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Unit information: European Human Rights Law in 2016/17

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Unit name European Human Rights Law
Unit code LAWDM0120
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Rooney
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit considers the central ideas, processes and institutions under the European Convention on Human Rights within a broad historical, sociological, political and philosophical framework. In most seminars, issues of conventional law and basic values will hold equal sway. The subject is treated as a series of interlocking debates about fundamental moral and political questions - and their legal ramifications - rather than as a system of rules devoid of context. Issues covered include liberty, privacy, right to life, torture, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, a successful student will be able to explain:

  1. the purpose and overall design of the ECHR;
  2. the role of the European Court of Human Rights;
  3. key decisions of the ECHR

Students should also be able to critically appraise the judgements of the ECtHR in relation to wider debates about issues related to core ECHR rights, e.g. abortion, terrorism, discrimination, and to come to provisional, reasoned conclusions about how they might best be understood and the problems they present resolved.

This unit is also intended to improve the following benchmark skills critical analysis of legal texts, judicial opinions, and written argumentation.

Teaching details

The contact hours for this unit will be 30 hours. This will usually take the form of: 8 lectures, 10 two-hour seminars and 2 assessment preparation and feedback sessions.

Assessment Details

Summative: a 2000 word essay (33%) will assess the candidate's ability to research a topic within the scope of this unit. The remaining Intended Learning Outcomes will be assessed in a 3 hour written examination (67%). Both assessments will assess all of the Intended Learning Outcomes for this unit in the context of topics selected by the examiners.

Formative: students should do one formative assessment (this will usually be 1 x 1500 word essay).

Reading and References

  • White & Ovey, Jacobs, White and Ovey: The European Convention on Human Rights, 5th edn. (Oxford University Press, 2010): provides a broad overview.
  • Harris, O’Boyle, Bates & Buckley, Harris, O’Boyle & Warbrick: Law of the European Convention on Human Rights, 2nd edn. (Oxford University Press, 2009).
  • Bates, The Evolution of the European Convention on Human Rights: From its Inception to the Creation of a Permanent Court of Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 2010).
  • Letsas, A Theory of Interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 2007).
  • Greer, The European Convention on Human Rights: Achievements, Problems and Prospects (Cambridge University Press, 2006).
  • Føllesdal et al (eds), Constituting Europe: The European Court of Human Rights in a National, European and Global Context (Cambridge University Press, 2013).