International Human Rights Laboratory - LAW00065M

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Mr. Martin Jones
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20
    • See module specification for other years: 2018-19

Module summary

This module examines the international human rights regime and, in particular, the role of the law and the situation of human rights defenders within that regime.  The module will take a hands-on approach to this examination, working through a number of practical human rights problems.

Professional requirements

None.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2019-20

Module aims

This module examines the international human rights regime and, in particular, the situation of human rights defenders within that regime.  The “Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” (also known as the “Human Rights Defender Declaration”) of 1998 sets out the rights of activists and those seeking to advocate for human rights, including human rights lawyers.  The module uses the Declaration as a case study and explores its significance both for our understanding of the key actors in human rights and the character of international human rights law itself.  Students will develop both their knowledge of human rights activism and the international human rights regime as well as practical skills in relation to legal advocacy on human rights.

Module learning outcomes

The learning outcomes of the module include the following:

  • Develop a comprehensive knowledge of the key features of the international human rights regime, including its main norms (international human rights treaties) and institutions (UN human rights system); the sources of international human rights law; and, the various forms and agents of human rights advocacy, including human rights defenders.
  • Develop a comprehensive knowledge of the definition of and development of the category of “human rights defender" and an understanding of the key challenges faced by human rights defenders, how these challenges can be analysed according to international human rights law, and the opportunities for advocacy on these issues.
  • Develop the ability to critically reflect on and effectively communicate their reflections on human rights information presented in different formats (text, audio, video); to apply this information in challenging real work contexts; and to discuss, debate and creatively problem-solve issues thrown up by this information individually and with others

Module content

The module is delivered by way of a combination of lectures and seminars.  Throughout the module, emphasis will be placed on developing skills in international legal advocacy. Students will learn methods of analysing human rights problems and evaluating the applicability of theories of change, framing and political opportunity in human rights work in varying own contexts. Students will learn how to design and select context-appropriate advocacy strategies.  Half of the summative assessment will be based upon a human rights report (mock "UPR submission"); students will also write a reflective diary ("commentary") about the links between their project work and the issues and dilemmas raised by the module for the other half of the summative assessment.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Reflective Diary
N/A 50
Essay/coursework
UPR Submission
N/A 50

Special assessment rules

None

Additional assessment information

Students will be summatively assessed on (i) their human rights report (mock UPR submssion) (ii) a reflective diary (commentary) linking the report with the cross-cutting issues raised by the module.

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Reflective Diary
N/A 50
Essay/coursework
UPR Submission
N/A 50

Module feedback

Students will individually propose projects related to the overarching issue that is the focus of the module (eg. the situation of human rights defenders).  This will be presented in writing (formatively and summatively) and orally (formatively) in class; students will receive oral feedback from peers and the module convenor and written feedback on their written submissions.  Feedback will be delivered continuously during seminars by all participants, including group members, other peers and the module convenor.

Indicative reading

Amnesty International (2007) Ensuring Protection? The European Union and Human Rights Defenders, May 2007, AI Index: EUR 01/007/2007, available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR01/007/2007/en accessed 30 April 2012.

 

Bob, C. (2009) Introduction: Fighting for New Rights” in C. Bob (ed), The International Struggle for New Human Rights, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 1-13.

 

Bob, C. (2005) The Marketing of Rebellion: Insurgents, Media, and International Activism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

Coalition for the International Criminal Court (2003) NGO Media Outreach: Using the Media as an Advocacy Tool, September, available at http://www.amicc.org/docs/NGO-media_training.pdf accessed 30 April 2012.

 

Cohen, S. (1996) “Government Responses to Human Rights Reports: Claims, Denials and

Counterclaims”, Human Rights Quarterly 18(3): 517-543.

 

Dalton, D. (2007) Building National Campaigns: Activists, Alliances, and How Change Happens, Oxford: Oxfam, pp. 17-19, 27-39.

 

Dodds, F. with Strauss, M. (2003) How to Lobby at Intergovernmental Meetings, London:

Earthscan, available at http://www.stakeholderforum.org/fileadmin/files/Monaco_training_sessions_feb_2008/How_to_Lobby_at_Intergovernmental_Meetings.pdf accessed 30 April 2012.

 

European Union (2008) Ensuring Protection: European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, General Affairs Council of 8 December 2008, available at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cmsUpload/16332-re02.en08.pdf accessed 30 April 2012.

 

Inter American Commission on Human Rights (2006) “Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas” available at http://www.cidh.oas.org/countryrep/Defenders/defenderstoc.htm accessed 30 April 2012.

 

International Women’s Rights Action Watch (2003) Producing NGO Shadow Reports to CEDAW: A Procedural Guide, available at http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/iwraw/proceduralguide-08.html accessed 30 April 2012.

 

Marks, S. and Clapham, A. (2005), “Fair Trial”, in International Human Rights Lexicon, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 149-161.

 

Neumayer, E. (2005) “Do International Human Rights Treaties Improve Respect for Human Rights?”, Journal of Conflict Resolution, December 2005; vol. 49, 6: pp. 925-953.

 

Oberleitner, G. (2005) Global Human Rights Institutions: Between Remedy and Ritual, Cambridge: Polity Press.

 

Nelson, P. and Dorsey, E. (2007) “New Rights Advocacy in a Global Public Domain”, European Journal of International Relations, June 2007; vol. 13, 2, pp.187-216.

 

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2001) Training Manual on Human Rights

Monitoring, New York and Geneva: United Nations, available at http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/training7Introen.pdf accessed 30 April 2012.

 

Quintana, M.M. and Eguren, L.E. (2011) Protection of Human Rights Defenders: Best Practices and Lessons Learned (Volume I and II), Brussels: Protection International, available at http://protectionline.org/IMG/pdf/best_practices_and_lessons_learnt_web-2.pdf accessed 30 April 2012.

 

Smith, R.K.M. (2010) Textbook on International Human Rights, 4th edition, Oxford: Oxford

University Press.

 

Stammers, N. (1999) “Social Movements and the Social Construction of Human Rights”,
Human Rights Quarterly 21(4), pp. 980-1008.

 

Steiner, H.J.; Alston, P. and Goodman, R. (2008) International Human Rights in Context:

Law, Politics, Morals, 3rd edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 

United Nations General Assembly (1998) Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of

Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally

Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Resolution 53/144 of 9 December, available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/freedom.htm accessed 30 April 2012.
 

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders (2011) Commentary on the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms available at http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Defenders/CommentarytoDeclarationondefendersJuly2011.pdf accessed 30 April 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.