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Human Rights Law: an Introduction

Human Rights Law: an Introduction

An intensive summer programme designed to introduce students aged 19+ to the principles of Human Rights Law.

A one-week programme, residential in a college of the University of Oxford.

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Course Summary

This course will provide students’ with a comprehensive, in-depth overview and introduction into international human rights law.

Students will acquire a strong, theoretical and practical understanding of the design and development of modern international human rights law with attention paid to both the work of UN human rights bodies as well as regional organisations in supporting and protecting international human rights law.

The course will critically assess current global and regional challenges including international cross border dimensions of violations, the responsibilities of multiple global actors, effective monitoring and implementation in addition to the challenges posed by terrorism, poverty. It will make connections between global and local responses to issues in contemporary human law and students will engage in defining strategies to effectively implement and advance human rights law in a variety of contexts. Relevant sources of international law will be introduced and debated and discussed including sources, the nature of obligations and the scope of their application.

The course will then spend time reflecting on the effectiveness of substantive human rights (i.e. human rights possessed by people in ordered society and natural law) in international law including equality, discrimination and minorities. Students will consider the human rights dimension of legal issues regarding equality, non-discrimination and vulnerable communities, and builds on themes of race, ethnicity, indigeneity, gender, religion, and so on in topical case studies. Following a detailed investigation and analysis of the effectiveness of legal protections and enforcement the final part of the course will critically appraise the prospects for extensions in human rights law and pinpoint challenges for students to research and evaluate further.

Course Outcomes

By the end of the course students will understand:

  • How to apply the fundamental concepts of human rights law to further cases using the research and critical analysis tools and skills developed on the course
  • How to contribute further to discussion and research in international human rights law using the frameworks presented and evaluated on the course
  • How to effectively monitor the implementation of human rights protections in different regions of the world

Course Outcomes

Monday Lecture 1: Foundations of International Human Rights Law-history, justifications and critiques
Seminar 1: Discussion on legal sources of human rights with case study analysis of recent examples of human rights law problems
Tuesday Lecture 2: International Human Rights-legal frameworks and the international legal system
Seminar 2: Research investigation into the strengths and weaknesses of human rights law treaties, customary international law, principles, the role of human rights institutions and more
Wednesday Lecture 3: Substantive Rights
Seminar 3: Substantive Rights
Thursday Lecture 4: Regional protection of human rights; monitoring and enforcing human rights
Seminar 4: Critical evaluation of regional protections and enforcement regimes in the Americas, Europe and Africa
Friday Lecture 5: On-going challenges and issues and prospects for further protections and effective enforcement
Seminar 5: Presentations, course review and action planning


Assessment Methods

1 x Written Assignment (500-750 words)

1 x Group Presentation


Oxford College Accommodation

  • Location Oxford
  • Ages Ages: 12+, 13-15, 16-18, 19+
  • Bedroom Type Single and twin
  • Bathroom Type En-suite & Shared (single gender)
  • Year Built Founded in 1096 (University of Oxford)

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