Seminar on International Courts
LAW 738 -- Fall 2011
John Heywood and Chris Brantley

Course Syllabus


I. Course Description

Introduction to the practice of international courts and arbitral tribunals and their role in the development of international law. Offered in a seminar format using lectures, case-studies, and class exercises as teaching methods, the course will outline the evolution and structure of international tribunals, examine the development of international legal principles by international tribunals with reference to "sources" methodology, and discuss issues concerning the effectiveness and future role of international courts in the development of international law.

II. Course Goals

  1. Introduce students to the historical evolution, structure, and function of international tribunals within the international legal system.

  2. Reinforce students' conceptual understanding of the sources of international law and their inter-relationships.

  3. Examine selected international legal issues and modes of legal argumentation using class exercises simulating international judicial dispute resolution.

  4. Outline issues concerning the effectiveness of international tribunals as dispute resolution mechanisms and their future.

III. Office Hours, Telephone Numbers, E-Mail, Textbooks, and the Ubiquitous Website

John's office is in Room 115 (inside the Law Library). His office hours are Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. John will also be available for a short time after class, and by special appointment. John's office telephone is 202-274-4329, and his home telephone is 301-445-7488. He has children who go to bed early, so please be considerate. His email address is:

Chris works downtown for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (2001 L Street, N.W., Suite 700) He will be available after class, and you can telephone to make arrangements to meet with him in his office. Chris's office telephone is 202-530-8349, and his home telephone is 301-439-7729. His email address is:

Like everything these days, we have a website:

Some of the course content will also be on MyWCl.

We have adopted three textbooks for the Seminar. The required reading for this class will come from these three books and also from materials on our website. In addition, we will post additional materials, reference sources, and other useful items of interest to the class. We have also listed two books as recommended reading.

The three required textbooks are:

The two recommended books are:

These books are available in the campus bookstore or the web. Remember, the web can often get you better prices than the bookstore, so it pays to check around. At least one copy of Merrills, Schabas, and Volcansek, and many copies of Janis and Volokh, will also be placed on 2-hour Reserve in the Law Library. The additional materials are available only on the website, and are thus free-of-charge. For copyright reasons, the materials portion of the website is password-protected. Your username and password are on the Seminar's my.WCL page, and will be given to you in class as well.

You are required to check your email regularly for this class. We will pose discussion questions, post important announcements (which will also be posted on the website), and answer your questions related to the course or any of its topics. Participation online will count toward your class participation grade.

IV. Course Requirements

70 % Scholarly Paper: (30+ pages, exclusive of notes, double-spaced with one inch margins) based on a topic relating to the role of an international tribunal(s) in the development of international law. A written topic proposal must be presented for approval by 6 September 2011. A research plan is due in class on 20 September 2011. An outline is due in class on 4 October 2011. A rough draft is due in class on 25 October 2011. The paper will satisfy the W.C.L. Upper Level Writing Requirement.

The rough draft will be exchanged with a fellow student for peer evaluation and suggestions.

For the final draft, you must submit one electronic copy (no paper copies!) to John's email address, The final paper is due on 17 December 2011. Any paper that receives the grade of A or A- will be placed on the International Courts website permanently (not password protected), unless you request otherwise.

The paper must be submitted in a word processing format, such as OpenDocument (LibreOffice & OpenOffice are two word processors that save in this format), Microsoft Word, or WordPerfect. Please do not submit it in an image format (jpg, tiff, etc.) or in PDF format, as we cannot make comments on them. If you have any questions about the appropriateness of your format choice, please ask us.

Failure to submit a topic proposal, a research plan, an outline, or a rough draft on time will adversely effect your grade for the paper, We will lower your final paper grade by a partial letter grade for any of these requirements for which we feel you have not made a good-faith effort.

20 % Class Presentation: An informal short topic presentation to the class early in the semester and a 20 minute major class presentation on paper topic at the end of the semester. The grade will be based on the following factors: preparation, organization, grasp of topic, effective use of time, and responsiveness to questions.

10 % Class Participation: evaluation of attendance, preparation for and participation in assigned discussions, preparation for and participation in class room discussion, and participation in the online discussion. Approximately 30 minutes of each class (except the ones reserved for class presentations) will be spent discussing specific current issues and events from an international law and international dispute resolution perspective. Students will be assigned topics at least one week in advance to research. The assigned students will serve as discussion leaders for the class on their topics. These presentations will be evaluated as part of the overall class participation grade.

V. Attendance

All students are expected to attend and participate in classes. More than three unexcused absences will result in entry of a failing grade for the course.

VI. Late Papers and Plagiarism

VI. Late papers and Plagiarism

Late Papers

Papers are due in John Heywood's email account ( no later than 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, 17 December 2011. If you are graduating this December, you MUST get your paper in by this date in order to graduate (and earlier would be even better). We need time to read and evaluate your work before assigning a grade. If you miss this deadline, we may not be able to turn your grade in to the Registrar in time for you to graduate.

Papers turned in after this date and time without a previously approved extension will be penalized one parital letter grade for every day after the due date. A partial letter grade is the step between any of the following grades: A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, D, F. The day ends at 5:00 p.m.

Example: A paper is turned in at 5:45 p.m. on Monday, 19 December 2011, without a pre-approved extension. If the paper had been turned in on time, it would have received a B+. The paper was effectively handed in on Tuesday, 20 December 2011, and is thus 3 days late. It receives the grade of C+.

Short extensions for worthy causes, such as computer failure, family emergency, my dog ate my disk/paper, etc., will be granted with no penalty if you apply for it before the time the paper is due. (i.e., If you are printing out your paper 10 minutes before 5:00 p.m. on the seventeenth of December and your computer dies, call us immediately.) These extensions will be very short in duration; no more than a day or two.

Plagiarism and Related Problems

Everyone knows that plagiarism is wrong, but not everyone is clear exactly what plagiarism is. It is more than just copying the work of another without attribution. For your edification and delight, we have listed the various forms of plagiarism in descending order of gravity, from classic absolute plagiarism to that closer to the grey area between plagiarism and sloppy scholarship. All of them should be avoided. Non-de minimus plagiarism will be punished. It will result in zero points for the paper, and thus an F for the course. The case will also be turned over to the Office of Student Affairs for prosecution under the W.C.L. Honor Code.

VII. Class Outline

International Courts is a very dynamic field these days; as a result, we reserve the right to change the readings and the topics covered as the seminar progresses. To give everyone a fair chance to do the reading, we will freeze the assignments for a particular class one week before that class.

Please note that the readings may change from what is listed in the syllabus at any time up to one week before the indicated class.

Class 1 - Introduction to Course
23 August 2011

Class 2 - The Role of International Tribunals in the International Legal System
30 August 2011

Class 3 - International Law in Municipal Legal Systems
6 September 2011

Class 4 - Dispute Resolution in the Russo-Georgia War
13 September 2011

Class 5 - International Court of Justice and Its Predecessors
20 September 2011

Class 6 - Regional & Specialized Courts in the International Legal System
27 September 2011

Class 7 - Human Rights and International Courts
4 October 2011

Class 8 - International Criminal Tribunals, Part I
11 October 2011

Class 9 - International Criminal Tribunals, Part II
18 October 2011

Class 10 - Adjudicatory Dispute Resolution Mechanisms in the International Legal System
25 October 2011

Class 11 - The Challenge of Terrorism, Non-State Actors, and Rogue States, and Seminar Conclusion
1 November 2011

Classes 12 to 14 - Class Presentations
8 November, 15 November, & 22 November 2011

VIII. Supplemental Readings

Over the years we have taught this seminar, we have found more materials than even the most manically-obsessed student of international courts could ever hope to read in one semester. Many of them are readings we would love to assign, but feel that students might object to reading 500 pages for each class. We list below the ones we no longer use as required readings, broken down by class topic, to serve as research starting points for those doing papers in these subjects.