• Lecture
  • Related Materials

Mr. Michael Scharf

Mr. Michael Scharf
Dean and Professor of Law
Director of the Frederick K. Cox
International Law Center
Case Western Reserve University
School of Law

Biography Biography in PDF

International Law
Customary Law
Accelerated Formation of
Customary International Law

This lecture explores the concept of "Grotian Moments": transformative developments that generate the unique conditions for accelerated formation of customary international law. Scharf contends that in periods of fundamental change, whether by technological advances, the commission of new forms of crimes against humanity, or the development of new means of warfare or terrorism, customary international law may form much more rapidly and with less state practice than is normally the case to keep up with the pace of developments. This lecture examines six case studies of potential Grotian Moments: the Nuremberg trial, jurisdiction over the Continental Shelf, the advent of space law, the Yugoslavia Tribunal's Tadic decision, and the evolving law of use of force in self-defense against non-state actors and humanitarian intervention.


Video | Audio
(34 minutes)
International Law
Customary Law
Accelerated Formation of Customary International Law
A. Legal Instruments

Charter of the United Nations and Statute of the International Court of Justice, San Francisco, 26 June 1945.

General Assembly resolution 95 (I) of 11 December 1946 (Affirmation of the Principles of International Law recognized by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal).

General Assembly resolution 1962 (XVIII) of 13 December 1963 (Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and use of Outer Space).

Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, New York, 19 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 610, p. 205.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Montego Bay, 10 December 1982, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1833, p.3.

Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former YugoslaviaReport of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 2 of Security Council resolution 808 (1993) (S/25704), 3 May 1993.

Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for RwandaSecurity Council resolution 955 (1994) of 8 November 1994.

Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Rome, 17 July 1998, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 2187, p. 3.

B. Jurisprudence

International

International Military Tribunal, France et al. v. Göring et al., Judgment and Sentence, Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, vol. XXII, p. 411.

International Court of Justice, North Sea Continental Shelf Cases (Federal Republic of Germany/Denmark; Federal Republic of Germany/Netherlands), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1969, p. 3.

International Court of Justice, Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), Merits, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1986, p. 14.

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Prosecutor v. Dusko Tadić, Decision on the defence motion for interlocutory appeal on jurisdiction of 2 October 1995, Appeals Chamber, No. IT-94-1-AR72.

International Court of Justice, Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 2005, p. 168. 

C. Documents
D. Doctrine

B. Cheng, “United Nations Resolutions on Outer Space: ‘Instant’ International Customary law?” Indian Journal of International Law, vol 5, 1965, p.23-48; reprinted in B. Cheng, Studies in International Space Law, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1997, pp. 125–149.

H. Grotius, De Jure Belli ac Pacis, vol. II, trans. by Francis W. Kelsey, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1925.

International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, The Responsibility to Protect, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, 2001.

M. P. Schart, Customary International Law in Times of Fundamental Change: Recognizing Grotian Moments, CUP, Cambridge, 2013.

M. P. Scharf, “Seizing the ‘Grotian Moment’: Accelerated Formation of Customary International Law in Times of Fundamental Change”, Cornell International Law Journal, vol. 43, 2010, pp. 439-469.

M. P. Scharf, “Accelerated Formation of Customary International Law”, ILSA Journal of International & Comparative Law, vol. 20, 2014, p. 305-341.

M. P. Scharf, “How the War Against ISIS Changed International Law”, Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, vol. 48, 2016, p. 15-67.

M. P. Scharf, “Striking a Grotian Moment: How the Syria Airstrikes Changed International Law Relating to Humanitarian Interventions”, Chicago Journal of International Law, vol. 19, 2019,(forthcoming).