Postgraduate Module Descriptor

LAWM037: The Use of Force in International Law

This module descriptor refers to the 2021/2 academic year.


NQF Level7
Credits30 ECTS Value15
Term(s) and duration

This module will run during term 2 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Dr Chris O'Meara (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


In this module you will explore the legal framework governing when states may have recourse to armed force in their international relations (the ‘jus ad bellum’). This is one of the most controversial subjects of international law. The UN Charter’s general prohibition of the use of force is widely regarded as one of the core principles of the international legal order, yet no consensus exists regarding its precise content and scope. Recent military interventions, in particular in the context of the ‘war on terror’, have deeply divided the international community. Against this background, you will explore some of the most contentious topics of debate. Do states enjoy a right of anticipatory self-defence against future threats? Are they entitled to target non-state actors operating from the territory of other states? Does the international community have a duty to use force to prevent mass atrocities, such as genocide? You will also consider the ability of the UN Security Council to authorize force and the criminalization of aggressive wars. In addressing these issues, the module will introduce you to case studies of recent military interventions in order to place the rules governing the use of force within their strategic context. This approach will enable you to gain a comprehensive and contextual understanding of the law and its limitations.

Students enrolled on this module are Student Members of the Exeter Centre for International Law and are expected to participate in relevant events of the Centre as part of this module.

Module created


Last revised