LL4AR      Half Unit
International Criminal Law: Core Crimes and Concepts

This information is for the 2023/24 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 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.

Course content

This course interrogates the rules, concepts, principles, history, institutional architecture, and enforcement of what we call international criminal law or international criminal justice, a law embodied most obviously in three of the core crimes set out in the Rome Statute (crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression). We adopt a historical, philosophical and practical focus throughout, though the teaching is largely 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 in recent times and in Jerusalem in 1961.


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

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

Gerry Simpson “Unprecedents” in Retrials (eds. Immi Tallgren and Thomas Skouteris, Cambridge: 2020)

Gerry Simpson “Epilogue: The Next Hundred Years” in The Oxford Handbook of International Criminal Law. (eds. Kevin Heller, Jens Ohlin, Sarah Nouwen, Fred Megret, Darryl Robinson, Oxford: 2019.

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)


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

Key facts

Department: Law School

Total students 2022/23: 24

Average class size 2022/23: 25

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