Skip to Main Content

International Law in the Post-War Era

40 min

Essential Question 

  • How has international law developed and what challenges has it faced after WWII and the Holocaust? 


  • Students will analyze the role of international law in holding individuals accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity. 
  • Students will evaluate the effectiveness of international institutions in upholding international law.  

Student Materials

  • Event cards 
  • Poster board 


  • Begin by asking students the questions: Why do governments pass laws? How do laws ensure justice? Allow students time to think independently.  Then, have students share their responses with a shoulder partner or in a small group. Then pose the following to students: Governments pass and execute laws to restrain individuals from violating the rights of others. How can justice be upheld, though, when governments are the ones violating the rights of individuals? Allow student time to reflect individually before sharing with a shoulder partner or small group. 
  • Transition: For many centuries, countries have developed an idea known as international law to regulate and govern order and justice. International law is a way for countries to hold each other’s leaders accountable, even in times of armed conflict. Since the end of World War II, the United States has led the effort in implementing and upholding international laws that protect individual rights and uphold justice.  


Assign students to small groups. Provide each group with an event card. The cards will describe one of the three key events related to international law after World War II.  

Students should watch the related video, read the event card, and discuss them within their group, including how it is an example of international law. Each group will read their event card and discuss the following points: 

  • What was the historical context surrounding this event? 
  • What were the goals of this event or institution in terms of international law?  
  • How effective was the event in bringing the perpetrator of crimes to justice?  
  • How does this event or institution represent a development in international law? 

 Reconvene the class and have each group present a summary of their assigned event using chart paper or an online collaborative tool. Facilitate a class discussion focused on the following questions: 

  • How do these three events represent different approaches to enforcing international law? 
  • What are some of the challenges these institutions face in upholding international law? (Consider providing real-world examples of these challenges) 


  • Students should write a paragraph response to the prompt: What is the importance of international law in maintaining peace and protecting the rights of individuals?  


  • Students can research and write a short paper about a current or historic humanitarian crisis where an international organization has attempted to bring relief by upholding international law. How does their event compare with those in the event cards? 

Student Handouts