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Applying International Human Rights Law - LAW00007M

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Ioana Cismas
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

Where do human rights come from and how are they protected under international law? Who are the rights-holders and the duty-bearers? Can the enjoyment of human rights be limited and if so, under what circumstances? What protection mechanisms exist and how can victims of human rights violations make use of them? This module will enable you to answer these questions by immersing you into the law and practice of international human rights.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

This module aims to enable you to understand and engage critically with the history and theories of human rights, the sources of human rights law, categories of rights and typologies of human rights obligations, and mechanisms for human rights protection.

Relying on innovative approaches to legal teaching and learning, Applying International Human Rights Law integrates a mooting exercise that simulates the proceedings of an international human rights mechanism. The moot provides you with a hands-on opportunity to explore selected human rights in complex legal situations. In addition to substantive knowledge of human rights, you can expect to develop your analytical and critical thinking, team work abilities, and independent research skills.

Module learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the history and theories of human rights, the sources of international human rights law, categories of human rights and typologies of obligations;
  • Develop the ability to interpret human rights treaties and apply their provisions to critique violations of human rights;
  • Critically assess the work of human rights protection mechanisms (in particular case law), as well as the mechanisms’ strengths and weaknesses;
  • Undertake independent research with minimal guidance, by among others, locating primary and secondary legal sources, synthesising and critically analysing their content, and using this research to present a coherent legal argument orally and in writing.

Module content

Lectures and seminars will include the following topics:

  • History and theories of international human rights law.
  • Sources of international human rights law.
  • Rights-holders and categories of human rights.
  • Reservations, derogations, limitations.
  • Duty-bearers and typologies of human rights obligations.
  • Remedies for human rights violations.
  • International, regional and domestic protection mechanisms.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2500 words
N/A 50
Moot Written Submission
N/A 50

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

In this module, formative assessment will be provided in lectures and seminars through Q&A sessions and 'flipping the classroom' exercises and comments by the lecturer and by fellow students.

Two documents specifically designed for this module aim to support students in developing and adapting their learning strategies to the requirements of this course. Part II of the Reading List for this module, provides students with general guidance on human rights research, i.e. how and where to find primary and secondary sources.

Additionally, a Mooting Handbook provides detailed guidance on how to prepare for every stage of the moot. During Week 1, the mooting topics will be assigned to the teams and modalities of approaching these in terms of research, drafting of the Written Submission and preparation for the Oral Pleadings will be outlined, as well as tips for working in small groups.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2500 words
N/A 50
Moot Written Submission
N/A 50

Module feedback

Feedback on the Moot Assessments

  • Whilst students will be mooting in small teams, they will be individually assessed for their contribution to the Moot Written Submission and their performance during the Oral Pleadings. A Self-Reflection Form (covering both stages of the moot) and a Peer-Assessment Form (for the pleadings) have been developed to allow for individual assessment.
  • Feedback on the Moot Written Submission will be provided in writing within one week after the date of submission to allow students to take these comments into consideration in their preparation of the Moot Oral Pleadings.
  • Feedback on the Oral Pleadings will be provided in writing within three weeks after the date of the pleadings.

Feedback on the Essay

  • Feedback on the essay will be provided in writing within three weeks after the date of submission.

Indicative reading

Andrew Clapham’s A Very Short Introduction to Human Rights (2nd edition, OUP 2015) offers an excellent introduction to IHRL: the context in which it developed, an overview of institutions, and the most interesting debates of recent years.

If you want to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of and learn about the actors that were instrumental in the early days of the human rights movement read Mary Ann Glendon, A World Made New. Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Random House 2001).

In this module, we shall draw extensively on:

  • Daniel Moeckli, Sangeeta Shah and Sandesh Sivakumaran (eds) International Human Rights Law (2nd edition, OUP 2014)
  • Olivier de Schutter, International Human Rights Law: Cases, Materials, Commentary (2nd edition, CUP 2014).

Other useful textbooks and collections of texts are:

  • Philip Alston and Ryan Goodman, International Human Rights. The Successor to International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, and Morals (OUP 2012).
  • lias Bantekas and Lutz Oette, International Human Rights Law and Practice (2nd edition, CUP 2016).
  • Walter Kälin and Jörg Künzli, The Law of International Human Rights Protection (OUP 2009).
  • Susan Marks and Andrew Clapham, International Human Rights Lexicon (OUP 2005).
  • Rhona K. M. Smith, Texts and Materials on International Human Rights (3rd edition, Routledge 2013).
  • Christian Tomuschat, Human Rights: Between Idealism and Realism (3rd edition, OUP 2013).

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.