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LLM International Human Rights Law

Why we're great

  • This is one of best-established human rights law courses in Europe with a great reputation
  • Develop your employability with an internship in London or Geneva
  • Work on real-life projects with our Human Rights Clinic

Course options2017-18

Duration: 1 year
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Law (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £9,220
Fee (International): £15,450
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
PGT fees information

Duration: 2 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Law (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £4,610
Fee (International): £7,725
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
PGT fees information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 872719
Email pgadmit@essex.ac.uk

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About the course

Our LLM International Human Rights Law is the oldest established human rights law course in Europe, and reflects our University’s global reputation as the leading centre for human rights research, practice and education. In 2009 the University was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in recognition of its excellence in the advancement of human rights.

We provide an advanced conceptual understanding of the international law on the promotion and protection of human rights, at the international, regional and national level, informed by the latest practice and scholarship.

Our course sets international human rights law in its philosophical and historical contexts, enabling you to understand international human rights law as it applies in various situations including states of emergency or acute crises, development and transition.

At Essex we specialise in commercial law, public law, and human rights law. We are top 20 in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014), and we are ranked among the top 200 departments on the planet according to the QS World [University] Rankings [2016] for law.

We attract some of the most experienced and academically qualified students from around the world, and we aim to produce graduates who will be leaders in the field of international human rights law as advocates, field officers, legal advisers or researchers with governments and international and non-governmental organisations.

This course is also available on a part-time basis.

Placement Opportunities

We strongly recommended that those without previous experience undertake at least a one-month internship with an intergovernmental or non-governmental organisation in London, Geneva or elsewhere.

This can be accommodated while studying for your dissertation, and extensions are available for those wishing to pursue this option full-time (for students who do not require a visa to study in the UK).

Students have previously interned with Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International, Article 19, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, the Council of Europe, JUSTICE, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Service for Human Rights, INTERIGHTS, Minority Rights Group International, REDRESS and UNHCR to name a few organisations.

“There are always interesting projects and research going on at Essex, with academic staff happy to involve current students. The University also has numerous student societies focussed on human rights, which allowed me to go beyond my reading and writing to gain practical experience."

Cicek Gockun, LLM International Human Rights Law, 2011

Our expert staff

Our work has always been informed by human rights practice and our senior staff have held - and continue to occupy - key positions in the United Nations human rights and development fields. We have also conducted numerous cases in Strasbourg, establishing far-reaching precedents that have shaped the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.

At Essex, our objective is to ensure you receive a rigorous academic education that also prepares you for working as a human rights advocate. Every member of our teaching team is a leading human rights academic, as well as a practitioner in the field.

Our team includes former UN Special Rapporteurs, members of UN treaty bodies, the UK member of the UN Human Rights Committee, a member of the Government’s new Advisory Group on Human Rights. We are also advisers to a range of international organisations (like the OHCHR, UNHCR and WHO), as well as to NGOs around the world, and litigators before national courts, regional human rights commissions and courts, international courts and tribunals, and the UN treaty bodies.

Specialist facilities

  • Participate in various legal competitions to hone your debating, mediation and negotiation skills
  • Work on key human rights projects at our Human Rights Clinic
  • Network at our student-run Law Society, Human Rights Society, and Bar Society, which provides legal advice to the Commonwealth Students’ Association (CSA)
  • Our Essex Street Law project is one of the first of its kind and is the primary pro-bono project provided by our Law Society
  • Volunteer at the Essex Law Clinic where you can work alongside practicing solicitors to offer legal advice to clients
  • Gain commercial awareness at our Business and Legal Advice Clinic
  • Join our Model United Nations society, which can improve your skills of argumentation, oral presentation and research
  • Take advantage of networking opportunities throughout the year with visiting law firms

We also offer a range of opportunities for working with projects associated with our Human Rights Centre:

  • Essex Transitional Justice Network
  • International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy
  • Human Rights in Iran Unit
  • Essex Autonomy Project
  • Detention, Rights and Social Justice Programme

Your future

The majority of our students go on, or return, to work in human rights as litigators, in NGOs and international organisations like the UN, in government (particularly Ministries of Foreign Affairs) and in academia. They are a conspicuous presence in all the key human rights hubs in the world.

Our School of Law graduates have gone on to a wide variety of careers in international and intergovernmental organisations or employment with governments across the world, in commerce and banking, in non-governmental organisations and, as might be expected, in the legal profession and the judiciary.

Recent graduates of LLM International Human Rights Law have found employment as:

  • National Protection Officer for UNHCR
  • An advocate for Refugees International
  • A lawyer for the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights
  • An adviser for the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT)
  • Lead lawyer for the Human Rights Advocacy Centre/Memorial
  • A trade promotion manager at the Department of Trade and Industry

We are first university in the UK to sign a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). This creates internship and research opportunities for our postgraduate students and is based on our long-established expertise in international humanitarian law.

During the year, we hold a careers session for our students in which we reflect upon our own careers and how they have been built as well as those from former students. We are always available to discuss career options and if you are interested in a particular area of human rights, we can link you up with the relevant alumni to offer advice.

We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Postgraduate study is the chance to take your education to the next level. The combination of compulsory and optional modules means our courses help you develop extensive knowledge in your chosen discipline, whilst providing plenty of freedom to pursue your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are, in many instances, just a selection of those available. Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current postgraduate students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

You’ll undertake a dissertation of between 15,000-20,000 words in length for your LLM International Human Rights Law course. This is a compulsory element of the course.

In this module you’ll be provided with an early opportunity to engage in legal analysis and writing.

What are the contemporary issues within international human rights law? How does the UN promote and protect human rights? Gain a critical and contextual introduction to international human rights law. Build your analytical skills in relation to the subject. Discuss current issues and events in group work.

What impact does EU law have on human rights? What are the human rights aspects of EU rules for asylum and immigration? Examine the agreement on EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. Understand the scope and content of the EU’s own Charter of Fundamental Rights.

You’ll look at freedom of expression and privacy and their impact on mass communications media ranging from the press through broadcasting to telecommunications and the Internet. Some material from national jurisdictions will be introduced (the US, the UK, and Germany) to highlight differences in approach. The impact of new technologies will be noted, as we see how rules relating to more traditional mechanisms of communication apply to these technologies.

How can international law protect vulnerable groups during times of armed conflict? And can it be improved? Build knowledge of international law by examining the rules and legal classifications of armed conflict. Evaluate how international law tries to prevent and punish violations. Gain practical experience by studying real-life examples.

How do you protect the environment during armed conflict? What role does the media play in conflict situations? What are the implications of asymmetric warfare? Undertake in-depth analysis of problems associated with armed conflict. Examine real-life issues that interest you, to see how different laws, institutions and competing interests combine.

How does international criminal law deal with terrorism? Or with genocide and crimes against humanity? What role does the International Criminal Court play? Study international criminal law and the principles of jurisdiction. Analyse the idea of state criminal responsibility. Build knowledge of human rights in relation to international criminal law.

How does public international law apply to peace and field operations? What about international human rights law? Or the international law of armed conflict? Understand the institutional law of the United Nations. Examine foundational legal aspects of peace operations, as well as key unresolved legal issues.

Most displaced persons in the world are part of a mass displacement that may or may not cross an international border which has important consequences for the legal framework of protection. In this module you will look at the protection offered by international law to those displaced in time of acute crisis.

What does it mean to be an international lawyer? Understand the founding principles of international laws. Apply the tools and techniques of legal reasoning to the international system. Understand how the system of international law works and form your own views through discussion of contemporary issues.

What are the nature of obligations relating to economic, social and cultural rights? How do it differ from civil and political rights? Understand the past, present and future of economic, social and cultural rights. Examine approaches to implementing these rights. Explore human rights and its impact in this field.

What protection does international law offer refugees and internally displaced persons? Examine legal definitions of refugee status. Understand the guarantees provided for such groups by international human rights law. Evaluate the limitations of such laws by states in Europe and North America.

In the past decade there has been a range of initiatives by organisations to strengthen the international legal protection of children's rights. In this module you’ll receive an overview of the international law on the rights of the child and will be introduced to some of the current issues and debates. You’ll also gain an understanding of the political, social and economic contexts in which children's rights are violated.

What are the achievements of the European Convention on Human Rights? What are the challenges that it now faces? And the constraints? Examine the history of the Convention. Explore how the focus and methodology of the Court is now changing. Address the key states of the litigation of a case.

You’ll look at how minorities and indigenous peoples are protected in international human rights law by considering the rights that have been established, the jurisprudence that has been developed and the mechanisms for implementation. You’ll receive the opportunity to reflect on the contrasting regimes that focus on the individual rights accorded members of minorities and the collective rights recognised for indigenous peoples. You’ll study the contemporary challenges relating to political participation, conflict, development, climate change and other matters that affect minorities and indigenous peoples.

What does right to development mean? How does it relate to human rights treaties? What is a human rights-based approach to development? Study international human rights law, exploring theoretical and practical implications of linking human rights and development. Analyse specific human rights themes. Evaluate the role of governments and organisations.

What are the global standards set by the GATT/World Trade Organisation? And by World Bank policies? Examine relationships between human rights, international trade and foreign investment. Study legal issues, plus ethical, political and economic arguments on current topics. Evaluate cases to see the practical effect of linking trade and rights.

You’ll receive an introduction to the protection and promotion of women’s and girls’ human rights under international law. Your focus will be on the universal human rights mechanisms, with some analysis of regional human rights mechanisms, especially relating to violence against women. You’ll consider sexual and reproductive rights, economic, social and cultural rights, administration of justice, women’s rights in conflict and post-conflict, and violence against women. You’ll also look at the persistence of gender stereotyping, theories of equality and discrimination, and the efforts of human rights defenders.

In this module you’ll critically examine the promotion and protection of human rights from the perspective of African political and human rights institutions. Topics you’ll cover include: human rights in Africa; the Organisation of African Unity and African Union; the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights; other African human rights treaties; African states within the UN; domestic protection of human rights; and women's rights.

In this module you’ll study the work carried out by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court, which are usually referred to as the two bodies of the Inter-American System. In particular you’ll study the rights to life, humane treatment, personal liberty, fair trial, judicial guarantees, indigenous rights, violence against women, non-discrimination and equality, socio-economic rights, and the right to reparation. Films and guest speakers will enhance your understanding of the achievements, challenges and impact of the System.

What are the human rights responsibilities of private companies? And what about public or private institutions financing projects aimed at world development? Evaluate principles regulating human rights and examine how they contrast with principles regulating multinational commercial interests. Consider real-life cases from both national and international courts.

Broadly speaking transitional justice refers to the belief that any State where mass atrocities have taken place should engage with a set of judicial and non-judicial processes in order to achieve a successful transition from conflict to peace or repression to democracy. You’ll receive an overview of the history, theory, legal background and dilemmas of transitional justice, followed by in-depth discussions of the four pillars of transitional justice – truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence, and of their interrelatedness.

Want to work as a human rights professional? Using the UN human rights mechanisms, learn the essential skills to become a human rights practitioner. Apply this knowledge practically through engagement with projects by our Human Rights Centre Clinic.

How do Islamic legal traditions impact on international human rights discourse? And on Muslim state practice? Study the debates surrounding Islam and universal human rights. Examine the diversity of perspectives surrounding human rights in Islamic thought and practice. Develop the tools for cross-cultural understanding and engagement.

How does the international system enhance the advancement of human rights? And how does it constrain it? Study the international system and its influence on human rights. Examine the role of foreign policy instruments in promoting human rights. Analyse how human rights can advance foreign policy goals by states.

From a human rights perspective, what kinds of conflicts occur around languages? Are there linguistic human rights? What are they? How do governments, lawmakers, schools, courts and international organisations identify and treat language problems? Can language planners and policymakers address conflicts involving indigenous peoples, national minorities, ethnic or racial groups?

Teaching

  • Mainly taught through seminars, supplemented by lectures where appropriate
  • Small group teaching
  • Postgraduates are welcome to participate in and present their work at our popular School Seminar Series

Assessment

  • Virtually all your modules are assessed by a combination of essays, take-home examinations or 100% coursework

Dissertation

  • Your dissertation is normally between 15,000-20,000 words in length
  • A compulsory component of our LLM courses
  • Supervision and guidance is given

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Qualifications

UK entry requirements

A degree with an overall 2:1.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email pgadmit@essex.ac.uk for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the undergraduate qualification you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5 except for 6.0 in writing

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

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Applying

You can apply for our postgraduate courses online. You’ll need to provide us with your academic qualifications, as well as supporting documents such as transcripts, English language qualifications and certificates. You can find a list of necessary documents online, but please note we won’t be able to process your application until we have everything we need.

There is no application deadline but we recommend that you apply before 1 July for our taught courses starting in October. We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

Visit us

Open days

We hold postgraduate events in February/March and November, and open days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing tours@essex.ac.uk and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

Exhibitions

Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

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