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School of Law

International protection of human rights

Course Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year

This course is designed for those who are either interested in specialising in the study of human rights, or for those who are interested to acquire knowledge and expertise in the field of international law.

The course is divided into two roughly equal parts. 

  1. The first part provides an introduction to the structure of the international system of human rights protection through law, covering theoretical issues, the difference between human rights law and other areas of international law, enforcement machinery, and general matters such as the territorial scope of human rights obligations. It will cover, for example, the conceptual basis for human rights (and critiques of rights), the traditional treatment of individuals in international law, the introduction of international human rights law, the foundational documents (e.g. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), related areas of international law (international criminal law, international humanitarian law, international refugee law) and the global and regional machinery for enforcing international human rights law (e.g. the African Court of Human Rights).
  2. In the second part the course address the law, and legal issues surrounding the promotion and protection of particular rights, including civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, and group rights of various kinds. This will involve, for example, focusing upon minority rights, indigenous rights, self-determination, right to privacy, security of the person, freedom of assembly and human rights and the environment, alongside matters such as the right to life, freedom from torture, and the rights to housing and education.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

By the end of this course students should be able to :

  • Demonstrate knowledge and awareness of the various institutions and procedures for the protection of human rights in international law
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the various theoretical debates surrounding the judicial protection of human rights
  • Engage in critical legal analysis of the practice of judicial institutions
  • Reflect critically upon the role played by international law in the promotion and protection of human rights
  • Carry out independent research in the field of human rights using both library-based and electronic resources

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: 70% unseen examination and 30% coursework (one essay of 5,000 words). Coursework regulations apply.