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Spring 2025 Course

International Counterterrorism Law and its Discontents

Prerequisite: Public International Law

Exam Type: One-Day Take Home

Do contemporary counterterrorism approaches fit within or frustrate existing international law? This course will explore the relationships between public international law (especially use of force, international humanitarian law/law of armed conflict, and international human rights law) and the growing set of legal obligations, policies, and resources aimed at suppressing and punishing acts of terrorism. We will unpack what assumptions and normative commitments underpin counterterrorism approaches and study how those constitutive elements may be deployed in ways that can constrain or expand possible futures for international law. We will examine how, particularly after September 11, 2001, global approaches to countering terrorism may weaken or strengthen – or disorient or redirect – existing international legal frameworks and multilateral institutions.

Readings will draw from a variety of primary sources (including terrorism-suppression treaties, United Nations Security Council resolutions, and select municipal legislative and enforcement frameworks) as well as limited secondary literature. The course will focus on real-world interpretive dilemmas, legal challenges to counterterrorism approaches, and related complex decision-making.