LL4E6      Half Unit
International Dispute Resolution: Courts and Tribunals

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 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.

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

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

Increasingly, international law is developed, applied and amended through litigation in international, regional and domestic courts. In this course, we examine key courts and tribunals operating on the world stage, including the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the European Court of Human Rights and the WTO Dispute Settlement Body. We look at the theory, politics and practical difficulties of international dispute resolution in these courts. 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 analyse 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, specialisation 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.


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

Formative coursework

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, reading time: 15 minutes) in the spring exam period.

Key facts

Department: Law School

Total students 2022/23: 29

Average class size 2022/23: 29

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