Courses of Instruction

Course Content

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 specialised area of international human rights law. In addition, the programme includes 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 

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
  • Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Gender, Sexuality and International Human Rights Law
  • Human Rights in the Marketplace
  • 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.


Seminar descriptions

Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law 
Prof Basak Cali, Prof René Provost, Prof Ivan Shearer, 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 organisations 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 Chip Pitts
(3 semester credits)

This course will explore the challenges and opportunities for human rights advocacy and dissemination today, including methods, strategies, technologies, and tactics, all with the aim of building and reinforcing in lawyers and non-lawyers alike the analytical, communicative, persuasive, negotiation, media, campaigning, litigation, and leadership skills needed to help achieve positive change on the ground through human rights enforcement and implementation. Taking the Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law to the next stage, the course is intended mainly for more advanced students or those already possessing basic knowledge or experience in international human rights law or practice. We will examine current obstacles, ethical and other dilemmas, and paradoxes in a search for paths forward in persuading the public and decision makers in a variety of substantive and institutional contexts, legal, non-legal, and hybrid, ranging from standard-setting to partnerships, multi-stakeholder initiatives, and judicial as well as non-judicial dispute resolution. On the journey, we will consider the apparent limitations presented by current structures, creative possibilities for improvement, the role of human rights defenders, NGOs, business organizations, and social networks, using an interdisciplinary approach and a variety of peer-to-peer and experiential learning techniques to develop joint insights toward achieving more effective results in practice.

International Criminal Law 
Prof Charles Jalloh (2 semester credits)

This course examines the legal and practical challenges in the prosecution of international crimes. The first part studies fundamentals, focusing on the concept of international crimes and their historical evolution, as well as the general features and sources of international criminal law. The second part analyzes the substantive law, especially the definitions and elements of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Our discussions take place against the backdrop of a comparative evaluation of the statutes for the ad hoc Yugoslav, Rwanda and Sierra Leone Tribunals and the permanent International Criminal Court established since World War II to prosecute these crimes. In the final part, we examine the fair trial rights of the perpetrators of such crimes. A key question we will engage throughout is whether, and if so to what extent, individual criminal prosecution is a legitimate and effective tool to address mass human rights violations during or after conflict. Students will be assessed through a written exam (75%) and class participation (25%).

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Adv Jason Brickhill (2 semester credits)

This course considers the legal and practical challenges in the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs). 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. Students will critically examine and discuss these developments. In addition to analysing the conceptual framework, the course will also introduce students to the mechanisms and tools for implementation of ESCRs, including through litigation and advocacy. Specific topics to be addressed include the rights to housing, health, water and education, as well as the relationship between ESCRs and the right to equality and the roles of civil society and social movements in enforcing ESCRs.Students will be assessed through a written exam (75%) and class participation (25%).

Gender, Sexuality and International Human Rights Law
Prof Karima Bennoune (2 semester credits)

This version of the seminar will provide an overview of the international legal and institutional system for the protection of women’s human rights, and consider topical issues in the field. We will look at the material both from an academic perspective and from the point of view of the practitioner. Particular areas of focus will include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), violence against women, women’s economic rights, and the work of women’s human rights defenders, as well as the impact of religious fundamentalisms and of terrorism and counter-terrorism on women. 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%).

War, Peace and Human Rights
Prof Dino Kritsiotis (2 semester credits)

International law has traditionally divided its rules between those applicable in 'peace' and those applicable in 'war'. Our concentration in this course shall be on the latter situations--situations today known as 'armed conflict'--and we shall explore underlying considerations as to whether or not international law can aspire, following Vietnam, Iraq and the rise of Islamic State, to regulate hostilities in their various forms. There shall be a brief introduction to the Geneva Conventions of August 1949, and two Additional Protocols concluded in June 1977; we will also consider the degree to which international law and legal institutions may operate to prevent, constrain, ameliorate and resolve such conflicts; and the means by which they attempt to protect the victims of conflict, compensate them for losses suffered, and ensure their human rights. Key topics for discussion shall be the classification of combatants (including the role of child soldiers and mercenaries), the treatment of prisoners of war, the rules applicable in terms of targeting decisions (such as bridges, schools, broadcasting stations) and methods and means used in warfare (such as starvation and sexual violence). We will then consider the various means by which international law is enforced in the current international system. Finally, we will look at a series of specific recent conflicts to judge how these legal principles and mechanisms have operated in practice (or failed to do so).The course is evaluated by way of a written examination (75%) and class participation (25%).


GW Law Portal Apply