The classes listed below are those we expect to be able to offer for the course starting September 2017. Similarly, the tutors listed are those we expect to be able to teach. However it may be necessary to change course offerings or tutors before or during the course of study for reasons which might include low take-up rate, student feedback, tutor illness, sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.
Course Induction (online)
Tutors: Profs Mansell, Petrasek and Sellers Viseur
The course begins with a short online introduction. This has three basic objectives: to introduce you to your tutor and fellow students, to begin the formation of a working community investigating human rights law, and to practice using the IT you will need for the course.
The Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law (online)
Tutors: Profs Mansell, Petrasek and Sellers Viseur
This online course aims to develop your understanding of key areas of the international law and institutions of human rights. The course provides an overview of the principles, problems and prospects for international human rights law and the basis for your further study of the subject. The six units of the course are studied within three modules addressing the context, advancement and implementation of human rights. Within the ‘context of rights’ we examine forgiveness, justice and reconciliation and the intersection between human rights and democracy. In ‘advancing rights’ we give attention to the sources of rights and international human rights mechanisms. In ‘implementing rights’ we address human rights in the economic and social sphere and future directions. Each unit consists of a period of private study, an online group discussion, and writing a 2,000 word essay.
Summer Residential Electives
The following are the elective seminars regularly offered during the summer residential sessions. You will choose two seminars from Group A and two seminars from Group B during your studies. Assessment is by examination.
Business and Human Rights
Tutor: Dr Umlas
This seminar seeks to introduce students to the emerging and rapidly developing field of business and human rights. The course begins with a review of the international debate on corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and traces the emergence, within the UN, of a new framework on business and human rights. We then look at examples of measures and mechanisms (judicial and non-judicial; international, national and local) through which corporations might be held accountable for their impact on human rights. Next we focus on two areas that pose particularly difficult human rights challenges for companies (extractive industries; supply chain labor standards), examining key issues and exploring how companies, civil society organizations, governments, organized labor and other stakeholders have sought to address these. The seminar concludes with a discussion of an approach from within the private sector – socially responsible investment – and the implications of this approach for strengthening corporate responsibility to respect human rights. This course explores both theory and practice, and students will have the opportunity to discuss and debate actual cases that demonstrate the complexities found at the intersection of business and human rights.
International Criminal Law
Tutor: Profs Cryer or Sellers Viseur
This course seeks to provide a general introduction to international criminal law, to the extent that it operates as a mechanism for the international protection of human rights. The course includes sessions on the International Criminal Court and the other international criminal tribunals; universal jurisdiction and national prosecution; international crimes; alternatives to criminal justice, including truth commissions; and rights of the accused in an international trial.
Human Rights and Development
Tutor: Prof Bedggood
This course explores the role which human rights can play in ‘development’, broadly defined here as “making things better” (Martha Nussbaum), both in relation to local conditions in all states, not just poor ones, and to the global context. We will first establish as a basis which rights are especially relevant to such ‘development’ and to the eradication of poverty and inequality: “general” rights to self-determination and to equality and freedom from discrimination; a range of ESC rights; ‘democracy’ rights; and possible emerging rights to development, to freedom from poverty and to a sustainable environment. We will consider the obligations which flow from these rights, and those on whom those obligations or responsibilities lie, looking beyond states to other players, including international organisations, multinational enterprises, civil society and NGOs; and the mechanisms available for advancing such rights. These rights, obligations and players will all be situated in various contexts where human rights must be taken into account: in ‘development’ and aid; in social, business and employment policies; in financial and trade arrangements, including tax regimes; in assessing ‘security’ and in post-conflict reconstruction; and in the search for environmental sustainability; attention will also focus on such issues as the effect of corruption and the role of the media.
International Humanitarian Law
Tutor: Profs Akande or Kritsiotis
This course examines the law that governs the conduct of participants in an armed conflict. The course addresses the distinction between the law applicable to international armed conflicts and that applicable to non-international armed conflicts. We also consider the extent to which transnational violence between States and non-State groups should be considered an armed conflict to which international humanitarian law applies. We will explore both the law relating to the humanitarian protection of victims of war (so called “Geneva law”) and the law relating to the means and methods of warfare (“Hague Law”). In particular, we will examine the law relating to the detention, prosecution and treatment of combatants, civilians and unprivileged belligerents (or ‘unlawful combatants’) in time of armed conflict. We then turn to the law that applies to the conduct of hostilities, examining in particular the rules relating to targeting and weaponry. The course also considers the extent to which international human rights law applies in time of armed conflict. In this part of the course we examine the extraterritorial application of human rights obligations and the relationship between human rights and international humanitarian law.
Comparative Regional Human Rights Systems*
Tutors: Profs Heyns or Viljoen plus guests Profs Leach and McBride
The seminar examines an aspect of the implementation and development of human rights law, namely the role of regional human rights systems in the protection of human rights. The course covers the normative instruments, institutions, procedures and some of the jurisprudence of the African, Inter-American and European regional systems, drawing comparisons between the three systems. Recent regional human rights initiatives in respect of Asia and the Arabic-speaking countries are also referred to.
Tutor: Dr De Greiff or Prof Méndez
The emergence of societies from mass violence or political repression raises crucial questions about achieving justice and accountability for the human rights abuses of the past. The course will interrogate the questions of how and why, in the wake of grave human rights abuses, individuals and societies attempt to make these violations “visible,” create modes of collectively understanding the events, and manage the inherent tensions in this process of legal, social and moral reconstruction. The course will examine the roles and culpability of bystanders, perpetrators, and civilian and military commanders, as well as the issue of collective responsibility. In addition, the course will address the evolving legal standards, such as the legality of amnesties, the right to redress, and the duty to prosecute. We will examine the claims and methodologies of the central strategies which have developed to engage with the past, including truth-seeking mechanisms, criminal accountability, reparations and apology, and institutional reform.
International Rights of Children
Tutor: Profs Doek or Vučković Šahović
This course seeks to provide a general introduction to the state of the world’s children and to the international law on the rights of the child. The universally ratified Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), its Optional Protocols and other international texts are central to the international law on children. The way in which international law on children is developed and how these international documents are implemented will be reviewed through presentations and discussions of topics including: the evolving capacities of the child; general principles of the rights of the child, such as respect for the views of the child and ‘best interests’ assessment. Depending on the tutor, particular attention may be given to civil rights; family environment and alternative care; child rights in the economic and social sphere with a focus on the right to education; violence against children; criminal justice for children; children in armed conflicts and during migration; and implementing child rights, including the right to remedies.
Human Rights and Environmental Law*
Tutor: Prof Rajamani
This course explores the relationship between international environmental law and international human rights law, with a particular focus on climate change and human rights. This course seeks to: examine the points of intersection and divergence between these two fields; explore the contours of the environmental rights found in treaty and soft law instruments; and, consider the consequences of applying a human rights optic to environmental harms. In relation to environmental rights, the course will examine their origins, evolution and spread as well as their scope, content, and justiciability. It will also examine international, regional and illustrative national approaches to implementing environmental rights, including tools, techniques and fora. In relation to the more ambitious project of applying a human rights optic to environmental harms, it will consider, in an illustrative fashion, how a human rights optic may be applied to the international climate change regime, what value it may add and what limits there may be. It will also consider the human rights references and their implications in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Equality, Discrimination and Identities
Tutor: Prof Ghanea
The aim of the course is to provide participants with a broad overview of the major concepts, instruments and mechanisms developed by the international community to address various questions of identity, and the challenges and tensions that arise from this. Upon successful completion of the course, the student should have the ability to conceptualise key questions relating to identity, analyse and interpret leading texts in this area, and understand the potential contribution of normative regulation to the management of these issues.
Right to Life*
Tutor: Prof Christof Heyns
This right to life is often described as the ‘supreme’ or ‘foundational’ right. Participants are introduced to the main actors and their roles in securing this right. The seminar explores the legal and other protection given to this right, limitations on the right, and accountability where the right is violated. We shall discuss some of the cutting edge issues in this field, especially the interaction between technology (such as armed drones) and the right to life. In order to make the subject matter more concrete, a number of case studies are included.
Racial Discrimination, Minorities and Indigeous Peoples
Tutor: Profs McDougall or Thornberry
This seminar analyses three interlinked areas of human rights. Discussions of racial discrimination cover the ‘grounds’ and concepts of discrimination, equality, affirmative action, racist hate speech, and cultural and environmental racism. Sessions on minority rights address their historical development, negation and affirmation, conceptualisations of ‘minority’, rights to culture, education and language, and participation in decision-making. Discussions of indigenous rights cover standards at global and regional levels, self-determination, free prior and informed consent, land rights, the impact of mega-projects and resource exploitation on territories and cultures. Exegesis of standards is undertaken in a critical perspective, in light of debates on the standing of ‘differentiated’ and ‘undifferentiated’ rights, and individual and collective rights, in the corpus of international human rights law.
Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Human Rights
Tutor: Profs Harvey or Shacknove
This course examines the relationship between refugee law and international human rights law generally and provides participants with a framework for their work involving refugees and asylum-seekers. The course has several objectives: to examine the origins and evolution of refugee law and the refugee ‘regime’ during the past century; to understand who is protected by international, regional and domestic refugee law; to assess the scope and limits of the refugee’s rights; to investigate various legal and policy impediments to asylum-seeking; and to explore international and regional approaches to the protection of these forced migrants.
Religion and Human Rights
Tutor: Prof An-Na‘im
This seminar explores the synergy and interdependence of religion and human rights, while examining possibilities of mediation of the tensions between these two normative systems. Since experiences of both religion and human rights are specific and contextual, the seminar will focus on the relationship of present Islamic traditions (in the plural) and human rights. That emphasis will also be discussed in light of current realities of post-colonial and neocolonial geopolitical and cultural relations. The emphasis on synergy and mediation of Islam and human rights will be highlighted in discussions of the role of the agency of human subjects in the articulation and protection of their own human rights.
International Rights of Women and Gender-Related Discrimination
Tutor: Prof Banda
This seminar addresses issues of gender with a specific focus on the international human rights of women. The seminar is both theoretical in focus as well as practical. It will explore the concepts and assumptions that animate mainstream doctrine with regard to women’s international rights as well as explore the international standards and the use of those standards in furthering women’s international human rights. It will explore deal with the actual standards and their application in particular fact situations. The course will therefore focus on the diversity of viewpoints and approaches to give you a fuller understanding of the debates and issues.
* These courses usually run every other year
The Dissertation (residential and online)
Supervisors: Profs Bedggood, Blum, Ghanea, Kritsiotis, Sellers Viseur, Shacknove and Thornberry
You will write a dissertation not more than 12,000 words. Most of the research and writing for the dissertation you will do from home, using the extensive on-line resources of the University’s Bodleian Libraries. The fifth week of your first Oxford residential session is dedicated to a helping you develop your plans. You will have multiple tutorials with your tutors, develop your online and library-based research skills, use the libraries and begin to develop your outline. The dissertation is submitted the following April before returning for the second residential session.