International Criminal Law - Master



Mål og innhald

This course provides an opportunity to better understand the contemporary legal frameworks for the prosecution of the most serious crimes, including the crime of aggression, 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. The 1949 Geneva Conventions on rights and obligations towards society, civilians, and prisoners of war, during occupation and armed conflict, complemented this framework. 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 current international law under the Rome Statute of the ICC is central to this course.

The course revisits the history of international criminal courts, before discussing the institutional, normative, and political context as well as the special nature of the crimes in question. This includes their sometimes-uncertain identification or legal basis for possibly emerging new international crimes. Do all 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 become part of ICL, or does ICL only concern the so-called «core crimes», such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide? Why has it been so difficult to prosecute crimes of aggression since Nuremberg? What is the role of the legality principle in this field of law from the Nuremberg judgment to contemporary ICL?

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: «the crime of aggression», «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 (territorial jurisdiction, nationality jurisdiction, etc.). The course may to some extent discuss other subjects, such as the duty of a state to extradite offenders or prosecute such crimes, cooperation with the ICC, and possible limitations on domestic prosecution and trials (amnesties, statute of limitations, and immunities). The course includes discussion and assessment of the potential and limitations of international criminal justice.



The course provides for good knowledge of the basic features of international criminal law (ICL), its historical development and the current law under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). 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 enable students to solve concrete legal problems relating to the interpretation and application of core substantive law and related legal principles, by presenting legal arguments in a balanced, methodologically sound, and reasoned way.

By the end of the course the students should be able to

  • cooperate with law students from other countries, and gain perspectives on common legal challenges from students from a legal background different than their own
  • contribute with perspectives from their own country and legal background.

General competence

The course should enable students to acquire an independent knowledgebase for analyzing and discussing legal issues within ICL. It should also provide a sound basis for pursuing further advanced studies of ICL and for doing practical work within this field pending additional professional training - internationally or domestically.

By the end of the course the students should also be able to present and evaluate legal analyses and points of view in English, both orally and in writing.

Studiepoeng, omfang


Studienivå (studiesyklus)



Autumn semester.


Faculty of Law, University of Bergen
Krav til forkunnskapar
Three years of law studies, including criminal law.
Tilrådde forkunnskapar
Good level of English language

Combined with the former course JUS288-2-A International Criminal Law, this course will generate no new credits.

The course combines successfully with

JUS2307 Introduction to European Human Rights Law

JUS2306 Fair Trials in Europe

JUS2313/JUS3513 Human Rights and Welfare Policies

JUS2318/JUS3518 Law of Armed Conflict

JUS2311/JUS3511 International Climate Law

Krav til studierett

The course is available for the following students:

  • Admitted to the five-year master programme in law
  • Admitted to the two-year master programme in law
  • Exchange students at the Faculty of Law

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

The number of students which can be admitted to the course is limited to 64. Of the 64 places, 32 are initially reserved for students from the two-year and five-year master programme in law (MAJUR, MAJUR-2), while 32 places are initially reserved for international exchange students at the Faculty of Law. The places within either of these two groups may be increased if there are less than 32 applicants in the other group.

If the number of applicants exceeds capacity, admission will be decided by way of lottery within each category of students.

Arbeids- og undervisningsformer
Lectures and seminars
Obligatorisk undervisningsaktivitet

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.


Students who do not pass the examination may re-sit in the following semester when the examination result is due to

  • legitimate reason for non-attendance (see Section 3-4, paragraph 3 b ii in the Supplementary Regulations)
  • failed result

For rules regarding voluntary re-sit, see Section 3-4, paragraph 1 c.

The reading list will be ready 1st July for the autumn semester.
According to the administrative arrangements for course evaluation at the Faculty of Law
Hjelpemiddel til eksamen

Students may bring their own copy of a bilingual dictionary to/from English and any other language, in one or two volumes.
For further info see section 3-9 of the Supplementary Regulations for Studies at the Faculty of Law at the University of Bergen.

In addition: Compendium of legal texts for lectures and exam supplied by the Faculty of Law

The Academic Affairs Committee (Studieutvalget) at the Faculty of Law is responsible for ensuring the material content, structure and quality of the course.
Professor Terje Einarsen
Administrativt ansvarleg
The Faculty of Law's section for students and academic affairs (Studieseksjonen) is responsible for administering the programme.