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International Human Rights Law


This course explores the UN and regional human rights systems, with brief comparative references to the European system. The latter is extensively addressed in a separate, parallel course. Taken together, the course on International Human Rights Law and the course on European Human Rights Law provide the foundation for the rest of the programme. After a general introduction on the historical and philosophical background of human rights and the development of multiple human rights protection mechanisms at the global, regional and national level the UN system is explored. Both treaty based human rights protection mechanisms (reporting procedures, complaints procedures, General Comments and the like) and Charter based mechanisms (the Human Rights Council, Universal Periodic Review; special procedures) are addressed and compared regarding their specific role and usefulness within the system, their strengths and weaknesses. The course will then address regional approaches to human rights protection, with particular attention being paid to the American and African human rights conventions and supervisory mechanisms. Several cross cutting topical human rights issues will be addressed, to consider the scope of application of human rights law in diverse systems and challenges with its application in practice in the world today. The course will end with a class on realising rights exploring how rights are given effect in the world today through advocacy and strategic human rights litigation.


  • students gain profound knowledge and understanding of the main features of the UN and regional human rights system (except for the European system, which is covered in a separate course).

  • They can articulate and explain the ways in which different human rights protection mechanisms co-exist, overlap and may influence each other, and their strengths and weaknesses.

  • students understand the sources of IHRL and how IHRL forms part of the broader system of international law;

  • students understand and can reflect critically on the strengths and weaknesses of various areas of IHRL and its application in practice;

  • students can the workings of different human rights protection mechanisms at the UN and regional level and how they are engaged for the protection of human rights

Mode of instruction

  • 14-16 Lectures/seminars scheduled for 2-4 hours

  • Teachers: prof. Helen Duffy and Carsten Stahn

  • Required preparation by students: read the compulsory course materials; prepare questions and cases; prepare individual and/or group presentations; find and analyse additional materials to prepare for such assignments.

Other methods of instruction

  • Description: guest lectures (t.b.c.)

Assessment method
Assessment method(s) and the weighting of each form of assessment towards the final grade (Caveat: the assessment methods may be susceptible to adjustment depending on the conditions set by covid-19 measures)

  • (group) paper / oral exercise 20%

  • Take home exam part I (UN system): 30%

  • Exam part II (regional systems and application of law in practice): 40%

  • Oral exercise 10%

Reading list


  • Ilias Bantekas & Lutz Oette, International Human Rights Law and Practice, Cambridge University press, 2013 (first ed.) or 2016 (second edition) + additional materials.


  • Course reader is available to be downloaded from Brightspace

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

Disclaimer: This course description has been updated to the best of our knowledge at the current time of publishing. Due to the evolving nature of the Covid 19 pandemic and possible changes in lockdown regulations, however, all information contained within this course description is subject to change up to 1 September 2021. Since it is uncertain how the Covid 19 pandemic will develop after 1 September 2021, further changes to the course description may be unavoidable. However, these can only be made in the event of strict necessity and only in the circumstances where the interests of the students are not impinged. Should there be a need for any change during the duration of the course, this will be notified to all students in a timely manner and will not be to the prejudice of students. Modifications after 1 September 2021 may only be done with the approval of the Faculty Board.