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International Human Rights


Admission requirements

100-level courses in Global Justice, World Politics, and International Development give access to this course, which in turn gives access to 300-level courses in Global Justice, World Politics, and International Development.


We currently witness the plight of thousands of people trying to escape famine-stricken Somalia, while the aspirations of thousands of Syrians for political freedom are violently repressed. At the same time, the number of chronically undernourished people is now above a billion. Around 9 million children under 5 years of age die each year from poverty related causes. Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch annually report on critical human rights situations in over 90 countries and territories worldwide.

This course aims at developing your understanding the principles and institutions of international human rights law. To that end, the course will examine the abuse of civil and political rights as well as violations of economic and social rights against the structure of the international human rights system. In the process, the course will provide you with the (primarily legal) tools to analyse human rights violations and to investigate the responses that are called for, both from state and non-state actors. Importantly, the course will also examine measures available to monitor present human rights conditions in order to prevent human rights abuse in the future.

Course objectives

After completion of this course you should be able to

  • Research and analyse specific cases of human rights abuse by applying your knowledge of the international human rights system;

  • Locate human rights violations in the broader context of the global political economy and critical evaluate the actions or omissions of the actors involved;

  • Identify and examine critical milestones in the trajectory of current (or past) human rights activists and/or human rights groups/movements who influence(d) the evolution and protection of human rights;

  • Investigate, contextualise and articulate options available to secure human rights (e.g., in terms of redress or prevention) and to further implement international human rights law;

  • Conduct human rights research and demonstrate your critical understanding of the international human rights framework by way of a research essay.


Please see the LUC website:

Mode of instruction

Two weekly interactive seminars will provide you with the space for thoughtful participation in class discussions, group work, peer reviews and panel presentations, based on the careful analysis of required readings. Written work (web-postings and papers) will further offer you the opportunity to demonstrate your critical appreciation of the international human rights framework and to conduct research by applying your improved legal argumentation skills and knowledge in this field of law.

Assessment method

  1. Individual engagement with course readings: assessed through weekly web-postings (250-300 words; 20% of final grade): Weeks 1 – 7, Evening before class, at 23:59
  2. Interactive engagement with course material, including peer-reviews and collaboration in group work : assessed through In-class participation(20% of final grade): Weeks 1 – 7: Ongoing
  3. Understanding and critical appreciation of course content, reflecting clarity and precision of argument : assessed in Individual essay (1,500 words) and presentation of this essay in one of 6 panels (20% of final grade) :Individual essay due Week 4, Friday at 17:00; Panel presentations: Week 7
  4. Ability to conduct research and develop analytical argument by applying critical understanding of course content: assessed through Sequenced research essay (proposal, draft, final essay)
    (2,500-3,000 words; 40% of final grade): Final essay: due Week 8, Friday at 17:00


This course is supported by a BlackBoard site

Reading list

Required Readings:

Fagan, Andrew, The Atlas of Human Rights: Mapping Violations of Freedom Worldwide (Oxford: Earthscan/Taylor & Francis Group, 2010).

Additional required reading material will be made available on Blackboard.

Recommended Readings:

Martin, J. Paul (ed.), 25+ Documents of Human Rights (New York: Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University, 2005)

Weston, Anthony, A Rulebook for Arguments (3rd ed.; Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 2000)

The course will also draw on resources readily available on the internet (e.g., official documents via the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and academic human rights journals via the Digital Library).


This course is only open for LUC The Hague students.

Contact information

Weekly Overview

Week 1: Human Rights Violations
1.1 Struggle for human rights – the past (e.g., Slavery, Apartheid)
1.2 Struggle for human rights – the present (e.g., Arab Uprising, Famine Refugees)

Week 2: Foundations
2.1 Human Rights: a Western concept?
2.2 Evolution of the international human rights regime: UN, regional systems

Week 3: Repression
3.1 Genocide
3.2 Torture

Week 4: Health and Human Rights
4.1 Health, subsistence and survival
4.2 Structural violence and human rights

Week 5: Labour
5.1 Child Labour
5.2 Sweatshops

Week 6: International organisations and non-state actors
6.1 Human rights and the WTO
6.2 Human rights and corporations

Week 7: Challenges: Poverty and Climate
7.1 Human rights and world poverty
7.2 Human rights and climate change

Week 8: [Reading Week. No classes]

Preparation for first session

Follow current affairs, identify 5 instances that – according to you – represent human rights violations and provide the following information: source and date of your evidence, country of occurrence, the rights violator (or perpetrator) and the victims affected.

Consult Blackboard for any additional information if any