International Human Rights

Wednesday10:15 - 12:00RAI J-031

For general information please take note of this document:

Course Syllabus 2014 (PDF, 58 KB)

Link to last year's Human Rights Exam


Foundations and history of human rights

General concept of human rights

  • From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  • Overview of the key features of the ICCPR and the ICESCR
  • Relationship between the UDHR and the ICCPR
Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading
  • Bates, in Moeckli/Shah/Sivakumaran (eds.), p. 15-33 (Chapter 1 - History)
  • Clapham, p. 1-56 (Chapters 1 and 2)


Human Rights Actors I: the primary role of states
  • The nature of human rights obligations
  • The primary role of the state and its duty to respect, protect and fulfil human rights

Human Rights Actors II: The UN human rights system and non-state actors

  • Brief overview of the UN human rights system and its treaty bodies
  • Non-state actors and globalization, privatization and trade liberalization
  • the emerging role of private actors
Reading Assignments Additional Reading
Economic, social and cultural rights
  • Origin and legal foundations of economic and social rights
  • key features of the ICESCR
  • Differences and relationship between the ICCPR and the ICESCR
  • The problem of ressources
  • Obligation to respect, protect and fulfil
  • the issues of justiciability
Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading
Civil and Political Rights
  • Thought, expression, association, assembly
  • Detention and trial
  • Integrity of the person
Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading
  • Rodley, in  Moeckli/Shah/Sivakumaran (eds.), p. 174 - 194 (Chapter 9 - Integrity of the person)
  • Boyle/Shah, in  Moeckli/Shah/Sivakumaran (eds.), p. 217-237 (Chapter 11 - Thought, Expression, Association and Assembly)
  • Shah, in  Moeckli/Shah/Sivakumaran (eds.), p. 259-285 (Chapter 13 - Detention and trial)
  • Clapham, p. 96 - 107 (Chapter 5)
26.3. Special focus on labour rights
  • ILO core labour rights
  • Case study - details to be announced
Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading
2.4.Human Rights in the aftermath of the Arabic Spring
Special guest lecture by Prof. Parolin (University of Cairo)
Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading
9.4. No classes - instead excursion to Geneva on 7 May
New UN-Framework for business and human rights
  • Draft norms on the responsibility of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights
  • Appointment of Special Representative J. Ruggie
  • Framework: protect, respect and remedy
  • Recent development: adoption of the Guiding Principles, follow-up
Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading
All materials issued by the UNSRSG can be found at:
23.4.No classes - Easter break

Monitoring human rights compliance

  • Treaty-based mechanisms
  • Charter-based mechanisms, especially the Human Rights Council and its role to observe member states' compliance
Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading
  • Optional Protocol to the ICESCR, Annex to the UN General Assembly resolution, A/RES/63/117, 10 December 2008
  • Clapham, p. 57-80 (Chapter 3)
  • Connor/Schmidt, in  Moeckli/Shah/Sivakumaran (eds.), p. 359-397 (Chapter 18 - United Nations)

Excurstion to Geneva

  • Visit to the 52nd session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at Palais Wilson
  • Further programme details will be announced later

Implementing the UN-Framework I: the international level

  • Overview of the OECD mandate and work
  • OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
  • Role of OECD National Contact Points
  • International Finance Corporation's Policy on Environmental and Social Sustainability
Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading
21.5. Implementing the UN-Framework II: the national level
  • The renewed EU strategy calling for national action plans
  • Existing domestic policies and legislation
Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading
28.5.Case study (details to be announced)