International Criminal Law



Mål og innhald

This course provides an opportunity to better understand the contemporary legal frameworks for the prosecution of the most serious crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, for which a person today may be directly responsible under international law.

International criminal law (ICL) is a sub-discipline of public international law, historically rooted in the international and national transitional justice cases (including the famous Nuremberg Judgment) effected in the aftermath of World War II. The Charter of the United Nations (1945), the Nuremberg Principles (1946), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), jointly created a new paradigm of international law. In particular, the individual person was now seen as a possible subject for legal rights and criminal liability directly under international law. Apart from the Genocide Convention (1948), further ICL-developments were for several decades subdued by the Cold War. Since the establishment of the Yugoslavia and Rwanda tribunals in 1993 and 1994 respectively, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 1998, ICL has developed immensely. Yet there are important methodological, institutional and political constraints on the functioning and further developments of ICL.

The course revisits the history of international criminal courts, before discussing the institutional, normative and political context and the special nature of the crimes in question. This includes their sometimes uncertain identification or legal basis. Do these crimes have any common features? How do they differ from other crimes? Is ICL basically a response to mass crimes committed by and through organized power structures like states, military organizations, and other especially powerful entities? Should terrorism, piracy, torture and certain other crimes also part of ICL, or does ICL only concern the so-called «core crimes», such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide? What is the role of the legality principle in this field of law?

After introducing such broader issues and perspectives the course moves on to a more detailed analysis of the substantive crime elements. It focuses specifically on the objective structures and the required mental element of the core universal crime categories: «war crimes», «crimes against humanity» and «genocide». The course will also discuss different ways of perpetrating and participating in universal crimes, and hence the need for extended criminal liability through various legal `modes of participation¿. Personal and structural circumstances excluding liability will also be covered, as will the basic principles of fair international criminal trials.

Since enforcement of criminal liability may also take place in domestic jurisdictions, the course will discuss the legal principles of domestic jurisdiction applicable to universal crimes prosecution (the territorial principle, etc.), as well as the duty of a state to prosecute such crimes, and possible limitations on domestic prosecution and trials (amnesties, statute of limitations, and immunities). The course includes an assessment of the impact of domestic prosecutions on impunity for participants in universal crimes. It concludes on the potential and limitations of international criminal justice.


The course should enable students to understand the mechanism of international criminal law (ICL) and its key concepts. It should make students aware of important legal issues and current challenges pertaining to contemporary ICL.

The course should furthermore enable students to acquire an independent knowledge-base for analyzing, discussing, and eventually pursue further advanced studies or do practical work within this field - internationally or domestically. In particular, the course should enable students to solve concrete legal problems relating to the interpretation and application of core substantive law and related principles, by presenting legal arguments in a balanced and reasoned way.


Full time

Studiepoeng, omfang

10 studiepoeng

Studienivå (studiesyklus)





Bergen Law Faculty
Krav til forkunnskapar

Three years of university studies, including criminal law.

Good command of English; written and spoken.

Tilrådde forkunnskapar
Three years of law studies.
Fagleg overlapp

No overlap with courses at the Law Faculty.

The course combines successfully with JUS276-2-A Human Rights Law: Special Focus on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. (JUS275-2-A) (Any public international law course).


No overlap with courses at the Law Faculty.

The course combines successfully with JUS276-2-A Human Rights Law: Special Focus on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. (JUS275-2-A) (Any public international law course).

Krav til studierett

The course is available for the following students:

  • Admitted to the integrated master programme in law
  • Admitted to the two-year master programme in law
  • Granted admission to elective courses at the Faculty of Law
  • Granted additional right to study following completed master degree in law at UiB
  • Exchange students at the Faculty of Law

The pre-requirements may still limit certain students' access to the course

The number of students admitted to the course is limited to 65.

Arbeids- og undervisningsformer
Lectures and seminars
Undervisningsformer og omfang av organisert undervisning

Lectures and seminars

Obligatorisk undervisningsaktivitet

Exam each semester.

Four hour digital school exam.

Information about digital examination can be found here:

Exam language:

  • Question paper: English
  • Answer paper: English
A - E for passed, F for failed.
Exam each semester.
According to faculty routines.
Hjelpemiddel til eksamen

Support materials allowed during school exam

  • Compendium of allowed material which will be avialable at the Information Centre:


Compendium of Legal Texts for Lectrures and Exam

  • See section 3-5 of the Supplementary Regulations for Studies at the Faculty of Law at the University of Bergen.

Special regulations about dictionaries

  • According to the Regulations for Studies, one dictionary is permitted support material during the examination. Bilingual dictionaries containing for example both Norwegian-English and English-Norwegian are consdered as one dictionary.
  • Bilingual dictionaries to/from the same two languages - for example Norwegian-English/English-Norwegian - in two different volumes are also considered as one dictionary (irrespective of publisher or edition).
  • Dictionaries as described above cannot be combined with any other types of dictionaries.
  • Any kind of combination which makes up more than two physical volumes is forbidden.
Professor Terje Einarsen.