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COURSE NAME: "Advanced Topics in International Law: Human Trafficking, Forced Labor and Slavery"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Silvia Scarpa
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 8:30 AM 9:45 AM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Senior Standing; recommended PL/LAW 320 International Law or permission of the instructor

This course offers students the chance to explore selected areas of international and/or comparative law. Working in a seminar format, the professor will guide advanced students in examining complex international and national legal issues through comparative legal and political analysis: using multiple sources of law in order to understand any hierarchy existing among them, to discern the legal arguments presented in the jurisprudence of national and international courts and the different power relations that they may express, entrench or subvert. Students’ common exploration of a single issue will be deepened by their individual work on a final research paper on a related legal topic of their choice. 

The course offers a comprehensive understanding of the complex international legal system regulating human trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery. The intricacy of the definitional framework is studied and relevant branches of international law – including transnational trafficking law, international slavery law, standards in the field of forced labour, human rights and international criminal law – are investigated to understand the complex set of existing norms in the fields of human trafficking and other contemporary forms of slavery. The effects produced by the fragmentation of international law in this field is also specifically assessed. The prevention framework, protection for victims and prosecution activities existing for multiple modern exploitative practices at the universal and regional level, as well as their relevant characteristics are studied. The role played by multiple international organizations, including the United Nations (UN), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Council of Europe (CoE), the European Union (EU), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), is also discussed and relevant sources of international law, including various treaties and pieces of European Union law, as well as the jurisprudence of some international courts and cases of human rights monitoring bodies are examined. Recommendations for action needed in the existing international legal framework in this field are formulated. Finally, through a peer-to-peer approach, students provide feedback to their partners on their research projects, and they conduct research and write a capstone paper on a topic of their choice.


Upon completion of this course students:

-       will be able to understand complex international law and comparative law issues;

-       will have acquired relevant skills for analyzing and interpreting international and national legal standards and the caselaw of multiple judicial institutions;

-       will be able to use relevant primary and secondary sources of international and national law to develop sound research projects on cross-cutting legal issues;

-       will be able to identify the philosophical assumptions and political aspirations underpinning different legal interpretations; 

-       will have acquired relevant skills for effectively presenting their research projects in selected areas of international and comparative law to multiple audiences, including academia, diplomatic circles, international and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), transnational corporations and the media. 


Topic Selection, Question development and AbstractTopics and research questions shouldn't be longer than 30 words. Abstracts shall be between 400 and 500 words. More specific guidelines will be available on Moodle.10%
Discussant Each student will be assigned a partner who will provide feedback on their topics, research questions and abstracts and in-class presentations. 10%
Oral PresentationStudent will develop a PowerPoint/Prezi presentation and they will present their work in class. Presentations shall comprise at least 15 slides+the bibliography. The bibliography shall include at least 8 academic sources. Specific guidelines for presentations will be available on Moodle.30%
Final paperA final paper including between 6,500 and 8,000 words will have to be submitted by the relevant deadline indicated in the schedule. The bibliography shall include at least 20 academic sources. 40%
Class ParticipationStudents shall read relevant reading materials before class and shall meaningfully contribute to class discussions.10%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.



Lesson 1: Introduction to the Course


Lesson 2: What is ‘Contemporary Slavery’? 


Lesson 1: How is ‘Slavery’ Defined in International Law?  


Lesson 2: What Are the ‘Practices Similar to Slavery’? 



Lesson 1: Which Role Does ‘Dignity’ Play in Legally Defining ‘Contemporary Slavery’? 


Lesson 2: What is ‘Forced Labour’? And what is ‘Servitude’?


Lesson 1: What is ‘Human Trafficking’? 


Lesson 2: ‘Enslavement’, ‘Sexual Slavery’ and ‘Forced Marriages’ during Armed Conflicts. 



Lesson 1: How to Do Research and Identify Sources in the Field of Contemporary Forms of Slavery and Human Trafficking (Guest Lecture by a Librarian)

Lesson 2: How to Get Started on Your Outline and Organize Your Sources



Lesson 1 What is ‘Child Labor’? What are the ‘Worst Forms of Child Labor’?


Lesson 2: The United Nations and the Trafficking in Persons’ Legal Framework 



Lesson 1: Trafficking in Persons versus the Smuggling of Migrants and the Broader Context of Irregular Migration and Asylum 


Lesson 2: International (Human Rights) Law and Contemporary Forms of Slavery 


WEEKS 8, 9, 10 and 11: students present in class their senior capstone projects



Lesson 1: The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Union (EU) and Action against Forced and Compulsory Labour


Lesson 2: The Council of Europe (CoE) and Slavery, Servitude, Forced Labor and Human Trafficking



Lesson 1: The European Union (EU) and Human Trafficking 


Lesson 2: The Organization of American States (OAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Human Trafficking and Contemporary Slavery: A Comparative Perspective



Lesson 1: Customary law and Peremptory Rules of International Law (Jus Cogens rules) in the Fields of Contemporary Slavery and Human Trafficking 


Lesson 2: What are the International Legal Challenges for Eliminating Human Trafficking and Contemporary Forms of Slavery? What Ought to be Done to Eliminate Them? 


Deadline to submit final papers.