International Human Rights Law

Course content

The course focuses on the international systems for the protection of human rights. Its purpose is to make students familiar with the institutional mechanisms and substantive provisions in force at the global and regional levels to protect human rights in the United Nations, European, American and African regimes of protection. The class will address the key challenges in current international human rights law through a number of thematic explorations of topical issue areas and clusters of complementary rights and obligations. Throughout the semester, the class will be required to discuss and provide critical perspectives on the case law of international courts and tribunals in light of theoretical and academic perspectives. Students will also consider the institutional viability of the current regime(s) and the opportunities and difficulties of pushing forward the overall normative agenda of international human rights law.


The course is divided into three parts.

1) The first introductory part covers the history and sources of international human rights and provides an overview of the institutional framework arising in the global and regional systems of protection.

2) The second part focuses on several substantial areas where human rights challenges arise. The sessions include: Terrorism and Armed Conflict; Migration, Freedoms of Opinion, Expression and Religion; Equality and Non-Discrimination; Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and Corporations and the Environment.

3) The third part of the course highlights issues of fragmentation of protection, the backlash facing international human rights regimes and prospects for reform. It will also discuss theories of human rights and provide the students with experience in the process of litigating a human rights case.
This course is part of iCourts Excellence Programme (iEP) – International Law and Courts in a Global World, see 'Remarks' below.


Lecture programme:
1. Introduction: Histories, Sources, Methods
2. The United Nations System of Protection
3. The European System of Protection
4. The African and Inter-American Systems of Protection
5. Terrorism and Armed Conflict
6. Migration and Human Rights
7. Freedom of Opinion, Expression, and Religion
8. Equality and Non-Discrimination
9. Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
10. Corporations and the Environment 
11. Backlash and Reform
12. Conclusion: Theories of Human Rights and Litigation Practice


This course is part of iCourts Excellence Programme (iEP) – International Law and Courts in a Global World, please see 'Remarks' below.

Learning outcome

The course will pursue the following learning objectives:


  • present to the students with a comprehensive overview of the body of international human rights law;
  • explain the institutional framework of different international and regional human rights protection systems, particularly in Europe;
  • explain the most important doctrines and interpretation techniques of human rights bodies through the study of case law;
  • familiarize students with the issues and arguments advanced in the academic debate on international human rights.


  • identify and discuss challenges to and shortcomings of contemporary international human rights law;
  • teach the students to respond to arguments and position themselves within the existing human rights law literature;
  • explain and critically discuss issues of particular, contemporary relevance in the field of international human rights law, such as the rights of individuals suspected of being involved in terrorism;
  • sensitivize the students to the relevance of human rights arguments for judicial proceedings in various domains of international and domestic law through discussions of a broad spectrum of topics intersecting with international human rights law;
  • develop critical thinking with regard to the systemic challenges and the cross-cutting methods of argumentation deployed in the human rights regime;
  • critically reflect on an academic field and the structure of the arguments in the academic debate on a particular topic.


  • enable the student to carry out independent legal research;
  • critically analyze a complex problem in international human rights law applying legal analysis and with regard to the economic, political and social dimension of the issue;
  • autonomously identify the relevant research question, propose a research design and the working plan;
  • construct international human rights law arguments in legal disputes in the national and international public law context.

This course is based on interactive lectures, where the teacher presents a topic and introduces students to the development of a particular area of law and to the substance of the law. Students are required to read and study materials in preparation of the class. For each class, the assigned readings consist of, on the one hand, judgments and decisions issued by various human rights tribunals and institutions, which are aimed at familiarizing the students with judicial reasoning and argumentation in the human rights domain and, on the other hand, of academic articles addressing the relevant tensions within human rights law in a more abstract and theory-driven manner. The academic readings (including recent publications, working papers and blog posts) will be used as support to develop arguments that lead to a discussion in class.

Reading materials will be provided to the students via the online platform.


It is illegal to share digital textbooks with each other without permission from the copyright holder.

Oral communication, written communication, critical thinking, research abilities, analytical thinking, problem solving, presentation skills, capacity to read ans understand academic texts in English, familiarity with the plagiarism guidelines at KU

Students should have a basic knowledge of public international law and European law, equivalent to BA-level. Those who have not taken these courses should be prepared to acquire such knowledge on their own prior to the beginning of the seminars. The teacher can advise them about relevant materials.

Please observe, this course is part of iCourts Excellence Programme (iEP) – International Law and Courts in a Global World. Students who sign up for the iEP become iCourts Student Fellows and will get a unique opportunity to become part of the research environment of iCourts – the only centre of excellence in law in Denmark. The iEP is open to all Danish and foreign BA and MA students at the Faculty. All iCourts courses may be taken as stand-alone courses but only students who complete a total of at least 45 ECTS courses offered by the centre or of 30 ECTS such courses plus write their MA-thesis with an iCourts Supervisor will receive a certificate confirming their participation in the iEP. Read more about the programme here: https:/​/​​icourts/​education/​excellence-programme/​

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Home assignment
Type of assessment details
Individual written assignment

Written assignment of maximum 35.100 characters submitted by the students individually. The instructor will provide a list of 5 thematic research questions related to the course content and the literature. Each student must choose one question that they will engage with critically in their written assignment.

Read about the descriptions of the individual exam forms, including formal requirements, scope and deadlines in the exam catalogue

Read about practical exam conditions at KUnet

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Exam period

Fall: January 9, 2025

Spring: TBA


Fall: February 17, 2025

Spring: TBA

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 356,5
  • Seminar
  • 56
  • English
  • 412,5


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Full Degree Master choice

1 semester

Autumn And Spring
  1. Students enrolled at Faculty of Law or holding a pre-approval: No tuition fee
  2. Professionals: Please visit our website  
Please see timetable for teaching hours
Contracting department
  • Law
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Law
Course Coordinator
  • Mikael Rask Madsen   (13-526e70666a7133526669786a73456f7a7733707a336970)
Saved on the 30-04-2024

Are you BA- or KA-student?

Are you bachelor- or kandidat-student, then find the course in the course catalog for students:

Courseinformation of students