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Study information

International Human Rights Law

Module titleInternational Human Rights Law
Module codeLAWM671
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Ben Hudson ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The module focuses on the various ways in which international law has responded since 1945 to the challenges posed by such violations and to the calls for the universal protection of human rights. The module has been designed with future practitioners and academics in mind. It will introduce you to, and provide a critical analysis of, the legal regime for the promotion and protection of human rights at the international and regional levels. You will become equipped with an understanding of the various mechanisms operating at these levels to protect and address human abuses. In addition, we will explore the role of key actors who engage at this level, including States, NGOs, and national human rights institutions, and the role they play, particularly in respect to implementation.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of the module is to provide you with the opportunity to learn about and critically assess the major substantive and procedural aspects of international human rights law. It intends to support you to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the rules, institutions, and processes of international human rights law, as well as the ability to identify the gaps, opportunities, and challenges present in the contemporary international and regional human rights systems. The approach is practical, case-based, and discursive.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. demonstrate deep and systematic knowledge and understanding of the nature of human rights in international law;
  • 2. undertake complex critical evaluation of the major contemporary issues in the field of the protection of human rights at the international and the regional levels, using specialist literature and current research;
  • 3. demonstrate deep and critical understanding of the procedural and substantive law of the relevant international bodies responsible for the supervision of States' obligations;
  • 4. critically evaluate the role of the State and non-State actors in international human rights law;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. undertake complex critical evaluation of the place of human rights in international law;
  • 6. demonstrate flexible and innovative capacity to analyse complex legal problems, identify the relative significance of applicable rules and principles, and select appropriate methods for investigating and critically evaluating them;
  • 7. demonstrate detailed and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of legal concepts relevant to human rights and critical awareness of their social and political implications;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. present, explain and critically evaluate a range of substantive and theoretical arguments through assessments and learning sessions;
  • 9. identify, retrieve and use the full range of available resources efficiently and autonomously; and
  • 10. work independently and effectively, and to manage time efficiently in preparing for scheduled learning activities and assessments.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover all or some of the following topics:


  • The nature and development of human rights in international law
  • Global and regional standard-setting and implementation
  • Legal accountability for human rights – interpretation and human rights treaty bodies 
  • Regional human rights courts
  • Emerging challenges

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities3010 x 3 hour seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities3Attendance at events hosted by relevant Law School research centres / networks, namely: • Exeter Centre for International Law • Science, Culture and the Law at Exeter (SCuLE) • Human Rights and Democracy Forum • Routes
Guided independent study 147Preparation for scheduled learning and teaching sessions (including pre-reading and the completion of learning activities)
Guided independent study 120 Assessments preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual seminar presentation 10 minutes 1-10Oral feedback from the lecturer and peers
Essay 1,500 words1-10Written feedback (with oral feedback upon request)

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1003,000 words 1-10Written feedback (with oral feedback upon request)

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay Essay (3,000 words) 1-10 August/September re-assessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Michael K. Addo (ed), International Law of Human Rights (Aldershot) 2005
  • Olivier De Schutter, International Human Rights Law. Cases, Materials, Commentary (CUP) 2010
  • Daniel Moeckli, Sangeeta Shah & Sandesh Sivakumaran (eds), International Human Rights Law (OUP) 2010
  • Philip Alston and Ryan Goodman, International Human Rights (OUP) 2013
  • Rhona K. M. Smith, Texts and Materials on International Human Rights, 3rd ed (Routledge) 2013

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Rosalyn Higgins, Problems & Process: International Law and How We Use It (Clarendon) 1994
  • Philip Alston and James Crawford (eds.), The Future of UN Human Rights Treaty Monitoring (CUP) 2000
  • Philip Alston and Mary Robinson (eds), Human Rights and Development: Towards Mutual Reinforcement (OUP) 2005
  • Andrew Clapham, Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Actors (OUP) 2006
  • Christian Tomuschat, Human Rights. Between Idealism and Realism (OUP) 2008
  • Adam McBeth, Justine Nolan, Simon Rice, The International Law of Human Rights (OUP) 2011
  • Michael Haas, International Human Rights, 2nd ed (Routledge) 2013

Key words search

International law; International human rights law; human rights; civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; United Nations

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date