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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.


While we celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a significant achievement, the realisation and protection of Human Rights worldwide remains an ongoing challenge, if not a struggle. Almost on a daily basis we witness how aspirations for political freedom and a decent life are violently repressed. At the same time, the number of chronically undernourished people in the world is now above a billion. Around 9 million children under 5 years of age die each year from poverty related, mostly avoidable 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 critical understanding of the principles and institutions of international human rights law and their role in a changing world order. The course will examine the abuse and repression of civil and political rights as well as violations of economic and social rights against the structure of the international human rights system. Strategies for ending, repairing and preventing human rights violations are explored, with a focus on human rights activists and movements. In the process, the course will provide you with the tools to analyse human rights violations and to investigate the responses that are called for, both from state and non-state actors.

Course Objectives

After completion of this course you will 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, articulate and contextualise options available to secure human rights (e.g., in terms of redress or prevention) and to further implement international human rights standards.

Mode of Instruction

This course is primarily being taught by combining oral presentations and class discussions. Accordingly, two weekly interactive seminars – and their preparation – will provide you with the opportunity for thoughtful participation in class discussions, peer reviews and oral presentations, based on the careful analysis of required readings and group work. Written work (web-postings and papers) will further offer you the space to demonstrate your critical appreciation and effective application of the international human rights framework and to conduct research by applying your improved skills and knowledge in this field of law. To that effect, your oral presentation and final written essay will address successful human rights stories, with a focus on human rights activists or movements.


Assessment: Weekly individual assignments (300 words)
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Weeks 1 – 7: days before class, before 21:00

Assessment: In-class participation
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Weeks 1-7; ongoing

Assessment: Group presentations (2 per student)
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Weeks 1-7; ongoing (individual dates TBA)

Assessment: Proposal final essay (500 words)
Percentage: 5%
Deadline: Proposal,Week 4: Friday, before 21:00

Assessment: Final essay (3,000 words)
Percentage: 35%
Deadline: Final essay, Week 8: Friday, before 17:00


Required Readings:

Daniel Moeckli et al., International Human Rights Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010

Additional required reading material will be made available on Blackboard.

Recommended Readings:

P. van Dijk, C. Flinterman, and P.E.L. Jansen (eds.), International Law, Human Rights (5th ed.;
Den Haag: Sdu Uitgevers, 2006)

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).

Contact Information


Weekly Overview

Week 1: Foundations
1.1 History and Struggle for Human Rights
1.2 Philosophy and Critique of Human Rights

Week 2: Human Rights in Action
2.1 The International Human Rights System
2.2 Human Rights from Below

Week 3: Life
3.1 Integrity of the Person
3.2 Adequate Standard of Living

Week 4: Food and Health
4.1 The Right to Food
4.2 The Right to Health

Week 5: Education, Work and Non-State Actors
5.1 Education and Work
5.2 Non-state Actors

Week 6: Intergovernmental Organisations
6.1 Human Rights and the WTO
6.2 Human Rights and International Financial Institutions

Week 7: Challenges: Climate and Environment
7.1 Human Rights and the Environment
7.2 Human Rights and Climate Change

Week 8: No classes

Preparation for first session