This course is designed to provide a general introduction to the international legal process. As the name itself suggests, “inter-national” law has traditionally been understood as the law governing relations among states. States constituted the basic units, and to a large extent the only units, of the international legal and political system. While states are still the most important participants in the international system, non-state actors have come to participate in all stages of the international legal process, and to acquire status, rights and obligations under international law. In addition, the substantive scope of coverage of international law has greatly expanded. Increasingly, international legal norms regulate areas that in the not-too-distant past were deemed to be part and parcel of the domestic jurisdiction and internal affairs of states such as human rights, protection of the environment, trade and monetary policies, labor law, and criminal law. Furthermore, major shifts have also taken place in some of the more “traditional” areas of international law—such as those pertaining to territory and borders, use of force and the law of the sea, and state responsibility. The course will expose you to many substantive areas within international law—such as human rights, international criminal law, the reception of international law within national legal systems and use of force—however learning in depth the black letter rules and doctrines that govern these distinct areas is not the primary goal. Rather, throughout the semester the course will focus on issues pertaining to the formation, interpretation, application, compliance with, and at times even enforcement of, international legal norms and rules.
This course is one of the 1L required international or comparative courses and only available to HLS first-year students.