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You are here Postgraduate > MPhil in Race, Ethnicity, Conflict > Course Structure and Handbook

International Human Rights Law

Module Code: SO7038

  • ECTS Credit : 5
  • Mandatory/ Optional : Optional
  • Module Coordinator : Dr Colin Smith
  • Module Length: 11 weeks (Hilary Term)

Module Description:

This module will consider the philosophical origins of human rights and their status in international, regional and domestic law and policy. The key focus of the module will be the modern human rights movement which can be traced to the foundation of the United Nations in 1945 and the adoption of the Universal Declaration three years later.  The mechanisms for the promotion, implementation and protection of human rights including through intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations and the relationship between international and regional systems and Irish law will be critically evaluated. This module will also reflect on the indivisibility of human rights and the relationships between different human rights principles are given particular analysis.  We will also consider whether human rights standards are or should be regarded as universal or whether different cultural principles or interpretations of human rights norms are also acceptable. This module places particular emphasis on egalitarian principles and the situation of black and ethnic minority people, migrants and women.

Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of the module, students will be expected to:

  • Have a clear understanding of the international human rights system and how human rights are protected under international law.
  • Critically analyse human rights practices and policies at the international and national levels
  • Apply international human rights law to contemporary issues.

Delivery and syllabus:

The module is delivered over 11 seminars consisting of a lecturing input followed by an open discussion.  Students are required to do presentations on particular topics from week four onwards.


The main topics covered by the module are:

  1. Historical evolution of human rights
  2. International and regional human rights systems
  3. Civil and political rights v economic and social rights
  4. Human rights and the elimination of  racial discrimination
  5. Women and human rights
  6. Human rights of refugees and migrants
  7. Human rights developments in Ireland
  8. The role of NGOs in realising human rights

Recommended Texts

  • Henry J. Steiner, Philip Alston and Ryan Goodman, International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals, 3rd edition, Oxford University Press, (2008) is the required reading for the module. 

A detailed reading list will be provided.


Assessment is by way of one written assignment of 2,500 words in which students will be encouraged to pursue a particular topic of interest.