Oxford Summer Program Course Information

2019 Dates: July 14 - August 10


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 specialized area of international human rights law.

You will be asked to choose your seminar options on the application form. For the afternoon seminars, 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.


2019 Seminar Descriptions

The Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law (AM)
Prof Basak Cali, Prof Chimène Keitner, Dr. Magdalena Sepúlveda, Dr. Alexandra Xanthaki
(3 semester credits)

This core overview 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 first part of the course examines the philosophical and historical development of human rights and basic key principles of public international law which underpin IHRL. In this part of the course particular emphasis is placed upon an examination of the sources of IHRL. The second part of this course explores the enforcement machinery for international and regional human rights law. Here we examine and evaluate the work of the United Nations Charter and Treaty-based bodies; the regional human rights laws and systems in Africa, the Americas, Europe (with an eye to developments in other parts of the world); and the prospects for enforcing IHRL in the domestic courts of countries from a variety of legal traditions. The final section of the course examines a number of substantive areas in IHRL, including poverty and human rights, the rights or women, humanitarian law and intervention, the rights of refugees, business and human rights, 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 IHRL topic of the day. The course is evaluated by way of a written examination (75%) and class participation (25%).

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, emphasizes 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, organizations, 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)
Dr. Patricia Sellers Viseur
(2 semester credits)

This is a survey course of international criminal law that emphasizes the historical development of international criminal law 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 a 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. Students will be assessed through a written exam (75%) and class participation (25%).

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

This 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, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, 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. Students will be assessed through a written exam (75%) and class participation (25%).

Individual and Group Rights (PM)
Prof Joshua Castellino
(2 semester credits)

This seminar aims to provide students with an overview of the legal, political, sociological and philosophical issues underpinning the discourse and practice of global minority and indigenous peoples’ rights. A key axis along which international law evolved, the course is built on the premise that the achievement of ‘minority rights’ remains key to determining the extent to which globally endorsed standards of human rights can accrue to those far from sites of power. The course engages with discourses, challenges, institutional deficits and remedies drawn from nearly fifty jurisdictions, as they seek to either reify or overcome structural discrimination that keeps groups in non-dominant positions far from mechanisms designed to maintain their inherent dignity and worth. Consisting three main parts, the course commences with an exploration of conceptual issues including the interrelationship between minorities, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups and the impact of post-colonial boundary drawing on subsequent “national” identities. Following a second part that tracks emerging customary law for the protection of vulnerability, the course concludes with an examination of national models developed in every continent.   Students will be assessed through a written exam (75%) and class participation (25%).

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 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. Students will be assessed through a written exam (75%) and class participation (25%). Participation includes discussions and in-class exercises.

War, Peace and Human Rights (PM)
Prof Stuart 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. We will also consider the means by which the law of armed conflict is enforced in the current international system.  Students will be assessed through a written exam (75%) and class participation (25%).