91368 - Foundations Of International Law

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Clean water and sanitation Affordable and clean energy Climate Action

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Students will be introduced to the critical study of the main tenets, the sources and some specific field of contemporary International law.

Course contents

The three fundamental legal functions on which the legal dynamics of the international community is founded – law–making, law–determination and law–enforcement – will be analysed within the contemporary social context. International law will be presented in its different dimensions: as a tool in the hand of international actors able to handle change in the international society and safeguard stability and predictability of international legal relations; as common language useful in reaching consensus or, at least, ‘peaceful disagreement’; as key to understanding the reality of contemporary international relations. Bringing together different perspectives, it will be shown how international rules, while made by governments and mostly addressed to them, can be of great relevance to private actors and to their interests. The course will be divided up in 2 modules and will address the following subjects:


MODULE 1 ("Foundations of International Law" (LEGS) and "International Law" (LMCU) students)

I. What is International Law

  • International Law in Historical and Evolutionary Perspectives
  • International Law in Social Context
  • Differences and similarities between international and domestic law
  • Relativity and Dialectics in the Interpretation of International Rules
  • Effectiveness of International Rules: Spontaneous Observance and Forced Compliance

II. Subjects of International Law

  • States
  • International organizations
  • NGOs
  • Individuals
  • Corporations

III. Making and Changing of International Law

  • Absence of an International Legislature
  • Treaty Law
  • Customary Law
  • Relationship between Treaty an Customary Law
  • General Principles of Law
  • Soft Law

IV. International Law and Domestic Legal Systems

  • Monism and Dualism
  • Municipal Law before International Adjudicative Bodies
  • International Law before Domestic Adjudicative Bodies
  • The Doctrine of Incorporation in Common Law Legal Orders
  • The ‘Receipt’ of International Law in Civil Law Legal Orders
  • Legal Nationalism

V. Breaching of International Law

  • State Responsibility
  • State liability

VI. The International Means of Dispute Settlement

  • Diplomatic Means
  • Adjudicative Means
  • Institutional Means


MODULE 2 ("International Law" (LMCU) students)

VII. Areas of material law

  • International Economic Law
  • International Law of the Sea
  • Human Rights Law
  • International Environmental Law
  • International Criminal Law

VIII. International Water Law (IWL)

  • Sources of International Water Law: the UN and the UNECE Water Conventions
  • Scope of the UN and the UNECE Water Conventions
  • Substantial principles of IWL
  • Cooperation in IWL
  • Human Rights dimension of IWL
  • Dispute prevention and settlement
  • Relationship between the two Convention


Module 1 ("Foundations of International Law" (LEGS) and "International Law" (LMCU) students):

A.M. Tanzi, A Concise Introduction to International Law (Giappichelli-Eleven 2019), pp. 1-160 & 205-212.


Module 2 ("International Law" (LMCU) students):

  • A.M. Tanzi, A Concise Introduction to International Law (Giappichelli-Eleven 2019), pp. 161-203.
  • A.M. Tanzi, The Consolidation of International Water Law: A Comparative Analysis of the UN and UNECE Water Conventions (Editoriale scientifica 2017).

Teaching methods

Classes will mostly be held by the teacher. He will stimulate interactions with students through questions, in order to ease the understanding of complex issues, or ones at least not immediately understandable.

Working groups will be constituted in order to deliver presentations on select topics of international law during the course.

The topic addressed by a working group will define one of the questions of the oral exam.

Assessment methods

The following assessment methods are applied to all students, irrespective of the academic year of enrolment.

Extraordinary assessment method during the COVID-19 emergency

International Law students

This assessment method will be applied starting from the May 2020 session until the Academic Authorities will authorise exams in person.

The final examination will be exclusively composed of a written test through EOL digital platform, consisting in 31 multiple choice questions with a duration of 40 minutes.

Each question will have four (4) possible answers, only one being correct.

  1. A right answer involves 1pt.
  2. A wrong answer involves 0 pt.
  3. Due to technical reason, missed answers will not be possible.

The sum of points gained by answering correctly will define the mark (31=30L). A candidate may refuse the mark, as usual.


Foundation of International Law (LEGS) students

LEGS student will take exam only in oral format.


Ordinary assessment method

Final examination will be composed of a written preliminary part, and then an oral examination.

A. Written test: a multiple–choice test consisting of 15 questions on Module 1, with a duration of 20 minutes, having the following structure:

  1. Each question will have 3 possible answers, only one being correct.
  2. A right answer involves 1pt.
  3. A wrong answer involves 0 pt.
  4. A missed answer involves 0 pt.

The written test is passed by attaining 10 points, that is by answering correctly at least to 10 questions.

Success in the written test is required to take the oral examination. It does not affect the final mark, which stems from the oral exam.

B. Oral test: consisting of 3 or more questions on Module 1 (LEGS and LMCU students) and Module 2 (LMCU).

The two parts of the examination will be entirely carried out on the same day. At the end of the written test, the tests will be corrected and the results published.

The oral examination will begin by the afternoon. The oral exam will follow the alphabetical order of the admitted students.

Students with 1–3 ECTs program

Students with 1–3 ECTs program will to take the exam exclusively in oral form.

Office hours

See the website of Attila Massimiliano Tanzi