Executive MPA   Executive training  

International law and current conflict: aggression, self-defence, sanctions, self-determination

7-9 November 2022 | Executive seminar

The course engages participants in structured legal debates around contemporary armed conflict in Europe. In nine sessions over three days, participants will develop knowledge, skills and techniques required for presenting international legal arguments pertaining to wars of aggression, the right to self-defence, the imposition of sanction regimes and claims of self-determination. The course module aims at developing an understanding of the ways in which legal arguments are shaped and deployed by policymakers and foreign policy scholars. Special attention will be paid to current policy debates and how international legal arguments are inserted into them, or ignored.

On the third day of the course module, participants will have familiarised themselves with two case studies, will draft legal briefs (memorials) in teams and will eventually present their opposing legal opinions in a simulated contentious oral proceeding in front of an international court / tribunal. As part of the preparatory process, teams will be counseled to anticipate arguments to be raised by the opponent team. Competing teams will argue their case for 10 minutes each and will engage in a 10-minute rebuttal and sur-rebuttal (total of 60 minutes). The course lead will challenge counsels and interrupt, as appropriate. Following the simulation, the remainder of the final day is devoted to class discussion on the merits of the arguments presented, their internal coherence, the completeness of referenced sources and (un)-successful strategies.

By the end of this course, participants will

  • have acquired an advanced conceptual understanding of some of the fundamentals of public international law relating to ongoing armed conflicts (including in Ukraine), in the areas of aggression, self-defence, sanctions and self-determination. They will be able to link different perspectives and issue areas that accumulate within the field;
  • be able to discuss the applicability of a number of international legal norms to ongoing armed conflicts and critically analyse contemporary issues from the perspective of international law;
  • be aware of the limitations to, and potentials of, international law as a regulatory technique;
  • have become familiar with recent and older paradigmatic ICJ cases, as well as with doctrine, in selected fields;
  • have acquired knowledge on how to deploy international legal arguments in a role play involving the exchange of arguments between legal counsels at the International Court of Justice;
  • have developed the skills necessary to frame an international legal argument, both orally and in writing, from different perspectives and advocating different positions (Applicant / Respondent);
  • have developed a sense for framing arguments in a succinct manner, within allocated time slots and rely on team members for advice;
  • have internalised rhetorical techniques that allow them to follow argumentative logic in a structured manner.