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Unit information: International Law and the Use of Force in 2014/15

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Unit name International Law and the Use of Force
Unit code LAWDM0111
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

Description including Unit Aims

The unit explores the theory and practice of the international law of force, and considers the relevant rules of the UN Charter and of customary international law. It also discusses the authority of the UN Security Council under Chapter VII, and the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice, and of municipal courts. The unit also examines the various forms of recourse to force, including self-defence, reprisals, aggression, armed attack, and intervention, as well as the policy of targeted killing, as carried out by the United States and Israel. It also explores legal and policy-related dimensions of contemporary conflicts, including Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, Georgia, Somalia, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Ukraine.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the academic year, a successful student will be able to explain: a) the various layers of regulation of force (UN Charter, customary international law, b) the role and function of the UN Security Council and of the International Court of Justice, c) different forms of legal, illegal, or legitimate forms of recourse to the use of force. Students will also be able to assess the instances of recourse to force regarding their legality, and advise policy-makers on the decisions they have to make, and on the alternatives they face (unilateral or multilateral action, ex ante or ex post authorization from the UNSC). Students will be able to state international law accurately, apply the relevant rules and principles in situations of conflict, and think critically about the role of force in contemporary international relations, including the 'war on terror'.

Teaching Information

Eleven two-hour seminars

Assessment Information

Summative - One three-hour closed book examination in May/June, in which students answer 3 questions from a choice of 8 questions. Formative - students should do one formative assessment and may do two.

Reading and References

  • Dinstein, War, Aggression and Self-Defence, (5th ed, CUP, 2012)
  • Gray, International Law and the Use of Force, (3rd ed, Oxford, 2008)
  • Simma, The Charter of the United Nations (3rd ed., OUP, 2012)
  • Franck, Recourse to Force (OUP, 2002)
  • de Wet, The Chapter VII Powers of the United Nations Security Council (Hart 2004)
  • Brownlie, International Law and the Use of Force by States, (Oxford, 1963)
  • Evans, International Law Documents, (Blackstone’s, OUP, 10th edition, 2011)