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Human Rights: Law, Power & Global Challenges - LAW00017I

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Ms. Jenny Gibbons
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

The law and practice of human rights currently faces a key challenge: although there is a proliferation of treaties, adjudicative bodies, campaigning, activism, and research in this area, serious human rights abuses persist around the world. This module explores a range of contemporary human rights issues, looking at the doctrinal and practical scope and limits of the law, and the challenges that arise in pursuing the prevention of abuses and protection of rights.

Related modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

  • None

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21 to Summer Term 2020-21

Module aims

The module aims, as part of the overall LLB programme, to enable students to develop new and further critical perspectives on law, whilst progressively developing core academic and legal skills.

The law and practice of human rights currently faces a key challenge: although there is a proliferation of treaties, adjudicative bodies, campaigning, activism, and research in this area, serious human rights abuses persist around the world.

This module aims to introduce students to a range of contemporary human rights issues with global dimensions. In doing so, there are several core themes that students will be encouraged to consider, such as:

  • the doctrinal scope and limits of the law
  • the practical and legal challenges that arise in pursuing the prevention of abuses and protection of rights
  • the ways that political and other forms of power interact with law at different times and in different circumstances, sometimes aiding and sometimes hampering the extent to which laws are given effect
  • the ways that human rights activism plays a role in human rights protection and the risks that can accompany activism
  • the ways that law and politics of human rights has changed over time, and what changes may lie ahead.

The balance of plenaries (14 x 1-hour) and seminars (8 x 2-hour) is designed to enable human rights practice to be brought into the module, including through plenaries, and to reflectively develop academic and legal skills in a way that provides a strong base for pursuing any area of law in Year 3 modules.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to the following within the broad field of human rights, and with attention to the scope and limits of the ways law can prevent and punish human rights abuses:

  • Explain, apply, discuss and critically evaluate well-established legal concepts, principles, theories and perspectives
  • Discuss and critique the development and purpose of law and its interrelationship with society, international relations and other disciplines
  • Develop individual opinions and arguments on legal issues and propositions, supported by appropriately critiqued academic evidence
  • Apply and evaluate critically problem-solving strategies to develop and propose solutions to academic and practical legal problems
  • Plan, implement and evaluate research methodologies and strategies, and locate relevant and reliable sources and authorities
  • Communicate the outputs of the above in a variety of written and oral formats and contexts to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • Demonstrate understanding of norms of scholarly and professional legal practice
  • Reflect on learning and feedback, and use this in identifying future learning interests and needs


Module content

Substantive topics covered will vary from year to year as the module aims to present a range of legal, interdisciplinary and practical perspectives. Plenaries will be delivered by academics from York Law School, the Centre for Applied Human Rights and the University of York more widely, and visiting speakers.

Topics in previous years provide a guide to the type of matters covered in the module. Past topics have included:

  • International human rights law
  • International humanitarian law
  • Refugee protection
  • The security and protection of human rights defenders at risk
  • International criminal law
  • Transitional justice and truth commissions
  • Religion and human rights
  • Children's rights
  • Corruption
  • Freedom of expression

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
3000 word essay - Human Rights: Law, Power & Global Challenges
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Additional assessment information

The assessment for this module will be by 3,000 word essay, worth 100% of the module mark. This method of assessment allows students to pursue an area of interest in depth and requires students to apply and demonstrate skills of research, analysis and argument across a range of the module learning outcomes.

Formative work will include regular short (eg, 5 mins) informal presentations by students that require them to demonstrate a grasp of literature and issues related to specific topics, to apply the material in the readings to contemporary issues, and to formulate questions about the readings and issues that highlight uncertainties and challenges in human rights law, commentary and practice. Guidance will be provided in plenaries and feedback will be provided by tutors.

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
3000 word essay - Human Rights: Law, Power & Global Challenges
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive ongoing feedback from tutors and peers on developing their understanding and skills during seminars.

Guidance and feedback on skills and formative assessment will be provided through seminars and plenaries.

Feedback on summative assessment will be provided through written comments on assessed work.

Indicative reading

There is not a core text for this module. There will be readings and seminar questions posted to the VLE, with readings directly linked from the Reading List where possible. The sources below may be useful in providing a sense of the scope of issues and institutions with which human rights law and practice engage. However, there is a vast literature on human rights – the course readings and your own research will take you well beyond these few sources.

  • Rhona Smith, Textbook on International Human Rights (7th edn, OUP 2016)
  • Gordon Brown (ed), The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the 21st Century: A Living Document in a Changing World – A report for the Global Citizenship Commission (Open Book Publishers 2016)
  • Philip Alston & Sarah Knuckey (eds), The Transformation of Human Rights Fact-Finding (OUP 2016)
  • Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHRCR) http://www.ohchr.org/
  • European Court of Human Rights http://www.echr.coe.int/
  • African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights http://en.african-court.org/
  • Inter-American Commission on Human Rights http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/



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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students