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UOL International Human Rights Law

International Human Rights Law covers a broad and comprehensive range of topics that are essential for understanding the global landscape of human rights law. Each topic builds upon the others to provide a foundational and advanced understanding of the principles, mechanisms, and challenges involved in the protection of human rights worldwide.


This initial segment sets the stage for the course, outlining the scope, significance, and objectives of international human rights law. It introduces students to the concept of human rights, the historical evolution of human rights, and the various legal frameworks and instruments designed to protect these rights globally.

Nature of Human Rights

This topic explores the fundamental characteristics and classifications of human rights, including the distinction between civil and political rights and economic, social, and cultural rights. It discusses the universality, inalienability, interdependence, and indivisibility of human rights, emphasising their importance as inherent to all human beings.

International Law

Here, students learn about the role of international law in governing relations between states and protecting human rights. It covers sources of international law, including treaties, customary international law, and general principles of law, and how these sources contribute to the legal protection of human rights.

International Legal Order

This section examines the structure and function of the international legal order, including the principles that govern the behaviour of states and the mechanisms for resolving disputes between them. It also discusses the challenges and criticisms of the international legal system in enforcing human rights.

Jurisdiction and Immunity

This topic addresses the concepts of jurisdiction and immunity in international law, including the principles that determine a state's legal authority over persons, property, and events, and the exemptions that protect states and their officials from jurisdiction in foreign courts.


Students explore the right to self-determination, a principle that allows peoples to freely determine their political status and pursue their economic, social, and cultural development. This includes discussions on decolonisation, secession, and the rights of indigenous peoples.

United Nations System

This segment focuses on the role of the United Nations in promoting and protecting human rights. It covers the structure and functions of key UN bodies, such as the General Assembly, the Security Council, and the Human Rights Council, and examines the UN's mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing human rights standards.

European System

Students learn about the European system for human rights protection, primarily focusing on the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. This topic explores the convention's rights and freedoms, the court's jurisdiction and procedures, and its landmark rulings.

Inter-American System

This topic covers the Inter-American system of human rights, including the American Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It discusses the system's institutions, their roles in protecting human rights, and significant cases and jurisprudence.

African System

Here, the focus is on the African system for human rights protection, particularly the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights. It examines the charter's unique features, such as peoples' rights and duties, and the court's contributions to human rights in Africa.

Law of Treaties

This section delves into the law of treaties, which governs how treaties are made, applied, and interpreted, as well as how they can be amended or terminated. It is crucial for understanding how human rights treaties operate within the international legal framework.

Prohibition of Torture

Students examine the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. This includes discussions on international instruments against torture, the obligations of states to prevent and punish acts of torture, and the mechanisms for victims' redress.

Racial Discrimination

This topic explores the international legal framework for combating racial discrimination, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It discusses the definition of racial discrimination, states' obligations, and the role of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Rights of Women

This segment focuses on the protection and promotion of women's rights in international law, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. It covers issues such as gender equality, violence against women, and women's rights in the family, work, and public life.

Rights of Children

Students explore the rights of children as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This includes discussions on the principles of the best interests of the child, the right to life, survival and development, and respect for the views of the child.

Rights of Refugees

This topic addresses the rights and protections afforded to refugees under international law, particularly the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. It covers the definition of a refugee, the principle of non-refoulement, and the obligations of states towards refugees.

Right to Religious Freedom

Students examine the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the rights to worship, observe, practice, and teach religion or belief. This topic discusses the legal protections for religious freedom and the challenges of balancing this right with other human rights.

Dealing with Gross Atrocities

This section delves into the international community's response to gross atrocities, including genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. It examines the principles of responsibility to protect (R2P), international humanitarian law, and the mechanisms for accountability and justice.

International Criminal Court

The final topic focuses on the International Criminal Court (ICC), the first permanent international court established to prosecute individuals for the most serious offences of international concern. Students learn about the court's jurisdiction, the crimes it can prosecute, and its role in the international justice system.

Each of these topics is integral to understanding the multifaceted and dynamic field of international human rights law, providing students with the knowledge and skills to contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights globally.

Check out our exam-focused International Human Rights Law notes now.

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