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Unit information: International Dispute Settlement in 2015/16

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Unit name International Dispute Settlement
Unit code LAWDM0025
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Achilles Skordas
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The unit critically explores the mechanisms of international dispute settlement and discusses the distinction between diplomatic/political and judicial/legal methods of dispute resolution. The class will discuss the means of settlement of disputes under the UN Charter, and will explore the operation of various dispute settlement bodies. Particular weight will be given to the functioning and jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), as one of the unit’s main purpose is to make students familiar with the case-law and judicial policy of the ICJ. The unit also discusses the distinction between judgments and advisory opinions of the ICJ, the content and function of dissenting and separate opinions, as well as the alternative interpretations of the norms in question. Other principles and issues that are discussed include self-determination, the prohibition of genocide, diplomatic protection, immunity, protection of property under international law, and the limits for the use of force in international relations. The unit explores to what the Court as the main judicial body of the international community shapes the evolution of international law, and focuses on the distinction between legal interpretation and judicial policy.

The unit is designed to make students think critically about international dispute settlement and about the distinction between interpretation of law and the structure, sources and function of international law and the relevance of these issues to the resolution of contemporary international problems.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, students are expected to be able to:

1. demonstrate a sound understanding of the different methods of international dispute settlement (for instance, judicial settlement, arbitration, conciliation, mediation);

2. show a good understanding of the different principles underpinning the organization and operation of international adjudication organs, such as the International Court of Justice, the WTO Dispute Settlement System, the European Court of Human Rights and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea;

3. show an understanding of the case-law of the respective international courts and tribunals;

4. make a reasoned critique of the case-law of international adjudication organs, taking into consideration the dissenting and separate opinions.

Teaching details

11, 2 hour seminars

Assessment Details

One three-hour closed book examination in May/June, in which students answer 3 questions from a choice of 8.

The assessment will assess all the Intended Learning Outcomes for this unit.

Formative - students should do one formative assessment and may do two

Reading and References

1. Merrills, International Dispute Settlement, (5th ed CUP 2011)

2. Evans (ed) International Law (4th edition, OUP, 2007)

3. Shaw, International Law (7th ed. OUP 2014)

4. Crawford, Brownlie’s Principles of Public International Law (8th ed., OUP 2012)

5. Simma (ed.), The Charter of the United Nations – A commentary (3rd ed., OUP 2012)