This course shall provide an introduction to the subject of public international law. It shall address the background, subjects and sources of international law; states and international organizations as subjects of international law; state jurisdiction over individuals, land, water and outer space; state responsibility for violations of international law; state and diplomatic immunities; the system of the United Nations; and lawful use of force. During classes, current affairs will be discussed and analyzed.

Public International Law is composed of the laws, rules, and principles of general application that deal with the conduct of nation states and international organizations among themselves as well as the relationships between nation states and international organizations with persons, whether natural or juridical. Public International Law is sometimes called the "law of nations" or just simply International Law. It should not be confused with Private International Law, which is primarily concerned with the resolution of conflict of laws in the international setting, determining the law of which country is applicable to specific situations. In researching this field of law the researcher must also be aware of Comparative Law, the study of differences and similarities between the laws of different countries. Comparative Law is the study of the different legal systems in existence in the world, i.e; common law, civil law, socialist law, Islamic law, Hindu law, and Chinese law.

This module is an in-depth exploration of the foundations and core rules and principles of public international law, including key systemic concerns such as fragmentation and constitutionalisation. 

International law has a range of specialist fields or subject areas which are taught as modules in the LLB programme – including, among numerous examples, international human rights law, international environmental law, and international investment law. But international law also has a ‘general’ part, which applies across all of these specialisms.

Any international lawyer must understand not only their specialist area of practice, but also the general international law framework which gives their subject its foundations and within which the specialist subject areas operate. The general rules of international law are, however, more than merely a framework – they remain the most important rules for many of the most significant problems and disputes in international law.

This module provides an overview and analysis of the core general rules and principles of international law, exploring these rules and principles in both their historical and modern contexts. It does not require previous knowledge of international law, but it will examine the material in more depth and with a more critical perspective than undergraduate treatments. There is a focus on the key contemporary problems and issues, and on the shifts in international law over the last 100 years which inform current debates.

It also seeks to examine broader themes in the historical development of international law – for example, the extent to which international law is modelled on the idea of ‘private law’ between sovereign states (including, for example, treaties as inter-state contracts), and the extent to which it is an emerging legal system, reliant also on public law ideas (including, for example, the role of peremptory norms as fundamental principles, or the debate about whether international law is undergoing ‘constitutionalisation’).

The module will benefit any student who would like to develop further their understanding of international law’s core principles, including particularly students taking one or more of the specialist modules in international law who, wisely, would also like to enhance their knowledge and understanding of general international law.