Note: This page reflects information from Summer 2013. Updated information will be posted shortly.
The course offerings focus on the theory and practice of international human rights law. Lectures and classes are scheduled in the morning and afternoons. The introductory morning course in the Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law provides participants with an in-depth understanding of relevant laws, legal principles, obligations and enforcement machinery. Students that have already studied international human rights law or can demonstrate significant professional experience in the field may opt to take the advanced morning seminar in Human Rights Advocacy. The afternoon electives allow more in-depth study of a particular specialized area of international human rights law. In addition, the program includes a human rights film series, a careers panel and a lecture series by some of the leading authorities and actors in the field of international human rights law.
Seminar options (2013)
The morning session is comprised of a plenary lecture, followed by a small seminar discussion group. Participants may choose one of the following morning seminar options:
- The Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law
- Human Rights Advocacy and Dissemination*
*Subject to the approval of the Course Directors as this is an advanced course
The afternoon sessions are taught in small discussion groups. Participants may choose one of the five following electives:
- International Criminal Law
- Gender, Sexuality and International Human Rights Law
- Human Rights in the Marketplace
- International Human Rights and Refugee Law
- War, Peace and Human Rights
You will be asked to choose your seminar options on the application form. For the afternoon seminars we will ask you to number your choices 1 (first choice) and 2 (second choice). We will always try to place you in your first choice but this may not be possible if a class is already oversubscribed. We may not be able to confirm your class choices until after the payment deadline.
Please see below for detailed information about the content of these courses.
2013 Seminar descriptions
Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law
Professors Vera Gowlland Debbas, David Kretzmer, Frédéric Mégret, and Dr. Magdalena Sepúlveda
(3 semester credits)
This core introductory course aims to provide students with a basic grounding in international human rights law and its systems for enforcement. The course is open to students that have no prior knowledge of international law or international human rights law. The first part of the course examines the philosophical and historical development of human rights and basic key principles of public international law which underpin international human rights law. During this part of the course particular emphasis is placed upon an examination of the sources of international human rights law. The second part of this course explores international and regional human rights laws and enforcement machinery. During this part of the course we examine and evaluate the work of the United Nations Charter and Treaty-based machinery and the regional human rights laws and systems in Africa, the Americas, Europe and developments in other parts of the world. The final section of the course examines a number of topics in international human rights law, including poverty and human rights, the rights or women, humanitarian law and intervention, the rights of refugees, international criminal tribunals and the role of non-governmental organizations in the protection and promotion of human rights. This course is taught by way of a daily plenary lecture which is delivered by different eminent faculty each day. The lecture is followed by seminar groups that facilitate greater discussion and exploration of the lecture topic of the day. The course is evaluated by way of a written examination (75%) and class participation (25%).
Human Rights Advocacy and Dissemination
Professors Cecile Aptel and Christof Heyns
(3 semester credits)
This course follows the same syllabus as the Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law but is an advanced course offered to students that can demonstrate prior post-graduate study of international human rights law and/or have a significant amount of practical human rights experience. Students taking this course are required to attend the daily plenary lecture which forms part of the Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law course.
International Criminal Law
Dr. Patricia Sellers (2 semester credits)
This is a survey course of international criminal law with an emphasis on international courts and tribunals. The course has several objectives. Foremost, the course will give students an appreciation of the creation and functioning of international courts and tribunals that enforce humanitarian law and international criminal law such as the International Criminal Court, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court for Rwanda and the Extraordinary Criminal Chamber for Cambodia. Students will gain a working knowledge of how international criminal law is applied to the individual as an accused, victim or witness within the international criminal process. The course will likewise examine how substantive and procedural principles of international criminal law and humanitarian law are used and analyzed by the international judiciary. Emphasis will be extended to the "new" crime of aggression, the recent case law of Lubanga from the ICC, and the Charles Taylor judgments from the Special Court of Sierra Leone. Students will be assessed through their participation in class (20%) and a written exam (80%).
Gender, Sexuality and International Human Rights Law
Professor Ratna Kapur (2 semester credits)
This course focuses on how and why the relationship between human rights, gender and sexulaity has been highly fraught and replete with tensions. It is structured around two central claims: firstly, that human rights are universal; and secondly, that human rights is an optimistic, progressive and emancipatory pursuit. These claims are interrogated through the work of postcolonial and feminist legal scholars as well as queer theorists. The readings expose students to some of the challenges posed by those who argue that human rights are culturally specific to the West, and therefore inappropriate in non-Western cultural contexts; or that they are a ruse for pursuing neo-imperial or neo-liberal agendas; or that they are exclusive and available to some subjects, not all subjects. The course uses a postcolonial lens to unpack how and why issues of gender and sexuality are central to the debate over the universalistic as well as culturally specific arguments on the relevance and role of human rights. The course explores these tensions by focusing on normative and theoretical issues such as the legacy of dominance feminism in human rights law, as well as the construction of the postcolonial gendered and sexual subject in human rights discourse. It examines some of these theoretical concerns through specific issues such as Violence Against Women; equality; religion and the veil; trafficking, sex work and migration; homosexuality; and the security council resolutions on women and peace. Evaluation will be by examination.
Human Rights in the Marketplace
Professor David Kinley (2 semester credits)
The class examines the relationship between international human rights standards and global trade and investment, corporate governance and competition, international finance, and economic development. The specific topics that are covered examine the principles, policies, laws and institutions relating to the human rights implications of global finance (including following the Global Financial Crisis), corporations and commerce, aid and economic development, international trade, and the notions of good governance and the rule of law, as well as an assessment of what prospects and possibilities lie ahead in the field. Evaluation will be by examination.
International Human Rights and Refugee Law
Professor Colin Harvey (2 semester credits)
The course examines the international protection of refugees, asylum-seekers and the internally displaced under the UN Refugee Convention and other international human rights instruments, regional accords and domestic law. Emphasis is placed on the differing conceptions of “refugee”, defining “persecution”, understanding the core elements of the protection regime and exploring the evolving meaning of the right of non-expulsion. Regional developments in Europe, Latin America and Africa are covered. The role of UNHCR in international law is also explored. The course will conclude by analyzing comparative domestic law examples of the use of international refugee and human rights law in practice. Student evaluation is based on examination (100%) only
War, Peace and Human Rights
Professor Michael Matheson (2 semester credits)
This course provides a detailed introduction to the international laws governing armed conflicts. Topics covered will include the resort to force, rules on conduct of hostilities, treatment and status of prisoners, the laws of occupation, and the relationship with human rights law, as well as the international legal framework for the 'war on terror'. The legality of the resort to force in Afghanistan and Iraq, detentions and targeted killings in the ’war on terror', and the other conflicts in the Middle East, are prime examples of the centrality of international law to current affairs. The course will look at these and other situations, and provide an understanding of the applicable principles of international law. Students will be assessed through their participation in class and a written exam.