LL4E6      Half Unit
International Dispute Resolution: Courts and Tribunals

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Devika Hovell NAB6.32 and Dr Andrew Lang NAB6.19


This course is available on the MSc in Human Rights, Master of Laws and Master of Laws (extended part-time study). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped at 30 students. Students must apply through Graduate Course Choice on LSEforYou.


Some prior knowledge of international law is useful but not essential.

Course content

The course introduces students to the practice and theory of international legal dispute resolution before courts and tribunals. The former Prosecutor of the Yugoslav Tribunal, Richard Goldstone, resolved that: ‘it seems to me that if you don’t have international tribunals, you might as well not have international law’. Given the proliferation of courts and tribunals applying and enforcing international law, certain scholars have argued we are witnessing the emergence of an ‘international judicial system’ (Martinez). In addition to seminars on the theory of international dispute resolution, the course incorporates the opportunity to meet and hear from a range of eminent guest speakers practising in the courts and tribunals examined in the course. Students will be exposed to the theory, politics and practical difficulties of international dispute resolution  and will be provided with the opportunity to hone their advocacy skills through participation in (optional) 'mini-moots' on controversial cases.

The theoretical dimension of the course involves three main elements:

1. First, the course examines the structure and work of the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, focusing on jurisdiction/admissibility, contentious cases and advisory opinions.

2. Secondly, the course introduces a variety of other international courts and tribunals, such as the International Criminal Court, domestic and regional courts dealing with international law and human rights, including the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice, the WTO Dispute Settlement Body and investment treaty arbitral tribunals.  Using contemporary and controversial case studies, the course will critically analyze and contrast the institutional design and jurisdiction of these courts and tribunals.

3. Thirdly, throughout the course we explore key theoretical controversies surrounding the adjudication of international law, focusing in particular on (a) how these courts and tribunals relate to one another (hierarchy, specialization and fragmentation); (b) what criteria should be used in assessing the legitimacy and effectiveness of these courts and tribunals; and (c) whether and how these courts and tribunals create international law.


20 hours of lectures in the MT. 2 hours of lectures in the ST.

There will be a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas term.

Formative coursework

Students are asked to choose from EITHER an oral moot presentation and written submissions OR one 2,000 word formative essay

Indicative reading

Reading lists will be provided for each week’s seminar on Moodle. 

Indicative reading includes Karen Alter, The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (2014 Princeton); Gleider Hernández, The International Court of Justice and the Judicial Function (2014 OUP); Yuval Shany, ‘No Longer a Weak Department of Power? Reflections on the Emergence of a New International Judiciary’ (2009) 20(1) European Journal of International Law 73; Frederic Megret and Marika Giles Samson, ‘Holding the Line on Complementarity in Libya: the Case for Tolerating Flawed Domestic Trials’ (2013) 11 Journal of International Criminal Justice 571.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Availability: added existing 'capping' text.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2014/15: 19

Average class size 2014/15: 18

Controlled access 2014/15: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills