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Security and the Rule of Law


Admission requirements

  • Only students of the MSc Crisis and Security Management can take this course.


Democracies today continue to wrestle with shifting and rapidly evolving threats stemming from conflicts, state coercion, and a variety of security concerns. Differently from other political systems, societies upholding the rule of law require policy and legal responses to respect balances and protect civil, social and human rights. Hence, how can states ensure safety while respecting a democratic legal framework? What kind of powers and responsibilities characterise democratic security governance?

The aim of this course is to bring together different theoretical and methodological approaches in order to address these questions. Specifically, the seminars are designed around seven dilemmas related to security and the rule of law addressing both national and international politics.
First, the course introduces students to the rule of law framework. From a political and legal-sociological perspective, it addresses how political and legal institutions - should - govern security, guarantee safety or handle crises, while simultaneously protecting the rule of law in a democratic society. The notion of security is problematised and used to address key dynamics in the policy making cycle. The students are familiarised with basic concepts and theory used in mainstream socio- legal and security governance literature. Students are exposed to and learn about the potential tensions between freedom and security, addressing political theory literature on the very basis of the social contract while also discussing the impact of security and emergency legislation on human rights and the organisation of legal systems. The course also addresses the empirical role of law enforcement agencies discussing related questions such as incident- and risk management, conflict resolution but also e-evidence. Students will learn and problematise the relationship between internal and external security by addressing links between the national legal system and practices with international affairs. Students are also invited to watch suggested documentaries before class so to reflect and discuss weekly topics on the basis of concrete examples.

Course Objectives

After finalising this course, students will be able to:

  1. Reflect critically, based on advanced knowledge, on the general notion of rule of law and its dilemmas, specifically in relation to the conceptualisation of social control and the balance between legitimate monopoly of the use of violent means and democratic rule and accountability.
  2. Discuss the main challenges and opportunities that relevant stakeholders in the field of crisis and security are confronted with in a multi-actor and multi-level context, with a special emphasis on the rule of law.
  3. Reflect upon the relation between internal and external security by addressing key issues in connecting foreign policy and domestic legal and political practices and apply the acquired practical knowledge about the different roles and responsibilities of institutions enforcing law and ensure security
  4. Reflect on relevant normative issues, and on side effects and unintended consequences of the governance and management of security issues, within the framework of democracy and the rule of law.
  5. Access, communicate and apply theoretical knowledge through in class discussions and assignments, in order to develop debate and writing skills.
  6. Self-evaluate and reflect after interactive in-class work and individual assignments.


On the right side of programme front page of the studyguide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace.

Mode of Instruction

This course consists of seven seminars (potentially including guest lectures).

Total study load: 140 hours:

  • contact hours: 21.

  • self-study hours: reading, preparing (guest)lectures, assignments: 119.

In this 5 ects course, 1 ects is specifically reserved for the assignment that is going to be part of the portfolio of students, including working on their interim reflection paper as preparation for the final reflection paper. Specific information on the portfolio assignment and the intended learning outcomes that are being acquired will be published in the syllabus of this course.

Assessment method

Assessment for this course is based on two assignments:

Mid-Term assignment

  • 20% of total grade

  • Resit not possible

  • Grade must be compensated

Final assignment

  • 80% of total grade

  • Grade must be 5.50 or higher to pass the course

  • Resit possible

  • Resit will take the same form

The calculated overall course grade must be at least 5.50 in order to pass the course. If the calculated overall course grade is lower than 5.50, students are also permitted to resit the 80% final assignment.

In the case of written assessment methods, the examiner can always initiate a follow-up conversation with the student to establish whether the learning objectives have been met.

transitional arrangement
Partial grades obtained during the year 2022-2023 will still be valid in the academic year 2023- 2024

Reading list

A selection of books and articles, to be announced on Brightspace.


Register yourself via MyStudymap for each course, workgroup and exam (not all courses have workgroups and/or exams).
Do so on time, before the start of the course; some courses and workgroups have limited spaces. You can view your personal schedule in MyTimetable after logging in.
Registration for this course is possible from Wednesday 13 December 13.00h

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in MyStudymap you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.

More information on registration via MyStudymap can be found on this page.


dr. Damien van Puyvelde

dr. Joery Matthys