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European Protection of Human Rights


Admission requirements

Admission to the Masters programme (European Law specialisation).


The main purpose of this course is to provide an overview of the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. The emphasis will be on the European Conven¬tion on Human Rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights. There are at least three reasons to address human rights in the context of the Master European Law. Firstly, the significance of human rights – both for the legitimacy of public authority and for the day-to-day functioning of the legal order – has only increased since World War II. Secondly, the case-law of the Court in Strasbourg adds considerably to the process of European integration. Common standards are identified and reinforced, even if the Court is often prepared to take into account national values and traditions. Thirdly, the EU itself is paying ever more attention to fundamental rights; the Treaty of Lisbon anticipates the accession by the EU to the ECHR. Knowledge of the European human rights system is therefore obviously an essential element of the study of European integration. In addition, the course fits in with other elements within the Masters programme, such as EU Institutional law and General Principles of EU Law. It is impossible to discuss all details of the Strasbourg case-law – for instance, in 2011 alone the Court decided well over 52,188 cases, and it has currently over 160,000 cases pending! 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 on Human Rights.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
The course “European Protection of Human Rights” has three aims. First it will explore the background and contents of the European Convention on Human Rights; second it will provide an overview of the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and third, it will track the way in which the ECHR contributes to the process of European integration.

Achievement levels
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 ECtHR. 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.


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction

The course will extend over six weeks, with two classes per week. The first two lectures will be of an introductory nature. Each of the remaining ten sessions will address individual rights protected by the ECHR (the prohibition of torture, the right to privacy and so on). 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.


Other methods of instruction
Each student is asked to write, together with another student, a short case note concerning a judgment delivered during the last year. Students propose their case during the first two weeks of class (first come-first serve) and, after approval of their choice, work together on the note. They should hand in their note at the latest one week after the written exam. The paper will be graded separately and will be discussed with the authors.

Assessment method

Examination form(s)
Written exam (80% of the grade) and paper (20%)

Submission procedures
For all practical and logistical information, see the reader and the Blackboard site.

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.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials
Literature: None

Course information guide:
The reader (below) will contain all practical information, which will also be posted on the Blackboard site.

European Protection of Human Rights

Recommended course materials

  • Jacobs, White & Ovey: The European Convention on Human Rights, edition 5 (Oxford University Press 2010) P. van Dijk a.o., Theory and practice of the European Convention (3rd ed., Intersentia, 2006);

  • D.J. Harris, M. O’Boyle & C. Warbrick, Law of the European Convention on Human Rights (2nd ed., Oxford, 2009).

For more references see the extensive reading list in the reader.


Via uSis

Contact information

  • Co-ordinator: Catherine Van de Heyning, dr LLM

  • Work address: KOG, Steenschuur 25

  • Contact information: Room B 1231

  • Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 751

  • E-mail:


  • Institute: Public Law

  • Division: European Law

  • Room number secretariat: KOG, B 1.19

  • Opening hours: 9-17h

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

  • E-mail: (


Enrollment in uSis is compulsory for this class


Belangstellenden die deze cursus in het kader van contractonderwijs willen volgen (met tentamen), kunnen meer informatie vinden over kosten, inschrijving, voorwaarden, etc. op de website van Juridisch PAO.