Taught course

International Human Rights Law

Oxford Brookes University · School of Law

Entry requirements

Students will normally be required to have (or to be expecting) a good honours degree, or an equivalent degree awarded by a university outside the United Kingdom. The degree may be in Law or in a related discipline. We welcome applications from both non-Law graduates and work experience-based candidates. If you are new to the academic study of law you will be advised to read a number of recommended texts by way of induction before the course begins. You are also encouraged to attend the induction sessions provided in the week prior to the beginning of the course.

Months of entry


Course content

The LLM in International Human Rights Law offers the opportunity to gain a critical understanding of the history and theoretical underpinnings of international human rights, international and regional human rights systems, and the practical application of human rights norms in a range of contexts.

This course combines rigorous legal education with a contemporary and global perspective and is ideally suited to students from a law, history, politics, or other social sciences background.

It is designed to provide the specialist skills and in-depth knowledge that will be attractive to employers in the areas of international legal practice and international development as well as those who intend to pursue careers in international governmental and non-governmental organisations.

Students studying for the LLM in International Law are required to complete the compulsory modules in International Human Rights: Law & Institutions, the compulsory module in International Law (20 credits), and the compulsory module in Advanced Legal Research Methods (20 credits) during the first semester.

In semester two you take the compulsory module in International Human Rights: Law & Practice (20 credits). In addition you can choose any two of the listed options below (20 credits each, totalling 40 M-level credits):

International Law

This module focuses on the law and legal framework governing the international community. We examine the philosophical underpinnings of international law including the nature, origins and basis of international law; the main sources of international law, including the importance of customs, treaties, general legal principles and international case precedents in interpreting international law; the basic rights and obligations of international actors (such as state responsibility, governmental obligations not to interfere with other, immunities and jurisdictional powers). The International Court of Justice is studied in relation to the judicial settlement of international disputes. This module builds on case studies and group exercises to assist the learning experience

International Human Rights Law: Law and Institutions

This module introduces international human rights law, the institutions and the mechanisms for the protection of human rights at the international and regional levels. Throughout the module you are invited to critically examine arguments and ideas about human rights, their philosophical underpinnings, and their contemporary legal and political meaning through an examination of the relevant law, contemporary debates and case studies.

International Human Rights Law: Law and Practice

This module examines international human rights law through key, wide-ranging case studies including the right to development, group rights, self-determination and human rights in wartime, considering how contemporary legal and political contexts affect IHRL today. Using primary documents, case law and academic commentary, each topic is appraised from a practical perspective, underpinned by theory and principles.

Advanced Legal Research Methods

This module provides the research, writing and oral skills necessary to engage with international law at an advanced level. It begins by examining the basics of conducting legal research, including research design, searching for relevant sources and materials; legal referencing and citation skills. It further offers the opportunity to practise writing and oral presentation skills, relating to both the process of writing, as well as the end product, including presenting findings to different audiences. It considers the nature of research in general; the distinctive features of legal research and the range of approaches and research methodologies to be found within international legal scholarship. Finally, it prepares you for the dissertation that you will undertake on a substantive area of law.

In Semester 2 you can choose any two of the following options (20 credits each, totalling 40 master's level credits):*

International Criminal Law

This module focuses on the development of international criminal law following the establishment of the International Criminal Court, under the Rome Statute 1998, now seated in The Hague. It examines the remit of the Court, which is specifically to try those responsible for serious crimes under international law, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The module focuses on these crimes examining the evidential burden necessary for arguing them before the Court. Drawing on the experiences of the Yugoslav and Rwandan Criminal Tribunals, actual cases will be examined in depth, exploring the degree to which the new court will be bound by such decisions. Explored in detail is the notion of individual and command responsibilities under the new court and how it restricts immunity, particularly for Heads of State and former Heads of State. The issue of universal jurisdiction is examined demonstrating how the seeds of justice have been sown for a new international order as it pertains to state accountability and individual responsibility in a global world where human rights are paramount.

International Humanitarian Law

International Humanitarian Law is a single module which develops themes introduced on the compulsory module in International Law. This module is optional for students registered for the LLM in International Law (SS63). It also complements International Criminal Law and International Human Rights. The main aim of this module is to introduce you to the international norms and institutions that support and/or influence the implementation of humanitarian norms across a range of conflict situations and other situations of violence. The module is intended also to develop legal and analytical skills, promote humanitarian law and encourage high quality discussion and research in this field. This course focuses on the branch of public international law that deals with armed conflict, in particular the principles relating to the protection of civilians and victims of armed conflict, the conduct of hostilities, the legal controls on weapons, internal armed conflict and the law of belligerent occupation which derive principally from the Hague Conventions of 1907, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocols, which have become known as humanitarian law. It examines the rationale behind this body of law, the function in this field of both governmental and non-governmental agencies and the application and enforcement of the norms in the light of contemporary international and non-international armed conflicts.

International Refugees and Migrants

This module provides an understanding of the issues and debates surrounding nationality and forced and economic migration at International and European law. It encourages a critical assessment of existing laws of nationality and migration in their political, social, historical context and encourages research skills in relation to the student’s individual chosen topic. It also provides an understanding of the main issues in relation to human trafficking and globalisation and development.

European Union Law

This module provides an introduction to the constitutional and administrative law of the European Union. It begins with an examination of the political development and legal nature of the European Union and the operation of its Institutions. Discussion will then focus on the nature of Union Law, its relationship with national law and the role of the Court of Justice of the EU. Finally, a number of essential topics of substantive law such as free movement of people, EU citizenship, goods, fundamental rights chosen because of their centrality in the EU system and/or their intrinsic interest, will be critically examined.

International Environmental Law

The purpose of this module is to provide an in-depth understanding of issues relating to international environmental law and policies. It begins by examining the role of International Law in dealing with environmental issues, including philosophies and theories of environmental regulation and the sources of International Environmental Law. Discussion then focuses on issues of governance, including national, supranational and international institutions and their regulation of the environment. Issues in environmental litigation are examined followed by discussion of key contemporary debates relating to environmental protection. The module does not attempt a comprehensive review of this very wide topic. Instead, it focuses on key themes that run through the problem of environmental regulation in international law, using specific regulatory regimes as illustrations.

International Labour Law

This module examines international labour law, concentrating on the work of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). It starts by considering the history and workings of the ILO. It then examines various theoretical issues raised by the search for universal and international standards for labour rights. The main focus of the module is on the fundamental labour standards, as identified by the ILO itself, those being rights to freedom of association, the abolition of forced labour, non-discrimination and the reduction in child labour. The difficulties of enforcement of these standards are examined. Reference is made to other international standards such as those of the UN and the EU.

Law, Globalisation and Development

This module examines the history, theories and application of the concepts of development and globalisation under international law. In particular it focuses on the key aspects of economic activity and environmental protection currently regulated under the auspices of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and other international and regional institutions. These systems are subjected to critical assessment and the positive and negative effects of the global project of development are questioned. The module also devotes time to contemporary topics relating to the right to development, food security, post-conflict and transitional countries, natural resource law, foreign direct investment and protests against development projects and programmes.

Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporations largely adopt corporate social responsibility voluntarily. In a globalised world, most businesses are conducted transnationally which means that the effective regulation of good business practices, the preservation of CSR and good corporate governance are met with difficulties. This module advances the idea that corporate social responsibility and good corporate governance of business practices can be achieved effectively through a joint activity. The role of key participants acting together such as corporations, their shareholders, their directors, their stakeholders (eg employees), host States and their regulating bodies, their partners, NGOs and international organisations is significant. This module aims to explore the legal mechanisms (such as regulations) as well as the non-legal mechanisms (such as incentivising factors) that ensure participants working together to achieve CSR and good practices.

International Intellectual Property Law

The module introduces you to the theory and basic concepts of intellectual property law, including patents, copyright, and trademarks. It explores the international law that defines and regulates them, particularly the TRIPS Agreement, and the relationship between international law and national intellectual property law. You are then invited to explore and analyse areas of current controversy, such as the relationship between patents and traditional knowledge, the challenge of biotechnology, the emerging protection of personality rights, the morality exception to patentability and the problem of patenting pharmaceuticals and protecting the needs of developing countries.

Students who complete at least 60 credits over the taught elements of the course are eligible for the award of the Postgraduate Certificate in International Law.


Your LLM dissertation is an extended and supervised piece on work on a particular aspect of international law chosen in consultation with your course tutors. It is an opportunity to gain knowledge through systematic academic enquiry and for you to demonstrate your ability to explore and present legal arguments. The style of research may range from empirical investigation to textual analysis. You will develop transferable skills in research and information and project management.

You will be encouraged to choose an international law topic of personal interest or one related to your occupation. Full-time students will normally begin preliminary work on the dissertation in Semester 1 and formalise the topic and structure of the dissertation in Semester 2. The main work on the dissertation will normally take place from June to mid-August.

*Please be aware that availability of options may vary from year to year subject to staff availability and student demand.

Information for international students

English Language Requirements: IELTS minimum level 6.5 overall with at least 6.0 in the reading and writing and 5.5 in speaking and listening components

Fees and funding

Please see https://www.brookes.ac.uk/studying-at-brookes/finance/

Qualification and course duration


full time
12 months
part time
24 months


full time
9 months
part time
18 months

Course contact details

Programme Administrator
+44 (0)1865 484901