Introduction to International & Comparative Law-Fall 2016 | Manuel A. Gómez | July 25, 2016


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Introduction to International & Comparative Law-Fall 2016

by Manuel A. Gómez Show/Hide
This is an experimental open-source casebook assembled through the H2O platform of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center Center for Internet & Society. The materials included here are intended to be used as the main casebook for an introductory course on International Public Law. This casebook can be accessed and used online or exported for printing, whatever is most convenient to the students.  EDIT PLAYLIST INFORMATION DELETE PLAYLIST

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  1. 1 Show/Hide More IICL Syllabus-Fall 2016
    IICL Syllabus-Fall 2016
  2. 2 Show/Hide More 1. Making sense of International Law
    Original Creator: Manuel A. Gómez

    1. What is international law?
    2. Why in international law important?
    3. How relevant (or not) is international law in each of the stories discussed in this chapter?
    4. What challenges or obstacles to international law can be found in each story?

    1. 2.1 Show/Hide More Is talking really better than shooting? The South China Sea dispute and international law
      Is talking really better than shooting? The South China Sea dispute and international law
    2. 2.4 Show/Hide More Protecting war correspondents
      Protecting war correspondents
    3. 2.5 Show/Hide More How can Canada protect Egyptian children from afar?
      the international protection of children
  3. 3 Show/Hide More 2. States as one of the pillars of international law
    Original Creator: Manuel A. Gómez

    States are one of the most important actors of international law. They create and codify international law via treaties and other agreements, are the main participants in international organizations, and also help enforce international law rules.  At the core of the states is the concept of sovereignty, which basically means “authority” or “control” to govern, and rule. 

    One important question is: how does sovereignty emerge? where does it come from? A related question is: how do states gain statehood? what are the requirements of being a state? and, who decides whether these requirements are met? In this unit, we will discuss these and other related issues. 

  4. 4 Show/Hide More 3. State recognition: Importance and effects in international law
    Original Creator: Manuel A. Gómez

    The electronic version of the Advisory Opinion can be found here: 

    1. 4.1 Show/Hide More Kosovo independence-ICJ Advisory Opinion (annotated)
      Original Creator: Manuel A. Gómez

      The purpose of this class is to discuss the meaning and importance of “recognition” as one of the elements of states, and to explore whether a unilateral declaration of independence is consistent with international law principles. We will use the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice regarding the case of Kosovo, as the context for our discussion. 

      This class will also provide a good opportunity to begin talking about the role of international organizations in interpreting international law, the role of the different organs of the United Nations (Security Council, General Assembly, and the ICJ), and the jurisdiction of the ICJ.

      Some additional readings on recognition are: 1) Christian Hellgruber, The Admission of New States to the International Community, 9 International Journal of European Law, 491 (1998), available at:, and 2) Ralph Wilde, et. al. Recognition of States: The consequences of recognition and non-recognition in UK and international law, Summary of the International Law Discussion Group meeting held at Chatham House on 4 February 2010, available at: 

  5. 5 Show/Hide More 4. Special assignment: Micronations
    Original Creator: Manuel A. Gómez

    From Micronations to Microstates (IRP #1)


    International law is neither static nor isolated from the social, political and economic realities, and the influence of modern culture. One example of this dynamism can be found in the concept of “state”. As we discussed in our previous sessions, the Montevideo Convention of 1933 provides some guidance regarding the definition of state, the requirements for becoming a state, and the legal consequences that derive from it. One of the key elements of states, according to the Montevideo Convention is their “recognition”. Article 3 states, “The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states”; but as we also discussed in the case of Kosovo, recognition carries an important political and legal weight.


    The contemporary discussion on recognition, and on the formation of states in general has mostly focused on the formation of new states that occupy large territories or which are deemed strategically important like Kosovo or Palestine. Notwithstanding, there is a rising interest on the formation of states created in relatively small land areas, and an equally small population. These are called “microstates”. A related concept is that of “micronations”, which have garnered media attention as you can see in the following CNN article: Mark Johanson, The people who create their own ‘countries’, CNN, February 20, 2015. Available at:


    The purpose of this special assignment is to explore the practical difficulties that arise when determining the qualification of state in the case of microstates and micronations. Your assignment will be to read the following law review article, and write a one page long commentary that addresses the topics indicated below. Gabriel Rossman, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (But Still So Far): Assessing Liberland’s Claim of Statehood, 17(1) Chicago Journal of International Law, 306 (2016). Available at:


    Topics to consider when writing your assignment:

    1. What is the difference between microstates and micronations? And why does it matter?
    2. What are the main arguments in favor, and against determining whether Liberland is a state?
    3. Is there anything in the ICJ advisory opinion regarding the declaration of independence of Kosovo that can be helpful to assert or deny Liberland’s statehood?


    Please, remember that the assignment is blind graded so make sure to write your ID provided by the registrar’s office, and make sure that your submission does not contain any form of personal identification.


    The deadline to submit your assignment is Thursday, September 1 at 11:59 pm via TWEN.  

    1. 6.1 Show/Hide More Kiobel et al v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. et al 133 S.Ct. 1659 (2013)
      Original Creator: Manuel A. Gómez

      Nigerian nationals filed a putative class action in US courts against certain Dutch, British, and Nigerian corporations for aiding and abetting the Nigerian government in committing international law violations (beating, raping, killing, arresting individuals, and destroying and looting property). The basis for their claim is the Alien Tort Statute (28 U.S.C. Section 1350). The central questions posed to the Court were:

      1. Under the Alien Tort Statute, are corporations immune from tort liability for violations of the law of nations, such as torture, extrajudicial executions, or genocide?

      2. Upon reargument, does the Alien Tort Statute allow courts to recognize a cause of action for violations of the law of nations occurring within the territory of a sovereign other than the United States?


    1. 23.2 Show/Hide More American Convention on Human Rights "Pact of San José"
      Text of the American Convention on Human Rights
    2. 23.3 Show/Hide More Venezuela's letter to OAS denouncing American Convention on Human Rights (Spanish)
      Original Spanish text of the letter dated 6 September 2012 from the Ministry of the Popular Power for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela to the Secretary General of the OAS
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