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European Human Rights Law


This course intends to give students a thorough knowledge and understanding of the European human rights system. Together with the course on International Human Rights Law it provides the foundation for the rest of the programme.
The course covers human rights protection mechanisms within the Council of Europe as well as human rights protection under European Union law. In respect of the former the European Convention on Human Rights plays a central role. In addition attention will be paid to the European Social Charter and other human rights instruments the Council of Europe has developed, such as the European Committee for the Protection against Torture (CPT) and the Commissioner for human rights. As far as human rights protection under European Union law is concerned, the development of EU involvement with human rights and the position of the Charter of Fundamental Rights will play a central role. Of course, this will include the relationship with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Time and again particular attention will be paid to the different roles and impact of the various human rights mechanisms.


  • Students have gain a profound knowledge and understanding the main features of the ECHR and the functioning of the ECHR supervisory mechanism. They can articulate and explain the way in which the ECHR rights are applied and interpreted in practice. They can predict the outcome of certain designated cases by applying the existing doctrines of the ECtHR.

  • Students can compare and evaluate the role of the co-existing human rights protection mechanisms within the Council of Europe. They can deduce their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Students acquire a thorough knowledge of the role human rights play within the EU. They can articulate and explain how this affects the economic integration within the EU as well as the external relations of the EU and the position of the EU Court of Justice in relation to the Member States.

  • Students are able to analyse and evaluate decisions of a human rights body and present comments on these decisions, comparing it with other decisions of the same body or other bodies.

  • Student are able to relate a situation that is presented to them to the European human rights standards that are applicable and can analyse whether or not this situation is in compliance with European human rights law.

Mode of Instruction

  • Number of lectures/seminars: 18 lectures/seminars. Most seminars take 2 hours each, some are scheduled as double seminars.

  • Names of lecturers: Prof. R.A. Lawson, Dr. E. Arenas Catalán.

  • Required preparation by students: read the compulsory course materials; prepare questions and cases; prepare group presentations or interventions during a debate; find and analyse additional materials to prepare for such assignments.

Assessment method

  • Written Open book exam Part I (50% of the final mark).

  • Written open book exam Part II (40% of the mark).

  • “Blog post” (10% of the final mark).

Reading list
No complete books are prescribed for this course. All reading materials will be made available on Brightspace.

Course reader is made available before the course starts and can be downloaded from Brightspace.

Recommended course materials
Jacobs, White, Ovey, The European Convention on Human Rights (7ed, OUP 2017). Relevant chapters should preferably be read in preparation for each class.

Contact information

  • Co-ordinator: Dr. Eduardo Arenas Catalán

  • Contact information: Leiden University, Faculty of Law, Institute of Public Law
    Kamerlingh Onnes Gebouw, Steenschuur 25, 2311 ES Leiden, Room number B133
    *Tel. +31 71 527 5054


  • Institute: Public law

  • Administration advanced masters: BIO

  • Mrs. Mahshid Alizadeh (LL.M.):

Disclaimer: This course description has been updated to the best of our knowledge at the current time of publishing. Due to the evolving nature of the Covid 19 pandemic and possible changes in lockdown regulations, however, all information contained within this course description is subject to change up to 1 September 2020. Since it is uncertain how the Covid 19 pandemic will develop after 1 September 2020, further changes to the course description may be unavoidable. However, these can only be made in the event of strict necessity and only in the circumstances where the interests of the students are not impinged. Should there be a need for any change during the duration of the course, this will be notified to all students in a timely manner and will not be to the prejudice of students. Modifications after 1 September 2020 may only be done with the approval of the Faculty Board.