Accueil > LAW - Terrorism, War, Rights: International Law in Dark Times

CDRO 1065A - Terrorism, War, Rights: International Law in Dark Times

Type d'enseignement : Lecture alone

Semester : Spring 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

We have been quite accustomed nowadays to hear to be living in a 'dark age', or likewise that we are in a generalized state of 'crisis'. From the economics, to politics and to the environment, this seems to have become the natural state of affairs, not only in Western societies. This is especially true when it comes to terrorism (the 'dark times of terror'), precisely because the general story we hear is that of the invisibility of the terrorist threat: we do not know where potential terrorists are, we do not know where they are physically located. Yet, if to locate these 'enemies of humanity' (as both President Trump and President Macron have recently called international terrorists), we need to localize them, that is - render them visible - can we use all possible means and methods? The first aim of this class will be to understand whether the recent counter-terror practices undertook under the ‘war on terror' (let's think of drones operation & targeted killing, extraordinary rendition, ghost prisoners, surveillance, etc.) are, in fact, 'legal'. As these methods are aimed at bringing to light the hidden 'terrorist cells', or the 'radicalized individuals' before they commit an attack, what are the legal justifications States resort to, in order to capture and/or kill potentially dangerous individuals, at home and abroad? Furthermore, do these methods respect human rights standards? As a matter of fact, the dilemma between terrorism and fundamental freedoms has seen in recent years an increasing number of cases brought in front of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the US Supreme Court (among others), where these institutions have recognized various violations of fundamental rights. Through the study of actual law-cases, national legislations and international conventions, relevant academic papers, screening of videos and movies, we will explore how international law is presently dealing with the terrorist menace and how it is contributing to shape our perception of these supposedly 'dark times'. This course will lead towards a deeper reflection on the constitutive role law is playing within the 'war on terror' agenda: by exploring the various methods, practices, actors and legal justifications to the fight against international terrorism (including the ambiguous role played by human rights), we will try to enlarge the traditional lens through which we are accustomed to when looking at 'terrorism' and more generally political violence in our global, digital arena.


RINALDI, Alberto (PhD student)

Pedagogical format

At the end of the course, the student is expected to : 1°) Have a basic general understanding of the main legal issues related to international terrorism, contemporary warfare and their links with human rights law; 2°) Be familiar with the most important Conventions, Treaties, National legislations and legal cases that are specific to the ‘war on terror' - its main actors and their claims - and the main counter-terrorism practices in use since 9/11; 3°) Develop a critical attitude towards the reading material, the legal and political concepts presented during the course, foster speaking and presentation capabilities, as well as independent research on legal material and cases (such as read and understand a legal case).

Course validation

To validate the course, the student is expected to pass the following assignments (at least three grades): 1°) Group Presentation of a legal case – 30%. Each class is going to have a group-presentation of a legal case. Presentations should not exceed 15 mintues and should use a powerpoint. More details on assessement will be given at the beginning of the semester. 2°) Individual Reaction Papers of a reading (1000-1500 words) – 20%. Each student will be required to choose one reading during the semester and write a reaction paper in response to it (reactions papers should be between 1000-1500 words, excluding footnotes). The reaction paper must show a critical attitude towards the reading material analyzed, needs to be clear and well organized and with proper footnotes. The paper must be sent to the teacher before the class in which that specific reading is going to be discussed. 3°) Individual Research paper (2000 words, excluding footnotes) – 30%. On any topic related to the course. It can be an analsysis of a legal case (not already seen in class), or a more theoretical/philosophical research paper on war, terrorism, cyberwarfare, crimmigration, etc. It must be well-researched, clear and structured, with proper footnotes. The problématique is not necessary, as long as the paper is centered on a specific question/theme, or it develops a cohesive argument. Students should avoid generalization and should refer to the material presented in class. Students can ask the teacher adivses throughout the semester. Deadline for submission is 1 week after the end of classes. 4°) Active class participation – 20%. This is a discussion-based class. It is very important that students who are not presenting a legal case come prepared for discussing the readings. Students are going to be divided in 3 groups through the semester. Each group (A, B and C) is going to be assigned one reading per week, which is mandatory. Every week the teacher is going to ask randomnly individual questions to the components of each group. In this way, students will be both asked to animate the dabate and will also be tested in their critical engagement wit the reading material. By the end of the course, the group that has best performed in its engagement with the reading material will be rewarded with a special role/mission.

Required reading

The 'War on Terror' and the Framework of International Law – Helen Duffy – Cambridge University Press – 2015 (general textbook for students' reference)

Additional required reading

  • Of War and Law – David Kennedy – Princeton University Press – 2006 (only introduction + first chapter)
  • Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida – Giovanna Borradori – The University of Chicago Press – 2003 (only the chapters containing the interviews to the two philosophers)
  • Precarious Life: The Power of Mourning and Violence – Judith Butler – Verso Books – 2006 (first two chapters only)