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International Human Rights Law

Learn how an individual’s human rights are protected from both public and private power by international laws.

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Starts Oct 25
Estimated 12 weeks
6–8 hours per week
Self-paced
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Free
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About this course

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Human rights have been defined as a concern of the international community since the post-Second World War period, when the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the prohibition of discrimination were included among the objectives of the newly established United Nations. They have significantly expanded their reach since: they now influence various branches of domestic law, including family law, employment law, corporate law, or criminal law. They also have influenced the shaping of international relations, in areas such as development cooperation, foreign debt, the global fight against terrorism, or the quest for sustainable development.

Governments remain the main actors in the development of human rights. Civil society (non-governmental organisations) and social movements, however, increasingly contribute to shaping their contours, and human rights are now evolving as a result of the constant dialogue between international human rights bodies and domestic courts, in a search that crosses geographical, cultural and legal boundaries. This course will explore how human rights evolve and how they can be enforced and progressively realized. It will examine the sources of human rights, including both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. It will address the specific regime of human rights law as part of general international law. It will relate the rights of individuals to the duties of States (to respect, protect and fulfil human rights). And it will assess the effectiveness of the mechanisms of protection of human rights, at both domestic and regional or international levels.

The course relies extensively on comparative material from different jurisdictions, to study a wide range of topics including, for instance, religious freedom in multicultural societies, human rights in employment relationships, economic and social rights in development, the human rights responsibilities of corporations, or human rights in the context of the fight against terrorism.

At a glance

  • Institution: LouvainX
  • Subject: Law
  • Level: Advanced
  • Prerequisites:

    Knowledge of the fundamentals of International Law (subjects and sources of International Law/ principles governing international responsibility). Such knowledge may be acquired by the successful completion of Louv5x – International Law.

    In addition, students should be familiar with the requirements of graduate-level courses and should preferably have already followed some law courses in order to be familiar with legal concepts and legal language.

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated programs:

What you'll learn

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At the end of the course you’ll be able to:

  • Analyze and comment on key controversies surrounding the development of international human rights law.
  • Rely on the mechanisms for the protection of human rights, at domestic and regional or international levels, in order to contribute to their effective enforcement.
  • Use conceptual tools to follow the developments of human rights law.
  • Be an active participant in the global human rights movement, which brings together trade unions, NGOs, national human rights institutions, and activist lawyers from different world regions.

1. What are human rights?
1.1. The sources of human rights law
1.2. Human rights and the theory of sources
1.3. The special nature of human rights
1.4. The question of reservations to human rights treaties
1.5. The jus commune of human rights

2. To which situations do human rights apply?
2.1. Jurisdiction – an introduction
2.2. Human rights, State sovereignty, and national territory
2.3. The typology of human rights: respect – protect – fulfill
2.4. Situations of emergency and derogations

3. When may human rights be restricted?
3.1. The absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment
3.2. Deportation of aliens and the prohibition of ill-treatment
3.3. Limitations to human rights: legitimacy
3.4. Limitation to human rights: legality
3.5. Limitation to human rights: necessity

4. When must the State intervene to protect human rights?
4.1. The State’s duty to protect human rights: introduction
4.2. Waiver of rights
4.3. Conflicts between human rights in inter-individual relationships
4.4. Transnational corporations

5. How much must States do to fulfill human rights?
5.1. The duty to fulfill – introduction
5.2. What are human rights-based policies?
5.3. How is progress measured? Indicators and benchmarks
5.4. How much is enough? “Progressive realization”

6. What is discrimination?
6.1. When does the non-discrimination requirement apply?
6.2. What are the States’ obligations?
6.3. How to address profiling and stereotyping?
6.4. What is discrimination?

7. How are human rights protected at domestic level?
7.1. What is the right to an effective remedy?
7.2. The justiciability of social rights
7.3. The role of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs)

8. How are human rights protected at international level?
8.1. The Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review
8.2. The Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures
8.3. UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies and individual communications

Learner testimonials

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"I think it is hard but worth it. I discovered areas still unknown for me through all the modules included in the course I will highly recommend it. The instructor was excellent introducing the subjects in every module and the content interactive with the discussions and small test that help you with the final test." A learner on Coursetalk

About the instructors

Who can take this course?

Unfortunately, learners residing in one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba and the Crimea region of Ukraine. While edX has sought licenses from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to offer our courses to learners in these countries and regions, the licenses we have received are not broad enough to allow us to offer this course in all locations. edX truly regrets that U.S. sanctions prevent us from offering all of our courses to everyone, no matter where they live.

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