Instructor(s): Payam Akhavan

Note: This course satisfies the International/Comparative/Transnational course requirement.

The Quercus program will be used for this course. 

The Holocaust “explode[s] the limits of law” Hannah Arendt famously wrote; for the Nazi genocide “no punishment is severe enough”.  Yet, the prevalent conception of justice is based on the Nuremberg Judgment’s premise that “only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced.”  This intensive course explores the potential and limits of international criminal law as a response to mass-atrocities, focusing on the global system established by the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Topics covered include: (1) retribution, deterrence, and other purposes of punishment, in the context of radical evil; (2) the historical shift from State-centric to human-centric conceptions of international law; (3) the emergence of international criminal jurisdictions, from “victor’s justice” at Nuremberg, to the ad hoc UN tribunals for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR), to the permanent ICC with global reach; (4) differences and similarities between national and international crimes; (5) the definition of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and aggression; (6) the general principles of attribution – common purpose, accessory liability, command responsibility, superior orders, duress, etc. – in the context of systemic criminality and organizational policy; (7) national prosecutions of international crimes under the “complementarity” principle; (8) amnesties, immunities, and the “peace versus justice” debate in transitional contexts; (9) reconciling global punitive justice in “The Hague bubble” with local access and victim participation; and (10) contrasts with victim-centred restorative justice, grassroots truth-telling, and collective healing.

Students will be evaluated based on a mid-term paper (20%), class participation (10%) and a final 3-hour open-book exam (70%).
Academic year
2022 - 2023

At a Glance

Second Term



35 JD


W: 9:30 am - 12:20 pm