Public International Law

The Master’s specialisation in Public International Law is an English-taught programme concerning the law that governs international relations.

In the not so distant past, this was more or less limited to relations between states, but in recent years international organisations, peoples, enterprises and individuals have also become part of the increasingly complex global society and therewith of the realm of international law.

The realm of international law requires a redefinition of the core values and principles that shape international law into a coherent and effective system for the promotion of stability, peace and security, and justice in an era of globalisation and interdependence. Who is entitled to intervene in situations of mass violations of human rights? What means are allowed to combat international terrorism? Can the international community develop governance mechanisms, including law, to deal with problems such as global climate change?
These and many more questions have arisen with regard to the role of international law in international society. The Master’s Programme in Public International Law challenges students to develop their own views on the role and functioning of law in the international society.

After providing students with a thorough understanding of the fundamental doctrines of public international law, the programme aims at confronting them with different perspectives from theory and practice. As the programme will be taught in Leiden and The Hague, it will, as far as possible, draw upon the expertise available in the various international institutions located in The Hague, such as the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Master details

  • This is a specialisation of: Law
  • Degree Master of Laws in Law
  • Mode of study Full-time, part-time
  • Duration 1 year
  • Start date September, February
  • Language of instruction English
  • Location Leiden and The Hague
  • Croho/isat code 60084

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Prof. Nico Schrijver

Academic Director

“The intercultural character of this programme serves as a strong motivation both for students and lecturers. We make considerable demands of our students, but they respect this. In my experience they want to be challenged.”

“International Law is a field with élan, with a diverse range of legal sources and a plurality of legal parties, both state and non-state. Leiden has the oldest Chair in International Law in the Netherlands and enjoys an eminent international reputation in this field. What is special is that our staff are also members of many relevant institutions or act as advisers to such institutions. We have, for example, recently prepared an advisory document on terrorism for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Our students come from all parts of the world. The intercultural character of this study serves as a strong motivation both for students and lecturers. A number of lectures are offered at Leiden University’s location in The Hague. A particularly valuable privilege which our students enjoy is access to the library of the Peace Palace, one of the best law libraries in the world.

A distinctive aspect of this master’s is the teaching methodology which we apply: the privatissimum and the practicum. We allow our students to carry out independent studies into a current international legal case, such as the affair with Argentina, which has filed a complaint against neighbouring Uruguay for the pollution caused by the construction of a paper factory on the river bordering the two countries. Students also have to gain experience of assuming different roles: one week they are a defence lawyer, then a prosecutor, then a judge. My students have to submit a paper each week in which they address current conflicts between national and international, economic and environmental law. We make considerable demands of our students, but they respect this. In my experience they want to be challenged.”


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