September 2025 - August 2026
Study Mode Full-time
Application start 4 November 2024
Application end 13 February 2025
Application end (with scholarship) 9 January 2025


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Optional Courses

Optional courses allow our students to deepen their expertise in a particular issue such as armed non-state actors in international law, the conduct of hostilities, enforced disappearances or the Islamic law of armed conflict. Places in the optional courses are limited to 20 to guarantee the quality of exchanges and discussions. The optional courses listed on this page represent those for the current academic year.

International Cyber Security Law

Marco Roscini

Offered in the Spring Semester – This course deals with contemporary and future challenges regarding the military uses of cyber technologies and operations and focuses on whether and how existing rules of international law apply in cyberspace. It starts by analyzing the application of general notions of international law (sovereignty, non-intervention, state responsibility, due diligence) and then moves to the relevance for cyber operations of the jus contra bellum rules contained in the United Nations (UN) Charter. Finally, the course examines whether and how international humanitarian law (IHL) and its fundamental rules and principles regulate cyber operations conducted in the context of an armed conflict of an international and non-international character. The course cuts across disciplinary boundaries, bringing together IHL, arms control law as well as UN law. It will provide students with a deeper understanding of the rules and principles pertaining to new weapons and military technologies, in particular cyber operations, but above all, it will equip them with the knowledge and ideas that will be needed to reconceptualize international law and legal approaches towards the regulation of transformative technological evolution in the 21 st century.

Introduction to the Islamic Law of Armed Conflict

Ahmed Al-Dawoody

Offered in the Fall Semester – This course introduces students to the Islamic law of armed conflict and how it relates to the current conflicts in Muslim contexts. It examines the rules regulating the use of force during both international and non-international armed conflicts under classical Islamic law. Classical Islamic rules providing protection to certain persons and objects and those regulating certain means and methods of warfare are examined in order to find out, first, the impact/challenges surrounding their application in current armed conflict situations and, second, their compatibility with international humanitarian law rules. The course also discusses the distinction between the use of legitimate force and terrorism (both domestic and international) under Islamic law. It analyses the development of the classical Islamic public international law framework and its impact on the issues of the Islamic jus ad bellum and the jurisdiction of Islamic law. The course starts with identifying and defining the Islamic law key concepts, sources, and schools in order to familiarize the students with such a complex and highly technical legal system and understand the extent of its contemporary application.

Enforced Disappearances in International Law

Gabriella Citroni

Offered in the Fall Semester – This course examines the existing international legal framework and jurisprudence on the phenomenon of enforced disappearance. While the main focus is international human rights law, references are made, where pertinent, to international humanitarian law and international criminal law. During the course, the nature, definitions and consequences of the offence of enforced disappearance are analysed and the international legal framework aimed at preventing and punishing it is considered in-depth, discussing the potential pitfalls, and the problems in interpretation and application. The examination of the mandate and the functioning of the main international human rights mechanisms dealing with enforced disappearance is a central part of the course. Special attention will be devoted to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the Committee on Enforced Disappearances. The case law on enforced disappearance developed by the UN Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will also be presented and discussed, to single out landmark judgments and interpretative discrepancies, as well as legal problems that remain to be addressed.

Gender and International Crimes

Sareta Ashraph

Offered in the Spring Semester – This course explores and discusses the design, commission and recognition of core international crimes through the prism of intersecting marginalized identities, primarily through gender. The course started by interrogating what we mean by ‘gender’ and ‘intersectionality’ and how their definition(s) illuminate or obscure the investigation and analysis of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It then examines a persisting insensitivity to crimes of sexual violence as well as the narrow definition of gender-based crimes. It ends by looking at gender-competent and intersectional approaches to the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, touching upon the investigation and analysis of the international criminal tribunals, accountability-driven documentation entities, journalists reporting on the commission of crimes as well as our own analysis.

International Disaster Law

Giulio Bartolini

Offered in the Spring Semester – Disasters caused by natural and technological hazards are a commonplace phenomenon, representing one of the most significant challenges for humanitarian actors and affected communities. Despite their magnitude, as magnified by the current Covid-19 pandemic, the attention of the international community towards the legal implications of disasters has been neglected for a long time, finally resulting in a scattered and heterogenous collection of instruments. This course will thus offer a critical survey of relevant sources, actors, universal and regional institutional frameworks and main legal issues relevant for such scenarios, as: operational challenges related to relief activities; human rights issues in disaster settings; disaster risk reduction or the relationship with other areas, as humanitarian assistance in international humanitarian law. A specific focus will be paid to legal and humanitarian challenges raised by the Covid-19 pandemic. Through frontal lectures, complemented by interactive activities as case-studies and dialogues with practitioners, students can get a proper understanding of the rationale, structure and content of international law rules addressing the prevention, preparedness, response and recovery in the event of disasters and assess their impact for humanitarian actors, international organisations and domestic stakeholders.

Humanitarian Skills: Humanitarian Advocacy, Communication and Negotiation

Vincent Bernard

Offered in the Fall Semester – How to convince armed groups to let a humanitarian convoy cross a checkpoint? When to speak out about violations of the law or stay silent and keep on negotiating? How to devise a sound advocacy strategy to obtain better protection for victims of conflicts? In recent years, the humanitarian sector has been through an accelerated process of professionalization and growth. Lawyers and other humanitarian professionals are expected to master not only their own area of expertise but also develop professional skills to make a difference for victims of conflicts and violence. This course offers the opportunity for students to prepare for their entry into the humanitarian and human rights professional sector. Students will get an overview of the evolution and composition of the sector, the main areas of professional activities as well as an introduction to some key professional competencies in IOs/NGOs: context analysis, effective communication, prevention, advocacy, negotiation, or relations with armed actors. Making the best of the proximity to international Geneva, the course will be based on contemporary case studies of humanitarian operations, advocacy campaigns or diplomatic processes. Role play and debates will allow students to experiment and prepare for some of the challenges and dilemmas that they will encounter during the professional journey ahead.

UN Human Rights Mechanisms

Domenico Zipoli, Eric Tistounet

Offered in the Fall Semester – Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly in 1948, the international community has developed a complex set of instruments, including treaties and soft law texts in order to protect our human rights. Today, international human rights law provides a legal framework with institutional possibilities for monitoring the implementation of these rights. In addition, this legal framework provides different avenues to complain about violations of these rights. This course will provide a practical insight into the United Nations(UN) human rights mechanisms, placing particular emphasis on the UN human rights treaty bodies and the UN Human Rights Council’s structure, procedures, current challenges and the pragmatic implications of their various functions.

Cultural Heritage in Post-Conflict Situations

Alessandro Chechi

Offered in the Fall Semester – The course will address the relationship between international cultural heritage law and transitional justice (TJ). It will critically discuss the notion of cultural heritage in order to better grasp what is at stake when cultural heritage becomes engaged in violence. Furthermore, it will examine international cultural heritage law – including treaties, soft law instruments and jurisprudence – in order to discuss its development and its connections with the key TJ themes, including prosecutions, truth-telling and reparations. We will then focus on the questions of how international cultural heritage law engages with TJ strategies in post-conflict and post-colonial societies and hence how international cultural heritage law contributes to achieving the societal goals of TJ. For this purpose, TJ will be understood in broad terms, as the full range of processes and mechanisms designed to promote justice, truth, reparation and reconciliation not only in societies devastated by conflicts (especially non-international armed conflicts characterised by ethnic and religious divisions) or authoritarian regimes, but also in societies where remnants of the colonial era linger, from cultural objects in museums to statues in public spaces. For this examination to be realistic and meaningful, a selected number of illustrative examples will be presented and discussed. Finally, during this course, we will look at the actors that can enable societies in transition to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses and hence foster sustainable peace.

Identity Claims, Cultural Diversity and Human Rights

Neus Torbisco-Casals

Offered in the Fall Semester – Indigenous peoples, linguistic minorities, and ethnic groups, among others, typically claim a wide range of group-differentiated rights or accommodations in order to protect their specific cultures, overcome a history of abuse, and attain a higher level of equality vis-à-vis the larger majority population. Over the last decade, the discussion on how to accommodate such claims has become prominent in the growing literature on transitional justice and development. Managing diversity surely remains a challenge in all societies; yet, this task is especially acute in transitional societies divided along ethno-cultural lines that need to confront a legacy of past injustices. This course traces the main lines of these debates with a view to identifying different approaches to managing diversity and their implications for human rights, democratic governance, and political justice in transitional societies. Applying an intersectional analysis, the discussion aims at acknowledging the complexity of the experiences of injustice and discrimination that continue to damage inter-group relations, thus posing a significant threat to the success of political and social reforms. A practical and comparative focus will be provided through class discussions on specific cases from a variety of contexts.

Sociology of Justice: the Experiences of Transitional Justice Actors

Damien Scalia

Offered in the Fall Semester – The objective of the course is to analyse transitional justice through an innovative and most interesting prism: the experience of its actors, based on two observations made by Antonio Cassese and Kaminski and Kokoreff. It will notably address the experience of victims, judges and defendants of different forms of transitional justice, criminal or not. This approach will allow for an innovative critique of transitional justice, focussing on specific cases such as Tunisia, the international criminal tribunals and the commissions set up in connection with colonisation.

Religions, Beliefs, and Human Rights

Ibrahim Salama, Michael Wiener

Offered in the Fall Semester – This course aims at elucidating the complex connections between religions, beliefs and human rights. It focuses on the tensions and complementarities among human rights, notably freedoms of thought, conscience, religion, belief, opinion and expression as well as minority rights and women’s rights. The ‘Faith for Rights’ framework, with its 18 commitments that articulate the human rights responsibilities of faith-based actors, constitutes the substantive and methodological approach of this course that will explore the legally-binding norms and soft law standards as well as interpretative guidance by United Nations treaty bodies and special procedures mandate-holders. This course will conclude with a mini moot court simulation of a hypothetical case related to religions and beliefs, where each student will have the opportunity to write a memorial and plead for the applicant or respondent.