Stetson University

Courses - The Hague, Netherlands

Week 1
(June 30 - July 3, 2014)

The United States and the International Court of Justice (1 credit)
Instructor: William G. Merkel, Charleston School of Law

This course explores the relationship of the United States to the International Court of Justice [ICJ], “the principal judicial organ of the United Nations” based in the Peace Palace in the Hague. The course was well received when I taught it for Stetson on the Hague Summer Program in 2013, and I would be delighted to teach a fine tuned and updated version of the course again this coming summer. Students will study the ICJs foundations in the United Nations Charter and the Statute of the International Court of Justice, the role of the United States in creating the ICJ after World War II, and the bases whereby states assent to the jurisdiction of the Court in contentious cases. After briefly sketching the outlines of the eighteen cases in which the U.S. has appeared as applicant or respondent before the ICJ since 1950, we will focus on three foundational ICJ opinions from the late Cold War and post-Cold War eras: the Diplomatic and Consular Staff Case (United States v. Iran, 1980), Military and Paramilitary Activities in Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States, 1984 (jurisdiction) and 1986 (merits)), and Avena (Mexico v. United States, 2004). As students study these cases, they will prepare for a substantial oral advocacy exercise on the last day of class involving facts similar to Avena, in which a treaty partner of the United States attempts to enforce U.S. obligations respecting the human rights of foreign nationals detained in the United States. The experience will allow students to develop perspectives and analytic skill sets required to solve complex legal problems relating to jurisdictional conflicts and transnational enforcement of norms and judgments.

In fine tuning the course, Professor Merkel will draw on over ten years of experience teaching Public International Law, International Criminal Law, and Comparative Law at Columbia Law School, Washburn Law School, the University of South Carolina School of Law, and Charleston School of Law, as well as extensive experience coaching teams in the Jessup International Law Moot Court competition. Ideally, students enrolled in the United States and the International Court of Justice will have the opportunity to visit the ICJ at the Peace Palace or one of the other important international tribunals based in The Hague such as the International Criminal Court [ICC] or International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [ICTY] to observe proceedings in person. In 2013, many students reported that our visit to the ICTY was one of the most rewarding parts of their experience in the Hague. The U.S. and ICJ course dovetails with Professor Merkel’s next major research project in which he plans to explore changing American attitudes towards the ICJ.

Week 2
(July 7-10, 2014)

Litigating Trade, Human Rights, and the Environment in International Courts (1 credit)
Instructor: Michael Burger, Roger Williams University School of Law

In a series of international agreements that began in Rio in 1992, the nations of the world have assumed a collective responsibility to pursue sustainable development by advancing and strengthening the “three pillars” of sustainable development: economic development, social equity, and environmental protection. This course will examine international law—and in particular international trade law—through the lens of sustainable development. The course will review recent developments in negotiations at the World Trade Organization and other regional, multilateral and bilateral free trade associations, as well as the case law of the WTO Appellate Body and decisions of dispute resolution mechanisms established under other free trade agreements. Other specific topics may include: cooperation and potential negotiation on international competition law; sustainable development aspects of intellectual property rights negotiations; and the intersection between human rights, environmental protection, and trade law.

Week 3
(July 14-17, 2014)

Justice on Trial: The Nuremberg Justice Trials of 1947 (1 credit)
Instructor: Judge Edward LaRose, Stetson University College of Law

“Judgment at Nuremberg,” the 1961 movie with Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster, was riveting but not fanciful. The film is based on the Nuremberg Justice Trial of 1947 before a military tribunal. Sixteen defendants, members of the Reich Ministry of Justice or People’s and Special Courts, faced prosecution for their complicity in enforcing unjust laws against the so-called enemies of the Nazi regime.

The student will receive a brief overview of the German civil law system and will examine the judicial system as operated by the Nazis from 1933-1945. The student will become acquainted with the major defendants, the judges, the major prosecutors, and defense lawyers. On reading portions of the court decision and trial transcripts, the student will gain an insight into how a Western European legal system failed the people it was intended to protect. The course is relevant to an understanding of contemporary international tribunals addressing criminal conduct and crimes against humanity.

Week 4
(July 21-24, 2014)

The Law of War in the 21st Century (1 credit)
Instructor: Gary Solis, Georgetown Law

This course surveys the law of armed conflict as it applies to today’s battlefields. Is there really law in combat? What constitutes a “battlefield?” Are the Geneva Conventions still relevant? When does the law of war apply? Does it apply to non-state actors? What is a war crime, and who decides? Is torture ever lawful? Is waterboarding torture? In the law of war, is there a difference between a terrorist, a combatant, and a criminal? What is an unprivileged belligerent, and who is a lawful combatant? Are drones lawful, and how do we know? Targeted killing? Are superior orders a defense to war crime charges? What is a cyber-attack, and are they “armed attacks?” What legal problems do Guantanamo trials face? Is indefinite detention lawful? Such questions are the subject of the course.

It is not a philosophy course, nor is it national security law, nor human rights law. Those are inextricably related, but we focus on the law applicable in today’s non-international armed conflicts. Military experience is not a prerequisite.


See the world while earning class credit in one of Stetson's many study abroad programs. In an increasingly global society, Stetson University College of Law enables you to discover new lands and foreign legal systems through several international study opportunities, including:

Autumn in London
Summer Abroad Programs
Cayman Islands Winter Break Program
International Student Exchange


For more information, see International Programs Office or Study Abroad FAQ (PDF) or contact us at

Share Web Page