Professional Course

International Human Rights Law

edX, Online
12 weeks
199 USD
Next course start
Start anytime See details
Self-paced Online
12 weeks
199 USD
Next course start
Start anytime See details
Self-paced Online
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Course description

International Human Rights Law

Human rights have been defined as a concern of the international community since the post-Second World War period, when the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the prohibition of discrimination were included among the objectives of the newly established United Nations. They have significantly expanded their reach since: they now influence various branches of domestic law, including family law, employment law, corporate law, or criminal law. They also have influenced the shaping of international relations, in areas such as development cooperation, foreign debt, the global fight against terrorism, or the quest for sustainable development.

Governments remain the main actors in the development of human rights. Civil society (non-governmental organisations) and social movements, however, increasingly contribute to shaping their contours, and human rights are now evolving as a result of the constant dialogue between international human rights bodies and domestic courts, in a search that crosses geographical, cultural and legal boundaries. This course will explore how human rights evolve and how they can be enforced and progressively realized. It will examine the sources of human rights, including both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights.

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  • Self-paced Online
  • Online
  • English

Who should attend?


Knowledge of the fundamentals of International Law (subjects and sources of International Law/ principles governing international responsibility). Such knowledge may be acquired by the successful completion of Louv5x – International Law.

In addition, students should be familiar with the requirements of graduate-level courses and should preferably have already followed some law courses in order to be familiar with legal concepts and legal language.

Training content

1. What are human rights?

1.1. The sources of human rights law

1.2. Human rights and the theory of sources

1.3. The special nature of human rights

1.4. The question of reservations to human rights treaties

1.5. The jus commune of human rights

2. To which situations do human rights apply?

2.1. Jurisdiction – an introduction

2.2. Human rights, State sovereignty, and national territory

2.3. The typology of human rights: respect – protect – fulfill

2.4. Situations of emergency and derogations

3. When may human rights be restricted?

3.1. The absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment

3.2. Deportation of aliens and the prohibition of ill-treatment

3.3. Limitations to human rights: legitimacy

3.4. Limitation to human rights: legality

3.5. Limitation to human rights: necessity

4. When must the State intervene to protect human rights?

4.1. The State’s duty to protect human rights: introduction

4.2. Waiver of rights

4.3. Conflicts between human rights in inter-individual relationships

4.4. Transnational corporations

5. How much must States do to fulfill human rights?

5.1. The duty to fulfill – introduction

5.2. What are human rights-based policies?

5.3. How is progress measured? Indicators and benchmarks

5.4. How much is enough? “Progressive realization”

6. What is discrimination?

6.1. When does the non-discrimination requirement apply?

6.2. What are the States’ obligations?

6.3. How to address profiling and stereotyping?

6.4. What is discrimination?

7. How are human rights protected at domestic level?

7.1. What is the right to an effective remedy?

7.2. The justiciability of social rights

7.3. The role of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs)

8. How are human rights protected at international level?

8.1. The Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review

8.2. The Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures

8.3. UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies and individual communications

Course delivery details

This course is offered through Catholic University of Louvain, a partner institute of EdX.

6-8 hours per week


  • Verified Track -$199
  • Audit Track - Free

Certification / Credits

What you'll learn

At the end of the course you’ll be able to:

  • Analyze and comment on key controversies surrounding the development of international human rights law.
  • Rely on the mechanisms for the protection of human rights, at domestic and regional or international levels, in order to contribute to their effective enforcement.
  • Use conceptual tools to follow the developments of human rights law.
  • Be an active participant in the global human rights movement, which brings together trade unions, NGOs, national human rights institutions, and activist lawyers from different world regions.

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