LAW 7170 - Public International Law

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2023

This course provides students with an understanding of the system of public international law which regulates relations between actors on the global stage. Students will be provided with a foundation in the nature of international law, covering the following: sources of international law, in particular centering on treaty law; customary international law, general principles of law and soft law; interpretation, negotiation and compliance; and the relationship between international law and Australian domestic law. This foundational knowledge of public international law will then be applied to a selection of topics in the field. Topics covered in any given iteration of the course will be drawn from the following: statehood and state responsibility; territory and legal personality; subjectivity in the international legal system (states, non-state actors, institutions, groups, individuals and corporations); jurisdiction and immunity; human rights law; the United Nations system and the International Court of Justice; the Security Council and the law on the use of force; international humanitarian law; the law of the sea and international dispute resolution; business and human rights; the European Union and international law; and the law of international development cooperation.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code LAW 7170
    Course Public International Law
    Coordinating Unit Adelaide Law School
    Term Semester 1
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Intensive
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites Students without a Bachelor of Laws must have completed LAW 7177
    Incompatible LAW 2520 and LAW 1508
    Assessment Refer to information in the Course Outline
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Joshua Curtis

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

    This course is taught intensively over 5 days.

    On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, the timetable will be (roughly) 9-11am (topic 1 for the day), 12-2pm (topic 2 for the day), and 3-5pm (topic 3 for the day).

    On Wednesday, there are no formal classes - this is the day students will start to refine their essay topic, and I will be available for consultation to assist in this process.

    In advance of the course, students will be given access to online lectures which should be watched in preparation for the classes - the material covered in the lectures will be the assumed foundation on which the classes are built (and will not be repeated at the classes).

    Because of the intensive nature of the course, it will be of paramount importance for students to ensure that they are able to devote sufficient time to their studies in the lead-up to the classes, and especially during the week of classes. Each teaching day is the equivalent of 3 weeks of a 12-week semester-length course, both in terms of classroom time but also (and more importantly) in terms of the time needed for reading and preparation.
  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes

    On successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

    1 Develop a knowledge of the nature of public international law and the structure of the international legal system
    2 Define and apply the basic elements of public international law - its sources and subjects, the recognition and jurisdiction of States in international law and principles of State responsibility
    3 Develop a knowledge of several key areas of ‘public international law’ including the law surrounding the use of force and human rights and treaty interpretation.
    4 Develop a knowledge of how international law influences the development and adaptation of Australian domestic law through legislative, executive and judicial action
    5 Critically examine the operation and application of international law in practical contexts
    6 Develop effective skills, both orally and in writing, in the construction of legal argument and the independent and self directed analysis on issues of international law
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)

    Attribute 1: Deep discipline knowledge and intellectual breadth

    Graduates have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their subject area, the ability to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice including in multi-disciplinary or multi-professional contexts.


    Attribute 2: Creative and critical thinking, and problem solving

    Graduates are effective problems-solvers, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.


    Attribute 3: Teamwork and communication skills

    Graduates convey ideas and information effectively to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes and contribute in a positive and collaborative manner to achieving common goals.


    Attribute 4: Professionalism and leadership readiness

    Graduates engage in professional behaviour and have the potential to be entrepreneurial and take leadership roles in their chosen occupations or careers and communities.


    Attribute 5: Intercultural and ethical competency

    Graduates are responsible and effective global citizens whose personal values and practices are consistent with their roles as responsible members of society.


    Attribute 6: Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural competency

    Graduates have an understanding of, and respect for, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander values, culture and knowledge.


    Attribute 7: Digital capabilities

    Graduates are well prepared for living, learning and working in a digital society.


    Attribute 8: Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

    Graduates are self-aware and reflective; they are flexible and resilient and have the capacity to accept and give constructive feedback; they act with integrity and take responsibility for their actions.

  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    core readings will be available via my uni under each  teaching module.
    Recommended Resources
    The law library has an extensive collection of international law textbooks, many of which are held on Reserve. I would recommend starting with the following texts if you require further information on one of the topics addressed in the course:
    • James Crawford, Brownlie’s Principles of Public International Law (Oxford University Press, 8th ed, 2012).
    • Donald R Rothwell et al, International Law: Cases and Materials with Australian Perspectives (Cambridge University Press, 2011).
    • Gillian D Triggs, International Law: Contemporary Principles and Practices (LexisNexis Butterworths, 2nd ed, 2010).
    • Vaughan Lowe, International Law (Oxford University Press, 2007).
    • Malcolm N Shaw, International Law (Cambridge University Press, 6th ed, 2008).
    • Peter Malanczuk (ed), Akehurst’s Modern Introduction to International Law (Routledge, 7th rev ed, 1997).
    • Donald K Anton, Penelope Mathew and Wayne Morgan, International Law: Cases and Materials (Oxford University Press, 2005).
    • Sam Blay, Ryszard Piotrowicz and Martin Tsamenyi, Public International Law: An Australian Perspective (Oxford University Press, 2nd ed, 2005).
    • Robert Jennings and Arthur Watts (eds), Oppenheim’s International Law (Longman, 9th ed, 1992).
    • David Harris, Cases and Materials on International Law (Sweet and Maxwell, 7th ed, 2010).
    • Anthony E Cassimatis et al, An Australian Companion to Harris (Lawbook Co, 2nd ed, 2011).
    • Martin Dixon, Textbook on International Law (Oxford University Press, 6thed, 2007).
    • Antonio Cassese, International Law (Oxford University Press, 2nd ed, 2005).
    • Australian Guide to Legal Citation (Melbourne University Law Review Association, 3rd ed, 2010)
    Online Learning
    MyUni will be used to post announcements, lecture materials  and announce assignment tasks.  It will also contain electronic copies of the Course Profile and Course Materials. 

    Students are expected to check MyUni regularly to keep up to date with these materials and additional learning resources throughout the course.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    For most topics, the first hour will be devoted to an interactive discussion of either an important case on that topic or of a relevant article or commentary addressing that topic, while the second will involve discussion of questions (both conceptual and practical/problem-based) on the topic.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    Contact time: Students will attend 24 hours of contact time in the week the course is taught.

    Preparation time: In addition to attending formal classes it is anticipated that students will do substantial independent work to prepare for classes and to complete the course assignments, including through watching pre-recorded lectures in advance of the classes.
    Learning Activities Summary
    Public International Law - Topic Outline
    9-11am 12-2pm 3-5pm
    Monday Nature and Development of International Law; Customary International Law The Law of Treaties; General Principles, Soft Law and Subsidiary Sources Case Study: Military and Paramilitary Activities In and Against Nicaragua
    Tuesday State Responsibility Subjects of International Law, Statehood and Legal Personality Jurisdiction and Immunity
    Thursday Territory and Seas The International Law of Human Rights; Diplomatic Protection Relationship between International Law and Australian Law
    Friday Introduction to the United Nations Organisation Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes Use of Force and the Security Council
    Specific Course Requirements
    Because of the interactive nature of classes in this course and the complexity of material covered, students are very strongly encouraged to attend all classes. Assessment is based heavily on the content of the material covered in classes and, as such, final marks will almost certainly suffer significantly if classes are not attended.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Item % of Final Mark Due Date Redeemable?
    Class Participation (Compulsory) 10% N/A No.
    Current Issues Analysis, 1,500 word limit (Optional) 25% To be advised on MyUni site at start of semester Yes.
    Research Essay, 5,500 word limit*, from a list of approved topics (Compulsory) 65% or 90% To be advised on MyUni site at start of semester N/A
    *Students who have completed the Current Issues Analysis and received a mark of at least 50% for that assessment may apply to the Course Coordinator for approval to submit a Research Essay of 4,000 words.
    Assessment Detail
    1. Participation (10%, Compulsory, NOT Redeemable)

    In order for our interactive class discussions to be as productive as possible, 10% of each student's final grade will relate to their participation in classes. Students will be assessed both of the quality and quantity of their contributions. Mere attendance without active participation will receive zero marks.

    2. Current Issues Analysis (25%, Optional, Redeemable)

    International law is an exciting field in which new challenges are always presented. Students are invited to prepare a legal analysis of current issues in international law raised in newspaper or internet article(s) on a public international law topic and originally published in the 12 months prior to the course commencing.

    3. Research Essay (65% or 90%, Compulsory)

    The primary assessment in this course will be a research essay, to be chosen from a list of approved topics (or on a topic approved by the Course Coordinator on application).
    Students will be expected to comply with the submission requirements stated in the assessment information that is provided on MyUni.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

    The course is constantly being updated and revised to reflect the evolution of the law, to respond to student feedback, and to engage with the latest teaching practices. Student feedback is collected each time the course is run, including through SELT reports. Previous SELT reports, and staff feedback on them, are posted on the course MyUni site for students to view and consider.
  • Student Support
    The University Writing Centre provides academic learning and language development services and resources for local, international, undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students enrolled at the University of Adelaide.

    The centre offers practical advice and strategies for students to master reading, writing, note-taking, time management, oral presentation skills, referencing techniques and exam preparation for success at university through seminars, workshops and individual consultations.

    Lex Salus Program
    Lex Salus (law and wellbeing) is an initiative of the Adelaide Law School aimed at destigmatising mental health issues; promoting physical, mental and emotional wellness; building a strong community of staff and students; and celebrating diversity within the school. It also seeks to promote wellness within the legal profession, through the involvement of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia, the Honourable Chris Kourakis, as the official Patron of the program.

    Students can participate in the Lex Salus program by attending barbecue lunches, pancake breakfasts, knitting and crochet circles, seminars, guest speakers, conferences and other activities. Our Facebook page, website and regular all-student emails promote upcoming events, and have tips and information on wellness.

    Our Lex Salus YouTube channel also includes videos on topics like managing stress, and interviews with LGBTQ lawyers and their supporters which celebrate diversity and individuality. Students who commit to 10 hours of volunteering with Lex Salus in one year can have their service recognised on their academic transcript and through a thank you morning tea with the Chief Justice and law school staff.

    Student Life Counselling Support
    The University’s Student Life Counselling Support service provides free and confidential service to all enrolled students. We encourage you to contact the Student Life Counselling Support service on 8313 5663 to make an appointment to deal with any issues that may be affecting your study and life.
  • Policies & Guidelines

    This section contains links to relevant assessment-related policies and guidelines - all university policies.

    Academic Integrity
    All students must be familiar with the University’s Academic Integrity Policy. Academic Misconduct is a serious matter and is treated as such by the Law School and the University. Academic Misconduct (which goes beyond plagiarism) can be a ground for a refusal by the Supreme Court of South Australia to admit a person to practice as a legal practitioner in South Australia. Academic Integrity is an essential aspect of ethical and honest behaviour, which is central to the practice of the law and an understanding of what it is to be a lawyer.
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.