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Introduction to International Human Rights Law


Admission requirements

Some background in law; sufficient command of English.
Preferably students are familiar with the basics of International Public Law.


This course offers an overview of the main features of international human rights law. It will focus on the United Nations human rights system. After briefly exploring the Charter based part of the UN system we will delve deeper into the treaty based human rights instruments. Since the inception of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two founding covenants on civil and political rights and on social and economic rights a number of more specialized human rights conventions have come into existence. We will analyze the various monitoring and complaints mechanisms that have been put in place under these conventions and their role in promoting the realization of human rights across the world. We will pay specific attention to several human rights topics of global importance in more detail. The latter will include issues concerning women’s human rights, sexual orientation, children’s rights, human rights and the fight against terrorism, racial discrimination and hate speech, and social and economic rights.

You are expected to attend lectures/seminars well prepared and to actively participate in discussions.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
The course will provide an overview of international human rights protection at the UN level with a focus on the treaty based human rights system.

Achievement levels
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:

At the end of this course, you will have

  • a general understanding of the UN human rights system as a whole

  • a good understanding of the UN treaty based human rights system and its working

  • a good understanding of several topical human rights issues and the main contemporary discussions on these issues.


Check MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures/seminars: 10-12

  • Names of lecturers: Prof. M.L.P. Loenen and guest lecturers

  • Required preparation by students: You are expected to attend lectures/seminars well prepared and to actively participate in discussions.

Assessment method

Examination form(s)
Written; paper assignment, consisting of several essays

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature) for the course, the course information guide and the subjects taught in the lectures/seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials

  • Ilias Bantekas &Lutz Oette, International Human Rights Law and Practice, Cambridge University Press, 2020 (3rd edition) or earlier editions + additional materials to be announced.

Course information guide:
To be announced.

Recommended course materials
To be announced.


Registration for courses and exams takes place via MyStudymap. If you do not have access to MyStudymap (guest students), look here (under the Law-tab) for more information on the registration procedure in your situation.


  • Coordinator: Prof. M.L.P. (Titia) Loenen

  • Work address: Steenschuur 25, 2311 ES Leiden (room C111)

  • Telephone number: 071-527 8917 (secretariat)

  • Email:


  • Institute: Public Law

  • Department: Constitutional and Administrative Law

  • Room number secretary: B1.11

  • Opening hours: 9.00-16.30

  • Telephone number secretary: 071-527 8917

  • Email: