LWMHRL-Human Rights Law, Policy, and Practice

Module Provider: School of Law
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Level:7
Terms in which taught:
Pre-requisites:
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Co-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Dr Katja Samuel

Email: k.l.samuel@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
This module introduces students to foundational human rights concepts, principles, institutions, challenges, as well as developments. Specifically, it considers the existence and nature of different types of human rights (civil, political, economic, social, and cultural), as well as different categories of rights (absolute, limited, and qualified). These are illustrated through the examination of different ‘hard’ law human rights instruments such as the UN Charter, International Civil and Political Rights 1966, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 and those of regional human rights systems, as well as diverse ‘soft’ law and policy instruments (eg institutional executive resolutions, or the outputs of human rights organs, treaty bodies, and independent experts). The module examines examples of different types of rights, particularly those that are most commonly violated in the context of responding to security threats or in the context of armed conflict (eg the right to life, prohibition against torture, denial of liberty); and those that have the potential to themselves become a cause of crisis or disaster and/or may be impacted the most during any emergency situation (eg the right to food, water, shelter, health care). The module examines too some of the challenges of translating human rights law and policy into practice, such as the misuse of emergency powers or derogations which suspend normal human rights standards, or resource challenges for poorer states seeking the ‘progressive realization’ of such rights as food, water, shelter, and adequate healthcare. It examines too currently topical and emerging issues, for example: human rights implications associated with global initiatives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction; whether there is an existing or emerging human rights obligation on governments to reduce disaster risk, or to provide an efficient response during/post disasters; and the International Law Commission’s draft articles on the protection of persons in the event of disasters.

Aims:
The overarching aim of the module is to equip students with the necessary foundational insights, knowledge, and understanding of human rights concepts, principles, and institutions to further inform them about issues examined by other modules of the programme, many of which draw from different aspects of human rights law, policy, and practice. In doing so, this module is also intended to give students a solid understanding of what human rights are, of challenges associated with translating theory into practice, and the relevance as well as role of foundational human rights principles within the context of other global initiatives and developments, for example in relation to sustainable development or disaster risk reduction. In doing so, students are encouraged to consider how the human rights framework of hard and soft law instruments might assist them in practice in responding to different types of crisis, conflict, and disaster situations.

Assessable learning outcomes:
On completion of the module, students will be expected to be able to:
•Identify, understand, and explain key human rights concepts, principles, and institutions, including the relationship between them.
•Identify, understand, and explain different types as well as categories for human rights.
•Understand and explain the role and significance of regional human rights systems, as well as their relationship with the UN human rights system.
•Identify and critically assess common challenges associated with translating human rights principles and policies into practice, including different forms of human rights violations and the reasons for them.
•Understand and explain how human rights operate, and may be suspended, in a range of crisis and emergency situations including armed conflict and different types of disasters.
•Examine and critically assess the role of human rights in informing and developing other global initiatives, such as in relation to sustainable development goals, disaster risk reduction, and the protection of persons in the event of disasters.

Additional outcomes:
Given the fact that the module is orientated towards small group teaching and independent study, it will encourage autonomy with regard to reflective critical analysis and debate of the legal and policy topics examined, as well as high-level oral and written communication skills. The module also seeks to further develop students’ professional skills through the writing of a professional briefing paper.

These outcomes are in addition to those listed in the School's ‘core skills statement’.

Outline content:
The module content introduces students to foundational human rights concepts, principles, and institutions. In doing so, it considers the existence and nature of different types and categories of human rights, and a selection of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ law instruments drawn from the UN and other regional human rights systems. In doing so, it examines a number of factors which can threaten the effective implementation of human rights law and policy in practice, such as emergency situations and resource constraints. It further examines human rights in the context of other global initiatives, and explores whether and how new obligations may be emerging.
The module will examine a broad range of human rights issues, such as:
•Introduction to the concepts of human rights, different types of rights (civil, political, economic, social, and cultural), and different categories of rights (absolute, limited, qualified).
•UN Charter, Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1948, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966.
•UN human rights institutions and bodies eg Human Rights Council, treaty bodies, ECOSOC.
•Regional human rights systems.
•Examples of civil and political rights (eg right to life, prohibition against torture, liberty, freedom of speech).
•Examples of economic, social, cultural rights (eg right to food, water, shelter, health care).
•Emergency powers and derogations.
•Different types of human rights violations.
•Topical and emerging issues, including human rights implications of current or forthcoming initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals 2015; whether there is a human rights obligation on governments to reduce disaster risk, or to provide an efficient response during/post disasters; developing law eg the ILC draft articles on the protection of persons in the event of disasters.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Teaching in this module is designed to provide students with a range of resources on which they can draw in their learning. The main elements are:
•A list of required and recommended readings, with notes and questions that will be used to guide class discussion and reflection.
•Ten seminar classes of 2 hours each.
•Formative feedback will be in the format of feedback on an essay plan.
•Students will be given an independent research assignment in the form of a written assessment relevant to one or more topics examined during the module.
•Students will also undertake the writing of a professional briefing paper.
Where there are specialist programme lectures or events, or other University seminars, relevant to these issues, students in the module will be encouraged to attend and be given the opportunity to discuss the issues with visiting academic presenters.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 20
Guided independent study 180
       
Total hours by term 200.00
       
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 80
Report 20

Other information on summative assessment:
•An assessed essay of 12 pages maximum (formatted in accordance with the School of Law’s Assessed Work Rules). 80%
•A professional briefing paper of 3 pages maximum (formatted in accordance with the School of Law’s Assessed Work Rules). 20%

Formative assessment methods:
Students will have the opportunity to submit an essay plan to the Module Convenor prior to submission of the assessed essay on which they will receive written feedback.

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

Length of examination:

Requirements for a pass:
50% overall

Reassessment arrangements:
See School of Law PGT Programme Handbook

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
1) Required text books:
2) Specialist equipment or materials:
3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
4) Printing and binding:
5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

Last updated: 21 December 2016

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