University of London

Small Navigation Menu

Primary Menu

Public international law LA3013

Public international law is offered as an optional module to students studying on the Standard Entry and Graduate Entry LLB courses.

It is also offered as an Individual Module. Credits from an Individual Module will not count towards the requirements of the LLB.

Public international law primarily concerns legal relations between states but it is also concerned with the role of the UN and other international organisations and their legal relations and, in the fields of human rights and international criminal law, is concerned with the rights and duties of individuals.

Topics covered

  • The nature and significance of public international law: Here the intention is to define and understand what international law is, how it differs from domestic legal systems and the significance of these differences.
  • The sources of public international law: While the emphasis here will be upon treaties and customary international law, the Statute of The International Court of Justice will also be alluded to.
  • International law and municipal law: An understanding will be provided of the place and effect of international law in domestic legal systems and how these differ in different states.
  • International personality. States, international organisations and others:Much of international law is concerned with standing in international law. Whereas states are full participants, it needs to be understood that other bodies have standing only for some purposes and in some tribunals.
  • Legal criteria of statehood:Although this might, to a lay person, seem unproblematic, consideration of the status of such entities as Palestine, South Ossetia, Taiwan and even Kosovo exemplifies the complexity (and significance) of this section.
  • Principles of state jurisdiction, together with immunities: The consideration here is of the legitimate powers of a state (and the limitations upon them) acting both within its own borders and extraterritorially. Immunity from jurisdiction is a significant limitation on these powers.
  • Human rights and international criminal law: The rise of the status of individuals in international law has been paralleled by the rise of international human rights obligations and responsibility for human rights abuses.
  • Settlement of international disputes both peacefully and with the lawful use of force: Chapters VI and VII of the United Nations Charter will be the focus of this topic.
  • The law of Treaties: Here we will develop Topic (b) with an understanding of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969, considering in particular the formation and termination of treaties and the rules for their interpretation.
  • Law of the sea: The central focus here is upon the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982 and upon the property regime there recognised.

Learning outcomes

If you complete the course successfully, you should be able to:

  • An appreciation of the significant differences and similarities of international law and domestic law;
  • An understanding of the methodology and procedures of international law and the possibilities it provides for international dispute resolution;
  • An awareness of how and why it is that political realities often constrain the application of international law and marginalise it where it might have been thought to be at its clearest and most significant.
  • Apply their knowledge to analyse complex legal questions and problems;
  • Critique a range of legal materials and arguments;
  • Conduct complex research exercises and use research evidence appropriately to support arguments.


3hr 15 mins unseen examination

Essential reading

The essential reading for this course is the subject guide and reading pack provided. The extracts are from:

  • Cassese, A. International law. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) second edition [ISBN 9780199259397].
  • Dixon, M. Textbook on international law. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) seventh edition [ISBN 9780199574452].
  • Kaczorowska-Ireland, A. Public international law. (Abingdon: Routledge, 2015) fifth edition [ISBN 9780415722360].