Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module LAW40315: International Human Rights Law, Development, and Commerce

Department: Law

LAW40315: International Human Rights Law, Development, and Commerce

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Not available in 2020/21 Module Cap


  • None


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • LAW42230 (International Human Rights Law: 30 credits)


  • to provide students with:
  • an introduction to the structures and objectives of the mechanisms for the protection of human rights within the international legal system at a global level, in order to arrive at;
  • an advanced understanding of the impact of human rights law on commercial practice and vice versa


  • • The syllabus is divided into two halves. The first 50% of the module (8 hours) is an intensive introduction to international human rights law. The second 50% of the module focuses on development and commerce. Part One – Introduction to International Human Rights Law • The legal basis of international human rights law / sources of public international law; • Common critiques of human rights • International human rights mechanisms o UN Charter-based mechanisms for the protection of human rights o The International Bill of Rights (UDHR, ICCPR, ICESCR) o The Human Rights Committee of the ICCPR • Regional human rights mechanisms Part Two – Development and Commerce • Economic, social and cultural rights o Their nature and legal basis o ICESCR and Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights  ‘Progressive realisation‘ and ‘minimum core obligations’ o Contrasting national approaches to their justiciability • Development o Development and human rights: in tension? o UNDP Human Development Reports o The ‘Human rights based approach to development’ o The ‘right’ to development  UN Charter and UDHR as foundations  The UN Declaration on the Right to Development  UN Human Rights Council Working Group on the Right to Development • The human rights accountability of transnational corporations o Conceptual problems  The structure of PIL  Indirect / horizontal application of human rights norms  Positive obligations in human rights law o Bespoke standards  The Global Compact  Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights  UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises  Reactions to the norms  UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Business and Human Rights o Other approaches  US Alien Tort Claims Act 1789  A world human rights court? • The human rights of corporations o Illustrative case law:  Free expression, the media, and advertising  Home life, privacy and investigative entry into business premises  The European Court of Human Rights and Court of Justice of the European Union in disagreement  Academic arguments in favour of rights for corporations  Academic arguments against the rights of corporations

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • • detailed knowledge and understanding of the structures and objectives of the mechanisms for the protection of human rights within the international legal system; • detailed knowledge and understanding of selected topics of particular relevance to commercial lawyers; • a critical understanding of the effectiveness of international law as a means of protecting human rights given the legal, political, economic, social and cultural context in which it operates.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • • the ability to engage in independent analysis of a range of primary legal materials; • the ability to critically evaluate the views of legal commentators drawn from a range of disciplines and to adopt and defend a reasoned position on the issues explored; • the ability to engage in independent research on complex legal problems.
Key Skills:
  • • ability to describe accurately and comprehensibly the arguments and analysis of other commentators • ability to evaluate critically the arguments of others

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • • Students will learn enough of the fundamentals of international law to know how human rights are understood in international law, how the protection of human rights is provided for, and why it takes the form it does. Within each segment of the module, the students will be faced with case-studies to see how the general principles apply in practice. • The course will begin with a one hour presentation. Thereafter each two-hour session will begin with a discussion of the previous week’s presentation, followed by the introduction afterwards of a new topic for discussion the following week. • This type of hybrid presentation / discussion seminar places emphasis on full class participation to explore particular topics in depth and to encourage students to develop confidence in formulating and articulating their own ideas and perspectives on the issues.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 1 per week during Epiphany 2 x 1hr / 7 x 2 hrs 16
Preparation and Reading 134
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

1500 word casenote (Epiphany)

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University