Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Human Rights Systems: Law and Legitimacy LAW4150

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Law
  • Credits: 30
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Full Year
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

The course covers the most important human rights systems currently in operation at the global and regional levels (UN treaty bodies, European Court of Human Rights, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, African Court on Human and Peoples' rights). The course first spans the substantive norms, procedures, predominant case law and the implementation machinery that are distinctive of each system. The course then discusses if and how these systems are or can be legitimate and if the same standards of legitimacy can apply to all the systems under examination


15 x 2 hour seminars

Requirements of Entry

Public International Law and European Human Rights Law recommended but not required.

Excluded Courses





■ A 1,500-word response paper to core readings and a 5-minute in-class presentation designed as a response to and discussion of a core reading. Both components are compulsory, but the response paper will be graded, while the presentation will not be.

A 5,000-word essay on a topic that falls within the ambit of the course to be submitted by the end of week 10 of Semester 2.

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The aim of the course is to introduce students to core materials relating to international and regional human rights protection. The course will cover doctrinal legal aspects as well as underlying considerations of normative theory and will teach participants the skills to critically analyse and connect both areas of debate.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Reconstruct, distinguish, and evaluate the defining features of global and regional human rights systems

■ Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the substantive norms, procedures, case law and implementation machinery of each system

■ Situate human rights systems within their historical and sociological context 

■ Analyse the debates on the legitimacy of human rights systems

■ Comprehend the various strands of literature on human rights systems and their legitimacy

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.