LWMHRL-Human Rights Law, Policy, and Practice

Module Provider: School of Law
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Ms Marie Aronsson

Email: e.m.l.aronsson@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. These are illustrated through the examination of different binding ‘hard’ law human rights instruments, particularly the UN Charter, International Civil and Political Rights 1966, and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 as well as diverse non-binding ‘soft’ law and policy instruments (eg the UN Charter and treaty bodies, and independent experts). The module examines examples of different types of rights, particularly those that are most commonly violated in such contexts as responding to security threats or emergency situations (eg the right to life, prohibition against torture, denial of liberty). Similarly, it considers significant challenges associated with the realization of other human rights, notably resource challenges for poorer states seeking the ‘progressive realization’ of rights such as food, water, shelter, and adequate healthcare. It examines too a number of currently topical and emerging issues, for example in relation to third generation rights, global capitalism, and disasters.


The overarching aim of the module is to equip students with the necessary foundational insights, knowledge, and understanding of human rights concepts, principles, actors and institutions. In addition to the importance of these in their own right, comprehension of such concepts, principles, related actors and institutions will further inform students in relation to 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. 


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, actors 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 effectiveness of enforcement mechanisms within 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 and disaster management/disaster risk reduction objectives.

Please note that not all assessable learning outcomes will apply to all assessments. Whilst some are generic, others will only be relevant to specific topics and will depend on the assessment title selected.

Additional outcomes:

In addition to those listed in the School's 'core skills statement', the module will encourage the development of: Autonomy with regard to reflective critical analysis and debate of the legal and policy topics examined; high-level oral and written communication skills through reflective, analytical class discussion and debate and written assessments; advanced critical reading skills in relation to primary and/or secondary sources; and independent research skills.

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 human rights system. 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 trends, 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. • 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, both substantive rights and enforcement mechanisms. • UN human rights institutions and bodies eg Human Rights Council. • Examples of civil and political rights (eg right to life, prohibition against torture, presumption of liberty). • 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,eg third generation rights, global capitalism, and 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. 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 100

Other information on summative assessment:

• An assessed essay of 15 pages maximum (formatted in accordance with the School of Law’s Assessed Work Rules). 

Formative assessment methods:

Students will have the opportunity to submit a 1-2 page 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: 20 September 2017

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