Marymount University

  2807 North Glebe Road  Arlington, Virginia  22207-4299      (703) 284-1560        FAX (703) 284-3859


                School  of

Arts and Sciences



 Course Number

POL/HI 337

Course Title

International Law

 Fall Semester


 Spring Semester






Name of Instructor

William Miller


Meeting Day, Time, and Room Number

Wednesday, 3:30pm, Butler G123


Final Exam Day, Time, and Room Number

Wednesday, December 14th , 3:00pm, Butler G123


Office Hours, Location, Phone

Tuesdays and Fridays, 10:00 to 11:00, 1:00 to 2:00pm; Wednesdays, 3:00 to 3:30pm and after class; other times by appointment. Ireton G107, 703-284-1687. Always email ahead of time!

 E-mail and Website (Email is the best way to reach me!)  (All announcements and assignments are posted here, not on Blackboard.)




Academic Integrity

By accepting this syllabus, you pledge to uphold the principles of Academic Integrity expressed by the Marymount University Community. You agree to observe these principles yourself and to defend them against abuse by others.

Special Needs and Accommodations

Please advise the instructor of any special problems or needs at the beginning of the semester.  If you seek accommodation based on disabilities, you should provide a Faculty Contact Sheet obtained through Disability Support Services located in Gerard Hall, (703) 284-1615.

Access to Student Work

Copies of your work in this course including copies of any submitted papers and your portfolios may be kept on file for institutional research, assessment and accreditation purposes. All work used for these purposes will be submitted anonymously. 

Student Copyright Authorization

For the benefit of current and future students, work in this course may be used for educational critique, demonstrations, samples, presentations, and verification.  Outside of these uses, work shall not be sold, copied, broadcast, or distributed for profit without student consent. 

University Policy on Snow Closings

Snow closings are generally announced on area radio stations. For bulletins concerning Marymount snow or weather closings, call (703) 526-6888. Unless otherwise advised by radio announcement or by official bulletins on the number listed above, students are expected to report for class as near normal time as possible on days when weather conditions are adverse. Decisions as to snow closing or delayed opening are not generally made before 5:00 AM of the working day. Students are expected to attend class if the University is not officially closed. 




The course is an introduction to the study of international law. It examines the history and sources of international law, the scope of international legal regulation, and the effectiveness of international law, with special attention to the problems of war and international economic transactions.



2.    COURSE OBJECTIVES  (For core courses, include writing, critical reasoning, and information literacy as appropriate)


Upon successful completion of this course students will be expected to:


(a) be able to summarize the principal writers and events that contributed to the development of international law;

(b) be able to identify the main authoritative sources of international law and to explain the rationale for their legal authority;

(c) be able to identify the principal issues with which international law deals and to identify and explain the leading court opinions, treaties, and executive agreements that address those issues;

(d) be able to discuss the relative effectiveness of international legal regulation of the aforesaid issues, as opposed to alternative modes of international dispute resolution;

(e) be able to identify the principal legal norms regulating the conduct of war and to discuss their effectiveness over the past two centuries;

(f) be able to identify the principal legal norms regulating international economic transactions and to discuss their effectiveness to date;

(g) be able to analyze and brief court opinions on international legal issues; and,

(h) be able to write essays and short papers that soundly argue or effectively describe and explain various aspects of the subject matter of the course.   


3.    TEACHING METHOD   (lecture, laboratory, audio-visual, clinical experience, discussion, seminar, tutorial)


Lecture and class discussion; individual research into assigned issues. Frequent quizzes.


The exams, mid-term and final, will be blue book essay question exams based on the course material. The issue papers are short (three to five pages) papers that require students to research the events leading up to an assigned or approved international law issue. Typically, the paper will focus on a case, the judicial or political resolution of that case, and the long term effects of that resolution. Each is due the week after we have completed the course coverage of material relevant to subject matter of the issue paper.


4.    GRADING POLICY  (i.e., number of graded assignments, weight given to each)


Mid-term exam:                              25%

Lower Issue Paper #1                     10%

Higher Issue Paper #2                    20%

Final Exam                                    25%

Class Preparation and Quizzes       20%


The usual scale of 90-100%=A, 80-89%=B, 70-79%=C, 60-69%=D, and 59% and below=F will be applied to all graded work.


Attendance, Late Paper, and Make-up Exam Policies



Attendance: Beginning with the second week of classes, students are allowed one unexcused absence. For each additional unexcused absence, the final grade will be lowered by two points. To be excused, an absence must be explained to and approved by me before it occurs; it basically must be for a documentable reason. Note: Occasionally coming to class late—even real late once or twice—is not considered an absence. Coming to class without the textbook or leaving class after taking an announced quiz without the prior permission of the instructor, however, is considered an absence.


Merely informing me ahead of time that you will be absent from class does not mean I excuse the absence, though I appreciate your courtesy. I will not excuse your absence because you are simply not feeling well or because you choose to do something worthwhile other than come to class even if you inform me ahead of time. If you are coughing and sneezing and coming down with a cold or the flu, and you don't want to spread your virus to your classmates, I (and they) salute you! Staying home may be the right thing to do, but it is not an excused absence. You all get three unexcused absences to use as you see fit, and it is your decision to use them to stay home when you don't feel well or want to attend some other event or need to prepare for another class instead of going to my class. Use them for good reasons: that's what they are for.


Excessive excused absences may also be a problem, and you should discuss such situations with me well before the last month of the semester. This is not a distance learning class. Any absence prevents you from participating in the class, but if your job or an illness keeps you away from class for more than a quarter of the semester, it will significantly affect the class participation component of your grade and may be a good reason to drop the course and take it another time. All of us find ourselves in these situations from time to time and have to deal with them appropriately. You also have an obligation to report this to a University office (see page 34 of the 2011-2012 University Catalogue).


When in doubt about any of these policies, please come and talk to me. They have been formulated with our substantial commuter and working student population in mind and are intended to be fair to everyone. You should also review the University's policies on absenteeism on page 34 of the 2011-2012 University Catalogue.


Late Papers and Make-up Exams: The grade of late papers will be reduced by one full letter grade for each school day they are late. Thus a paper that is due on Friday that is handed in on Monday will be one day late. Regarding mid-terms, the same basic rules about excused absences apply to taking mid-terms. My policy of giving makeup exams on the same day as the final does NOT mean that you may choose to take the mid-term exam on that day rather than on the regularly scheduled day: it is not an alternative test date. To be eligible for a makeup, you must qualify for an excused absence, and this you should do a reasonable time before the day of the mid-term, if that is at all possible. You may be excused from taking a mid-term if you are certifiably sick or your job prevents you from attending class or you have a serious family or personal emergency on the day of the test. If one of these applies and I am informed in a reasonable time before the exam and you have written documentation to support your request, you may take the exam on the same day as the final exam. If none of these reasons apply, you may not take the exam at another time, and you will get a zero for the exam. If you are late for the exam because of events outside of your control, let me know immediately or as soon as possible that day, and I will let you take the exam later that same day if possible.


5.    CLASS SCHEDULE   (List topics to be covered with approximate dates of presentation and likely assignments)


Fundamental Questions


Week I         (8/31) Introduction to the course; to the history and theories of international law; to the sources of international law; to the subjects of international law; to the institutions enforcing of international law.   


Week II        (9/7) History and theories of international law; Von Glahn text, chapters 1 & 2, and handout Quizzes on the assigned readings are always possible!


Week III       (9/14) The sources of international law—custom and general principles and treaties; Chapters 3 & 4, Cases


Week IV     (9/21) The subjects of international law; Chapter 7 & 9, Cases


Week V       (9/28) The institutions of international law—the international legal process; Chapters 5 & 6, Cases


Week VI      (10/5) The institutions of international law—national courts; Chapters 11 & 18, Cases


Week VII    (10/12) Mid-term Exam on the fundamentals of international law.


The issues and applications of international law that we will study in the second half of the semester are open to your input and preferences. What follows is a suggested set of issues and the relevant text chapters. Take a look throught the text and see if there is a subject or issue that you would like us to focus on.


Issues in International Law: War and Crimes


Week VIII    (10/19) International Criminal Law; Chapters 16 & 21; Cases


Week IX     (10/26) War Crimes and War Crimes Tribunals; Chapters 22 & 23; Cases


Issues in International Law: International Economics, Air, Sea & Space, Environment


Week X     (11/2) International economy; Chapter 20; Cases; Cases  Issue paper on the Law of War due Friday, November 4th.


Week XI    (11/9) Regimes of air, sea, & space: Chapters 13 & 14 Cases


Week XII   (11/16) Environmental Issues; Chapter 19; Cases


Issues in International Law: Human Rights


Week XIII (11/30) International Human Rights: Chapter 16; Cases Issue Paper on International Regimes, Economics and Trade, or Environment due Friday, December 2d.


Week XIV (12/7)  States and Sovereignty; Chapters 8 & 9; Cases


The final exam will be given only at the time designated in the university final exam schedule: Wednesday, December 14th, 3:00pm. Please make your travel plans accordingly!





Gerhard von Glahn and James Larry Taulbee. Law Among Nations. 9th ed. New York: Longman, 2010.




James Brierly. The Law of Nations: An Introduction to the International Law of Peace. 6th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.


Ian Brownlie. Principles of Public International Law. 7th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.


Thomas Buergenthal and Sean Murphy. Public International Law. 4th ed. St. Paul: Thomson West, 2007.


Jack Goldsmith and Eric Posner. The Limits of International Law. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.


Mark W. Janis. International Law. 5th ed.  Aspen Publishers, 2008.


Peter Malanczuk. Akehurst's Modern Introduction to International Law. 7th ed. London: Routledge, 1997.


Sean Murphy. Principles of International Law. New York: Thomson West 2006.


Gerhart Niemeyer. Law Without Force: The Function of Politics in International Law. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2001.


John Noyes, Mark Janis, & Laura Dickinson, eds. International Law Stories. Foundation Press, 2007.


Inter-American Court of Human Rights Advisor Opinions


International Court of Justice and Permanent Court materials and opinions 


International Commission of Jurists website 


United Nations Treaty Series


Reports of International Arbitral Awards


United States Department of State Treaty Affairs


United States Department of State Treaties in Force 2007


United States Department of State, Treaty Actions


Library of Congress "Thomas"


World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement Webpage 


World Trade Organization Appellate Body Webpage materials and opinions from five international tribunals Legal Research Materials 


International Legal Research Materials online 


European Commission 


European Commission: Trade 



For the benefit of the class and your classmates, the following rules regarding electronic devices also apply to this course:

1.     Turn your cell phones off during the class. If you are expecting an important call, put your phone on “Vibrate,” sit near the door, and, when the call comes, answer it outside the classroom.

2.     It follows from the foregoing rule, but it must be separately stated: no talking and no texting on cell phones during class. If you do not follow this rule, I will publicly ask you to leave the room for the remainder of the class and will do my best to have you removed from the course for the rest of the semester.

3.     No open lap-top or other computers are allowed in class without my prior permission. Devices such as tablets, Ipads, Kindles, Kobos, and Nooks that lie flat on the desk and onto which the readings can be loaded are permitted if approved by me, but hard copies of the readings are better. You can mark them up and take notes on them in class.

These rules are necessary to foster a suitable learning environment in the classroom during class. There are enough distractions with lawnmowers, air conditioners, and other outside forces to combat during lectures and discussions without these controllable distractions within the room.