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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: 2024-25

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 Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

This module will immerse you into the law and practice of international human rights. It aims to enable you to understand and engage critically with the histories and theories of human rights, the sources of international human rights law (IHRL), 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 flipped classroom seminars and a moot scenario that simulates the proceedings before an international human rights mechanism. These provide you with hands-on opportunities to explore selected human rights in complex legal situations. In addition to substantive knowledge of human rights law and practice, you can expect to develop your analytical and critical thinking, teamwork 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.
  • Duty-bearers and typologies of human rights obligations.
  • Reservations, derogations, limitations.
  • Remedies for human rights violations.
  • International, regional and domestic protection mechanisms.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2500 words
N/A 50
Moot Oral Pleading : Other
N/A 25
Moot Written Submission
N/A 25

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

In this module, formative assessment will be provided in lectures and seminars through Q&A sessions, 'flipped 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. The Module Guide 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 Oral Pleading : Other
N/A 25
Moot Written Submission
N/A 25

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 7 working days 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 20 working days after the date of the pleadings.

Feedback on the Essay

  • Feedback on the essay will be provided in writing within 20 working days after the date of submission.

Follow-up guidance will be provided during the lecturer's office hours.

Indicative reading

Where to start?

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 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) and Philippe Sands, East West Street. On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2016).

In this module, we shall draw extensively on two human rights textbooks

Daniel Moeckli, Sangeeta Shah and Sandesh Sivakumaran (eds.) International Human Rights Law (4thedition, OUP 2022).

Olivier de Schutter, International Human Rights Law: Cases, Materials, Commentary (3rd edition, CUP 2019).

Other useful textbooks and collections of texts:

Philip Alston and Ryan Goodman, International Human Rights. The Successor to International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, and Morals (OUP 2012).

llias Bantekas and Lutz Oette, International Human Rights Law and Practice (3rd edition, CUP 2020).

Rachel Murray and Debra Long (eds.), Research Handbook on Implementation of Human Rights in Practice (Edward Elgar 2022).

Dinah Shelton (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of International Human Rights Law (OUP 2013).

You may find of interest the following books that focus on categories of rights and/or regional/cultural perspectives:

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im (ed), Human Rights in Cross-cultural Perspectives: A Quest for Consensus(University of Pennsylvania Press 1992).

Mashood A. Baderin, International Human Rights and Islamic Law (OUP 2003).

Jose-Manuel Barreto (ed.), Human Rights from a Third World Perspective: Critique, History and International Law (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2013).

Uprendra Baxi, The Future of Human Rights (2nd edition, OUP 2008).

Danwood Mzikenege Chirwa and Lilian Chenwi (eds), The Protection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Africa: International, Regional and National Perspectives (CUP 2016).

Yves Haeck, Oswaldo Ruiz-Chiriboga and Clara Burano Herrera (eds), The Inter-American Court of Human Rights: Theory and Practice, Present and Future (Intersentia 2015).

David Harris, Michael O'Boyle, Edward Bates, and Carla Buckley, Law of the European Convention on Human Rights (3rd edition, OUP 2014).

Bernadette Rainey, Elizabeth Wicks, and Clare Ovey, Jacobs, White and Ovey: the European Convention on Human Rights (7th edition, OUP 2017).

Eibe Riedel, Gilles Giacca, and Christophe Golay (eds) Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in International Law: Contemporary Issues and Challenges (OUP 2014).

Dinah Shelton and Paolo G. Carozza, Regional Protection of Human Rights, (2nd edition, OUP 2013).

Frans Viljoen, International Human Rights Law in Africa (2nd edition, Oxford University Press 2012).

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.