Instructor(s): Anna Su

For graduate students, the course number is LAW6023HS.

There is no prerequisite but having taken Public International Law is highly recommended.

Note: This course satisfies the International/Comparative/Transnational course requirement.

Note: The Quercus program will be used for this course. Students must self-enrol in Quercus as soon as confirmed in the course in order to obtain course information.

How did an idea limited to a few European states eventually become the language of justice of the international community? What is the role of human rights norms in a world of power politics and sovereign states? Under what conditions do human rights work? Are there any viable alternatives to human rights?

This course is a broad introduction to international human rights law. It will explores the historical development of international human rights in its various forms, beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights up to contemporary treaties; various forms and institutional (national, regional and international) settings in which human rights now operate; and legal and political strategies for implementing the norms that have been developed. Whenever possible, the discussion of human rights law will relate to international developments as well as those within Canada.

The goal is not to become human rights experts but to ensure that students have a competent understanding of the landscape of international human rights and are well-equipped to think through the complexities of international human rights regime today. Topics to be covered include: the universal or culturally particular nature of human rights; institutional remedies in response to massive human rights violations; social, cultural and economic rights; the application of human rights law during armed conflict; the intersection between human rights and international criminal law; the relationship between human rights and global inequality; and the human rights implications of climate change.

8 hour take-home exam (90%) and class attendance and participation (10%). With instructor permission, you can opt to write a final paper of 6250-7500 words instead. Note: The default mode of evaluation for this course is the take-home exam. Students who plan to write a paper must have topic approval from the instructor and notify the Records Office by March 1. Only students who choose to write a final paper may opt to complete a Supervised Upper Year Research Paper.

At a Glance

Second Term


29 JD
10 MGA


T: 2:10 - 3:25
Th: 2:10 - 3:25