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International & Regional Human Rights (Block 2)




Admission requirements

  • Classes of 2013-2016: similarly-tagged 100/200-level courses or permission from the instructor.

Course description

The realisation and protection of Human Rights worldwide remains an ongoing struggle. Often we witness how aspirations for political, social and economic freedoms are repressed in countries such as Russia, China, Syria, Darfur and North Korea. In addition, problems caused by poverty and gross disparities of income, such as unequal access to education, work and health care, often lead to serious violations of human rights. Thus, it is not suprising that 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.

The objective of this course is to develop your critical understanding of the principles, structures and institutions of international human rights law and their role in a changing world order. The course will examine the abuse of civil and political rights as well as violations of economic and social rights within the context of the international and regional human rights systems. Interdisciplinary strategies for stopping, repairing and preventing human rights violations are explored, with a focus on human rights activists, institutions and movements. In the process, the course will provide you with tools to investigate and analyse human rights violations and to consider the possible responses from state and non-state actors, in particular regional human rights courts such as the European Court of Human Rights and the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights.

Teaching materials may be drawn from a diverse range of fields and interdisciplinary sources including law, medicine, philosophy, psychology, political science, social theory, critical theory, how-to-guides, media reports, video, podcasts, human rights reports, witness testimony and forensic materials. The success of the course depends on the active, engaged, and critical participation of students.

Weekly overview

Week 1: Foundations of Human Rights
Week 2: Regional Human Rights Treaty Systems
Week 3: Civil and Political Rights
Week 4: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Week 5: Human Rights in Practice
Week 6: The Application of Human Rights in Armed Conflict and International Criminal law
Week 7: Victims Rights and Reparations
Week 8: No classes

Learning objectives

This course will provide students with a solid understanding of the theory and practice of strategic, interdisciplinary and creative human rights analysis, advocacy and reporting. Students will also develop the ability to identify and think critically about ethical problems and principles related to human rights work. 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 and regional human rights systems;

  • locate human rights violations in the broader context of our globalized society and critically evaluate the actions or omissions of the actors involved;

  • identify and examine critical successes and failures in the trajectory of current (or past) efforts to improve human rights in national and/or international contexts;

  • 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 combines class discussions with lectures and “moot court” debates based on the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights. Accordingly, two weekly interactive seminars – and their preparation – will provide you with the opportunity for thoughtful participation in class discussions and mock debates at the European Court of Human Rights, based on the careful analysis of required readings and group work. Written work (two 1000 word essays due at the end of week 3 and week 6, respectively, and a 3000 word final essay due at the end of week 8) will give you the opportunity to demonstrate your critical appreciation and effective application of international and regional human rights frameworks, and to conduct research by applying your improved skills and knowledge to this interdisciplinary field. To that effect, your oral debate and written essays will address complex human rights challenges, past, present or in the future.


In-class participation
Ongoing Weeks 1-7

Two individual research assignments (maximum 1000 words)
Weeks 3 and 6

Moot court group debates
Weeks 4-7 (during second class)

Final research essay (3000 words)
Week 8

Compulsory textbook

International Human Rights – Law and Practice by Ilias Bantekas and Lutz Oete.

Additional required reading material will be made available on Blackboard.

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

The course will also draw on resources readily available on the internet (e.g., Judgments and Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights official documents and videos via the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and other international institutions, academic human rights journals via the Digital Library, podcasts, youtube material, etc).

Contact information