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International protection of human rights

Module information>

Academic Direction
Laws Consortium
Modes of Study

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.

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 Council of Europe system. Examining the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter system. 
  • 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. 
  • 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 Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the rights of 
  • indigenous peoples. 
  • The prohibition of torture. Examining the 1984 UNCAT and Optional Protocol and ‘Torture in Action’. 
  • The human rights of children. The Convention on the Rights of the Child. Child labour. Child soldiers. Children in the criminal justice system. 
  • The Right to Religious Freedom. Universal documents and approaches, regional approaches and the right in action. 
  • 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. 
  • Dealing with Gross Atrocities: International Humanitarian Law. International humanitarian law, the International Criminal Court and the trial of Saddam Hussain. 

Learning outcomes

If you complete the module 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.


4hr 15 mins unseen examination

Essential reading

  • Bantekas, I. and L. Oette International human rights: law and practice. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2024) fourth edition [ISBN  9781009306379]. 
  • De Schutter, O. International human rights law: cases, materials, commentary. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019) third edition [ISBN 9781108463560].