SOAS University of London

School of Law

International Protection of Human Rights

Module Code:
15PLAC119 - not running in 2021/22
Module Not Running 2022/23
Year of study:

The module will be a foundational, compulsory module for students on the MA/LLM human rights programme who have no prior experience in international human rights law. It will provide an in-depth introduction to international human rights law, particularly its historical development, major theoretical debates, the main legal framework within the broader international law setting, the global and regional (especially the African, Inter-American and European system) institutional machinery for enforcement, as well as an introduction to the main bodies of rights (civil and political, economic, social and cultural rights, collective rights). The module also explores cross-cutting issues, such as race, gender, age and intersectionality, and their salience in the field of human rights law. The module builds on a range of theoretical perspectives that enable students to critically interrogate the genesis of, and current developments in international human rights law. Students will engage with case law and policy documents, as well as key academic texts to acquire both sound knowledge of the law and critical awareness of the biases, gaps and challenges in the current system. Regional and practitioners’ perspectives will inform students encounter with international human rights law, encouraging them to develop a nuanced, context-sensitive and self-reflective approach to the subject


This module is not open to all students. Non-law students attending the module must have either attended the School of Law module Preliminary Law, Legal Reasoning and Legal Methods or provide satisfactory evidence of equivalent legal background. Module enrolment for non-law students requires the convenor's approval

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • To demonstrate knowledge and awareness of the various sources, institutions and procedures for the protection of human rights in international law;
  • To demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the various theoretical debates surrounding the protection of human rights;
  • To engage in critical legal analysis of the practice of judicial and other institutions;
  • To reflect critically upon the role played by international law in the promotion and protection of human rights;
  • To carry out independent research in the field of human rights using both library-based and electronic resources.


  • Weekly 2 hour lecture

Scope and syllabus

1.         Introduction: overview of the field, key theories and debates

2.         Traditional protection of the individual in international law

3.         Ideas and critique of human rights

4.         International human rights law: sources, rights and obligations, implementation, and enforcement

5.         The UN human rights system

6.         Regional human rights systems

7.         Civil and political rights

8.         Economic, social and cultural rights

9.         Collective rights, with a particular focus on the rights of indigenous peoples

10.       Vulnerable  persons and human rights; revision

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 50% (3000 words)
  • Unseen written exam: 50% (2 hours)

Suggested reading

  • Ilias Bantekas & Lutz Oette, International Human Rights Law and Practice, 3rd ed. (Cambridge University Press, 2020)
  • Upendra Baxi, The Future of Human Rights, 3rd ed. (Oxford University Press India, 2012)
  • Thomas Risse, Stephen C. Ropp and Kathryn Sikkink (eds.), The Persistent Power of Human Rights: From Commitment to Compliance (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

  • Mashood Baderin and Manisuli Ssenyonjo (eds.) International Human Rights Law: Six Decades After the UDHR and Beyond (Ashgate, 2010)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules