International criminal law

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The course aims at providing the students with a good knowledge of: (i) the general principles and substantive rules regarding individual criminal responsibility for crimes under international law - namely war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression, and (ii) their enforcement mechanisms both at the national and at the international level. Special focus will be devoted to the foundations and the proceedings of the International Criminal Court.
While the first part of the course will be more aimed at providing the students with a good basic knowledge of the system of international criminal justice, in the second part, students will be more actively involved during the classes. In particular, students will be asked to present topics in form of case studies elaborated in teams; this activity will strengthen both the critical analysis skills of the students, in applying the theoretical notions acquired to real cases, and their capacity to work in group.
Expected learning outcomes
The course aims at providing students with the following competences:
· understanding the specific features of international criminal law in respect to other neighboring subjects;
· knowing the mechanisms and characteristic of international tribunals;
· interpreting and understanding legal provisions and case-law regarding international criminal justice;
· strengthening personal capacity to work in group and to present the proposed case studies;
· developing personal, independent and critical analysis on worldwide situations and cases involving international criminal responsibility.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
Course syllabus
Students will learn about the origins of International Criminal Law (ICL), which can be traced to the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials held after World War II, and the most developments of ICL, following the establishment of the two ad hoc Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda (ICTY and ICTR), the International Criminal Court (ICC) and a number of other internationalized or hybrid tribunals over the past 25 years. We will analyze the first "codification" of substantive principles of ICL contained in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which entered into force in 2002. The course will also deal with the enforcement mechanisms of ICL; to this end, we will focus both on the procedure and the case law of the International Criminal Court and we will refer to the role of the national legal systems in ensuring accountability for international crimes.
Prerequisites for admission
For students enrolled at University of Milano, general provisions on "propedeuticità" apply (i.e. they shall have passed the exams of Constitutional law and Institutions of Private law); this does not apply to Erasmus students.
Moreover, previous knowledge of international law and of criminal law is an asset. Very good knowledge of the English language is required as materials, lectures, discussions in class and exams will be held in English. Students are expected to regularly and actively participate in the lectures; regular attendance is required in order to be admitted to the final exam.
Teaching methods
Teaching methods
The lectures will be held by the teacher and also, whenever possible, by experts/practitioners who will be invited during the course to talk on specific topics. The students will be involved as much as possible in the discussions in the class and will be tasked with short presentations on cases which will be assigned to them during the course to be prepared in small groups.
Teaching Resources
All materials will be uploaded for the students on the Ariel website: there is no handbook to study in order to prepare the exam. Suggested textbooks for further insights:
- G. Werle, F. Jessberger, Principles of International Criminal Law, 3rd Ed., Oxford University Press, 2014.
- C. Stahn, A Critical Introduction to International Criminal Law, Cambridge University Press, 2018 (free access:
Assessment methods and Criteria
The students will be graded through a written intermediate test (facultative but encouraged), and a final oral mandatory exam. Exams are aimed at assessing the understanding and the knowledge of the general principles and substantive rules of international criminal law, its establishment and enforcement, the features of international crimes as well as the provisions regulating the attribution of criminal liability before international tribunals, with special focus on the ICC.
Students' grade will also take into account their performance during group presentations on the proposed case studies, their personal analysis and critical elaboration, and ability to conduct team-work.
IUS/17 - CRIMINAL LAW - University credits: 6
Lessons: 42 hours
Professor: Meloni Chantal
upon appointment (