nl en

Human Rights, Humanitarian Law and Terrorism


Admission requirements

Admission to the Masters programme.


The course examines the substantive and procedural law that governs situations related to international terrorism and counter-terrorism. In this regard, it will give an overview of the main principles of international humanitarian law, and international human rights law, how these legal regimes interact with one another and to some extent with other relevant areas of international law, such as the law on peace and security and international criminal law. The course will explore how the legal framework unfolds in practice, by engaging with difficult issues of contemporary international practice and the challenges they give rise to. It will consider the applicability of the ‘law of war’ paradigm that has been applied in the ‘war on terror,’ and its impact in specific situations. Issues to be explored include targeted killings, security-based detentions, the investigation and prosecution of terrorism-related offences and the broadening scope of criminal law, sanctions, torture and transfer, and obligations of reparation and accountability in the context of terrorism and counter-terrorism. It will touch on the responsibility of states, armed groups and individuals within this framework, and consider the impact of law and practice from numerous, sometimes competing, perspectives.

Lectures will provide students with the theoretical underpinnings of the respective areas of law but with a strong focus on the practical application of the law and challenges arising therefrom.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
This course aims to provide an overview of the main principles of international humanitarian law, human rights law and the law on the use of force, including also the perspective of war victims. Students will gain insights into the interactions between these branches of international law and practical challenges and controversies with the application of the legal framework in the security context.

Achievement levels

After successfully completing this course, the student has knowledge of and insights into the existing legal framework, principles and system of international law and how it adjusts and responds to security situations. The student will have understanding of the interaction between branches of public international law, in particular IHL and human rights law, in this context. The student is well aware of the challenges that arise with regard to the practical implementation of the legal framework.

Academic skills and attitude:
After successfully completing this course, the student is able to interpret and analyse the relevant literature and sources in a critical manner and to present solutions for legal problems after thorough legal research.


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • Two a week for five weeks.

  • Names of lecturers: Prof. dr. J.C. Powderly

  • Required preparation by students: Mandatory literature and case law


Assessment method

Examination form(s) Written exam with questions. Since the mode of instruction is limited to lectures, attendance at all lectures is strongly recommended and deemed essential for successfully passing the written exam.

Regulation retake passed exams
In this course it is possible to retake an exam that has been passed (cf. art. and further of the Course and Examination Regulations), on the condition that this course is included in the compulsory components of the degree program. Students who have passed the exam may retake the final written assessment (test) of the course if they meet certain requirements. To retake a passed exam, students need to ask the Student Administration Office (OIC) for permission. For more information, go to 'course and exam enrollment' > 'permission for retaking a passed exam' on the student website.

Submission procedures

Areas to be tested within the exam
The subjects taught in the lectures, and all other materials which are part of the course and made available, e.g. via Brightspace.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials


  • Helen Duffy, The War on Terror and the Framework of International Law (2nd ed, Cambridge University Press, 2015). Please note that the second edition of this text is required for this course.

  • Syllabus

Recommended course materials
Made available via Brightspace

Contact information

  • Coordinator: Dr. J.C. Powderly

  • Work address: Campus Den Haag, Wijnhaven, Room 4.39

  • Contact information: Every day

  • Telephone number: 071 800 9366

  • Email:


  • Institute: Public Law

  • Department: Public International Law

  • Room number secretary: KOG, B1.11

  • Opening hours: 9.00 – 17.00 hrs

  • Telephone number secretary: 071 – 527 7578

  • Email: