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OADH 4070 - Capstone Course on Counter-Terrorism and International Crimes

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Spring 2018-2019

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English

Voir les plans de cours et bibliographies


Background in law is required (exception may be granted upon interview). It is a bilingual French and English course. The capstone course is a one year course and is limited to the participation of 20 students. 1st year students registered in semester 1, will be automatically registered in semester 2. Few seats can be offered to 2nd year students for their semester 4. PSIA reserves the right to unsubscribe students who would not be qualified for the course (2nd year student must have a Law degree or /knowledge in international criminal law or counter terrorism legislation French and English - preferable).

Course Description

This capstone course aims at providing human rights education and formation through practical work in the context of armed conflicts, counter terrorism and accountability for international crimes. The theoretical and practical aspects related to armed conflicts and counter-terrorism will be thought in the first semester (Jus ad bellum/use of force, international humanitarian law, human rights, refugee law and international criminal law). The different international legal instruments, enforcement mechanisms and relevant institutions are to be mapped. The applied work will be done in the second semester in small groups and will include empirical research. One group will work on foreign terrorist fighters and their prosecution in France. It will include trial observations and publications of notes on a website of the French NGOs network of counter terrorism. Another group will work on a human rights case concerning the migration crisis in the Mediterranean. It will include framing the arguments, conducting factual and legal research, drafting a brief and preparing the case for litigation. During the course professionals will be invited to the class to share with the students their experience (NGOs practitioners, UN officials, human rights/defence lawyers and prosecutors). Last year a trip to Geneva and a visit at the UN and the ICRC was organized. At the end of the year we submitted during an expert meeting a report on French counter terrorism law and practice to the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter terrorism in her official visit in France. This course should be followed during semester 1 and semester 2. 2nd year students can be accepted during semester 4.


  • SHATZ, Omer (Juriste)
  • WEILL, Sharon (Chercheur)

Pedagogical format

This course has been labelled as a “PSIA pedagogically innovative course”: - Concrete application of theoretical knowledge on a project based and Clinic course; - Development of strong team work and peers management skills in an international context ; - Working paper and report will be submitted to relevant international institution and may be published ; -Trial observations. The capstone course will require individual work as well as group work and empirical research. The class will be taught in English, but some group work require French knowledge.

Course validation

Presentation, working group, final project.

Required reading

  • Saul, B., Research Hand book on International Law and Terrorism, Chatemenn, Edward Edgar 2014
  • International humanitarian law and the challenges of contemporary armed conflicts, ICRC report, Oct 2015
  • Antoine Garapon, Michel Rosenfeld, Democracies sous Stress, Puf, 2016

Additional required reading

  • Andrea De Guttry and others (eds), Foreign Fighters under International Law and Beyond, Asser publication, 2016
  • Frank Foley, Countering Terrorism in Britain and France, Institutions, Norms and the Shadow of the Past, Cambridge University Press, 2014

Plans de cours et bibliographies

Part I: Legal framework (first semester)

The first part of the course (first semester) will outline the relevant legal framework of the Capstone course’s topics - Public international law (jus ad bellum/use of force), international humanitarian law, human rights law and international criminal Law. This is to be done while providing a political contextualization of the legal regime, and the mapping of relevant institutions and legal sources available online.
The theoretical aspects of international law related to armed conflicts and counter-terrorism will be thought in the first part the course. The different international legal instruments, enforcement mechanisms and relevant institutions are to be mapped. Each lecture will focus on a specific conflict or issue, and will offer a critical assessment of legal framework and its practice, in order to understand the political interests of the different actors, while using legal discourse.

  • Session 1: The legality of the use of force
  • Session 2: Definitions and rules on conduct of hostilities: International/Non international armed conflicts/ Combatant/civilians/ direct participation in hostilities
  • Session 3: Detention and the war on terror
  • Session 4: Torture
  • Session 5: Migration and refugees
  • Session 6: Humanitarian assistance
  • Session 7: Targeted killings
  • Session 8: Foreign terrorist fighters and criminal prosecutions
  • Session 9: Global justice and accountability: International crimes
  • Session 10: Global justice and accountability: The work of the ICC
  • Session 11: Legislation and prosecution at national level: The principle of complementarity; Universal jurisdiction, immunity and amnesty
  • Session 12: Working groups

Part II: Clinical work (second semester)

In its second part (second semester) the course will propose applied work in two groups. Professors will decide on the constitution of the groups.

Group 1

One of the applied works will be dedicated to foreign terrorist fighters and judicial guarantees (special focus on UN Security Council Resolution 2170 and 2178 and its national implementation in France). The clinical work will include data collection through official statistics, courts’ observations and interviews with defence lawyer and prosecutors. This is with the aim of providing empirical findings related to concerns raised by the UN in the application of this new legislation, including possible breach of the presumption of innocence, the principle of legality, freedom of expression, movement and information, non-discrimination and judicial guarantees. It will include trial observations and publications of notes on a website of the French NGOs network of counter terrorism.

Group 2

The group will explore the manner in which migration policies in the Mediterranean and Libya constitute human rights violations under international law. In particular, the group will research the normative framework applicable to Search and Rescue (SAR) missions in the sea. We will then examine what legal venues are available to hold states, non-State actors and individuals accountable for any such violations. Specifically, we will explore cutting-edge legal questions such as whether migration policies based on deterrence, arrival \ departure prevention and refoulement can amount to crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC. The clinical work will include discussing the potential arguments, conducting factual analysis and legal research, participating in brief drafting, and preparing the case for litigation. Reading will focus on three strands: theoretical (papers by scholars on IHRL and ICL), doctrinal (applicable treaties, laws and directives) and evidentiary (reports by the UN, NGOs and forensic investigations).