LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice

The key paradox of international human rights law is that the recent proliferation of treaties and adjudicative bodies has not significantly diminished serious human rights abuses.

The LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice engages students in a critical and nuanced examination of this paradox, while providing them with the practical skills necessary to apply global norms at the local level.

Overview

Why study International Human Rights at York?

I was awarded an Inner Temple scholarship for the Bar course. I believe that the advocacy skills I gained through the LLM’s interactive and engaging weekly simulations gave me an edge in the selection process. Those transferable skills will also be invaluable in my future as a lawyer.

Abdoulie Fatty, LLM Student 2011/12

The in LLM Human Rights Law and Practice provides the knowledge, skills and networks necessary for mid-career professionals and recent graduates to work in the human rights field. The LLM is offered on both a full-time and part-time basis.

Our LLM is distinctive because students:

  • Work on real human rights issues, which gives practical skills, hands-on experience and improved job prospects
  • Get the opportunity to work alongside human rights defenders during a two-week field visit to Malaysia or placement in York
  • Learn from international human rights defenders based at the Centre
  • Explore how international human rights law interacts with national public policy in various states

Course content

LLM structure

I was a solicitor in the UK, litigating social welfare and other human rights issues, and wanted to transition into international human rights work. The Centre's LLM was my first choice because of its 'applied' focus and the opportunity to do field-based research with a Malaysian NGO. The LLM equipped me with the skills and confidence needed to gain an internship with Human Rights Watch's Africa Division and to refocus my career.

John Foley, LLM Student 2011/12

Three core modules cover international human rights law, policy and advocacy. Optional CAHR modules cover several topical issues through a human rights lens: climate change, culture, development, migration, and post-conflict justice.

The programme requires you to undertake a placement with human rights organisations in Malaysia or the UK. This is an important part of the degree programme and will develop your practical skills and provide hands-on experience, both of which will prepare you for working in this field and improve your career prospects.

The LLM is taught in weekly lectures and seminars covering specific case studies and including skills training on oral presentations, advocacy, report writing, legal memos, and press releases.

Compulsory modules

The compulsory modules reflect the three sides to human rights activism: law, policy and practice.

  • Defending human rights (40 credits; terms 1-2)
  • Applying international human rights law (20 credits; term 1)
  • International human rights law and advocacy (20 credits; term 1)
  • Dissertation (60 credits; terms 3-4)

Optional modules

In the second term students will be able to take two options.

Six optional modules taught by Centre staff will explore areas where rights are being used in new and innovative ways. Students may take also choose optional modules taught by other departments, from the list below.

Optional modules taught at CAHR

  • Asylum, migration and trafficking
  • Cultures of human rights practice
  • Debating humanitarian interventions
  • Development and human rights
  • Human rights and global environmental crises
  • Legal clinics in context: street law and law reform
  • Truth, justice and reparations after violence

Optional modules taught in other departments

  • Conflict and development (Politics)
  • Contemporary issues in toleration (Politics)
  • Critical perspectives on the criminal justice system (Sociology)
  • Global governance (Politics)
  • Globalisation and social policy (Social Policy and Social Work)
  • Governing for the environment (Politics)
  • Law and social control (Sociology)
  • Peace agreements: ending intra-state conflicts (Politics)
  • Teaching and learning citizenship and global education (Education)

*Please note that optional modules may not run if the lecturer is on leave or there is insufficient demand.

Placements

A key part of the LLM is exposing students to the practice of international human rights law at the domestic level. Thus students have the opportunity to pursue a placement and related project with our NGO partners in Malaysia and York. The fieldwork takes place over a two week period in weeks 9 and 10 of the autumn term in either Kuala Lumpur or York.

Students will be expected to work together in small groups in partnership with a human rights organisation. This will include:

  • extensive background research on country context, the host organisation, relevant thematic issues etc.;
  • devising a project prior to the field visit, in collaboration with the host organisation;
  • two weeks of intensive work in Malaysia or York in November and December; and,
  • ongoing discussions about project completion once students return to York.

To get an idea of previous years' placements, have a look at student feedback on the experiences in York and Malaysia.

Dissertation

During the summer term students start work on a dissertation of up to 12,000 words on a topic of their choice. The dissertation is due for submission in early September.

Full-time/part-time study

The course may be taken on a part-time basis. In year one, part-time students normally complete two compulsory modules in the Autumn term ('Law, public policy and human rights' and 'Applying international human rights law') and one inner ring optional module in the Spring term. In year two, part time students normally complete the 'Defending human rights' compulsory module (including the Malaysia field visit or a placement in the UK), their second optional module, and the dissertation. This part-time schedule is somewhat flexible and can be adjusted to accommodate individual needs.

Modules

Compulsory modules

Applying International Human Rights Law

Instructor: Lars Waldorf

The module begins by asking the question whether human rights have become too legalistic. It then looks at key aspects of international human rights law: rights, obligations, derogations, limitations, subjects, and remedies. Next, it examines the existing architecture of international human rights protection (international, regional, and domestic) while also considering whether we need a World Court of Human Rights. Seminars will apply the concepts discussed in lectures to a specific case study: the legal ban on Muslim women and girls wearing headscarves. Seminars focus particularly on how headscarf bans have been adjudicated in international, regional, and domestic human rights bodies.

Key texts: Daniel Moeckli et al., eds., International Human Rights Law (Oxford, 2010); Joan Wallach Scott, The Politics of the Veil (Princeton, 2007).

Defending Human Rights

Instructors: Paul Gready, Martin Jones, Alice Nah, Lars Waldorf

The main aim of this module is to have students develop the practical, problem solving, and reflective skills needed for human rights work. At the start of the year, students will be placed in Project Groups linked to placements with Project Partners in South Africa (for the MA), Malaysia (for the LLM), or UK (for MA /LLM students who do not travel abroad). Each group is required to produce a Project Output together, which is submitted to their Project Partner in the Spring Term. Throughout the two terms, students engage in tasks designed to develop specific skill sets, accumulating portfolios of work for assessment. Centre staff, experienced practitioners, and international human rights defenders based at the Centre will lead and participate in the lectures, seminars and workshops for this module.

Key texts: Aengus Carroll, Make it Work: Six Steps to Effective LGBT Human Rights Advocacy (ILGA Europe, 2010); Ron Dudai, "Advocacy with Footnotes: The Human Rights Report as a Literary Genre," in Human Rights Quarterly 28:3 (2006); Frontline, Workbook on Security: Practical Steps for Human Rights Defenders at Risk (Frontline, 2011); Peter Rosenblum, “Teaching Human Rights: Ambivalent Activism, Multiple Discourses, and Lingering Dilemmas,” in Harvard Human Rights Journal, vol. 15 (2002).

International Human Rights Law and Advocacy*

Instructor: Martin Jones

This module examines how to conduct human rights advocacy based on international human rights law. Particular attention is paid to the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998) which shifted the paradigm from states to individuals and from law to implementation. The Declaration is used as a case study throughout the module to explore the interpretation of legal texts and to understand the challenges facing those advocating for the rights of others. Students will learn methods of analysing human rights problems and evaluating the applicability of theories on change, framing and political opportunity in human rights work in their own contexts. Students will learn how to design and select context-appropriate advocacy strategies. The module will also provide a forum for students to engage with the Centre’s visiting human rights defenders.

Key texts:"Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms" General Assembly Resolution A/RES/53/144 (9 December 1998); R. Charli Carpenter, "Governing the Global Agenda: Gate-keeping and Issue Adoption in Transnational Advocacy Networks." in Deborah Avant, Martha Finnemore and Susan Sell, Who Governs the Globe? (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2010); Daniel Joloy, "Mexico's National Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders: Challenges and Good Practices" (2013) 5(3) Journal of Human Rights Practice, 489-499.

*Subject to Board of Study approval

 

CAHR OPTIONAL MODULES (MORE LAW-BASED)

Please note the offering of option modules will vary from year to year depending on student numbers and lecturer availability.

Asylum, Migration and Human Trafficking (not offered in 2014-15)

Instructor: Martin Jones

This module will examine the phenomenon of human movement, including both forced and voluntary migration, and the legal frameworks that govern the rights of various categories of migrants. The module will focus on the specific policies which states put in place to advance (and to hinder) the enjoyment by migrants of their rights. The module will explore the general category of “migrant” and its various sub-categories (as defined by location of movement and by degree of volition), including the internally displaced, labour migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking. The module will examine the legal tools available to human rights defenders seeking to assist these groups. It will also examine the extent to which human rights law and policy have managed to challenge two of the remaining bastions of state sovereignty: the related powers of a state to control entrance and egress and its power to control its membership.

Key texts: Carol Batchelor, "Transforming International Legal Principles into International Law: The Right to a Nationality and the Avoidance of Statelessness", 25(3) in Refugee Survey Quarterly 8 (2006); Report of the Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons, UN Doc. No. A/HRC/13/21 (5 January 2010); UK Border Agency, "Chapter 26: Unaccompanied Minors" (Enforcement Instructions); US Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 (June 2012).

Debating Humanitarian Interventions

Instructor: Lars Waldorf

Humanitarian intervention is human rights enforcement at its most “muscular.” It involves the use of military force – that is, killing – in the name of human rights and humanitarianism. This module examines when and how such force is legally permitted, ethically required, and politically prudent. Over the course of the module, we examine key case studies: Rwanda, Kosovo, Darfur, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

Key texts: Christine Gray, International Law and the Use of Force, 3rd ed. (Oxford University Press, 2008); J.L. Holzgrefe and Robert O. Keohane, Humanitarian Intervention: Ethical, Legal, and Political Dilemmas (Cambridge University Press, 2003); The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, The Responsibility to Protect (IDRC, 2001); Samantha Power, "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide (Basic Books, 2002); Fiona Terry, Condemned to Repeat? The Paradox of Humanitarian Action (Cornell University Press, 2002).

Legal Clinics in Context: Street Law and Law Reform

Instructor: Richard Grimes with Martin Jones and Lars Waldorf

Access to justice is an important right that enables victims of human rights violations to seek accountability and remedy. This module, which is being offered by York Law School’s new LLM in Clinical Legal Education, will be taught through supervised practical casework and weekly meetings. Students will be exposed to the theory and practice of both the professional regulatory and educational dimensions of clinical legal education.

Key texts: Lee P. Arbetman and Edward L. O’Brien, Street Law: A Course in Practical Law 8th ed. (Glencoe, 2009); Frank S. Bloch, The Global Clinical Movement: Educating Lawyers for Social Change (Oxford University Press, 2011); Francesco Francioni, Access to Justice as a Human Right (Oxford University Press, 2007); Deborah L. Rhode, Access to Justice (Oxford University Press, 2004).

Truth, Justice and Reparations after Violence

Instructor: Lars Waldorf

This module begins by locating victims’ rights to truth, justice, and reparations in treaty law and "soft law". It then critically examines the workings and impact of various transitional justice mechanisms – amnesties, criminal tribunals, truth commissions, and reparations – in specific international, national and local contexts. In doing so, the module explores key tensions within transitional justice: truth versus justice; peace versus justice; and civil/political wrongs versus socio-economic wrongs. Throughout the module, we will pay close attention to the question of what victims and survivors actually want.

Key texts: Priscilla Hayner, Unspeakable Truths: Transitional Justice and the Challenge of Truth Commissions (Routledge, 2010); Tricia D. Olsen, Leigh A. Payne and Andrew G. Reiter, Transitional Justice in Balance: Comparing Processes, Weighing Efficacy (United States Institute of Peace, 2010); Rosalind Shaw and Lars Waldorf, eds., Localizing Transitional Justice: Interventions and Priorities after Mass Violence (Stanford, 2010); Kathryn Sikkink, The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011).

CAHR OPTIONAL MODULES (LESS LAW-BASED)

Cultures of Human Rights Practices

Instructor: Paul Gready and others

In recent years the intersections between culture and human rights have become more numerous and complex. For example, many members of the public first become aware of human rights concerns through literature, film or theatre. In addition, human rights organisations routinely use diverse media, including video and radio, in their research, advocacy and outreach. Intersections between the two fields are increasingly the subject of interdisciplinary academic study.

This module explores the implications of these developments under the rubric of "cultures of human rights practice" by:

  • Analysing discourses of human rights practice drawing on cultural theories of representation (narrative, genre and testimony).
  • Examining the role of culture in human rights work – what cultural forms are used, why, and to what effect?
  • Exploring the ways in which human rights practitioners, artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers collaborate in the pursuit of humanitarian goals.

Development and Human Rights

Instructor: Paul Gready

This module will provide insights into contemporary development debates, intersections between development and human rights, and the tools and strategies that help advance positive outcomes. The key question addressed by the module is whether human rights can help tackle poverty and inequality, and if so how? Introductory sessions will examine how and why development and human rights have converged in recent years; detail some of the resulting formulations (e.g. economic and social rights and the rights-based approaches to development); provide an introduction to different ways of arguing for economic and social rights and development; and explore a case study of convergence (participatory approaches). Key contemporary development challenges will then be explored through the prism of human rights (aid effectiveness and links between aid and security; dealing with natural disasters; failed states; corruption; land reform).

Human Rights and Global Environmental Crises: Impact and Responses

Instructor: Jon Ensor

There are critical issues facing humanity at the start of the 21st century. Climate change is upon us, already destroying the lives and livelihoods of millions of the world’s poorest people. The global population is expanding, and set to reach 9 billion people by 2050. This year, a third of all food will be wasted, a billion people will go hungry, and a similar number will suffer from diseases linked to excessive food consumption. And the world’s natural resources – on which we all depend for survival – will be increasingly controlled by private, multinational actors while being further depleted, reducing the planet’s biodiversity, turning fertile soils into deserts, and posing new risks to human, plant and animal health.

These are global challenges to which global solutions are currently being proposed. Human rights, and human rights practitioners, cannot avoid these issues and have an important role to play in ensuring that the solutions are equitable and just. This module will introduce these important topics and assess them from a human rights perspective. With a particular focus on the developing world, it will examine the links between poverty and decision-making in environmental, food and agriculture issues, questioning the assumption that technology and the market hold the answers to scarcity and marginalisation. Most importantly, this module will highlight links between these elements of global environmental crises, equipping students to critique the positions of different actors as the world searches for a future that is environmentally sustainable and fair.

Fieldwork

Fieldwork

A key part of the LLM is exposing students to the practice of international human rights law at the domestic level. Thus students have the opportunity to pursue a placement and related project with our NGO partners in Malaysia and York. The fieldwork takes place over a two week period in weeks 9 and 10 of the autumn term in either Kuala Lumpur or York.

Students will be expected to work together in small groups in partnership with a human rights organisation. This will include:

  • extensive background research on country context, the host organisation, relevant thematic issues etc.;
  • devising a project prior to the field visit, in collaboration with the host organisation;
  • two weeks of intensive work in Malaysia in November and December; and,
  • ongoing discussions about project completion once students return to York.

To get an idea of previous years' placements, have a look at student feedback on the experiences in York and Malaysia.

Applying

Admission Requirements

Applicants will normally be expected to have obtained an undergraduate degree with honors (2:1 or higher, or its equivalent). Some academic study or practical experience of law is desirable though not required.

English language requirements

If your first language is not English, and you have not completed an undergraduate degree in English, you will need these minimum English test scores: a minimum overall IELTS of 6.5, TOEFL iBT 87, Cambridge Proficiency A, B or C or GCSE/IGCSE A, B, C.

Also note from 21 April 2011, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) introduced changes to the Tier 4 student visa route. Full details about these changes are available on the UKBA website

LLM fees and expenses

Fees for the LLM in 2014/15 are:

  • Home and EU students: £6,200 (full-time); £3,100 (part-time)
  • Overseas students: £14,340 (full-time); £7,170 (part-time)
  • Channel Islands students: £9,000 (full-time)

Please note postgraduate degrees will not be increasing in line with undergraduate degrees.

Students will need to budget approximately £1,200 for the Malaysia field visit.

For details about potential sources of funding, students should consult the University of York Graduate Study website.

Scholarships 2014/15

Information will be posted here if and when scholarships become available.

International students: please note that the International Office offers Scholarships for Overseas Students (SOS).

Home/EU students: York Master's Opportunity Scholarships are available for students paying fees at home rates.

Application form

The on-line application process is available on the Postgraduate how to apply website (see courses listed under the Law School).

For more information about studies at the University of York, open days, funding and scholarships, please visit the Postgraduate study website.

Those interested in applying or already admitted are welcome to visit us here in York , where you can sit in on classes and meet with staff and current students. Alternatively, you can arrange for discussions with staff by phone. Please contact cahr@york.ac.uk to arrange visits or phone calls.

Careers

Where after the LLM?

Our LLM provides career advice, networking opportunities, hands-on experience, and personalised reference letters to help our graduates find good jobs with human rights NGOs, humanitarian organisations, charities, policy think-tanks, national governments, and UN agencies. For example, one of our 2011/12 students gained a UN internship in the Division for Sustainable Development (New York) working on the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and another two volunteered for International Services in Ghana and Burkina Faso respectively under the auspices of the DFID-funded International Citizen Service.

Recent graduates are working with:

  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • UK-based bar association
  • Egyptian human rights NGO
  • Development NGO in West Africa
  • East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
  • Pakistan's judicial sector
  • UK-based NGO working with sub-Saharan children affected by HIV/AIDS

Some of our students specifically credit the LLM with helping them advance their careers.

"After a year of working on refugee issues, I wanted to develop my education in order to increase my career opportunities both within and outside the government. I chose the LLM at the Centre for Applied Human Rights for a number of reasons: the practical dimension to the learning, the truly international flavour of the course and the human rights defenders programme. The LLM has not disappointed – it has provided me a thorough academic understanding of international human rights through interactive and applied learning. Doing the LLM part-time has allowed me to simultaneously pursue my career, and the faculty has been extremely accommodating and supportive of my sometimes competing priorities. The knowledge and practical skills I developed during the LLM have already resulted in new career opportunities for me and have helped me to progress to more senior levels within government."

Michaela Throup, LLM Student 2010/12 (part-time)

Studying for the LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice

Student experiences »

As an academic and practitioner (at the UN) in human rights, I can only congratulate the course team for putting together such an attractive package of learning and practice. It strikes me as very much a 'leading edge' programme in its area.

Patrick Thornberry CMG, Professor of International Law, Keele University, and Member, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination