Fall 2017 Course Schedule

Advanced Human Rights Law (LAW-739B-001)
Juan Mendez

Meets: 09:00 AM - 10:20 AM (MW) - Warren - Room N104

Enrolled: 11 / Limit: 22

Administrator Access


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The goal of the seminar is to study the scope of a selected group of relevant human rights recognized in international conventions and to analyze how the protections afforded by those treaties operate in actual practice. To accomplish that goal, we will analyze the case law developed by international supervisory bodies, such as the Human Rights Committee, under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights, under the American Convention on Human Rights, and the European Court of Human Rights, under the European Convention on Human Rights. Also, we will study selected decisions of domestic courts that apply international human rights law or raise human rights issues relevant for the topics covered in class.

During the first two classes we will explore the relevance of international law and review basic concepts that constitute the foundations for studying international human rights law, such as sources of law and the concept of state responsibility. Next, we will proceed to study the scope of the restrictions applicable to human rights obligations as well as the doctrines of deference applied by certain international bodies when supervising state compliance with those obligations. As part of this section, we will study the notion of state of emergency and derogation of human rights obligations. The next two classes examine the mechanisms of protection existing at the international and regional levels with an emphasis on case complaints, their jurisdictional and procedural aspects. We will later analyze the scope of core rights protected by civil and political rights conventions, namely the rights to life, to liberty and security of person, to be free from torture or other ill-treatment, to a fair trial and freedom of expression. As part of the existing challenges to the protection of human rights, we will explore the tensions between these standards and impunity for human rights violations. We will conduct an in-depth examination of the rules against discrimination in various forms, and analyze emerging principles of reproductive rights and of sexual orientation. We will also analyze the so-called “group rights” and the boundaries of the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights.

Textbooks and Other Materials

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First Class Readings

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