1. Handbook
  2. Subjects
  3. International Human Rights Law
  4. Print

International Human Rights Law (LAWS50049)

Graduate coursework level 5Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

You’re viewing the 2019 Handbook:
Or view archived Handbooks


Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 5
Subject codeLAWS50049
Availability(Quotas apply)
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

International Human Rights Law is a rapidly developing specialty area of public international law, which presents legal advocates with a very particular set of theoretical and practical challenges. Among them are issues associated with the origins of rights; the purported ‘universality’ of human rights; the treatment of marginalised groups (like refugees, women, children, the elderly, indigenous peoples, sexual minorities, and people with disabilities); the challenges associated with enforcing human rights at the international, regional and domestic level; the justiciability of economic and social rights; the balancing of conflicting rights and the application of human rights law during periods of armed conflict. There is also the vexed question of how to hold private actors, especially multi-national corporations, accountable for violations of human rights.

The focus of this subject is on how international human rights law either responds to, or being developed to respond to, these challenges. It is principally concerned with the core international human rights treaties and the work of United Nations Charter institutions, particularly the Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures. The subject aims to equip students with the skills necessary to engage with the international human rights system, so that they are able make a contribution to addressing the challenges associated with the protection of international human rights in the years to come.

Intended learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this subject will have an advanced and integrated knowledge of the complexities of international human rights law, both theoretically and practically. This includes the ability to inform their human rights advocacy with highly developed analytical and evaluative skills in relation to:

  • Understanding the key elements of the post World War II development of the law (international and to some extent regional and domestic) relating to human rights;
  • Appreciating the challenges and dilemmas associated with the ‘universal’ claims of international human rights law;
  • Appreciating the complexities and relationships between, civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights;
  • Creatively interpreting and applying the international treaties that protect human rights and effectively engaging with the treaty bodies established to monitor their implementation;
  • Understanding the limits and the potential of the institutional framework for the protection of human rights developed pursuant to the Charter of the United Nations; and
  • Having an advanced capacity to examine current issues by reference to international human rights standards and understand the nuanced significance and limitations of the international human rights system.

Generic skills

On completion of the subject, students will have developed and demonstrated their skills in the following areas:

  • Cognitive skills to demonstrate mastery of theoretical knowledge and critical reflection in the context of academic and professional debates about the protection of human rights;
  • Cognitive, technical and creative skills to generate and evaluate complex ideas and concepts at an abstract level and the ability to translate those abstract ideas and concepts and apply them to practical problems and in assessment tasks;
  • Communication and technical research skills to justify theoretical propositions, methodologies, conclusions and professional decisions to specialist audiences in the context of scholarly writing and/or professional advice in assessment tasks;
  • Specialist understanding of the legal status and practical impact of a broad range of international legal materials;
  • Specialised ability to develop a research question in this complex field and to creatively carry out research involving diverse international sources;
  • Specialised capacity to compare, analyse and reflect on international legal issues across received legal categories; and
  • Highly developed intercultural sensitivity and understanding.

Eligibility and requirements


Successful completion of all the below subjects:

Code Name Teaching period Credit Points
LAWS50023 Legal Method and Reasoning
Summer Term
LAWS50024 Principles of Public Law
Semester 1
LAWS50026 Obligations
Semester 1
LAWS50025 Torts
Semester 1



Non-allowed subjects


Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home


Additional details

  • Compulsory human rights workbook, 1,500 words, due at the end of semester (25%);


  • a 4,500-word independent piece of legal writing on a on topic and in a form negotiated with Coordinator, due at the beginning of the exam period (75%). OR
  • 3 essays of 1,500 words each from a selection of 6-8 topics set by the Coordinator, due at the beginning of the exam period (75%).

The due date of the above assessment will be available to students via the Assessment Schedule on the LMS Community.

Quotas apply to this subject

Dates & times

  • Semester 2
    Principal coordinatorJohn Tobin
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours36 hours
    Total time commitment144 hours
    Teaching period29 July 2019 to 27 October 2019
    Last self-enrol date 9 August 2019
    Census date31 August 2019
    Last date to withdraw without fail27 September 2019
    Assessment period ends22 November 2019

    Semester 2 contact information

    Email: law-aso@unimelb.edu.au
    Phone: +61 3 8344 4475
    Website: law.unimelb.edu.au

Additional delivery details

This subject has an enrolment quota of 60 students. Your subject enrolment will not be confirmed until the selection process has been run. Selection is conducted on a random basis with outcomes communicated to students shortly after re-enrolment closes. Please refer to the Melbourne Law School website for more information on the JD Quota Elective selection process.

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    • Specialist printed materials will be made available from the Melbourne Law School.
  • Available to Study Abroad and/or Study Exchange Students

    This subject is available to students studying at the University from eligible overseas institutions on exchange and study abroad. Students are required to satisfy any listed requirements, such as pre- and co-requisites, for enrolment in the subject.

Last updated: 11 September 2019