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International protection of human rights LA2029

International protection of human rights is offered as an optional module to students studying on the Standard Entry and Graduate Entry LLB courses.

It is also offered as an Individual Module. Credits from an Individual Module will not count towards the requirements of the LLB.

This module concerns the protection afforded to individuals under international law and examines fundamental concepts, principles, theories and philosophies underpinning the law of international human rights, as well as the mechanisms installing/enforcing and monitoring these rights.

Topics covered

  • Human rights and international law: The nature of international law. The relationship between international law, human rights and domestic law. The status of the Universal Declaration. The sovereign state and international law. The individual in international law.
  • Philosophies of human rights: The nature of human rights. Universalism. Cultural relativism and other theories. Rights in Islam. The Bangkok Declaration. Rights and social transformation. Rights and identity.
  • Human rights and the international legal and economic order: Human rights and the United Nations. The transformation of human rights in the post-war period. Human rights and the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO. The New International Economic Order and the right to development. International Civil Society.
  • The UN system for the Protection and Enforcement of Human Rights: The UN Charter and the institutions of the UN. The Universal Declaration. Enforcement mechanisms in the UN system. The treaty bodies. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Optional Protocols. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The reporting system relating to the Covenants.
  • The human rights of women: The nature of women’s rights. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The Optional Protocol. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women.
  • The human rights of children: The Convention on the Rights of the Child. Child labour. Child soldiers. Children, healthcare and HIV. Children in the criminal justice system.
  • Race and rights: Colonialism. Apartheid and racial segregation. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. South Africa: from apartheid to democracy.
  • The rights of the refugee: The nature of refugee rights. The recent history of the refugee. The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol. Women and girls as refugees. The Convention and national law. The crisis in the Sudan: oil, power and refugees.
  • Torture, terrorism and the rule of law: The Convention Against Torture. Domestic law and torture. Torture and the ‘war against terror’. The English courts and torture. Human rights and the relationship with humanitarian law. Crimes against humanity and genocide.
  • International humanitarian law: International humanitarian law and the International Criminal Court.
  • Military Intervention and human rights: International law and military intervention. The United Nations and the use of force. Failed states and the war against terrorism: from Kosovo to Iraq.
  • The European System for the Protection of Human Rights: The European Convention. The European Union and human rights. Freedom of speech and religion in Europe.
  • The Inter-American system: The American Convention on Human Rights. The jurisprudence of the Inter American Court. Country Reports and the Human Rights Commission.
  • The African system: The Organization of African Unity. The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Protocol on the Rights of Women. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The protection of refugees’ rights.

Learning outcomes

If you complete the course successfully, you should be able to:

  • Explain and analyse the mechanisms and machinery by which rights are protected within the UN system and by certain universal and regional human rights treaties
  • Demonstrate understanding of the legal, moral, political and economic context of the module
  • Comprehend the distinction between ‘universalism’ and ‘cultural relativism’ and the implications for understanding this field of law
  • Apply their knowledge to analyse complex legal questions
  • Critique a range of legal materials and arguments.


3hr 15 mins unseen examination

Essential reading

The essential reading for this course is the subject guide and reading pack provided. The extracts are from:

  • Alston, P. and R. Goodman International human rights: the successor to international human rights in context. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) [ISBN 9780199578726].