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United Nations protection of human rights

Module information>

Academic Direction
UCL, Queen Mary University of London
Modes of Study

This course will take you on a journey of discovering and studying the role of the United Nations in promoting and protecting human rights. The course aims to demonstrate how human rights enjoy an inspiring and effective framework within the UN system and its institutional structure. That framework was set out in the charter of the United Nations which was adopted in the wake of the Second World War and entered into force in October 1945. The course also takes you through the historical development of international human rights law, how human rights law operates under the UN and examines the relevant bodies and specialised agencies in this important legal area.

Module A: Mechanisms for human rights protection by United Nations bodies


  • Historical development of international human rights law
  • Mechanisms established by UN human rights treaties: general comments by treaty bodies; reporting system and concluding observations; individual complaints; inter-state complaints; visits
  • Special Procedures established by the UN Commission on Human Rights: country mandates and thematic mandates
  • Mechanisms under UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolution 1235 and ECOSOC resolution 1503

Module B: Substantive rights under United Nations human rights treaties 1


  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
  • Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty
  • Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)

Module C: Substantive rights under United Nations human rights treaties 2


  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Module D: Selected United Nations human rights bodies and specialised agencies


  • United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • International Labour Organization (ILO)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)


Each module will be assessed by a 45-minute unseen written examination.


It is strongly recommended you attempt Module A first. 

How to apply

You can either apply for these modules individually or as part of the Postgraduate Laws programme. (In either scenario, they must be studied in order.)

These modules also contribute towards the following specialist pathways for Laws:

  • Human Rights Law
  • International Dispute Resolution
  • International Justice
  • Law and Development
  • Public International Law

Apply via Postgraduate Laws.

Study Material