Origins, Themes, and Course Requirements for


"International Law and the Nobel Peace Prize:

Human Rights and Arms Control"


Professors Martin and Setear

Fall 1998





This course had its genesis in the announcement by the University of Virginia that it would host a conference of Laureates of the Nobel Peace Prizeóincluding the Dalai Lama, Bishop Tutu, Oscar Arias Sanchez, and Jody Williamsóin November of 1998. We wondered whether the Law School might appropriately offer a course in connection with this Conference. Our survey of the work leading to the receipt of the Peace Prize by various individuals and international organizations led us to two conclusions. First, the work of a majority of Laureates importantly involved an international legal agreement, and the work of virtually every Laureate involved striving for the attainment of goals reflected in international legal rules. Second, the work of recent (post-World War II) Laureates that was relevant to international law tended to involve either human-rights law or arms control, rather than to involve such other areas of international law as international trade, the international environment, or private international litigation. We decided that we might therefore appropriately offer an upper-level seminar in the international-law curriculum to explore selected issues of the international law of human rights and arms control raised by the work of the Laureates. The course is not a biography course of the Laureates, nor a course about the law surrounding the awarding of the Prize itself, but rather an international-law course using the work of the Laureates as a jumping-off point for the exploration of a number of questions about international law and its role in history and in international politics.



Seminars are inherently less structured than lecture courses, and, as described in more detail below, this seminar involves a great deal of student input into the particular materials and topics that we will cover. We therefore cannot predict in advance exactly which themes we will pursue in the course or in what proportion. Nonetheless, we believe that some initial sense of the questions likely to be explored in the course is both possible and useful. Considered as a whole, the work of the Laureates selected for discussion in the course raises at least the following questions of interest:

ïHow do historical events, cultural contexts, and regional issues shape the pursuit of goals in international law and international politics?

ïHow important is international law in the achievements recognized by the award of the Nobel Peace Prize?

ïWhat is the role of individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in international law? (Most courses in international law focus on nation-states and on international organizations.)

ïWhat is the role of innovation and inspiration in international law, international politics, and human progress?

ïWhat is the interplay between the text of an international legal instrument and international political reality? Does international law shape international political decisions, or does international politics determine international legal outcomes? When are legal solutions advisable and when, on the contrary, is it better not to enshrine an outcome in international law but rather to leave the issues in the more flexible domains of policy and diplomacy?

ïHow can we develop the critical capacity to identify what is and is not happening in international legal instruments? How and when can we judge that an international legal instrument is a success or a failure?

ïHow can we tell from the text of an international legal instrument where a compromise has occurred (and how successful it is likely to be)? Can we distinguish compromise from failure to agree at all? When is textual ambiguity bad and when is it good?

ïWhat broader lessons can we draw about using international law to advance Alfred Nobelís (and our own) objectives for world peace? Can we have peace without justice? Justice without international law? International law without justice?



Course Requirements

The course has three requirements:

    1. co-leadership of a class discussion;
    2. submission of a research paper, including a detailed outline thereof; and

(3) class participation, including attendance at some sessions held outside of regular class hours.



(1) One course requirement is that you co-lead the discussion in one class session. Beginning with the fifth class meeting (on September 23rd), and continuing through the penultimate class meeting, two students and one of the professors will lead each discussion. The student co-leaders will choose the reading materials for that session from among a set of readings that we have already assembled, formulate written questions for discussion, and serve as lead discussants during the class itself.

Come to next weekís class (September 2nd) with a written list of preferences. Be as specific as you can about the topics. (E.g., "My first choice is X; my second choice is Y," "Anything but Z," or "Any among A, B, or C would be equally great.") If you have other kinds of preferences relating to the assignment of discussion topics, list those as well. (E.g., "I am getting married on September 30th and will be unable to co-lead the class discussion on that day," or "I am in the midst of a bitter divorce from Ivana and would prefer not to co-lead the discussion with her.") We will do our best to honor your preferences.

Shortly after next weekís class, we will e-mail you with the list of topic assignments for the discussions. (Weíll bring the list in hard-copy form to the September 9th class.) Several weeks before your co-led session, we will provide you with a stack of materials that you should read and then pare down as appropriate. (You may also find materials on your own if you wish.) About two weeks before your co-led session, you will meet with one of us to go over the materials youíve chosen, identify any shortcomings or excesses in the materials, and formulate a rough version of the discussion questions. Just over a week before your co-led session, youíll give us the final version of the materials and discussion questions. Weíll photocopy those materials for you and then hand them out to everyone at the end of the class immediately before the one that you will co-lead.



(2) Another of the course requirements is completion of a substantial research paper. Your paper should be roughly 30 double-spaced pages in length (exclusive of footnotes). More subjectively, your paper should reflect not only substantial research but also significant original analysis.


Your paperís topic should flow from the topic of the discussion that you co-lead. To illustrate with a hypothetical example covering Laureates whom we will not discuss, suppose that you co-led a discussion about the Middle East peace process (and 1994 Nobel Laureates Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin). Your paper might explore how human-rights concerns affected the negotiations, or how politicians use formal agreements to build trust between parties highly suspicious of one another, or whether the international legal rules said to govern decolonization provide any useful normative or predictive power in the particular case of Israel and the Palestinian Entity. You may also use the topic of the discussion that you co-lead to serve as a basis for a topic that usefully compares your discussion topic with some other international legal phenomenon, e.g., a comparison between the Middle East peace process and the Dayton Accords. (Both the Middle East Process and the Dayton Accords re-drew territorial boundaries and created nascent nation-states in a highly charged political-military context involving significant refugee populations and significant accusations of human-rights violations, but there were also significant differences regarding the form of alleged human-rights violations and the participation vel non of international organizations.)

The research paper is due on Friday, December 4th at 5 p.m. (This is the last hour of the last day of classes for the semester.)

On a purely procedural aspect, please note that we will require you to turn in both a hard-copy version of your paper and a diskette containing the relevant file. We ask for an electronic copy of your paper with an eye towards possibly making a Web site on the topics of the course. We wonít reproduce the paper on-line without your consent, but we will require you to turn in both a hard-copy and diskette version of your paper in any case.

There are three course requirements associated with earlier stages in the paper-writing process. First, by Friday, September 25th at 5 p.m., you must turn in a one-sentence description of your paper topic. Second, by Friday, October 9th at 5 p.m., you must turn in a one-paragraph description of your paper. Third, by Friday, October 30th at 5 p.m., you must turn in a detailed outline of your substantial research paper. (By a "detailed" outline, we mean an outline with roughly one line per contemplated paragraph of the final paper.)





After you turn in each of these three required documents, we will meet with you briefly to give you any necessary feedback. The general idea is to make sure that your proposed topic seems of roughly the proper scope, that your proposed thesis has some analytical content, and that your proposed organization has no glaring holes. Please note that the purpose of these various documents is not to tie you down to any exact phrasing or any particular order or structure of paragraphs, nor to estop us from making any later remarks of praise or criticism that were not directly raised as feedback to you. The purpose is rather to prevent anyone from going drastically astray, to give you a chance to talk with us about your paper at various points well before you turn it in, and to force you to consider the substance of your paper much earlier than the last minute. It would not be uncommon for some or all of our feedback at a given stage to consist of our saying, "Great! Keep going!"







(3) The final course requirement is class participation and attendance. In addition to the usual requirements, you must also attend the talks given by the six speakers in the autumn series from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays, unless you have a conflict at that time with another class. We selected the speakers and their topics specifically to address topics of interest to the course; additionally, where possible, we coordinated the dates of these talks with the dates on which we take up various topics in the course. (The series should also be of interest to those not taking the course, so please feel free to mention these events to others.) Finally, we anticipate that we can secure your admission to some or all of the plenary sessions of the Conference on Thursday, November 5th and Friday, November 6th. Attendance at those events is a course requirement as well, although we will excuse those with conflicting class schedules. In addition, we expect to be able to arrange a special meeting of the class, probably on the morning of November 6th, that will feature a Laureate, probably Oscar Arias Sanchez, as our guest.

Your grade will be an equal weighting of the quality of your paper; the quality of the discussion that you co-lead; and your participation in the other sessions of the class, including your attendance at the extra sessions.