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Human Rights

MA Human Rights

The Department of Political Science at UCL has a strong core expertise in the field of human rights. Our research covers major themes in human rights research including theoretical foundations of human rights, human rights and international justice theory, the nexus between international justice, international law and human rights, international organisations and human rights, domestic and international politics of human rights and qualitative and quantitative analysis of human rights.

Research team members also interact closely with other colleagues in the department whose work on comparative democratisation (Sherrill Stroschein),constitutions (Robert Hazell), international development (David Hudson) and secularism and republicanism (Cecile Laborde) focuses on related research topics. We also collaborate extensively with members of faculty in Laws (Colm O`Cinneide; George Letsas, Philippe Sands, Ralph Wilde) and in Philosophy (Jonathan Wolff).

We engage in cutting-edge research addressing the relationship between the practice, the theory and the empirical analysis of human rights standards. Our expertise encompasses both philosophical and empirical methodologies. We encourage multidisciplinary research, methodological excellence and policy-oriented research in the field of human rights.

Members of the research team have received funding from major UK funding bodies and have acted as consultants for the United Nations, Council of Europe and a variety of international NGOs. The team is directly involved in the UCL cross-departmental Institute for Human Rights.

The Department of Political Science’s Human Rights Research Team is made up of:

Dr M. Rodwan Abouharb:  (BSc Brunel University, MA University at Buffalo, PhD Binghamton University) directs the MSc in Global Governance and Ethics and teaches Globalisation and Global Governance, International Political Economy, and Civil Conflict. His research examines how domestic economic and political change, international economic integration and the types of international governance regimes, affect the likelihood of civil war, repression, or the promotion of economic development. He examines these issues through statistical analyses.

Prof. Richard Bellamy (MA, PhD Cambridge) is a normative political theorist, with strong interests in democratic theory, citizenship and constitutionalism – both at the domestic level and internationally (especially with regard to the EU). His research explores how far democratic processes are more legitimate and effective mechanisms than legal processes for defining and upholding rights.

Dr. Basak Çali (BSc International Relations, Ankara, MA International Peacekeeping, PhD International Law, Essex) is lecturer in Human Rights and teaches international human rights standards, international law and human rights and human rights research methods. Her research interests include: theories of international law, laws of war, human rights courts and adjudication, the legitimacy and the effectiveness of the international human rights regime, human rights compliance, domestic and international effects of human rights law and institutions.

Dr. Saladin Meckled-Garcia (BA(Hons) Philosophy, PhD Political Philosophy) is the Director of the School's MA in Human Rights and a Director of the UCL Institute for Human Rights. He is also involved in a number of research initiatives linking normative theory to practical decision making. His areas of research interest include: international ethics, human rights and international justice theory, the nexus between international law and international justice and human rights, human rights and non-state actors, human rights and democracy, law and human rights protection, market ethics and egalitarian justice theories.

1. Interpretation of human rights

The first research theme concerns foundational, and yet equally practical questions of how human rights should be conceptualised, justified and interpreted; how we establish what the scope of human rights are; how are human rights distinct from other values such as rights; social justice and equality and who should be the primary addressees of human rights.

Selected Publications
  • Bellamy, R. `Constitutive Citizenship vs. Constitutional Rights: Republican Reflections on the EU Charter and the Human Rights Act’, in T. Campbell, K. D. Ewing and A. Tomkins (eds), Sceptical Essays on Human Rights, (OUP, 2001), pp. 15-39
  • Çalı, B. ‘Balancing Human Rights: Methodological Problems with Weights, Scales and Proportions’Human Rights Quarterly
  • Meckled-Garcia, S. 'On the Very Idea of Cosmopolitan Justice', Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol. 16/3, September 2008
  • Meckled-Garcia, S. ‘Moral Methodology and the Thirds Theory of Rights’, SPP Working Paper, No. 28, 10 Oct. 2008 (SSRN 1282208)
  • Meckled-Garcia and Cali, ‘Lost in Translation: International law and the human rights ideal’, in Meckled-Garcia and Cali, eds., The Legalization of Human Rights: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, Oxford: Routledge, 2006
  • Meckled-Garcia, S. 'Neo-Positivism About Rights: What's wrong with rights as enforceable claims', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, CV(1), 2004.

2. International justice, International Law and Human Rights

This research theme focuses on the relationship between claims of global justice and the articulation of those claims in terms of human rights. It asks whether international effects which have negative consequences should be conceptualised as human rights breaches, and what the consequences of doing so might mean (vs. conceptualising them according to different standards, such as those of inter-state fairness). This research also engages with the problem of global poverty and human rights.Meckled Garcia, S. `Do Transnational Economic Effects Violate Human Rights?`, Ethics and Global Political, 2(3), September, 2009.

  • Meckled-Garcia, S. 'How not to think about human rights and (global) justice' (in Spanish), Mariano Garreta Leclercq and Julio Montero (eds.), Human Rights, Democracy and Deliberation in a Transnational World (Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Deliberacion en un Mundo Transnacional), Buenos Aires: Prometeo, 2009.
  • Meckled-Garcia, S. 'Global Justice and International Law', in B. Cali ed., International Law for International Relations, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Meckled-Garcia, S. 'International Neutrality and Human Rights', Res Publica, 10(2) 2004.

3. Institutionalisation of Human Rights

The third theme focuses on which institutions and what forms of mechanisms are better suited to protect human rights, what advantages domestic and international institutions have for human rights protection, what advantages legal versus non-legal institutions have, what makes current human rights institutions more effective and how we should go about designing new human rights institutions.

  • Bellamy, R. Political Constitutionalism: A Republican Defence of the Constitutionality of Democracy, Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Çalı and Wyss, The Authority of International Institutions: The Case for Human Rights Bodies’ SPP Working Paper Series, 2008.

4. International human rights regime, human rights performance and compliance

The fourth research theme focuses on the practical realisation of human rights in domestic and international settings, the impact of global and regional organisations and non-governmental organisations on the enjoyment of human rights, the factors that effect states’ human rights performance and the assessment of states’ compliance with their human rights commitments.

Selected Publications
  • Abouharb, M. R. , and Cingranelli, D. 2009. “IMF Programs and Human Rights, 1981-2003.” Review of International Organizations. 4(1): 47-72.
  • Abouharb, M. R. and Cingranelli. 2007, D. Human Rights and Structural Adjustment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Sobek, D., Abouharb, R. and Ingram, C. G.. 2006. "The Human Rights Peace: How the Respect for Human Rights at Home Leads to Peace Abroad." Journal of Politics (August) 68 (3): 519-529.
  • Abouharb, M. R., and Cingranelli, D. 2006. "The Human Rights Effects of World Bank Structural Adjustment Lending, 1981-2000." International Studies Quarterly (June) 50: 233-262.
  • Abouharb, M. R., and Cingranelli, D. 2004. "Human Rights and Structural Adjustment: The Importance of Selection," in Sabine C. Carey and Steven C. Poe (eds.) Understanding Human Rights Violations: New Systematic Studies. Ashgate Publishing: Aldershot, England. Pp 127-146.
  • Bellamy, R. (with Justus Schönlau), ‘The Normality of Constitutional Politics: An Analysis of the Drafting of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights’, Constellations: An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory, 11.3 (2004) pp. 412-33
  • Cali, B. 'The Logics of Supranational Human Rights Litigation, Official Acknowledgement and Human Rights Reform: The southeast Turkey cases before the European Court of Human Rights between 1996-2006' Law and Social Inquiry, forthcoming 2010.
  • Çali, B. 'Human Rights Discourse in Turkey: Domestic Human Rights NGOs' in Arat ed., Human Rights in Turkey: Policies and Prospects (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007) 217-232.
  • Çali, B. and Ergun, A. 'Global Governance and Domestic Politics: Fragmented Visions', in Lederer and Muller ed., Criticising Global Governance (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005) 161-176

The department has one completed and three ongoing human rights research projects in human rights.

The Legitimacy and Authority of Supranational Human Rights Courts

Led by Basak Cali, this is an ESRC-funded three-year research project, which investigates the legitimacy of and compliance with supranational human rights courts and supranational human rights judgments in domestic settings. The research employs qualitative research methods and focuses on differences between legal and political elites in democratic and democratising states in Europe. For more information on this project see

Nominal Commitment to Human Rights: A Global Survey

Is a staff-student collaborative research project led by Basak Cali and Alice Wyss that aims to document the commitment of states to core human rights and humanitarian law treaties across the globe. Go to Nominal Commitment to Human Rights: A Global Survey site.

Should States Ratify Human Rights Conventions?

This is an international project funded by the Norwegian Research Council, of which both Richard Bellamy and Basak Cali are a part. A multi-disciplinary research project that brings together legal scholars, social scientists, and normative theorists, it addresses three central puzzles in the field of human rights conventions: the motivations of states when they enter into the conventions, the effects of these conventions on states,and, in light of these findings, whether such conventions are normatively legitimate. For more details, see

The Legalisation of Human Rights

This project departed from the important observation that many discussions about human rights is actually about human rights law is interpreted by different international and domestic institutions. The research project examined closely the relationship between the ideal of human rights and its legal manifestations and surveyed the ethical, political and practical repercussions of the entanglement of the moral and the legal notions of human rights.

The project culminated in an international conference entitled The Legalisation of Human Rights at UCL in April 2004 funded by the UCL Friends Programme and the British Academy and an edited collection of original articles on the moral, political and social dimensions of legalization.

Meckled-Garcia and Çalı eds., The Legalisation of Human Rights: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Human Rights and Human Rights Law (Routledge, 2006).

The human rights research team welcomes both normative and empirical (quantitative or qualitative) research projects in the field of human rights. Inter-disciplinary or multi-disciplinary research questions are encouraged. Students with backgrounds in Political Science, International Relations, Legal and Political Theory as well as Sociology, Anthropology, Law and Philosophy are invited to apply. We invite applications in any of the above areas. For further details see our MPhil/PhD programme.

The department of political science is one of the founding and collaborating departments which has made the Institute for Human Rights possible. The Institute gathers together researchers from around UCL initiating and facilitating collaboration on significant research projects in the human rights field. The institute organises research oriented events (such as symposia and conferences), journals (The Human Rights Review), and produces reports on important areas of human rights research.

The department demonstrates its commitment to the Institute by supporting and participating in such initiatives and projects. Dr. Saladin Meckled-Garcia is a director of the Institute and other members of staff (Dr. Abouharb and Dr. Cali) serve on its steering committee.

The institute also promotes UCL’s and the Department’s commitment to research-led teaching and learning, by incorporating a student Internship Programme (The Human Rights Monitoring Project) which allows students to participate in cutting edge research. In addition to this the institute facilitates and promotes cross-departmental PhD applications in human rights, post doctoral positions, visiting fellows and associate resarchers.

Research Themes and Groups

Related links

Research Assessment Exercise

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Page last modified on 16 oct 09 15:54

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