International Human Rights Law

Subject LAWS70264 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 7 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

March, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start 17-Feb-2016
Teaching Period 16-Mar-2016 to 22-Mar-2016
Assessment Period End 15-Jun-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 14-Dec-2015
Census Date 16-Mar-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 06-May-2016

August, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start 06-Jul-2016
Teaching Period 03-Aug-2016 to 09-Aug-2016
Assessment Period End 07-Nov-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 31-Jan-2016
Census Date 03-Aug-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 23-Sep-2016

This subject has a quota of 30 students. Please refer to the Melbourne Law Masters website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 24-26 hours
Total Time Commitment:

136-150 hours

The pre-teaching period commences four weeks before the subject commencement date. From this time, students are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis and critique of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and to critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact Student Equity and Disability Support.


Prof Dianne Otto



Professor Dianne Otto (Coordinator)
Professor John Tobin (Coordinator)

Phone: +61 3 8344 6190

Subject Overview:

The field of international human rights law is today composed of a multitude of legal instruments, implementation bodies, special procedures, human rights NGOs and transitional justice mechanisms. This subject provides the opportunity to examine this field in many of its dimensions, equipping students to navigate the system and critically assess its fundamental features. It will be of interest to all students who want to develop a detailed understanding of how the international human rights law system operates, including those with limited or no background in the area. The two lecturers have significant experience across a diverse range of topics and issues within international human rights law, which they draw upon to create an engaging and thought-provoking subject.

Principal topics include:

  • Human rights and the challenges posed by state sovereignty and national security
  • The contested universality of human rights
  • The international institutional framework for the protection of human rights, with a special focus on the Human Rights Council and treaty monitoring system
  • The interpretation and application of selected rights from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  • Domestic measures for the implementation of human rights, such as judicial implementation of economic, social and cultural rights
  • The norm of non-discrimination as it relates to race, gender and sexual orientation
  • Non-government organisations (NGOs) and their role in the protection of human rights
  • The contribution of truth and reconciliation commissions to the protection of human rights
  • Human rights law relating to refugees and asylum-seekers
  • The challenges posed by economic globalisation and climate change.


Learning Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have an advanced and integrated knowledge of the international legal and institutional frameworks for the protection of human rights
  • Be able to critically examine and analyse the history and philosophy of international human rights
  • Be an engaged participant in debates about the contested universality of international human rights
  • Be able to make a sophisticated assessment of the effectiveness of different mechanisms for implementing or enforcing human rights, such as judicial implementation, international criminal courts, and truth and reconciliation commissions
  • Have an advanced understanding of the central role played by nongovernment organisations (NGOs) in the international system
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine and critically evaluate current issues by reference to international human rights standards
  • Be able to analyse, interpret and assess the challenges posed to the implementation of international human rights in the context of globalisation
  • Be able to demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a practitioner and advocate in the field of international human rights law.
  • Take-home examination (5,000-6,000 words as specified in the subject reading guide) (100%):
    • Semester 1: 13 - 16 May
    • Semester 2: 16 - 19 September


  • 10,000 word research paper (100%) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator:
    • Semester 1: 15 June
    • Semester 2: 7 November

A minimum of 75% attendance is a hurdle requirement.

Prescribed Texts:

Specialist printed materials will be made available free of charge from the Melbourne Law School prior to the pre-teaching period.

Philip Alston and Ryan Goodman, International Human Rights - The Successor to International Human Rights in Context (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 4 th edition, 2013).

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:
Related Course(s): Graduate Diploma in Government Law
Graduate Diploma in Human Rights Law
Graduate Diploma in International Law
Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies
Master of Employment and Labour Relations Law
Master of Human Rights Law
Master of Law and Development
Master of Laws
Master of Public and International Law

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