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European Convention of Human Rights


Admission requirements

Background in law and sufficient command of English. Preferably students are familiar with the basics of international law.


The main purpose of this course is to provide an overview of the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. What are human rights, what is their scope, how are they balanced against public policy aims, by which means are they protected? Do we have common standards throughout Europe? What is the impact of human rights on diverse – and often controversial – issues like abortion, euthanasia, public access to secret files, school discipline, transsexuality or the combat of terrorism? Can international organisations, such as the Council of Europe, respond effectively to large-scale violations of human rights? In answering these questions – and many others – we will lay particular emphasis on the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

It is impossible to discuss all details of the Strasbourg case law – for instance, in the year 2008 alone the Court decided some 50,000 cases! We will therefore attempt to cover the most important cases that have come before the Court. These leading cases will illustrate how the Court approaches human rights, what principles have been developed in its case-law, and what their impact on the legal order of the States can be. At the same time, the discussion of the cases will make you familiar with the procedure followed under the European Convention.

Course Objectives

Objectives of the course:
The course has the following objectives:
The course ‘European Convention of Human Rights’ seeks to explore the background and contents of the European Convention of Human Rights and to provide an overview of the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

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

  • At the end of this course, students will have a good understanding of the nature and contents of the ECHR and the procedure before the ECHR. In addition they will be familiar with a number of leading cases decided by the Strasbourg Court, as well as general principles of its case law.



Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: The course will extend over four weeks, with two classes per week. The first week lectures are of introductory nature and the first week will see two lectures of two hours on Monday and one lecture of three hours on Thursday. Each of the remaining sessions will address individual rights protected by the ECHR (the right to life, the prohibition of torture and so on). The last lecture will include an additional hour of class on the future of the ECHR and ECtHR system. The classes will be very interactive: The lecturer will discuss the assigned cases with students and will ask them to comment on cases which are handed out during class.

  • Names of lecturers: Dr C.J. Van de Heyning, N.R. Koffeman LL.M, J. Mačkić LL.M and I. Ievdokymova LL.M.

  • Required preparation by students: Preparation of the assigned reading materials

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Written exam.

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, the seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.


The reader contains the assignments, relevant background materials and the case-law can be found on the blackboard site.
More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials

  • see the assignments mentioned in the programme

  • all assigned materials are posted on the Blackboard site

Recommended literature:

  • P. van Dijk & G.J.H. van Hoof, Theory and practice of the European Convention (Intersentia, 2006)

  • R. C.A. White & C. Ovey The European Convention on Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 2010)


  • The reader ‘European Convention on Human Rights’ will contain all practical information

  • The reader is available at Onderwijsmaterialen, KOG, room A.045 and will also be posted on the Blackboard site


Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.

Contact details

  • Coordinator: Dr Catherine Van de Heyning

  • Work address: KOG, room B1.43

  • Contact information: By appointment through email

  • Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 8510

  • E-mail:


  • Institution: Public Law

  • Division: European Law

  • Room number secretariat: KOG, B.1.21

  • Opening hours: Monday to Friday 09:00 – 17:00

  • Telephone number secretariat: +31 (0)71 527 8837/7760

  • E-mail:


Note: this course is specifically meant for exchange students in the LLC programme. A separate course is offered to students following the regular Bachelors/Masters programme in Leiden: ‘European Protection of Human Rights’ (part of the Masters in European Law).