LL4A8      Half Unit
International Law and the Use of Force

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Chris O'Meara


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Conflict Studies, MSc in Human Rights, MSc in Women, Peace and Security and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. 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

This half-unit course examines the law relating to when it is permissible to use force (jus ad bellum). The aim of this course is to develop an understanding of the principles of international law that regulate the use of force in international society. It concentrates on the prohibition of resort to force in Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter and the exceptions to that prohibition. It looks in detail at the right of self-defence, humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect, pro-democratic intervention, the protection of nationals and the criminalization of aggression. The use of force by or with the authorization of the United Nations is also considered.


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

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

Formative coursework

One 2,000 word essay.

Indicative reading

A detailed reading list will be issued at the first seminar. See, in particular: Dinstein, War, Aggression and Self-Defence (5th ed, 2011); Gray, International Law and the Use of Force (3rd ed., 2008).


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the summer exam period.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2018/19: 27

Average class size 2018/19: 26

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills