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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Human Rights, Global Politics and International Law (PGSP11428)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course examines the interaction between politics and law in relation to human rights and their enforcement. It discusses interactions between state sovereignty and issues of justice and pays considerable attention to questions of universal human rights and their (non-selective) enforcement. The course analyses current issues and debates with regard to ways of enforcing existing human rights laws through UN institutions, military intervention as well as judicial intervention (for instance through ad hoc tribunals and the International Criminal Court).

Aims & Objectives

The course's main aims are to provide students with a critical understanding of:
1. relevant theories, principles and concepts related to human rights and their role in global politics and international law;
2. the extent in which global politics and international law interact and influence each other;
3. recent developments in international human rights law and their impact on international relations between states;
4. the role of institutions and actors in formulating and enforcing international human rights law.
Course description This course examines the interplay between politics and law with regard to international human rights laws and their enforcement. It discusses interactions between state sovereignty and issues of justice and pays considerable attention to questions of universal human rights and their (non-selective) application. The course analyses current issues and debates with regard to ways of enforcing existing human rights laws through UN institutions, military intervention as well as judicial intervention. The course will include a number of case studies to discuss whether and how human rights and their enforcement matter in global politics.

b. Outline Content

1 Introducing ¿Human Rights¿
This session will be an introduction to the course and the topic of human rights more generally. We will discuss different conceptions of what these rights might entail and whether they are universal.

2 Framing Human Rights: Theoretical Foundations
This session introduces different theoretical perspectives on human rights. We will look at some mainstream International Relations theories as well as assess the feminist critiques and other alternative approaches.

3 The Global Application of Human Rights
This session will focus on different institutions that exist on the international level to ensure the enforcement of human rights such as the UN Human Rights Council and also regional mechanisms like the European Court of Human Rights. Our main focus is on the Genocide Convention and the case study of Darfur to discuss difficulties attached to even the most clearly defined international human rights crimes.

4 Humanitarian Intervention
This session will assess different arguments made in favour and against humanitarian intervention. We will also discuss the Responsibility to Protect and assess how it works in practice. The main case studies will be Libya, Syria and Ukraine.

5 Universal Jurisdiction
This session will introduce the concept of universal jurisdiction and the question whether national courts are appropriate mechanisms to intervene in other state¿s internal affairs by prosecuting some of the worst human rights offenders. The main case study is Pinochet and the House of Lords.

6 International Criminal Justice
This session follows on from the previous one by looking at international courts as mechanisms for international judicial intervention. We will look at Nuremberg as well as the two ad hoc courts (ICTY and, ICTR) and some hybrid courts to discuss the effectiveness of multilateral efforts to achieve justice.

7 The International Criminal Court
This session will look at the creation of the International Criminal Court as an independent and permanent court that aims to prosecute some of the most serious human rights abuses. Our case studies will focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur.

8 Human Rights and Civil Society
This session will look at different actors in the human rights field by focussing on global civil society and their influences rather than states. Case Studies include the Coalition for an ICC and Human Rights Watch

9 Human Rights and the War on Terror
This session will look at how and why human rights and civil liberties have been infringed upon in the name of national security. We will discuss whether a ¿lesser evil¿ of compromising rights of a few needs to be accepted to ensure security of the wider community. Case Studies will focus on Guantanamo Bay as well as the so-called ¿Torture Memos¿.

10 Drone Warfare and International Law
The final session will look at drone warfare as part of US the counterterrorism campaign. We will discuss implications of these new technologies for fighting wars and also what they mean for human rights.

This course will be taught by way of a 2-hour seminar that usually starts with a brief introduction of the topics by the course organiser followed by either student-led group presentations or class debates. We will be discussing a lot of case studies related to the ¿real world¿ application of issues related to human rights.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate knowledge of key institutions and processes related to human rights in global politics and international law;
  2. Be able to identify and understand key concepts and theories related to international human rights and international law;
  3. Know and understand academic debates surrounding the interaction between politics and law;
  4. Be able to critically engage with core texts and articulate an informed view about current debates and questions surrounding human rights enforcement in global politics.
Reading List
Brown, Chris. (2002). Sovereignty, Rights and Justice: International Political Theory Today. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Forsythe, David P. (2006). Human Rights in International Relations, 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Goodhart, Michael (Ed.) (2009) Human Rights - Politics and Practice, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Maogoto, Jackson Nyamuya. (2004). War Crimes and Realpolitik: International Justice from World War I to the 21st Century. Boulder: Lynne Rienner.

Wheeler, Nicholas J. (2000). Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Andrea Birdsall
Tel: (0131 6)50 6974
Course secretaryMrs Casey Behringer
Tel: (0131 6)50 2456
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