LAWPUBL 743 - International Criminal Law

Lecturer Biography

Bronagh McKenna spent seven years as a prosecutor at the ICTY.  She prosecuted cases involving war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, working on cases in the pre-trial, trial and appeal phases. Bronagh has an LLM in International Law from the University of Cambridge and, prior to joining the ICTY, worked for London law firm Slaughter and May. She currently works for the Crown Law Office, providing legal advice to the New Zealand government.

Sam Lowery has worked at both the ICTY and the ICC. At the ICC, he prosecuted and investigated cases involving Kenya, Darfur and the Central African Republic. Sam has an LLM from Columbia University and spent several years as a litigator at New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore before joining the ICC.He now works at Meredith Connell, where he prosecutes jury trials for the Crown and regulatory offending for government agencies.


This course will provide an overview of the core principles of substantive and procedural international criminal law, with a focus on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and ad hoc tribunals.  The course is taught by former prosecutors at the ICC and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), who will bring practitioners’ perspectives to the legal theory discussed.  Legal theory will be explored through case studies to enable students to understand how the relevant legal principles are applied in practice, and the particular challenges of trying international criminal cases.


With reference to the ICC and ICTY Statutes, Rules of Procedure and Evidence and relevant jurisprudence, the course will provide an overview of:

  • The jurisdiction of international criminal courts, including complementarity and admissibility at the ICC.
  • International crimes, in particular war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and evidential challenges in proving them.
  • Modes of liability pursuant to which charges are brought at the ICC and ad hoc tribunals, namely:
        Primary modes of liability such as joint criminal enterprise and co-perpetration       
        Secondary modes of liability such as aiding and abetting, ordering and planning 
        Superior responsibility 
  • Secondary modes of liability such as aiding and abetting, ordering and planning; and
  • Superior responsibility.
  • The stages of international criminal trials, namely the investigation, pre-trial, trial, appeal and sentencing phases.  Focusing on the ICC, we will discuss how the Court has dealt with practical and procedural challenges that have arisen during these phases (e,g: investigative challenges;amending charges prior to or during trial; the accused’s appearance at trial; victim participation).
  • Procedural rules developed at the ad hoc tribunals to address the particular challenges of prosecuting mass atrocities (e.g. exceptions to principle of orality; corroboration).

Throughout the course, case studies and group discussions will be used to deepen students’ understanding of how the relevant law is applied in practice.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this course students should be able to:

  • Understand the jurisdiction of international criminal courts, and jurisdictional challenges that arise in connection with the prosecution of international crimes.
  • Understand the scope of international crimes as prosecuted at the ad hoc tribunals and ICC.
  • Understand the modes of liability pursuant to which charges are brought at the ICC and ad hoc tribunals.
  • Understand the main provisions of international criminal procedure.
  • Appreciate practical and political challenges faced in trying international criminal cases.


100% research essay of 12,500 words due at 12 noon on the 30 November 2017.


Each student is required to submit a research essay of no more than 12,500 words including an abstract/synopsis of 500 words. The essay is to be original work, relying on secondary and primary sources. It must be the work of the enrolled student. Another person, other than the enrolled student, must not write the essay nor do the research on behalf of the enrolled student. Plagiarism is not permitted, and each student should read the University of Auckland’s plagiarism policy and adhere to it. All students are expected to sign a plagiarism declaration when submitting their essays.

Students must use proper legal citations and include a reading list at the end of their type-written essay. The essay should be comprised of properly crafted English sentences. (Note form is unacceptable.) The use of headings and sub-headings is strongly encouraged. Footnotes rather than Harvard style in-text referencing are to be used.

Descriptive essays are discouraged. Instead, students are expected to engage with relevant legal issues by: critiquing the law; developing proposals for reform; examining the operation of law and policy in practice; and/or providing a conceptual analysis of the law, for example.

The topic for the essay must be chosen from one or more of the Chapters in Volume One and/or Two of the “International Trade Law” Textbook. The relevant Chapters must be used and cited at least three times in the essay.

Extensions will not be granted lightly (only owing to serious illness or other extraordinarily compelling and unforeseeable circumstances). Such a request must be made formally through the Postgraduate Manager.

Class participation

Each student is expected to make individual contributions to class discussions throughout the course.

Criteria and marking

Students are individually assessed on the quality of their essay, with reference to the following criteria:

  • Extent to which the student has identified the important and relevant issues
  • Clarity of argument
  • Depth and thoroughness of understanding of pertinent material
  • Strength and clarity of arguments presented
  • Overall lucidity of the contribution
  • Extent to which issues are placed in their wider context
  • Display of grasp of the doctrinal and normative issues
  • Critical analysis of material
  • Overall synthesis of material
  • Correctness and elegance of style (particularly as to the written essay)
  • Ability to draw worthwhile conclusions
Semester Two
Study mode Intensive
Dates 13 - 19 Septemeber
Time 9.30am - 5pm
Location Room 340, Level 3, 1-11 Short St
Value 30 points
Assignment due 12 noon, Thursday 30 November

Contact details

Law Student Centre

Level 2, 1-11 Short St

Lecturer contact details:

Bronagh McKenna -