LL4AR      Half Unit
International Criminal Law: Core Crimes and Concepts

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Gerry Simpson


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Human Rights 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 will be relevant to the following LLM specialisms: Criminology and Criminal Justice, Public International Law, Human Rights Law.

This course has a limited number of places and we cannot guarantee all students will get a place.

Course content

The course looks at considers the rules, concepts, principles, history, institutional architecture, and enforcement of what we call international criminal law or international criminal justice, or, sometimes, the law of war crimes. The focus of the course teaching is the area of international criminal law concerned with traditional “war crimes” and, in particular, four three of the core crimes set out in the Rome Statute (war crimes, torture as a crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression). It adopts a historical, philosophical and practical focus throughout, though the course is mainly directed at the conceptual problems associated with the prosecution of war criminals and, more broadly, legalised retribution. Attention, in this respect, will be directed towards the moral and jurisprudential dilemmas associated with bureaucratic criminality and individual culpability during international criminal law’s iconic events at Versailles in 1919, at “Tokyoberg” between 1945 and 1948, in The Hague, and in Jerusalem in 1961. Topics might include Pre-History (Vitoria, Grotius, Gentili, Cicero), Versailles, Nuremberg and Tokyo, the Trial of Adolf Eichmann, Crimes Against Humanity, the Crime of Aggression, Anti-Anti-Impunity, International Criminal Law’s Historical Method.


This course will have two hours of teaching content each week in Michaelmas Term, either in the form of a two hour seminar or an online lecture and one hour class. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term.

Formative coursework

One 2,000 word essay.

Indicative reading

Gerry Simpson, Law, War and Crime, (2007).

Philippe Sands, East-West Street, (2017).

Georg Schwarzenberger, International Law and Totalitarian Lawlessness, (1943).

Judith Shklar, Legalism, (1964).

Maurice Hankey, Politics, Trials, Errors, (1950).

Christine Schwobel, Critical Approaches to International Criminal Law: An Introduction, (2015).

Mark Lewis, The Birth of the New Justice: The Internationalization of Crime and Punishment, 1919-1950 (2014).


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

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2020/21: 37

Average class size 2020/21: 18

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills