In the Master’s programme Public International Law, you select one of the specialisations/tracks listed below. You can choose one of these specialisations: 

In our Conflict and Security track you explore in depth the old and new threats surrounding us, including wars, terrorism, pandemics and killer robots, and how they shape the world order we live in.

Conflict and Security

How to maintain international peace and resolve conflicts in an interconnected world threatened by old and emerging threats, such as Russian aggression against Ukraine, Israel-Gaza conflict, terrorism or pandemics? How should we understand the legality (and legal consequences) of UN and unilateral sanctions targeted killings or the selling of arms countries involved in atrocious crimes?

Our track on conflict and security offers an ideal platform to study these and other legal challenges of our time through two core courses, a choice of short tailored courses (Capita Selecta), and an LLM thesis. In the two core courses, titled ‘International Security Law’ (period 1) and ‘International Humanitarian Law’ (period 2) you will gain an in-depth knowledge and understanding of how international law regulates and is affected by evolving conflict and security challenges. These include, among others, self-defense against non-state actors, nuclear proliferation and the sale of arms, UN sanctions and peacekeeping operations, the protection of vulnerable persons in armed conflict, and the conduct of military operations.

We believe that conflict and security law cannot be studied in clinical isolation. To address this, in our Capita Selecta modules we offer you a choice from a range of inter-related topics, such as human rights and international peace, states of emergency, transitional justice, international criminal justice, and women, peace and security. These specialized courses will allow you to enhance the breadth and depth of your expertise in conflict and security law. In our track, we make sure that each course is designed to hone a specific skillset relevant for your future profession. In this vein, we challenge you with moot courts, simulations and debates, and the writing of position and research papers. Finally, you will have the opportunity to explore a topic of your own choosing in your LLM thesis.
In the conflict and security track, courses are taught by our international staff dedicated to excellence in teaching and research, and with practical experience in advising governments and NGOs, and litigating before international courts. They include Professor Cedric RyngaertDr Machiko Kanetake, Dr Kushtrim IstrefiDr Katharine Fortin, Dr Jérôme de HemptinneDr Brianne McGonigle Leyh, Dr Alexandra Hofer, Dr Luca Pasquet, Dr Alessandra SpadaroDr Lucas Roorda, R. Róisín Burke and Jessica Dorsey LLM as well as guest speakers from international organizations and governments.

Learning to tackle today's human rights challenges, from discrimination to climate change and authoritarianism - aided by a solid legal toolbox - is what our human rights track is all about

Human Rights

What are the limits to the freedom of expression? Do undocumented migrants have a right to shelter and healthcare? How can we address human rights violations committed not only by states, but also by international organizations, armed groups, businesses or individuals? Where do human rights come from and are they universal? Utrecht’s exciting human rights track offers wide opportunities to study these issues in-depth under the guidance of the experienced staff of the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM). In two key courses (Human Rights I and II) you will learn about the institutions protecting human rights, the principles underlying them, and the substance of those rights. In subsequent, in-depth Capita Selecta modules you will be able to deepen your knowledge and skills on specific key challenges for human rights of your choice, including transitional justice, non-discrimination, international humanitarian law and gender and law. Finally, you will have the opportunity to investigate a topic of your own choosing in your LLM thesis.

Our starting point is that human rights are never a given: they have to function in challenging circumstances. Providing you with the best legal knowledge and skills available, in order to give you a head-start in your future career, is one of our key aims. We do this by challenging you to develop yourself in a variety of ways: not just in taking exams, but also by presenting your research, participating in moot courts and writing position and research papers. You will be guided by the expertise of our committed international teaching team, including Dr Marjolein van den Brink, Professor Antoine Buyse, Dr Katharine FortinDr Kushtrim Istrefi, Dr Brianne McGonigle Leyh, Dr Alexandra TimmerDr Julie FraserDr Roman Teshome and Dr Lorena Sosa, Dr Tina Stavrinaki and Dr Birte Böök as well as a range of guest speakers from NGOs and government institutions. In addition, we very much believe in the diversity of expertise that our international student body brings: you are actively invited to discuss and share your own views and perspectives on human rights. Choosing the Human Rights specialization allows you to acquire both the skills of a generalist and the in-depth knowledge of a specialist – the combination is a key asset for your future! 

The OES track will enable you to better understand and to effectively work on some of the most pressing societal challenges, including climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable ocean governance.

Oceans, the Environment and Sustainability (OES)

The track offers a unique combination of two specialized courses, International Environmental Law and International Law of the Sea that will enable you to formulate informed opinions on, participate in and contribute to the debate and practice concerning the future of sustainable environmental and ocean governance. Effective international regimes are fundamental for ensuring the sustainable future of the Earth, including the ocean. The law of the sea provides the necessary legal framework for cooperating, managing and protecting the ocean and its resources. The ocean is essential for maintaining life on Earth and is increasingly important to the world economy; for instance 80% of all international trade and most internet traffic is seaborne. International environmental law deals with some of the major challenges we are facing and provides the legal framework for international cooperation and action. Air and water pollution, the degradation of the oceans and their living resources, climate change and ozone depletion, international trade in hazardous waste and maritime security, are only a few of the many issues that this track addresses.

Lecturers of the courses are professors at the School of Law and senior researchers at the Netherlands Institute for the Law of the Sea (NILOS) and the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, including Professor Alex Oude Elferink, Professor Seline Trevisanut, and Dr Lan Nguyen. They have hands-on experience with international environmental law, law of the sea and oceans governance, including as legal counsel at the ICJ and other international tribunals and as participants in international negotiations and as consultants for government agencies and international organizations and NGOs.