International Law, International Lawyers: The Chilcot Report

Dit vak wordt in het Engels aangeboden. Omschrijvingen kunnen daardoor mogelijk alleen in het Engels worden weergegeven.

Doel vak

At the end of this course students will have:
- learned and understood the international legal framework within which
the debate on the legality of the war against Iraq took place, as well
as the different legal interpretations of the relevant Security Council
- intimate knowledge of the Chilcot Report: its contents, the most
important players in the legal debate; its production, meaning within
the larger discussion on the role of state legal advisors; impact and
significance. This knowledge will be acquired (inter alia) by means of
student presentations
- learned how to reflect on the role of international lawyers -
international legal advisors in particular - in bringing about
international legal practice. This discussion will be used to reflect,
moreover, on the relation between law and politics, specifically in the
area of international peace and security law.
- how to understand the role of international law in these decisions
about foreign policy. Questions asked are (amongst others); what does
the importance of the legal advice issued by Lord Goldsmith say about
the legitimating function of international law in foreign policy? Why
did its timing matter so much?

Eindtermen: 1, 4-5, 7, 9-12, 14, 16.
Zie voor de eindtermen van de Bachelor Rechtsgeleerdheid het Onderwijs-
en Examenreglement Bachelor Rechtsgeleerdheid.

Inhoud vak

This course aims to do two things: first, to provide a close case
analysis of the British government’s decisionmaking in respect of
participating in the war against Iraq in 2003; second, to use this case
as a means to reflect on the interplay between law and politics, lawyers
and politicians, and what that tells us about the law and the character
of legal advise. At the heart of this course lies the 2016 Chilcot
Report: specifically, its detailed inquiry into the legal advise issued
by the government’s own as well as independent legal advisers. In its
fifth volume, the Report prominently details the change of heart of the
UK’s Attorney General (Lord Goldsmith), who first argued that the use of
force against Iraq would be illegal, but later came to the “better view”
that this was not the case. In order to be able to first understand
‘what happens here’, we resort to the legal framework: what is the law
on the use of force, in general, and what was the legal debate about in
this case specifically? Secondly, we do a close reading of the fifth
volume of the Chilcot report, and ask two questions: how does the
substance of the legal advise change, and who, in this part of the
report, is talking to whom? This latter question serves as the entry
point to not just talk about legal rules: the presumption of the course
is that the law is used by those working with it, and that if we want to
understand how the law works in practice, we’ll have to take a closer
look at its users. The Chilcot report reveals a number of fascinating
exchanges between the most important players, who do not just discuss
the law, but the nature of legal advise; the role of legal advisers and
the responsibility of both politicians and lawyers. This, then,
constitutes the third part of the course: a discussion of and reflection
on the interaction between law and politics and those engaged in this
field, and what all of this tells us about how the law operates in


The course consists of 3, three hour interactive seminars. Group
discussion (and thus, student preparation and participation) is at the
core of this course. Student presentations will also be scheduled.


The course is concluded with a final paper.

Vereiste voorkennis

Basic knowledge of international law is required. Please contact the
course instructor in case of doubt.


Seminar 1:
- UN Charter, Preamble, Chapter I, Chapter VII
- Jan Klabbers, International Law, CUP 2017, chapter 10
- Colin Powell’s presentation at the UN Security Council, available at
- Security Council Resolutions 678, 687, 1441
Seminar 2:
- Chilcot report, vol 5
- UN Security Council Resolutions 678, 687, 1441
- Sir John Chilcot press conference, available at
Seminar 3:
- Tanja Aalberts and Lianne Boer, Entering the Invisible College:
Defeating Lawyers on Their Own Turf, British Yearbook of International
Law, 2016
- Martti Koskenniemi, Between Commitment and Cynicism, Collection of
Essays, UN: 1999
- Martti Koskenniemi, The Lady Doth Protest Too Much: Kosovo, and the
Turn to Ethics in International Law, The Modern Law Review (2002)


- Honours students
- Exchange students (bachelor)
- Regular students Law (extra-curricular)

Overige informatie

The course has a capacity of 40 students.
A minimum of 7 attending students is required.

Algemene informatie

Vakcode R_TCILR
Studiepunten 3 EC
Periode P5
Vakniveau 300
Onderwijstaal Engels
Faculteit Faculteit der Rechtsgeleerdheid
Vakcoördinator dr. L.J.M. Boer LLM
Examinator dr. L.J.M. Boer LLM

Praktische informatie

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