SOAS University of London

School of Law

International Protection of Human Rights

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Full Year

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

The module is divided into two roughly equal parts.

  • 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 covers, 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 human rights system).
  • In the second part the module addresses 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 peoples’ rights, self-determination, freedom of expression alongside matters such as the right to life, freedom from torture, and the rights to housing and health.  In addition, it examines a range of other key areas o international human rights law, including women’s rights, non-state actors and human rights, and human rights in practice.


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
  • 1 hour tutorial (please see syllabus for details of when tutorials are scheduled)

Method of assessment

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

Suggested reading

  • Ilias Bantekas & Lutz Oette, International Human Rights Law and Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2013)
  • 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)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules