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Human Rights Conceptions in a Pluralist World


Admission requirements
Master degree

If assessed by their historical intellectual roots, human rights are a clearly western concept originating in the European liberal tradition. Since their first inception, however, human rights standards have evolved and nowadays the global human rights standards as contained in the UN Bill of Human Rights are claimed to be truly universal standards. At the same time, this claim is contested. The standards are argued to be not truly universal, because they have retained their basic, liberal characteristics and are still western biased. This controversy is played out over several distinct conceptual issues, which the course will explore in more detail and relate to human rights practice: universality of human rights versus cultural relativism; individual rights versus collective rights; social and economic rights versus civil and political rights; human rights versus human duties/responsibilities; human rights protection in the public sphere versus human rights protection in the private sphere
The course will link different conceptual approaches to these topics to concrete legal cases from different parts of the world to see where we now stand.

Course objectives *Students acquire thorough understanding of different conceptions of human rights; *students gain thorough knowledge of and insight into the main debates on the supposedly western bias of human rights standards; *students acquire thorough understanding how this debate may play out in concrete legal cases in different parts of the world *Achieving the course objectives in turn will help graduates to work with or within human rights systems embedded in different historical and intellectual traditions; will enhance their ability to cooperate with colleagues from different intellectual and cultural backgrounds on human rights issues; and will thus enhance their ability to work in global and intercultural settings.

Assessment method

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

  • written exam after the end of the course 60%

  • paper 40%

Submission procedures
Written exam: hard copy
Paper: hardcopy and via Blackboard (safe submission; including plagiarism check)

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 |