Department of Political Science


Human Rights, Accountability and World Politics

Course Code


Course Tutor

Prof Neil Mitchell (Department of Political Science)


One 3,000 word essay

Credit Value


About this course

In this module students will develop an understanding of political violence, the human rights regime and the role of international institutions, states, and non-state actors. The lectures and readings will introduce students to major theoretical frameworks for understanding state use of violence and compliance with human rights obligations using both historical and comparative approaches to the topic. We will examine what social science can contribute to our understanding of human rights and the role of international institutions, states, and non-state actors.  The module will explore the role of political and economic conditions such as regime type, conflict, economic development in the protection or violation of human rights, the motivations for political violence and application of the principal-agent model to the topic. Finally, it will examine questions of intervention and the development of accountability mechanisms in the effort to protect human rights.

What explains political violence and what sorts of states commit human rights violations? Where do human rights come from? Who should be held accountable? These are some of the questions we will examine in this course. We will concentrate on what are sometimes referred to as 1st generation human rights. These rights are designed to protect individuals from a variety of repressive actions including killing, torture, and arbitrary imprisonment. By the end of this course students will:

  • Understand basic normative and legal frameworks for human rights.
  • Understand concepts and theories used to explain political violence and human rights violations.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of case materials concerning the use of violence and the development human rights.
  • Critically analyse theories and evidence used in the analysis of political violence and human rights.
  • Develop an understanding of the role of states and non-state actors in relation to the topic.
  • Examine and evaluate intervention and accountability mechanisms as they apply to human rights protection.