module specification

SS6054 - Human Rights and Conflict (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Human Rights and Conflict
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 150
39 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
111 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Oral Examination 20%   Presentation
Coursework 80%   3,500-words essay
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Monday Morning

Module summary

This module examines human rights violations within the context of social and political conflicts and the specific context of armed conflict. Human rights problems, in their essence, challenge political, moral and ethical questions we hold about ourselves and the world in which we live. When we gain an understanding of what human rights we as human beings are entitled to, we gain an understanding of our own identities, as well as an understanding of the struggles in other parts of our own community, our wider country of residence, and in other nations within our collective global society. We also learn in this context the importance of understanding human rights in conflict resolution.

The module will address both theory and practice as it applied to real-world problems. Case studies will include human rights problems in conflict situations, including the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons, human rights defenders working in war zones, gender based violence and discrimination violence against women, and victims of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Module aims

  • To develop an understanding of the international human rights framework and consider debates and theories challenging this framework (including a critical assessment of the concept and implementation of the universality of human rights).
  • To evaluate various international conventions on the protection of human rights, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • To examine violations of human rights in the light of various social and political contexts across the world and gain an understanding of how human rights applies in specific contexts; how such violations impact societies, communities and individuals; and how individuals and organisations work for justice in such harrowing circumstances.


  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights in response to conflict
  • International human rights: legal and policy frameworks
  • Approaches to human rights and conflict: theories, concepts, debates
  • Approaches to human rights and conflict: dilemmas
  • Human rights and Conflict: local, regional, and international systems 
  • Approaches to human rights and conflict: actors, interventions, international practice
  • Analysis and application of human rights protection mechanisms
  • Victims of war: refugees and internally displaced persons
  • Protection and security of human rights defenders
  • Women’s rights in conflict: impact of culture and Society
  • Gender based violence in conflict context: case study 
  • Human trafficking in conflict zones: case study
  • Human rights in post-conflict contexts: case study.

Learning and teaching

The module will utilise a combination of lectures, seminars, group activities, presentations, and video/film on world-wide violations of human rights. The lectures and seminars will utilise and expect students to use a wide selection of resources available to them in the library and online.

Guest speakers working in the field of human rights will also be invited to present to the class, and students will be encouraged to engage in class discussions analysing specific human rights protection issues and problems.

The lectures, readings, seminars, and class exercises are geared to prepare the students for assessment assignments. The tasks (see assessment strategy below) are aimed at ascertaining whether the student has achieved all learning Outcomes outlined above.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module students should be able to:

1. Understand the international human rights framework and be able to compare and contrast various concepts of human rights in specific contexts.
2. Gain the ability to identify human rights violations in conflict contexts.
3. Apply concepts of human rights to specific cases and critically assess impact on societies.

Assessment strategy


  1. Oral Presentation (20% weighting)
  2. Extended essay 3,500-words (80% weighting)

The oral presentation is part of a group exercise. In mid-term, students will work together in small groups to organise a power point presentation (or similar) to present to the class. The assignment will be to apply the human rights framework to a specific situation. Each individual in the group will be responsible for one aspect of the presentation, which will be the main determinant of the individual’s assessment. Specific instructions will be outlined in the module booklet, for how to carry out the group work, and specific assessment criteria for the presentation work.

The essay gives each student the opportunity to produce a mature, reflective written evaluation of the concepts of human rights, application of international conventions on the protection of human rights, and consideration of the actors responsible for violation of human rights, as well as actors working for the protection of human rights.

The assessment criteria for the essay will be discussed in detail in the module, and will expect the student to: present an approach for understanding theories, concepts, and debates; apply these concepts to case studies; convey arguments cogently, using their own thoughts, analysis and wording; support all claims and assertions with evidence, drawing from readings and case studies examined in the module; engage in use of appropriate academic sources and reference as assigned; and write with due regard to syntax, grammar, and expected academic standards. 

In part, the seminars and class exercises will help students to learn how to approach the tasks for assessment and show the relevance of broad concepts of human rights to the study of specific violations of human rights, and how to relate international conventions to such violations.


Buss, D. Rethinking 'Rape as a Weapon of War Feminist Legal Studies, (2009), 17 pp. 145-163.
De Waal, A. (2015) ‘Advocacy in Conflict: Critical Perspectives in Transnational Activism’, Zed Books.
Donnelly, Jack (2013) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice (Cornell University Press, 3rd edition.
Donnelly, J. (2012), International Human Rights, Westview Press.
Gardam, J., Charlesworth, H. (2000) Protection of Women in Armed Conflict, Human Rights Quarterly, 22, pp. 148 – 166.
Lekha Sriram, C., Martin-Ortega, O., Herman, J. (2014) ‘War, Conflict and Human Rights: Theory and Practice’ Routledge.
Lockett, K. (2008) The Mechanisms of Exclusion: Women in Conflict, Feminist Legal Studies, 16(3) pp. 369 – 376.
Massoud, M. (2013) Rights in a Failed State: Internally Displaced Women in Sudan and Their Lawyers, Berkeley Journal of Law, Gender and Justice, 1(2), pp. 1 – 12.
Manjoo, R. and McRaith, C., (Winter 2011), Gender-Based Violence and Justice in Conflict and Post-Conflict Areas, Cornell International Law Journal, Vol. 44(1): 11-32.
Morsink, J. Inherent human rights: philosophical roots of the Universal Declaration (Pennsylvania Press, 2009): chapter 4: Human Rights Cosmopolitanism, A. The Moral World Picture of the Declaration (pages 148 – 161).
Murray, J. (2003) Who Will Police the Peace-Builders? The Failure to Establish Accountability For the Participation Of United Nations Civilian Police in the Trafficking of Women in Post-Conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina, Columbia Human Rights Law Review, 34. 475, 2002-2003, 475-527.  (available on-line – accessed 5 May 2016)
Nah, A. M.,  Bennett, K., Ingleton, D., Savage, J.  A Research Agenda for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journal of Human Rights Practice, Vol. 5, No. 3, 2013, p. 401-420.
Power, S. A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. CH 10 Rwanda: Mostly in a Listening Mode pp. 328 – 389.
Rawls, J. “The Law of Peoples”, in idem., The Law of Peoples with “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited”, Harvard University Press, 1999, especially part II.