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Regular version of the site
Bachelor 2020/2021

Public International Law

Type: Compulsory course (Private Law)
Area of studies: Law
When: 2 year, 3, 4 module
Mode of studies: offline
Instructors: Alaa N. Assaf, Gleb Bogush, Daria Boklan, Daniil Moshnikov, Vera Rusinova
Language: English
ECTS credits: 3

Course Syllabus


The course on Public International Law examines the nature, principles, and instruments of Public International Law, studying in depth the structure and mechanisms of the international legal system, analysing and discussing the main issues that currently challenge the international community. This course is primarily aimed at providing the students the necessary tools to understand and study the nature, sources and role of Public International Law as well as to analyze and discuss the resolution of international disputes. In 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, the UN legal system and the interrelations between domestic and international legal systems. In the second part the course will address specific branches of PIL, such as International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, International Criminal Law, Law of International Security, International Economic Law, and International Environmental Law. Moreover, the course will deal with current and emerging issues of PIL, such as terrorism, migration, cyber operations, unilateral sanctions, etc. The course will analyze and discuss treaties, decisions of the UN bodies and other international legal instruments. A special emphasis will be made on the relevant case law of international and national courts. During the course on Public International law students are supposed to participate in a Moot Court exercise simulating a case before one of the international courts and complete a written test consisting of open questions and a case study. There is an oral examination at the completion of the course.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • The main purpose of the course is to develop skills to apply norms of Public International Law, conduct legal research individually and in a team and solve cases involving the issues of PIL.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • ─ the role and importance of international law in the regulation of social relations; ─ the basic principles of Public International law (PIL), its main features (sources, subjects), the structure and mechanisms of the international legal system, the role and functioning of global and regional international 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 PIL terminology and academic legal writing; ─ the sources of international law and learn how to identify the applicable law to solve possible case law (weekly classes, exams, written assignments);
  • ─ the law of treaties and the role of states and international organizations in law-making; ─ historical evolution of international law, human rights law and the other PIL branches and their current trends.
  • ─ 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);
  • ─ to use the major legal databases on international law and European law such as Peace Palace Library, ICJ website, Court of Justice, HUDOC, EURLEX, JSTOR, Lexis Nexis, WESTLAW, and the major journals, blogs or dedicated websites for carrying out research activity and analyze current issues in the international law field.
  • ─ 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;
  • ─ to carry out professional activities in the field of Public International Law, Human Rights Law and/or Humanitarian Assistance;
  • ─ to identify legal issues in the field of PIL and to develop an independent analysis of such issues;
  • ─ to use national and international regulatory acts and judicial decisions to protect human and civil rights and freedoms, and legitimate interests of legal entities;
  • ─ to represent individuals in front of domestic and international courts, as well as quasi-judicial bodies;
  • ─ to analyze scientific publications and reports on PIL topics.
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Introduction to Public International Law (PIL).
    1. The basic principles of the international legal system. 2. Definition of Public International Law. 3. Is Public International Law a “law”? Is International law “international”? 4. Specific features of Public International Law. 5. Difference between Private and Public International Law. 6. PIL and the European Law, PIL and the EU Law. 7. The different branches of PIL: special and “self-contained regimes”. 8. The historical background of PIL. 9. Natural Law and Legal Positivism. 10. The Second World War and the new concept of PIL. 11. Expansion and fragmentation of PIL. 12. The contribution of Russian and Soviet scientists to the science of PIL. 13. Emerging issues and new challenges to PIL.
  • Sources and Norms of Public International law.
    1. International law making. The distinction between “sources” and “norms” of PIL. 2. Definition and classification of the PIL norms. Hierarchy of PIL norms. 3. Definition and legal characteristics of “jus cogens”. 4. Definition of PIL sources. Distinction between formal and material sources. 5. Codification and progressive development of PIL: the UN International Law Commission. 6. Hierarchy of the PIL sources. Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 7. Definition of customary law. Identification of customary norms. Regional, local and bilateral customs. 8. State practice and “opinio juris”. 9.Treaties: definition and categories. 10.General principles of law. 11.Judicial decisions. 12.Scholarly writings. 13.Acts of International Organizations (IOs). “Soft Law”. 14.Unilateral acts of states.
  • States as Subjects of International law.
    1. State as a subject of PIL: definition and a test for statehood. 2. Recognition of States and governments. 3. Duties and powers of States. 4. State jurisdiction and sovereign immunities. 5. Principle of self-determination: internal and external dimensions. 6. Minority rights. 7. Succession and annexations. 8. National liberation movements (NLM). 9. De facto states and non-recognized States. 10. Puppet and failed States. 11. The principle of domestic jurisdiction. 12. Legislative, executive and judicial Jurisdiction. 13. Territorial, nationality, passive personality, universality principles of jurisdiction. 14. Extraterritorial jurisdiction. 15. Extraterritorial jurisdiction and human rights treaties. 16. Immunities: definitions, types and functions. 17. Sovereign Immunity of states and immunity of state officials. 18. Absolute v. restrictive immunity. 19. Acta jure gestiones and jure imperii. 20. State immunity and the violations of human rights. 21. Bodies of the State covered by immunities. 22. Territorial sovereignty. 23. State border. 24. Settlement of border disputes. 25. Acquisition and loss of State territory. 26. Effective control. 27. Territorial integrity, self-determination. 28. Principle of uti possidetis.
  • The Law of Treaties.
    1. International treaty: a definition and types. 2. Sources of the Law of treaties and a history of its codification. 3. Conclusion of international treaties: the main stages and the power to conclude treaties. 4. Methods of expressing the consent to a treaty. 5. Reservations: a concept, types and conditions of validity. 6. Effect of treaties in time, space and territory. Parties to the treaty. The effect of a treaty on third states. 7. Modification and termination of treaties. 8. The principle of “pacta sunt servanda”. International treaties and domestic law. 9. Interpretation of treaties: a concept, types, methods, and principles. 10. Conditions of validity and invalidity of treaties. The consequences of invalidity. 11. Termination and suspension of an international treaty. 12. The impact of war on international treaties. 13. Ensuring compliance with international treaties.
  • Public International Law and Municipal Law.
    1. Monistic and dualistic approaches. 2. The interplay between the Public International Law and Domestic Law. 3. Domestic implementation of Public International Law. 4. International customary norms in domestic legal system. 5. International treaties in domestic legal system. 6. Forms of treaties’ incorporation. 7. Self-executing and non-self-executing norms of Public International Law in the domestic legal system. 8. Domestic law before International courts and tribunals. 9. International Law in the Russian legal system. 10. International treaties and the Constitution of the Russian Federation. 11. Enforcement of decisions taken by interstate bodies or binding decisions of international (interstate) courts or international arbitral tribunals in the Russian Federation.
  • International Organizations.
    1. Concept and classification of international organizations (IOs). 2. Nature of the IOs legal personality. 3. Creation and termination of IOs. 4. Membership in IOs: entry and exit procedures, exclusion from membership, and suspension of membership. 5. Functions and competence of an international organization. 6. Structure of the international organization/Immunities of IOs and its officers. 7. The UN: history, objectives and basic principles of activity, main bodies and their competence, membership. 8. The UN specialized agencies. 9. The Council of Europe: history, main bodies, areas of activity. 10. The OSCE: history, main bodies, areas of activity, peacekeeping operations. 11. The European Union: history, structure, competence. Sources of the European Union law: history, main bodies, activities. 12. The Eurasian Economic Union: history of establishment, main bodies, activities. 13. The NATO: history, main bodies, areas of activity. 14. The legal status of an international organization and its employees. 15. Legal status of permanent missions, observer missions of States to international organizations and their staff. 16. International conferences: concept, preparation and convening, rules of procedure and decision-making, types of acts of international conferences and their legal significance.
  • Coercion and Responsibility in International Law.
    1. Nature of international responsibility. 2. Coercion and its legal qualification under Public International law. 3. Sources of the Law of International responsibility and their historical evolution. 4. The elements of an internationally wrongful act. 5. Attribution of conduct to State. 6. Circumstances precluding wrongfulness. 7. Invoking State responsibility. 8. The consequences of internationally wrongful acts. 9. Cessation. 10. Reparation. 11. Serious breaches of peremptory norms (jus cogens). 12. Jus standi and diplomatic protection. 13. The responsibility of IOs for internationally wrongful acts.
  • International Protection of Human Rights.
    1. Definition of International Human Rights Law. 2. Human rights in the history of political-legal thought. 3. Historical background of International Human Rights Law. First, second and third generations of human rights. 4. Universality of human rights v. «cultural relativism». 5. Nature and structure of human rights. 6. Positive and negative obligations under International Human Rights Law. 7. Absolute rights. Derogation from obligations on human rights protection. Restriction of human rights and its limits. 8. Sources of International Human Rights Law. «International Bill of Human Rights». 9. Structure of international treaties on human rights. Reservations regime to human rights treaties. 10. The relationship between International Human Rights Law and Domestic Law. 11. The relationship between International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law. 12. Responsibility for human rights violations. 13. International Human Rights Bodies. 14. Protection of human rights by main UN bodies: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the ECOSOC, and the ICJ. 15. 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. 16. UN treaty-based bodies on human rights: history of creation, members, and competence. 17. UN High Commissioner on Human Rights. 18. Regional protection of Human Rights: The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention of Human Rights) and the 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.
  • Diplomatic and Consular Law.
    1. Diplomatic immunity: sources, privileges, property, personal. 2. Diplomatic representation: opening, composition, functions, and termination of activities, privileges, and immunities. 3. Personnel of a diplomatic mission: the concept, composition, beginning, and termination of functions, immunities, and privileges. 4. Permanent missions of States with international organizations. 5. Special missions, state representations at international organizations, headquarters, and international organizations. 6. Consular immunity and privileges: concept and source. 7. Consular headquarter, archives and properties.
  • Prohibition of the threat and use of force in International Law. International Security Law.
    1. The historical evolution of the principle of prohibition of the use of force. 2. The scope of the prohibition and its legal nature. The definitions of the “use of force” and the “threat of use of force”. 3. The collective security system of the UN. The role and functions of the Security Council. 4. The horizontal exceptions to the prohibition: the right to individual and collective self-defense. “Preventive self-defense” and “preemptive self-defense”. Responsibility to protect. 5. The vertical exceptions to the prohibition: the UN Charter framework and practice. The UN Security Council’s authorization of the use of force. 6. “Humanitarian intervention” and “responsibility to protect”: concepts, definitions, sources and applicable law. 7. The notions of “threat to peace”, “breach of peace” and an “act of aggression”. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3314 “Definition of Aggression”. 8. Collective security within the framework of regional international organizations. 9. Disarmament: the legal framework. 10. The issue of the nuclear disarmament. The problem of the prohibition and destruction of nuclear weapons. The non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
  • International Humanitarian Law.
    1. Historical background of the International Humanitarian Law. 2. Definition and sources of International Humanitarian law. “The law of the Hague” and “The law of Geneva. 3. The scope of application of International Humanitarian Law. Classification and qualification of armed conflicts. 4. The basic principles of IHL: distinction, proportionality, humanity, and necessity. 5. Participants of the armed conflicts and their status: combatants, civilians, levee en mass. The status of volunteers, partisans, parliamentarians, military intelligence officers, spies, and mercenaries. 6. The concept of a “military object.” The principle of proportionality and precautionary measures. 7. Prohibited means and methods of warfare. Violations of IHL and their legal consequences. 8. Neutrality: the concept and types of neutrality, the rights, and obligations of neutral and belligerent States in relation to each other. 9. International legal protection of the victims of war. 10. The regime of military captivity. Status of prisoners of war. Internment. 11. The legal regime of belligerent occupation. 12. Protection of cultural property during armed conflicts. 13. Emerging problems: terrorism, cyberwar and autonomous weapons. 14. The relationship of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.
  • The Settlement of International Disputes.
    1. The notion of international dispute. 2. Negotiation, good offices, and mediation: definition and main features. 3. Inquiry: definition and main features. 4. Conciliation commissions: a definition and main features. 5. International arbitration: historical background, definition and procedure. 6. The Permanent Court of Arbitration. 7. The International Court of Justice: composition, competence, jurisdiction, procedure, types of decisions and their legal force. 8. The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
  • International Criminal Law.
    1. Historical background of the International Criminal Law. The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials. 2. International Criminal Law (ICL): definition and functions. Sources of ICL. 3. International crimes: concept and general features. 4. Individual criminal responsibility for international crimes. 5. War Crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, aggression. Definitions, major features, classifications. 6. International criminal justice. International criminal courts and tribunals: tribunals established by the UN Security Council: the ICTY, the ICTR. Other international and hybrid (mixed) tribunals. 7. The International criminal court (ICC): history, structure, competence, admissibility of cases and situations, principles of operation, pre-trial and trial proceedings, appeal and review of decisions, cooperation with States, enforcement of sentences. 8. Extradition: extraditable offenses, legal grounds, and conditions for extradition. 9. International criminal police organization (Interpol): goals, objectives, activities. 10. Jurisdiction of States with regard to international crimes. 11. The crimes of international character: piracy, terrorism, trafficking in human beings etc.
  • International Economic Law.
    1. Definition, scope, objectives and sources of International economic law. 2. Principles of international economic law: most-favoured-nation treatment, national treatment, and mutual advantage principle. 3. International legal basis for economic integration. 4. International trade law: definition, principles, sources. 5. International investment law: definition, principles, sources. International legal protection of direct and indirect investments. 6. International financial law: definition, principles, and sources.
  • International Environmental Law.
    1. Definition and sources of international environmental law. 2. Principles of international environmental law: state sovereignty over its natural resources, prevention of transboundary harm, cooperation, principle of precaution. 3. International climate change law. 4. International biodiversity law. 5. International environmental law and deforestation 6. International environmental law and wastes. 7. International legal basis for prevention of transboundary environmental harm.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Oral exam. Online.
    See «Examples of tasks»
  • non-blocking Colloquium, online.
  • non-blocking Home task, online
  • non-blocking Classroom-based work. Online.
  • non-blocking Written test
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (4 module)
    0.1 * Classroom-based work. Online. + 0.1 * Colloquium, online. + 0.1 * Home task, online + 0.6 * Oral exam. Online. + 0.1 * Written test


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • 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

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
  • Roberts, A. (2011). Comparative International Law? The Role of National Courts in Creating and Enforcing International Law. International & Comparative Law Quarterly, 60(1), 57–92. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020589310000679