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Unit information: Human Rights in Law, Politics and Society in 2015/16

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Unit name Human Rights in Law, Politics and Society
Unit code LAWD30125
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Greer
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will cover the following topics: the history of the human rights ideal and its contested status in western debates about law, politics and society; the increasing internationalization and globalization of human rights; arguments about the universality and cultural limits of human rights; the profile of human rights in the world's two main rivals to the western model (Islam and 'Chinese/Asian values'); attempts to sanction human rights violations through judicial processes (including the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court); and some sharp contemporary debates, including over the profile of human rights in economic development, aid and trade, in responses to terrorism, and in armed conflicts.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit a successful student will be able to:

  • Explain the nature of human rights
  • Explain its contested status in debates about non-western political moralities, globalization, international law and international relations
  • Identify and discuss some core debates where human rights are particularly central, eg transitional justice, terrorism, multiculturalism
  • State the various arguments and positions in key debates accurately, assess them critically and to come to provisional reasoned conclusions about how challenging issues might best be understood and problems resolved

This unit is also intended to improve the following benchmark skills – critical analysis of written texts and written argumentation.

Teaching Information

Ten one-hour lectures and ten two-hour seminars.

Assessment Information

Formative assessment: students are required to do one, and may do two pieces of formative work.

Summative assessment: one three-hour closed book examination in May/June, in which students answer 3 questions from a choice of 7 or 8 questions.

The assessments will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.

Reading and References

- J. Donnelly, Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice (Cornell University Press, 3rd edn., 2013). - J. Donnelly, International Human Rights: Dilemmas in World Politics, 4th edn. (Westview Press, 2012). I. Bantekas & L. Oette, International Human Rights Law and Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2013). - M. Goodhart, Human Rights: Politics and Practice (2nd edn., Oxford University Press, 2013). - M. Freeman, Human Rights: An Interdisciplinary Approach (Polity, 2nd edn., 2011). - J. Rehman, International Human Rights Law (Pearson, 2nd edn., 2010). - O. De Schutter, International Human Rights Law: Cases, Materials, Commentary (Cambridge University Press, 2010).