Advanced Human Rights Law and Mechanisms for Public Policy Students

Course Description: 

Elective course; Security specialization/concentration

This course provides an opportunity to consider some of the more challenging issues related to human rights law and practice as it is currently applied and experienced around the world. Each week, the class will examine a specific human rights issue. The selection of final topics for the course will be student led, with students identifying and agreeing with the instructor what areas and subjects they wish the course to focus on, based on issues of interest to them and current world events. The type of issues that may be covered include; Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Rights, Migration & Refugees, Victim’s Rights, Protecting Human Rights Defenders, Freedom of Expression, Human Rights in Authoritarian Regimes, Major Violations (atrocity crimes), theories of Human Rights Compliance, the Effectiveness of the International Human Rights Framework, Indigenous Rights, Racism and Rights, Rights of Women, Strategic Human Rights Litigation, Human Rights and Prisons, Effective National Mechanisms, the role of Civil Society, Human Rights and the SDGs. Each topic will be approached by examining the relevant international and regional standards, available international, regional and national mechanisms for monitoring and redress, and the role of different national and international actors. This course will benefit students who want to continue on from the Introduction to Human Rights course in the Fall Term, and those with prior exposure or experience in human rights who wish to develop a deeper understanding of contemporary rights issues and challenges.


Learning Outcomes: 

This course will build students’ skills in critical analysis of complex human rights issues, as well as their knowledge and understanding of the applicable international human rights standards and relevant mechanisms. It will also develop students’ ability to apply international human rights standards, and their skills of problem-solving, writing, advocacy, public speaking, communication and presentation, through active in-class exercises. The course will have a problem-solving orientation, so that in examining the human rights issues raised through current real-life situations, students will focus on the suitability of existing mechanisms, programmes and policies and consider potential avenues for solutions aimed at improving these situations.


This class will be participatory, focussing on human rights application and practice, while drawing on important research and theories. Students will have the opportunity to practice human rights advocacy techniques including writing opinion pieces, press releases, and understanding how to use regional and international mechanisms to effect human rights policy change. Students will assist in designing and leading the class on the issue of particular interest to them (this may be subject to numbers).  Overall assessment will be on the basis of the engagement of the student with their chosen topic, including a blog/opinion piece and a final a human rights monitoring or advocacy report.


This course builds on the Introduction to Human Rights course from the Fall Term. This course is not suitable for students with no prior human rights knowledge or experience. As an advanced course, students need to have some prior learning or experience with international human rights standards and mechanisms. Students wishing to take this course who don’t believe they meet this requirement should take the Introduction to Human Rights course in the Fall Term. Those who have not done so and still wish to take the course are asked to speak to the course instructor before enrolling.