional Organizations
    Concept and classification of international organizations. Nature of the IGOs legal personality. Creation and termination of IGOs. Membership in IGOs: entry and exit procedures, exclusion from membership, suspension of membership. Functions and competence of an international organization. Structure of the international organization/Immunities of IGOs and its officers. UN: history, objectives and basic principles of activity, main bodies and their competence, membership. UN specialized agencies. Council of Europe: history, main bodies, areas of activity. OSCE: history, main bodies, areas of activity, peacekeeping operations. CIS: history, main bodies, directions, major issues. European Union: history, structure, competence. Sources of European Union law/African Union: history, main bodies, activities. OAS: history of establishment, main bodies, activities. Eurasia Economic Union: history of establishment, main bodies, activities. ASEAN/MERCOSUR/Shanghai Cooperation Organization: history, main bodies, functions. CSTO: history, main bodies, functions. NATO: history, main bodies, areas of activity. The legal status of an international organization and its employees. Legal status of permanent missions, observer missions of States to international organizations and their staff. International conferences: concept, preparation and convening, rules of procedure and decision-making, types of acts of international conferences and their legal significance.
  • Public International Law and the Use of Force
    The historical evolution of the principle of prohibition of use of force. Scope of the prohibition and its legal nature. The collective security system of the UN. The terms “use of force “and “threat of use of force”. The horizontal exception to the prohibition: the right to individual and collective self-defense. The essential requirements of the self-defense. The concept of “preventive self-defense” and preemptive self-defense. The notion of aggression in PIL. The vertical exceptions to the prohibition: the UN charter framework and practice. Noncoercive measures. Coercive measures. UN SC Authorization. Peace-keeping missions. Peace enforcing missions. Nation-building missions. The invasion of Kuwait (1990) and Iraq (2003). Humanitarian intervention and responsibility to protect: concept, definition, sources and applicable law. Collective security within the framework of regional defensive international organizations. Disarmament: the legal framework. The issue of nuclear disarmament. The reduction and elimination of strategic offensive arms. The problem of the prohibition and destruction of nuclear weapons. International legal regulation of nuclear-weapon tests. The non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Prohibition and elimination of weapons of mass destruction.
  • The Settlement of International Disputes
    The notion of international dispute. Negotiation, good offices, and mediation: definition and main features. Inquiry: definition and main features. Conciliation Commission: definition and main features. International Arbitration: historical background, definition and procedure. The Permanent Court of Arbitration and the other arbitration courts. UN International Court of Justice: composition, competence, jurisdiction, procedure, types of decisions and legal force. International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
  • State Responsibility for Internationally Wrongful Acts
    Nature of international responsibility. Sources and the historical evolution. The elements of State responsibility. Attribution of conduct to State. Circumstances precluding wrongfulness. Invoking State responsibility. The consequences of internationally wrongful acts. Cessation. Reparation. Serious breaches of peremptory norms (jus cogens). Diplomatic protection and nationality of claims. The expropriation of foreign property: public purposes and compensation. Bilateral investment treaties. Lump-sum agreements. The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency. The responsibility of international organizations for wrongful acts.
  • International Protection of Human Rights
    Definition of International Human Rights Law. Human rights in the history of political-legal thought. Historical background. First, Second and Third Generations of human rights. Universality of human rights v. «Cultural relativism». Nature and structure of human rights. Positive and negative obligations. Absolute rights. Derogation and restrictions from obligations on human rights protection. «International Bill of Human Rights». Structure of international treaties on human rights. Reservations regime to human rights treaties. The relationship between International Human Rights Law and Municipal Law. The relationship between International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law. Responsibility for human rights violations. “Responsibility to protect” (R2P). International Human Rights Bodies. Protection of human rights by main UN bodies: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the ECOSOC, and the ICJ. The UN Human Rights Council: history of creation, members, competence. Universal periodic review. Special procedures. The Advisory Committee. Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Forum on Minority Issues. Social Forum. Complaints procedure. UN treaty-based bodies on human rights: history of creation, members, competence. Human Rights Committee (CCPR). Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Committee against Torture (CAT). Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT). Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW). Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED). UN High Commissioner on Human Rights. The regional protection of Human Rights: The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention of Human Rights) European Court of Human Rights: composition and structure, competence, procedure, criteria for admissibility of individual complaints, types and legal force of decisions. The decisions of the ECHR. The American system for the protection of human rights. The African system of human rights protection/Protection of the rights of women and children/Protection of the rights of national minorities/Protection of refugees’ rights/ Diplomatic Protection/Protection of human rights in armed conflict.
  • International Humanitarian Law
    Historical background of the International Humanitarian Law. The law of armed conflict and the Geneva Law. International Humanitarian Law: sources. International armed conflict and non international armed conflict. Waging war. The principles of IHL: distinction, proportionality, humanity, necessity. Combatants, civilians, levee en mass. The status of volunteers, partisans, parliamentarians, military intelligence officers, spies, and mercenaries. Prohibited means and methods of warfare. The concept of “military object.” The principle of proportionality and precautionary measures. Neutrality in war: the concept and types of neutrality, the rights, and obligations of neutral and belligerent States in relation to each other. Neutrality and non-belligerent States. Military smuggling, prizes, trophies. International legal protection of victims of war. The regime of military captivity. Internment. The regime of military occupation. Protection of civilians and civilian objects. Protection of cultural property during armed conflicts. Ways of ending the war and its international legal consequences. Emerging problems: terrorism, cyberwar and autonomous weapons. The ratio of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.
  • International Criminal Law
    International Criminal Law: definition and functions. Historical background of the International Criminal Law. The Nuremberg and Tokyo processes. International Crimes: concept and general features. War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity, Genocide, Aggression. International criminal court: history, structure, competence, admissibility of cases and situations, principles of operation, pretrial proceedings and judicial proceedings, appeal and review of decisions, cooperation with States, enforcement of sentences. ICTY, ICTR and the Special Tribunals: history and procedure, structure, competence, enforcement of sentences. Extradition: extraditable offenses, legal grounds, and conditions for extradition. International criminal police organization (Interpol): goals, objectives, activities. Universal jurisdiction. Piracy: the oldest crimes and the new methods of fighting. Combating terrorism. Fighting drug trafficking and psychotropic substances. Combating human smuggling and slavery in modern times.
  • International Economic Law
    Definition of International Economic Law. Historical background of International Economic Law. Sources of International Economic Law. International actors and international financial institutions. Basic principles of International Economic Law: most favored nation treatment, preferential, reciprocity, non-discrimination. The World Bank Group: historical background, structure, functions of the single bodies, competence and decision-making. WTO: historical background, the institutional setting, the normative principles and standards. WTO: dispute settlement mechanisms. International Investment Law: background and sources. Definition of investment and investor. Standards of treatment of foreign investments. Dispute settlement – umbrella clauses. Legal consequences and reparation in International Investment Law. International investment protection and public concerns.
  • International Maritime Law
    Definition, sources and codification of the International Law of the Sea. UNCLOS. International Maritime Law: historical overview. Legal status of the territorial sea: definition, internal waters, methods for determining the baselines, delimitation of territorial sea between States with opposite or adjacent coasts, jurisdiction. The right of innocent passage. Rules applicable to warships and other government ships operated for non-commercial purposes. Transit Passage. High seas: definition, legal status, jurisdiction and rights of the coastal State/s. The legal regime of the vessel on the high seas. Contiguous zone: definition, legal status, jurisdiction, rights of the coastal States. Exclusive economic zone: definition and legal regime, rights, and jurisdiction of the coastal state, the rights of other States. Continental shelf: definition and rights of the coastal State. Submarine cables and pipelines. International seabed area: concept and legal status. Archipelago waters: the concept, legal regime, conditions for the implementation of the archipelago passage. International channel. The international legal regime of the Suez, Panama and Kiel canals. Conservation and management of marine natural resources. Marine scientific research international cooperation. The Tribunal of the law of the sea.
  • International Environmental Law
    International Environmental Law: historical background and basic principles. The Scope of International Environmental Law. The role of international organizations in the development of International Environmental Law. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Cooperation of States in the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Transboundary water resources. International legal protection of the marine environment. Legal regime of the outer space. Climate change and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Attendance, active participation and in-class discussion during seminars
  • non-blocking Home tasks and oral presentation
  • non-blocking Midterm exam
  • non-blocking Colloquium
  • non-blocking Final exam
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (4 module)
    0.2 * Attendance, active participation and in-class discussion during seminars + 0.1 * Colloquium + 0.4 * Final exam + 0.2 * Home tasks and oral presentation + 0.1 * Midterm exam


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Dupont, P.-E. (2013). The Statute of the International Court of Justice. A Commentary. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.9861A50C
  • Mälksoo, L. (DE-588)104169721X, (DE-576)39340966X. (2015). Russian approaches to international law / Lauri Mälksoo. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.426107160
  • Shaw, M. N. (2008). International Law (Vol. 6th ed). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge eText. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=304677
  • Zimmermann, A., Oellers-Frahm, K., & Tomuschat, C. (2012). The Statute of the International Court of Justice : A Commentary. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=2096418

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Aspremont, J. d’. (2015). Epistemic Forces in International Law : Foundational Doctrines and Techniques of International Legal Argumentation. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=970454
  • Koskenniemi, M., Rech, W., & Jiménez Fonseca, M. (2017). International Law and Empire : Historical Explorations (Vol. First edition). Oxford: OUP Oxford. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=1506334