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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 the protection of fundamental rights by the European Union. Most attention will go to the European Convention on Human Rights. The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights is exceptionally rich and in many respects it is unparalleled in the world. Yet it is impossible, in the context of this course, to discuss it in all its details. We have therefore selected some of the most important cases that have come before the Strasbourg Court. These leading cases will illustrate how this Court approaches the human rights enshrined in the ECHR, the main principles and doctrines that have been developed in its case-law, and the impact that the Court’s jurisprudence can have on the legal order of the states. At the same time, the discussion of the cases will make you familiar with the procedure followed under the Convention. In addition attention will be paid to other human rights instruments that were developed by the Council of Europe, such as the European Convention for the Protection against Torture (CPT) and the European Social Charter, as well as the work of the Commissioner for Human Rights.
As far as the European Union is concerned, attention will go to the development of ‘EU fundamental rights law’, the position of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the growing role of the EU as a guarantor of fundamental rights and the rule of law in it the EU Member States. We will also discuss the process of accession of the EU to the ECHR and the implications (both institutional and substantive) that may result from this for both legal orders.


  • Students have gained 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 interpreted and applied in practice. They can predict the outcome of 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 discuss their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Students acquire a good knowledge of the role human rights play within the EU. They can articulate and explain how the protection and promotion of human rights affects the integration within the EU and the position of the EU Court of Justice in relation to the other institutions of the EU and its 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 appropriate European human rights standards 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 or 3 hours each, some are scheduled as double seminars.

  • Names of lecturers: Prof. R.A. Lawson, Mr. Theo Tsomidis LLM .

  • 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
Assessment method(s) and the weighting of each form of assessment towards the final grade:

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

  • Oral exam Part II (30% of the final mark).

  • Joint paper (20% of the final mark).

Reading list
*This course is mainly based on case-law. No textbooks are prescribed. All reading materials will be indicated on Brightspace and can be freely downloaded from the internet.


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

Recommended course materials
Jacobs, White, Ovey, The European Convention on Human Rights (8th ed., OUP 2021). Relevant chapters should preferably be read in preparation for each class.

Contact information

  • Co-ordinator: Mr. Theo Tsomidis LLM

  • Contact information: Leiden University, Faculty of Law, Institute of Public Law
    Kamerlingh Onnes Gebouw, Steenschuur 25, 2311 ES Leiden, Room number C-118

  • Tel. +31 71 527 5054

  • email:


Institute: Public law
Administration advanced masters: BIO
Mrs. Mahshid Alizadeh (LL.M.):

Should there be any future extenuating circumstances which may impinge our teaching and assessment, these could necessitate modification of the course descriptions after 1 September. This will only happen in the event of strict necessity and the interests of the students will be taken into account. Should there be a need for any change during the course, this will be informed to all students on a timely basis. Modifications after 1 September 2023 may only be done with the approval and consent of the Faculty Board and Programme Director.