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IR5048   International Law and International Security

Academic year(s): 2024-2025

Key information

SCOTCAT credits : 30

ECTS credits : 15

Level : SCQF level 11

Semester: 2

Planned timetable: Tuesdays 2.00pm - 4.00pm

Some scholars doubt international law’s relevance, particularly when it comes to international security, because there is no enforcement authority in international affairs. Other scholars have identified mechanisms through which international law can tame power and affect decision-making in security matters. This course discusses these different views. Topics include the emergence of international law, compliance, the relationship between international law and power, the (in)dependent agency of international courts and tribunals, and small states’ influence on international law. We will discuss a wide variety of case studies from security affairs, including the establishment and contestation of the International Criminal Court, the design of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, the campaign to legalise compensation for civilians accidentally harmed in acts of war as well as recent decisions to use force (Russia-Ukraine War, 2003 Iraq War, 2011 no-fly zone over Libya).

Learning and teaching methods and delivery

Weekly contact: 2 hr seminar (x 11 weeks)

Scheduled learning hours: 22

Guided independent study hours: 270

Assessment pattern

As used by St Andrews: 50% coursework and 50% written examination

Re-assessment: 100% written examination


Module coordinator: Dr A T Stimmer
Module teaching staff: Dr Anette Stimmer

Intended learning outcomes

  • Be able to analyse the politics behind international law
  • Be able to understand how different international relations theories conceptualise the emergence and use of international law in security affairs
  • Be able to critically evaluate whether international law can influence security decisions
  • Be able to apply theories about international law to a range of different topis in international security affairs
  • Be able to critically examine how different actors use international law to further their interests and values in security affairs
  • Be able to understand the nuanced relationship between international law and (material) power