Lesson 4: International Law


Activity 1: International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court

Students are introduced to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and International Criminal Court (ICC). Provide students with Handout 1: The International Court of Justice and Handout 2: The International Criminal Court. Students will not have much understanding of these two bodies so review the highlights.

Part A

When the sheets have been reviewed, hand out Handout 3: People Hunt, Web Quest and Mock Tribunal and Handout 4: People Hunt and set up the activity. Essentially the students are looking for people in the class that can answer any question on the sheet. They must write down the answer and have the student sign the box beside the question that was answered. Students cannot answer their own questions or sign their sheet and you should not provide answers. Allow no more than 15-20 minutes for this activity because the time pressure will add to the experience and increase the active participation of the class. Review and offer a prize, bonus marks or participation marks to students.

Part B

The second part of Handout 3: People Hunt, Web Quest and Mock Tribunal is a Web Quest at the ICC website to research current war crimes or acts of genocide and identify the people, nations and victims involved. Students are to write a summary of the research and present this to the class (this could be optional). If students do not have access to the Internet at home or school the research can be conducted using traditional media sources, though this may take more time and require the assistance of a librarian. The report should provide a summary of the event in question, identify the victims, identify the perpetrators, provide some historical context and comment on any international involvement.

Part C

The third part of Handout 3: People Hunt, Web Quest and Mock Tribunal is an optional activity and will require several classes for research and to act out the tribunal. The tribunal will put the United Nations (UN) on trial for its inability to prevent war crimes, rather than using the tribunal to act out the trial of war criminals. In that sense, the mock tribunal is not designed to teach students about the actual tribunal process but to investigate and think critically about the role of the UN in preventing war crimes, genocide or ethnic cleansing around the globe.

The roles required are: Chief Justice, Secondary judges (2-4), counsel for the UN (1-3), counsel for the aggrieved nation (1-3), high ranking UN official, expert witnesses (UN bureaucrats, analysts, scholars), a high ranking member of government from aggrieved nation, witnesses to any of the events (acts of genocide or UN actions) and any physical evidence you want to introduce (pictures, video, maps, documents). Student teams will create the roles, prepare evidence and organize the tribunal.

See Answer Key for Handout 4 in the Assessment section.

Activity 2: Genocide in the 20th Century

The first activity will engage students in conducting research focused on historic examples of genocide in the 20th century. It is recommended to discuss the nature of genocide and to make your students aware that sensitivity and historical empathy are important considerations when researching genocide.

It is very likely that you will have students that have been touched by one or more of the

acts of genocide described in this activity, thus cautions are important for you and the students. Provide them with Handout 5: The Tragedy of Rwanda and review the steps in Part A. Students are asked to choose one example of genocide from the list, conduct background research, apply the ‘stages of genocide’ and prepare a brief presentation.

The stages are to be examined from the perspective of the example in the chart and are useful for getting students to recognize that genocide is never a random or arbitrary act. The assignment sheet recommends a written report but you are free to adapt/adjust the end product to meet the time frame, student ability and access to multimedia.

In the second activity students will examine the tragedy of Rwanda and the failure of the UN in this series of activities. Provide students with Handout 6: The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and read through this as a class. The handout contains details about the structure of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the prosecution of war criminals by the tribunal.

The next step requires a copy of the documentary “Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire” or one of the films on the genocide of Rwanda. If these are not accessible, you can use Dallaire’s book to provide the necessary background information. Have students complete the question set after viewing the film or gathering notes on the genocide. Debrief the questions and conduct an open conversation about the nature of genocide, the actions of international bodies in preventing such crimes against humanity and the potential for future crimes.

As an optional follow-up or as an enrichment activity on Rwanda, use the information in Handout 6: The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda under Relevance for Peace and Justice for Rwanda and Africa to critically assess the current status of war crimes or crimes against humanity in Africa. Consider the most recent events in Darfur, Sudan to suggest that the ICTR and prosecution of war criminals in Rwanda has not deterred other nations from committing acts of genocide.

See Answer Key for Handout 5 in the Assessment section.

Activity 3: Nuremburg Mock Trial Optional        

Prepare students for the Mock Trial by distributing Handout 7: The Nuremburg Trials for reading.

The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre provides a comprehensive mock trial called Nuremberg: A Student Mock Trial of Julius Streicher. Developed by educators and law practitioners from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, Justice Education Society, Simon Fraser University and others. It is a 90-minute mock trial recommended for Social Studies 11, History 12, Law 12 and Social Justice 12 classes but can be adapted for intermediate grades. The full mock trial resource (40 pages) is available online.

Additional resources for teaching, including a PowerPoint presentation of evidence used in the Nuremberg Trials (one for grades 7-9, another for grades 10-12), are available online.

Current International Criminal Court Cases
After participating in the mock trial, teachers can encourage students to visit the International Criminal Court website, and then identify and think critically about some of the challenges the Court may face as it brings the issues it is now investigating to trial.

The ICC’s official website provides up-to-date information about its current cases.

The ICC’s official website also provides streaming (with 30-minute delays) of proceedings in its two courtrooms, which students might find interesting and educational. The ICC also has a YouTube channel with footage from some of its proceedings, press conferences and meetings.

To understand the relationship between Canada’s government and the ICC, students can visit Canada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.