International Weapons Law


Course Objective

At the end of this course, students are expected to be able to:

1. Map an overview of general sources on international weapons law and
institutions dealing with weapons, arms control and disarmament
(including weapons of mass destruction and killer robots);
2. Explain the different levels at which regulations in this area have
been adopted, and how these different levels of action relate to each
3. Describe the origins of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), and the
law-making process;
4. Apply the most important legal provisions of the ATT (regarding scope
and the obligations on exporting states);
5. Identify and explain weaknesses and gaps in the international legal
framework regulating small arms and light weapons;
6. Specify how new technologies in the area pose new legal challenges
with regard to existing control instruments with regard to small arms
and light weapons, such as the International Tracing Instrument (ITI);
7. Describe International and EU laws on export control in this area,
including those on dual-use goods, and explain the relationship of
controls on dual-use goods and the combating of weapons of mass
8. Identify and reflect on legal challenges posed by autonomous weapons,
which select and engage targets without human intervention;
9. Explain the role of civil society in the development of international
weapons law.
10. To write a well-structured and well-argued legal analysis on a
specific topic related to international arms law.

Course Content

The international law of weapons existing today comprises a large
variety of rules from different levels. Weapons of mass destruction are
governed by a comprehensive regime, but in the field of conventional
arms, the rules are less extensive and leave more leeway for states.
Because of the direct link with national security, regulation in this
area is a sensitive issue for states. Existing treaties in this area
thus often only govern specific categories of weapons, and they may
differ in their scope of regulation – from a complete ban to mere
limitations on the manufacture or trade in arms.

After providing an overview on general sources on international weapons
law and institutions dealing with weapons, arms control and disarmament
(including weapons of mass destruction), this course will address the
laws governing the manufacture of and trade in conventional arms.
Regulations and controls in this field have been adopted at the
national, regional, and international (global) levels. Students will
reflect on the ways in which these different levels of action relate to
each another. Moreover, the course will cover the variety of actors
involved in the development and implementation of arms control measures.
Attention will be paid to the Arms Trade Treaty (entered into force on
24 December 2014), regulating the international trade in conventional

Students will also be introduced to new technologies and the challenges
they pose for the regulation and control of small arms and light
weapons, such as record keeping and tracing. Moreover, the course will
cover EU law on export controls, and address the legal framework of
export controls on dual-use goods—goods that can be used for both
civilian and military purposes. Legal challenges posed by autonomous
weapons systems, which select and engage targets without human
intervention, will receive separate attention. The role of civil society
in shaping international weapons law will also be covered.

Teaching Methods

The course will be delivered through seminars. Students are expected to
read the required materials beforehand, prepare assignments before each
class, and to actively participate in the discussion.

Method of Assessment

Take home exam and written assignments


Selected readings to be announced on CANVAS.
Boothby, Weapons and the law of armed conflict, Oxford University Press,
Recommended reference material: Research Guide to International Weapons
Law by Gudrun Zagel, see

Target Audience

Apart from regular students, the course is also available for:
Students from other universities/faculties
Contractor (students who pay for one course).

Courses from a master at the faculty can only be taken as a secondary
course if you have a diploma that gives access to the relevant master/
specialization and if you are enrolled in a master.

Explanation Canvas

Consult CANVAS for the course syllabus and other info.

Recommended background knowledge

Basic knowledge of legal regulation and public international law.

General Information

Course Code R_IWL
Credits 6 EC
Period P4
Course Level 500
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Law
Course Coordinator dr. G.N. Cornelisse
Examiner dr. G.N. Cornelisse
Teaching Staff

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Teaching Methods Seminar
Target audiences

This course is also available as: