UCL Faculty of Laws


International Human Rights Law (LAWS0058)

This module examines the history, theory and nature of international human rights law, a selection of substantive rights protections, a series of topical case studies, and means of enforcing this law.

This module examines the history, theory and nature of international human rights law, a selection of substantive rights protections, a series of topical case studies, and the institutional infrastructure for enforcing this law.  The course strikes a balance in seeking to cover all the main elements of the international normative and institutional system regarding human rights, and a selection of some of the main rights protections, while enabling sufficient detailed coverage.

Module syllabus

This modue is subject to change.

  1. History and theory of human rights
  2. International law, diplomatic protection, and international human rights law, including custom, erga omnes and jus cogens obligations
  3. Different types of rights; instant/progressive realization; nature of obligations: positive/negative, respect/protect/fulfil; limitations; derogations and applicability in wartime; context-specificity versus absolute rights.
  4. Principles of treaty interpretation; relationship to other areas of international law, notably international humanitarian law and UN Law
  5. Territorial and extraterritorial applicability
  6. Self-determination, minority and indigenous rights
  7. Economic, social and cultural rights including the right to development
  8. Forced migration, refugees, non-refoulement, diplomatic asylum
  9. Prohibition of Torture and (other) Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment
  10. Right to life
  11. Right to liberty, security and fair trial
  12. Case study: international economic relations—aid, economic redistribution, economic conditionality in the international financial institutions, economic sanctions
  13. Case study: war, occupation, extraordinary rendition and abduction, extraterritorial detention, drone strikes, cyber warfare
  14. Case study: privacy in general, big data and cyberspace in particular
  15. Enforcement: overview; generalist bodies: national remedies, International Court of Justice; exhaustion of domestic remedies rule
  16. Enforcement: The UN System of Human Rights Protection: Charter and Treaty based
  17. Enforcement: Regional Systems of HR Protection I: The African, ASEAN and Arab Systems
  18. Enforcement: Regional Systems of HR Protection II: The American and European Systems
  19. Enforcement: erga omnes obligations; recognition practice; ‘responsibility to protect’; UN Security Council action; peace operations/peacekeeping; ‘humanitarian intervention’.
  20. Revision

Recommended materials

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, available at the beginning of term once students have enrolled.

Preliminary reading

TThis is a graduate level international law course. Students who have not taken a module in public international law, or who have not done so for a considerable amount of time, are strongly advised to read a general textbook in advance of commencing the course. An understanding of the sources in international law and the law of state responsibility is assumed. Two suggested books to look at would be James Crawford, Brownlie’s Principles of Public International Law (OUP, 2012) and Vaughan Lowe, International Law (OUP 2007).  More generally, students may also wish to look at relevant entries in the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (OUP, available online [subscription or institutional access required] at www.mpepil.com).

Key information 

Module details
Credit value:30 credits (15 ECTS, 300 learning hours)
Convenor:Ralph Wilde
Other Teachers:Martins Paparinskis
Teaching Delivery:20 x 2-hour seminars overall; 10 in Term 1 and 10 in Term 2.
Who may enrol:Any UCL Master’s student
Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:LLM in International Law;
LLM in Human Rights Law
Practice Assessment:Students may submit an answer to a past exam question to obtain feedback
Final Assessment:Exam (100%)