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Print Materials

The following text is required for this course. It is available for purchase both from the college bookstore and online:

  • Epps, Valerie. International Law. 4th ed. Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2009.

This volume is a primer on international law specifically designed for students with no previous legal training. Epps combines edited versions of the landmark cases in international law with considerable exposition. This volume provides a good starting point for understanding the “legal” elements of contemporary international law.

Additional readings will serve to develop perspectives from other disciplines (particularly political science) and to enrich students’ familiarity with the history of international legal theory and practice. These readings are all available either through course reserves or via the web addresses supplied.

E-Reserve Materials

The E-Reserve material for this course is available via the following web-link:


If you have forgotten the password required to access this material, consult this page:


Reading Guide

The reading for this course averages 125 pp per week. This course, however, attempts to cover a broad range of topics. Much of this material is abstract, complex, and unfamiliar. Students who have never read legal decisions before may find this material particularly challenging. The concepts are also developed sequentially, so falling behind can prove quite problematic. Students are most strongly encouraged to keep up with the reading. Discussions will also help students develop their understanding of the course materials.

Students should make certain they read the material in the order in which it appears on the syllabus (rather than the order in which they obtain it!). The ordering often follows a logical progression (e.g. an unfolding debate), where the sequence matters. Otherwise, the readings follow from most important to least.

Obviously, there is far more valuable material on our course topics than we can consider in this class. Some of you may be pressed, at some points, to cover even the assigned material with the thoroughness you would like. I recommend the following strategy. First, read the discussion questions so you know where we are headed. Second, familiarize yourself with each of the readings. Read the abstracts and/or the introductions and conclusions to determine the authors’ arguments and findings. Next, consider briefly the relation between the various readings, their relation to previous readings, and their bearing on our framing/discussion questions. Finally, work systematically through the readings (starting at the top) to develop a critical analysis of the authors’ works. Be sure to jot a few notes for each piece.

One Response to “Readings”

  1. Chime Dolma says:

    Epps states, “All modern states have an internal system of law designed to determine when agreements between people or organizations are to be considered binding and enforceable in court.” And this is known as contract law. But such international treaty like the Vienna Convention, which was concluded in 1969 and came into force in 1980 functions a bit differently.
    In order for a treaty to be effective, it needs to be concluded and ratified. In terms of capacity to conclude a Treaty, states are free to designate anyone to represent the state and the designated person has the “full power” to authorize any steps that are necessary to be taken and for ratification, every state has its own municipal law for determining which organs of government are empowered to make a treaty binding on the state, as Epps describes the process of United States mode of concluding and ratifying a treaty. In the Vienna Convention, Article 2 (1) (d) defines a reservation as Epps quotes, “A unilateral statement, however phrased or name, made by a state, when signing, ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to a treaty, whereby it purports to exclude or to modify the legal effect of certain provisions of the treaty in their application to that state.” I feel this definition has a problematic in the sense that it gives the individual nations an opportunity to downplay the common purpose of that treaty. In other words, this gives a lot of flexibilities to countries to interpret treaties, which I think is one of the fundamental causes for disputes over interpretation.
    The Vienna Convention on Law of Treaties defines treaty in Article 2 (1) (a) as “an international agreement concluded between states in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation.” This seems to be such a great example for the international community to better integrate the nations by creating fair “treaties” which will be protected by the laws of International. However, the “convention, pact, protocol, charter, act, concordat, declaration, exchange of notes or agreement” doesn’t always work the way the international community anticipate it to work. For example: the dispute between Mexico and United States is an example, the Avena case, which was about fifty two Mexican individuals who were detained, arrested and sentenced by the United States without giving them the right to access the legal rights that Vienna Convention declares for individuals. This was a case that was disputed and brought to the International Court of Justice. As a result of this dispute, the ICJ has concluded that US has violated the Vienna Convention but there was also a problem with the ways they interpret the use of language in the treaty. This draws our attention to the notion of interpretation of the treaties. Epps describes the reason why the International Court of Justice concluded that United States have violated the international law with such assertion, “On this aspect of the case, the court thus concludes: that the United States committed breaches of the obligation incumbent upon it under Article 36 (1) (b), the United States committed breaches of the obligation incumbent upon it under Article 36, (1)(b) to notify the Mexican consular post of the detention of the Mexican nationals listed subparagraphs (except two individuals in this case), the United States also violated the obligation incumbent upon it under Article 36, 91)(a) of the Vienna Convention to enable Mexican consular officers to communicate with an have access to their nationals, as well as its obligation under (1)(c) of that Article regarding the right of consular officers to visit their detained nationals, ….” In short, under the Article 36 in Vienna Convention on Laws of Treaties, if a foreign national is arrested or detained, the nation that is arresting is required to notify the individual’s native country to provide the reason for their arrest. And United States failed to follow such procedure and thus the court concluded the US has violated the law.

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