Optional courses allow our students to deepen their expertise in a particular issue such as armed non state actors in international law, the conduct of hostilities, enforced disappearances or the Islamic law of armed conflict. Places in the optional courses are limited to 20 in order to guarantee the quality of exchanges and discussions.
This course introduces students to the Islamic law of armed conflict and how it relates to the current conflicts in Muslim contexts. It examines the rules regulating the use of force during both international and non-international armed conflicts under classical Islamic law. Classical Islamic rules providing protection to certain persons and objects and those regulating certain means and methods of warfare are examined in order to find out, first, the impact/challenges surrounding their application in current armed conflict situations and, second, their compatibility with international humanitarian law rules. The course also discusses the distinction between the use of legitimate force and terrorism (both domestic and international) under Islamic law. It analyses the development of the classical Islamic public international law framework and its impact on the issues of the Islamic jus ad bellum and the jurisdiction of Islamic law. The course starts with identifying and defining the Islamic law key concepts, sources, and schools in order to familiarize the students with such a complex and highly technical legal system and understand the extent of its contemporary application.
This course focuses on the study of armed non-state actors in contemporary armed conflicts and how international law regulates their actions. Questions addressed by the course include: What types of actors fall under the scope of international humanitarian law and/or human rights law? What is the impact of counter-terrorism legislation on armed non-state actors? How is humanitarian engagement with these actors possible, including with groups such as ‘Islamic State’ or ‘al-Qaeda’? The course is based on legal theoretical analysis, while also covering key policy considerations.
This course examines the existing international legal framework and jurisprudence on the phenomenon of enforced disappearance. While the main focus is international human rights law, references are made, where pertinent, to international humanitarian law and international criminal law. During the course, the nature, definitions and consequences of the offence of enforced disappearance are analysed and the international legal framework aimed at preventing and punishing it is considered in-depth, discussing the potential pitfalls, and the problems in interpretation and application. The examination of the mandate and the functioning of the main international human rights mechanisms dealing with enforced disappearance is a central part of the course. Special attention will be devoted to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the Committee on Enforced Disappearances. The case law on enforced disappearance developed by the UN Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will also be presented and discussed, to single out landmark judgments and interpretative discrepancies, as well as legal problems that remain to be addressed.
This course examines in depth the international legal standards governing the use of force in police, military and counter-terrorism operations. A series of foundational lectures distinguish the concepts of 'law enforcement' and 'hostilities' and introduce the specific rules and principles governing the use of force in each situation, with a particular focus on 'grey-zone' situations. The second part of the course allows students to directly examine selected operations occurring in present-day reality and present them for discussion in class. The overarching aim of the course is to illustrate and reaffirm the practical relevance of the rule of law with regard to the use of force in the contemporary security environment.
The role and engagement of civil society in transitional justice are ever-developing, with practices and lessons learned over time confirming the essential role that civil society actors play in prompting, engaging in and ensuring the sustainability of transitional justice processes. This course takes a primarily practice-based approach to the subject and will be of importance and value to those from a civil society background, those wishing to work within civil society organizations and those with an interest in the transformative potential of civil society actors. The course will begin with examination of civil society as a transitional justice actor, providing a broad base for in-depth consideration of further issues; it will explore three particular modalities of action in detail (monitoring and documentation of human rights violations; engaging with supra-national mechanisms; and strategic litigation); and will conclude with an assessment of project cycle management, an increasingly vital aspect of the functioning of NGOs today.
This course gives an overview of the role of sexuality and gender identity in international human rights law (e.g. persecution, discrimination, harassment etc.) and international humanitarian law (e.g. sexual violence). Among other things, it will present the existing treaties in the field that address these aspects and will look at existing problems and loopholes. The course also provides an overview of the ‘Jogjakarta Principles’ and recent initiatives by the United Nations (UN) Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. A special emphasis will be put on the taboos in the international discourse and the role of non-state actors, as presented in the UN Standards of Conduct for Business on Tackling Discrimination against LGBTI people.
Disasters caused by natural and technological hazards are a commonplace phenomenon, representing one of the most significant challenges for humanitarian actors and affected communities. Despite their magnitude, as magnified by the current Covid-19 pandemic, the attention of the international community towards the legal implications of disasters has been neglected for a long time, finally resulting in a scattered and heterogenous collection of instruments. This course will thus offer a critical survey of relevant sources, actors, universal and regional institutional frameworks and main legal issues relevant for such scenarios, as: operational challenges related to relief activities; human rights issues in disaster settings; disaster risk reduction or the relationship with other areas, as humanitarian assistance in international humanitarian law. A specific focus will be paid to legal and humanitarian challenges raised by the Covid-19 pandemic. Through frontal lectures, complemented by interactive activities as case-studies and dialogues with practitioners, students can get a proper understanding of the rationale, structure and content of international law rules addressing the prevention, preparedness, response and recovery in the event of disasters and assess their impact for humanitarian actors, international organisations and domestic stakeholders.