Seminar (HSG): Empirical Analysis of International Human Rights Law

About the course

What can we know empirically about international human rights law? Why are some states better human rights compliers? Are all human rights equal? Can decisions by international human rights courts be predicted?

This course has two major aims: First, the course approaches questions of international human rights law from an empirical perspective. To this end, it provides an overview of basic concepts and institutions of international human rights law, and influential studies dealing with questions of evidence-based international human rights law will be discussed. Second, the course provides an introduction to the innovative, emerging field of empirical legal studies. It aims to demonstrate how basic statistical methods (descriptive statistics, hypothesis testing, linear regression, logistic regression and text mining) can be gainfully applied to study international human rights law from an empirical perspective. The necessary methods will be taught in the course: statistical or programming skills are not a prerequisite.

There are three spots available for UZH students. The slots will be filled on a competitive basis upon application (deadline 31 March 2021, see Announcement below). The seminar is open to students at the Master’s level and will be credited with 6 ECTS upon successful completion (see Announcement). In addition, the participants have the opportunity to write a Master's thesis, credited separately with 12 ECTS.

Learning Objectives

The course follows a rigorous integrated, hands-on, interdisciplinary approach. All students will participate (in groups) in hands-on problem solving using basic statistical methods in R. At the successful completion of the course, students should:

  • have acquired / deepened their knowledge and understanding of key concepts and institutions of international human rights law;
  • have learned about a range of quantitative methods and their application in the field of empirical legal studies;
  • be able to read and to critically evaluate research articles dealing with empirical approaches to international human rights law;
  • be able to employ simple quantitative methods in the human rights field using the appropriate software, to assess the validity of their results and the limitations of empirical approaches to human rights law.

Application by UZH students

There are three slots available for UZH students (Masters’ level only). Funding for travel costs is available for UZH students. For the application procedure, please see the Announcement below.

Seminar Dates

27.9., 11.10., 25.10., 15.11., 29.11., 13.12.


University of St. Gallen

Further information

Please see the Seminar Announcement (PDF, 57 KB) for further information.