LL4A8      Half Unit
International Law and the Use of Force

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Devika Hovell


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Gender (Rights and Human Rights), MSc in Gender, Peace and Security, 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 has a limited number of places and demand is typically high. This may mean that you’re not able to get a place on this course.


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, examining in detail the various elements and controversies impacting on the right to self-defence and Security Council authorisation. We also examine ‘creeping’ exceptions to the prohibition on the use of force, including humanitarian intervention, pro-democratic intervention and the protection of nationals. The criminalisation of aggression is also considered.


This course will have two hours of teaching content each week in Autumn Term. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of Autumn Term.

Formative coursework

One 2,000 word essay.

Indicative reading

A detailed reading list will be issued on Moodle. For a comprehensive textbook, see Christine Gray, International Law and the Use of Force (4th ed., 2018).


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

Key facts

Department: Law School

Total students 2022/23: 23

Average class size 2022/23: 23

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills