COVID-19 Travel Update

Because of the risks posed by COVID-19, GW Law has canceled the 2020 session of the human rights law program at Oxford.


Learn more about GW's COVID-19 Response


Oxford Summer Program Course Information

2020 Dates: July 12 - August 8


Course Content

In the mornings, all students take the Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law course which provides an in-depth understanding of relevant laws, legal principles, obligations and enforcement machinery. This course comprises a plenary lecture, followed by small-group seminars. One group will be an advanced group and students who have already studied international human rights law or can demonstrate significant professional experience in the field may opt for this class which focuses on Human Rights Lawyering. In the afternoons, students choose one of five classes for a more in-depth study of a particular specialised area of international human rights law.

You will be asked to choose your course options on the online application form. For the afternoon courses, we will ask you to make a first and second choice of class. 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.

All courses are evaluated by way of a written examination and class participation (75/25% or 80/20%). Participation includes discussions and, for some courses, in-class exercises.

The Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law (am)
Prof Başak Çalı, Dr. Elvira Dominguez-Redondo, Dr. Alexandra Xanthaki (3 semester credits)

This core course provides students with a broad grounding in international human rights law and its monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. The course is educative both to students that have no prior knowledge of international law and international human rights law (IHRL) as well as broadening the horizons of those with experiences in aspects of IHRL. The course is accessible to students who have no prior knowledge of international law or international human rights law (IHRL), as well as, those who are seeking to broaden their understanding of IHRL. 

The first part of the course examines the philosophical ​basis and historical development of human rights​, in light of key principles of public international law that underpin IHRL. In this part of the course, particular emphasis is placed on the sources of IHRL. The second part of the course explores international and regional human rights laws and their enforcement mechanisms. In this part of the course, we examine and evaluate the work of the United Nations Charter and Treaty Bodies and the regional human rights laws and systems, including in Africa, the Americas, and Europe. The final part of the course examines a number of substantive issues in IHRL, including poverty and human rights, women's human rights, humanitarian law and intervention, refugee rights, business and human rights, international criminal tribunals, and the role of non-governmental organisations in the protection and promotion of human rights. Teaching on the course comprises a mix of plenary lectures and seminars.

Human Rights Lawyering (am advanced class)
Prof Ralph Steinhardt (3 semester credits)

This course, designed for students with previous studies or experience in the field, emphasises the role of attorneys in the articulation and enforcement of international human rights law. Students will analyze human rights norms in the form of treaties, customary international law, and “soft law” instruments, always with an eye to using the law effectively in advising and representing individual clients, organisations, and governments seeking compliance. Students will assess the value of various international, regional, and domestic systems of enforcement. At each juncture, they 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 skepticism.

International Criminal Law (pm)
Ms. Susan Lamb (2 semester credits)

This is a survey course of international criminal law that emphasizes the historical development of international criminal courts and tribunals. The course has several objectives.  First, it is intended to impart a critical appreciation of the evolution of international criminal law by appraising the legal heritage of the International Military Tribunals of Nuremberg and Tokyo. The modern international judicial institutions, such as the International Criminal Court, the ad hoc Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the internationalized Courts of Sierra Leone and Cambodia descend from the international military tribunals, yet are creatures of their time, bound by their constitutive statutes and their institutional mechanisms.  The second and foremost course objective is to examine the substantive contours of the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression together with applicable modes of individual liability, such as superior responsibility, joint criminal enterprise, co-perpetration or aiding and abetting.  The third objective is to delve into the jurisprudence in order to gain first-hand knowledge of seminal international criminal case law.  The student is expected to develop a working familiarity with the judicial reasoning in judgments or decisions that have advanced international criminal law.

Gender, Sexuality and International Human Rights Law (pm)
Dr. Shreya Atrey (2 semester credits)

This seminar critically explores the international legal and institutional system for the protection of women’s human rights. The discourse surrounding the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) will be the main focus of the seminar. Classical issues of equality like gender-based violence and the gender pay gap, as well as the contemporary context of social movements like #MeToo, climate strikes, and women's marches will be the fulcrum of the discussion. The aim is to understand, evaluate and critique the international law and its contribution to improving the lives of women and sexual minorities around the world.

Human Rights in the Marketplace (pm)
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 covered examine the principles, policies, laws, and institutions relating to the human rights implications of the main drivers of the global economy – namely, transnational corporations and commerce, global financial institutions and financial flows, aid agencies and economic development, and international trade regimes. The class also considers the importance of good governance and the rule of law to the protection of human rights alongside sustainable economic development.  The class finishes with an open-ended assessment of the main problems and possibilities that lie ahead in the field.

International Human Rights and Refugee Law (pm)
Prof Stephen Meili (2 semester credits)

This course will examine international and domestic protections available to refugees. Its primary focus will be the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol and other international instruments, and how they have been interpreted by various international, regional and national bodies. The course will emphasize the human rights approach to refugee law, i.e., the extent to which human rights instruments such as the Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights inform interpretations of the Refugee Convention. Given the ongoing refugee situation in Europe, the course will pay particular attention to the role of regional human rights instruments applicable to refugees, including the Cartagena Declaration of 1984, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Organization of African Unity 1969 Convention. The course will combine lectures, discussions and in-class exercises such as mock oral arguments and asylum hearings.

War, Peace and Human Rights (pm)
Prof Stuart Casey-Maslen (2 semester credits)

This course will focus on the rules applicable to armed conflict, particularly the conduct of hostilities (Hague Law) and the treatment of persons in the power of the enemy (Geneva Law). Key topics for discussion will include identifying an armed conflict, the legality of means and methods of warfare, including the weapons used, piloted and unmanned bombing, blockades, cyber attacks, and conflict in space. Application of the law to non-state armed groups will be covered as will the relationship between warfare and law enforcement and between the law of armed conflict and jus ad bellum. We will also consider the means by which the law of armed conflict is enforced in the current international system.