LLM Programme

The taught modules offered on the LLM programme vary from year to year. Please check the full list of taught modules list for details of modules running in specific academic years. We make every effort to ensure that every module will be offered, but modules are subject to change and cancellation. You are therefore advised to check this site regularly for further updates throughout the year preceding entry to the LLM programme.

Credit value: 30 credits (12 ECTS)
Module Convenor:
Dr Kimberley Trapp
Intercollegiate teaching: No
Teaching Method: 20 x two-hour seminars
Who may enrol: LLM students, other UCL Masters students
Prerequisites: None
Barred module combinations: None
Core module for specialism: International Law, Human Rights Law
Practice Assessment: Students may write up tutorial questions and submit them as formative assessment / exam practice
Assessment method for Masters students: 3-hour unseen written examination
Module Overview

Module summary

This module provides a general survey of the philosophy/theory of human rights law and the procedural and institutional infrastructure of human rights protection; as well as a focused examination of human rights in a particular context. Part I, or the ‘general’ part, covers the historical evolution of human rights law, its sources, the various systems for the protection of human rights (universal and regional), and explores the philosophy of human rights as well as certain theoretical issues (like cultural relativism). The ‘focused’ part, Part II (in Term 2), explores the relationship between human rights and national security. It discusses very topical issues like the extraterritorial application of human rights obligations, the conflict (if any) between human rights obligations and the obligation to implement Security Council ‘counter-terrorist’ sanctions, the relationship between international human rights law and international humanitarian law (the law that applies to armed conflicts), and substantive rights like the right to life, the right to a fair trial and the prohibition of torture.

Module syllabus

1. Introduction to the course –1 hour seminar (repeated)

Part I – HR Philosophy, Theory and Institutional Mechanisms

2. The Traditional Protection of the Individual under International Law
3. Sources of International Human Rights Law
4. The UN System of Human Rights Protection: Charter and Treaty based
5. Regional Systems of HR Protection I: The American and African Systems
6. Regional Systems of HR Protection II: The European System(s) [Dr. George Letsas]
7. The Emergence of Human Rights Law: Three Generations [Dr. George Letsas]
8. Philosophy of Human Rights Law [Dr. George Letsas]
9. Issues of Theory: Cultural Relativism [Dr. George Letsas]
10. Selected Issues in Human Rights Litigation [Dr. George Letsas]

Part II – Human Rights and National Security

11. Introduction: HR and National Security
12. The Scope of HR Protection: Extra-territoriality
13. Conflict with other norms of international law (International Humanitarian Law)
14. Conflict with other norms of international law II (Article 103 UN Charter and Security Council counter-terrorism resolutions)
15. Conflict with other norms of international law II cont’d
16. The Right to Life
17. Prohibition of Torture and (other) Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment
18. Non-refoulement / Protection against Wrongful Transfers
19. Right to Liberty, Security and Fair Trial
20. Revision

Recommended materials

As this module is very much based on primary sources, there is no set textbook. Students are required to have frequent access to primary materials, most of which are freely available online. A useful collection can be found in Sandy Ghandhi (ed) Blackstone’s International Human Rights Documents (7th ed Oxford UP 2010); for students that definitely wish to consult a general textbook, Daniel Moeckli, Sangeeta Shah, and Sandesh Sivakumaran (eds) International Human Rights Law (Oxford UP 2010) is recommended.

Preliminary reading

Students who have not taken any general module in Public International Law before are strongly advised to read a general textbook in advance of commencing the course. A concise and elegant textbook is Vaughan Lowe, International Law (Oxford UP 2007).

Other students may wish to read Part A (chapters 1 and 2) of Steiner, Alston and Goodman, above, and to have a look at relevant entries in the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (Oxford UP, available online [subscription or institutional access required] at www.mpepil.com).

Other information: N/A
Prizes for this module: There are currently no prizes available for this module.


The application process for the 2014-15 academic session, for entry in September 2014, is now open.

Please refer to the How to apply section for information on the application process.