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International Human Rights Law


Admission requirements
Master degree

This course explores the UN and regional human rights systems, with only cursory 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. In addition several topical human rights issues will be delved into that fall under the scope of application of several UN human rights mechanisms and raise considerable debate or attract major attention worldwide; the different approaches by different bodies this entails will be analyzed.
The second part of the course is devoted to regional approaches to human rights protection, with particular attention being paid to the American and African human rights conventions. The thrust of the human rights standards they contain and the specific supervisory mechanisms that have been set up under those conventions will be explored. To conclude this part of the course the American, African and European human rights conventions (the latter has by then been addressed in the parallel course on European Human Rights Law) will be compared regarding several selected topics.

Course objectives

  • students gain thorough 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), including the ways in which different human rights protection mechanisms co-exist, overlap and may influence each other

  • students gain insight into the different workings of different human rights protection mechanisms at the UN and regional level

  • students gain insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the various UN and regional protection mechanisms within their political, social and legal setting

Assessment method
Assessment method(s) and the weighting of each form of assessment towards the final grade

  • Mid-term exam: 50%

  • paper(s): 50%

Submission procedures
Submission via Blackboard using safe assignment. Hard copy submission in class.

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.

Contact information
Programme Co-ordinator: Ms. Mahshid Alizadeh
Leiden University | Leiden Law School | Office for International Education
Steenschuur 25 | 2311 ES Leiden | The Netherlands | (t) +31 71 527 3593 |