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  3. Human Rights and Terrorism

Human Rights and Terrorism (LAWS70091)

Graduate coursework level 7Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2018
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 7
Subject codeLAWS70091
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Since 11 September 2001, there has been a global trend towards enacting new laws and adopting new measures against terrorism, reflected in developments on the national, regional and international levels. Many such counter-terrorism laws and measures have raised questions about the nature of human rights law, and the extent of its adaptability in face of security imperatives. Others have revealed clear human rights violations and exposed the fragility of respect for the rule of law. Responses by the courts and international mechanisms have had a role to play in redressing this reality in various ways, but they too have met challenges. This subject addresses the international law framework within which responses to terrorism, and to counter-terrorism, unfold. It considers human rights law in the context of other relevant areas of international law and practice, such as humanitarian law and the law on peace and security. It examines legal questions not in abstract but by reference to examples from practice, and in light of the many real-life challenges to giving effect to the law in the security context today. It provides a stock-taking review and questions the human rights implications of global counter-terrorism practice.

Principal topics include:

  • What is ‘terrorism’ and how does it fit within the framework of international law?
  • Do terrorists violate human rights, and can they be held accountable?
  • Which human rights are affected by counter-terrorism measures by states and how they are affected in practice?
  • Is the prohibition against torture absolute, and what have been the challenges in practice since 9/11?
  • How has the criminal law adjusted, and expanded, in recent years and what are the implications?
  • Have restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly been legitimate?
  • How has terrorist listing and sanctions against individuals and entities developed and what human rights issues arise?
  • What implications are there for refugee and immigration law in the era of terrorism?
  • What is the phenomenon of ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ and legal responses to it?
  • How has the right to privacy been eroded in the name of countering terrorism, and when is surveillance lawful?
  • What are strategic approaches to preventing and combating terrorism, and what are the long –term implications of trends in counter-terrorism practice to date?

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the international legal framework for countering terrorism and of its impact upon human rights, including of recent developments in this field of law and practice
  • Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess the operation of this legal framework
  • Be an engaged participant in debate regarding emerging and contemporary issues in the field, such as terrorist listings, targeted killings, extraordinary rendition, terrorism trials, terrorist profiling, the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters, the use of surveillance in preventing terrorism, and the impact of counter-terrorism measures upon migration and asylum
  • Have an advanced understanding of conducting a human rights impact analysis of counter-terrorism measures
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating to counter-terrorism measures and their impact upon the enjoyment of all categories of human rights
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse existing and emerging legal issues relating to the human rights compatibility of international or national counter-terrorism measures
  • Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding terrorism, counter-terrorism and human rights to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • Be able demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a practitioner and learner in the field of the law of counter-terrorism and human rights.


Last updated: 29 March 2019