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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Postgraduate Course: Genocide and the Law (LAWS11414)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIn this course, students will learn about and debate the legal elements of genocide. That includes the protected groups, the particular position of specific genocidal intent and incitement to genocide. Another important aspect is the responsibility of States for genocide as an internationally wrongful act, questions therefore of the attribution of the acts of persons to the State and of the prevention of genocide play an important role here.
Course description Since the drafting of the Genocide Convention in 1948, the crime of genocide has lost none of its significance. Charges of genocide have been made in relation to a wide range of situations, including the killings in Cambodia and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, the massacres in Rwanda and the crimes committed against the Yazidis in Iraq. But the legal evaluation is often surprising: in the case of Cambodia, the genocide findings of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia did not deal with the Cambodian victims of the Khmer Rouge, and the question whether ethnic cleansing is a form of genocide, divides academics and practitioners to this day.

'Genocide and the Law' will introduce students to the main situations in which international law has dealt with genocide, will involve debates and moot presentations on the topic and offer insight into the main controversies surrounding the phenomenon which the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has called 'the crime of crimes'.

Indicative Teaching Programme:

Teaching on this course will be done through 10 weekly seminars of 2 hours each. The seminars will be taught by Dr Paul Behrens.

Seminar 1 » The concept of genocide
Seminar 2 » The protection of groups
Seminar 3 » The commission of genocide
Seminar 4 » 'Basic' Mens Rea and Modes of Perpetration
Seminar 5 » Specific genocidal intent (1)
Seminar 6 » Specific genocidal intent (2)
Seminar 7 » Incitement to genocide
Seminar 8 » Genocide and State Responsibility (1)
Seminar 9 » Genocide and State Responsibility (2)
Seminar 10 » Genocide today

A range of different teaching methods is envisaged for these seminars. There will be more traditional lecture segments during which students will be introduced to particular issues in the field of the law of genocide, but there will also be seminar questions, especially on leading controversies, which will be discussed with the class as a whole. A further teaching method will be the holding of moots. For that purpose students will be sorted into two groups and be given a moot problem to prepare. They will have to argue different sides of the relevant problem and must be able to answer questions arising from their relevant presentations.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  30
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The formative assessment for this course will consist of a short practice essay. Feedback will be provided, but the assessment will not count towards the final mark of the course.

The summative assessment for this module takes the form of a 6000 word essay at the end of the semester. This essay will be worth 100% of the total marks for the course. A list of essay titles will be provided; students on this module have to choose one of these titles for their essay.
Feedback Feedback on the formative assessment will be provided mid-semester.

Written feedback on the summative assessment will be provided via Learn, the University of Edinburgh's Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Locate and evaluate instruments on genocide law, judgements, academic opinion and sources on the factual background of these areas.
  2. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the elements of genocide both as conduct under the law of State responsibility and as a crime attracting individual criminal responsibility.
  3. Evidence a critical awareness of the main controversies and the theories proposed on these issues.
Reading List
Reference will frequently be made to the following key texts:

Tams, Christian / Berster, Lars / Schiffbauer, Björn, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. A Comentary (Hart 2014)

Schabas, William, Genocide in International Law (Cambridge University Press 2009),

Henham, Ralph / Behrens, Paul, Elements of Genocide (Routledge 2012)

All of these texts are available in the law library. As new editions become available, requests will be made to the library to acquire these.

Additional reading lists will be published for the individual seminars. They will mainly contain articles which are available on Westlaw International or Hein Online, to which Edinburgh University has access.

Reference will also be made to the NexisUK database which will be invaluable for the exploration of the factual issues, and the State practice underlying specific areas of the law, as well as to Oxford Reports on International Law for cases discussed in domestic courts and tribunals.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Skills and Abilities in Research and Enquiry:
Research skills are developed through work for each seminar, as well as the formative and the summative assessments. Throughout the debates in the course, students should develop critical analytical skills with regard in particular to the controversial elements of the concept of genocide under international law.

Skills and Abilities in Personal and Intellectual Autonomy:
Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy are promoted in particular through the independent preparatory work that students have to carry out in advance of each seminar (in particular in relation to the individual seminar questions which will be provided). Through the joint preparation of the mooting sessions, they will take responsibility not only for their own work, but also for the work of others.

Skills and Abilities in Communication:
Oral communication is developed through debates on salient questions relating to the law of genocide throughout the course and the use of mooting presentations delivered by members of the seminar group at appropriate junctures. Students will thus learn to communicate efficiently with their peers and undertake critical evaluation of the arguments advanced by each side. Written communication will be developed in particular through the students' work on the formative and the summative assessment.

Skills and Abilities in Personal Effectiveness:
Students will learn to effectively assess elements of the law of genocide but also the impact that other areas of the law (e.g. human rights, State responsibility) have on this field. They will be able to enhance their personal effectiveness in the seminar sessions where the arguments which they will have prepared, will be tested by a peer group and where they will also have the opportunity to compare the validity of their points to that made by other students.
Additional Class Delivery Information Number of seminars (2 hours) per course:
20 credit course: 10 seminars = 20 hours
KeywordsGenocide,Human Rights,Law,Postgraduate,International
Course organiserDr Paul Behrens
Course secretaryMr Kevin Duckworth
Tel: (0131 6)50 2002
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