Skip to main content

Unit information: European Human Rights Law in 2018/19

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

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 European Convention on Human Rights system (ECHR) including its history, effectiveness and substantive case law. The structure, operation and interrelationship of articles of the ECHR are explored through a range of selected topics, ranging from reproductive rights to detention and killings in armed conflict. The unit includes a critical appraisal of aspects of Article 1 (jurisdiction clause), Article 2 (right to life), Article 3 (right against torture and inhumane and degrading treatment), Article 5 (right to liberty and security), Article 8 (private life), Article 9 (freedom of religion) Article 15 (derogations) and the First Protocol (Right to Property). Various methods of interpretation adopted by the European Court of Human Rights are analysed, including (international, regional, domestic) consensus, evolution, proportionality, the margin of appreciation and systemic integration.

Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Describe the past, present and future of the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Explain the ECHR jurisprudence on a range of topics including reproductive rights, religious dress, internment, and torture.
  • Evaluate the interrelationship between different articles and the range of possibilities for their application in different contexts.
  • Evaluate the interpretation techniques adopted by the ECtHR across a range of subject matter, in relation to consistency and clarity of application.
  • Construct legal arguments for addressing selected substantive and procedural legal questions, and apply arguments to selected legal examples and contemporary problems.
  • Develop personal and justifiable opinions on the approach taken by the ECtHR to specific issues, the desirability of change, recognising competing arguments.

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

The core textbook for this course is:

  • Harris, O’Boyle & Warbrick: Law of the European Convention on Human Rights (3rd edn OUP 2014)

Essential reading will be set from this textbook almost every week so it is advisable to have it in your possession at all times as a reference guide.

The main focus of seminars will be on the cases themselves.

Judgements of the European Court of Human Rights can be found on the Court’s HUDOC database: This is freely available to the general public and you will be able to find all of the Commission judgements there too. It also is a great resource for additional information such as factsheets. In terms of physical copies of the judgements, decisions of the European Court of Human Rights can be found in the Wills Library and in the European Human Rights Reports (EHRR). Decisions of the European Commission of Human Rights can be found in Decisions and Reports (D&R) and in the Yearbook.