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Unit information: International Law and Human Rights in 2016/17

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Unit name International Law and Human Rights
Unit code LAWDM0123
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Galani
Open unit status Not open




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


The first object of this unit is to introduce students to the range of mechanisms operating at the global (UN) level and regional level(excluding the European Convention on Human Rights) that aim at the protection of human rights. The second object is to examine a number of substantive rights, such as prohibition of torture, sexual orientation and collective rights, which shed light on the interrelationships between the various institutions and mechanisms.

Intended learning outcomes

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

  1. the principles of international human rights law;
  2. the institutional structure of international human rights law, the law-making and decision-making processes; and, in particular, the United Nations charter and treaty body mechanisms, the Inter-American, Asian and African human rights systems
  3. national human rights institutions and NGOs;
  4. specific themes relating to international human rights law including prevention of torture, sexual orientation and collective rights.

Students should be able to state the law accurately, to apply legal principles to problem case scenarios, and to think critically about ways in which the law could be reformed. The coursework aims to test a range of skills: researching information on a particular state;legal brief;an essay type question.

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: 2 x 3000 word essays (50% each) will assess the candidate's ability to research a topic within the scope of this unit. 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

  1. de Schutter, International Human Rights Law. Cases, Materials and Commentary, Cambridge University Press, 2010
  2. Steiner, Alston and Goodman, International Human Rights in Context, 3rd edition, Oxford University Press, 2007. Excellent source and reference work but can be a little difficult to use if new to subject. Also now a little out of date.
  3. Rehman, International Human Rights (2nd edition, Longman Pearson, 2009). Provides a useful general overview but not sufficient on its own.
  4. Smith, Textbook on International Human Rights, OUP, 4th edition, 2009 (although a new edition is due out in 2011). Again, a recent text but more of an overview than providing the detail you require
  5. Moeckli, International Human Rights Law, OUP, 2010. A good introduction but rather general. Again, you need to look at other things beyond this.
  6. C Tomuschat, Human Rights. Between Idealism and Realism, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, 2008"