Introduction to Human Rights Law

Course Level: 
Course Open to: 
Students on-site
Academic Year: 
US Credits: 
ECTS Credits: 
Course Code: 
Course Description: 

Mandatory Elective for MAPP and MPA 1 Y 

Social Justice and Human Rights Specialization for DPP

Learn about the core international human rights standards and the actors responsible for developing, implementing and monitoring them, as well as some critical contemporary human rights issues. 

Through an examination of the main human rights laws, and the main mechanisms for monitoring and compliance with human rights, this course will develop students’ knowledge and understanding of the applicable international human rights standards and mechanisms and build students’ skills in critical analysis of complex human rights issues. It will also develop students’ ability to apply international human rights standards, and their skills of problem-solving, writing, advocacy, public speaking, communication and presentation, through active in-class exercises. The course will have a problem-solving orientation, so that in examining the human rights issues raised by current real-life situations, students will focus on the suitability of existing standards, mechanisms, programmes and policies and consider potential avenues for solutions aimed at improving these situations.


Learning Outcomes: 

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

1. Identify core human rights standards and terminology, and understand how they are used in practice.

2. Describe the roles and main features of; (a) the UN Treaty Body system, (b) national implementation of international human rights standards, (c) human rights defenders, NGOs and national oversight bodies including National Human Rights Institutions.

3. Relate the core human rights standards to their application in practice by governments.

4. Be able to work in teams to analyse a situation in terms of the human rights issues involved, apply human rights standards and principles to real life human rights problems, and suggest human rights-based solutions.

5. Identify important sources of human rights information and understand how human rights are relevant to their future career.


The primary means of assessment is an advocacy paper, which students will develop during the course, present on in class, and finalise at the end of Term.

The course will be graded as follows:

1. Active participation will account for 20% of the grade: This is demonstrated through (a) engagement in class discussions (through comments, questions) and evidence of having done the readings and pre-class preparation; (b) active participation in the practical exercises held during the course.

2. A Final Paper will account for 70% of the grade, divided into two components. This is an advocacy paper on a current (2023/24) human rights issue of the student's choice (topic selection will be discussed further in class). Students will submit an explanatory note on their choice with an annotated outline and literature review mid-way through the Term (worth 30% of the course grade, due week 5) that they will then develop into a final paper (worth 40% of the course grade, due at the end of Term).

3. Presentation of your topic in week 12 will account for 10% of the course grade.

I am flexible on assessment methods where students have specific needs, please reach out to me to discuss. 


This course is designed for students who have not previously taken a human rights course, but it will also be of interest for those who would like to refresh their understanding of the main standards and mechanisms of international human rights law and build on that knowledge.

While some legal aspects of international human rights will be covered, it is designed for DPP students and a legal background is not required.