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 careers panel and a lecture series by some of the leading authorities and actors in the field of international human rights law.
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 of usually no more than 18 students. Participants may choose one of the five following electives:
- International Criminal Law
- Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- Gender, Sexuality and International Human Rights Law
- Human Rights in the Marketplace
- International Human Rights and Refugee Law
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.
Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law
Prof Basak Cali, Prof Jenny Martinez, Dr. Magdalena Sepúlveda, Dr. Alexandra Xanthaki*
(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
Prof Ralph Steinhardt
(3 semester credits)
This course emphasizes the role of attorneys in the articulation and enforcement of international human rights law. It is now possible to speak meaningfully of international human rights practitioners, just as prior generations have spoken of tax lawyers and corporate lawyers. In this course, students will analyze human rights norms in the form of treaties, customary international law, and "soft law" instruments, and they will assess the value of various international, regional, and domestic systems of enforcement. At each juncture, students will confront contemporary problems in international human rights law, especially the liability of non-state actors, the sporadic internalization of human rights norms by government actors, and the challenge of cultural relativism and other forms of human rights skepticism. The course is evaluated by way of a written examination (75%) and class participation (25%). 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
Prof Michael Matheson (2 semester credits)
This course will examine various issues relating to the substance of international crimes and their prosecution in international tribunals and national courts. The focus will be on the ways in which the application of criminal sanctions may serve the objectives of the international community, particularly with respect to human rights, peace and security. The course is evaluated by way of a written examination (75%) and class participation (25%).
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Dr. Gillian MacNaughton* (2 semester credits)
This course scrutinizes the legal and practical challenges in the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR). In the last twenty-five years, there have been crucial developments at the international, regional and national levels, which have helped to clarify the nature of state obligations for these rights. Students will critically examine and discuss these developments. In addition to analyzing the conceptual framework, the course will also introduce students to the mechanisms and tools for implementation of ESCR. Specific topics to be addressed include the rights to housing, health, food, water, education and work, as well as the relationship between ESCR and the rights to nondiscrimination and equality. Students will be assessed through their participation in class (25%) and a written exam (75%).
Gender, Sexuality and International Human Rights Law
Prof Martina Vandenberg (2 semester credits)
This course, taught by a human rights practitioner, will focus on the evolution of human rights from the declaration at the Vienna Conference that "women’s rights are human rights" to the more recent expansion of human rights law to integrate broader issues of gender and sexuality. Using Human Rights Watch reports, United Nations documents, Security Council resolutions, and academic critiques as texts, students will interrogate fundamental assumptions embedded in the human rights framework. Critics argue that human rights law seeks to impose a Western framework for evaluating rights. Others accuse advocates of failing to understand the cultural context. How are human rights relevant in debates about gender and sexuality? Why have LGBT activists embraced the human rights system as a vehicle for their work? How have feminists deployed the human rights system? What is the appropriate response sex work/prostitution? How should veiling be treated under human rights law? How is human rights law be relevant to violence against gays and lesbians? Are reproductive rights human rights? The course is evaluated by way of a written examination (75%) and class participation (25%).
Human Rights in the Marketplace
Prof 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. The course is evaluated by way of a written examination (80%) and class participation (20%).
International Human Rights and Refugee Law
Prof Colin Harvey (2 semester credits)
The global flow of refugees continues. Conflict and serious human rights abuses fuel the ongoing forced displacement of persons. The human rights concerns - and the systems now in place - are of direct relevance to us all. This module examines a global protection framework that embraces international human rights and international refugee law. We will explore the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, related international and regional human rights instruments, and the regional and national contexts. At the end of this course you will have a comprehensive understanding of how human rights and refugee law responds to the plight of refugees, and what the human right to seek asylum really means today. Student evaluation is based on examination (100%) only.
* Nomination for appointment is pending before the GW Law faculty.