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Course 9E04: Introduction to the European System of Human Rights Protection and Promotion
13 September-5 December 2004

Instructor: Gerd Oberleitner

This distance learning course provides participants with practical guidance on how to protect human rights through the European human rights system, and specifically the institutions and treaties of the Council of Europe. Participants will be introduced to the main European human rights conventions and jurisprudence, primarily as developed through the European Court of Human Rights. The course addresses European human rights standards as they apply to civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, and the rights of minorities. Case studies on the freedom of expression, homosexuality, violence against women, protection of the mentally-ill, prisoner's rights, and the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons, will deepen participants' understanding of the European human rights standards and machinery.

The course is primarily intended for advanced (under)graduate students of (international) law or social and political sciences; civic education and history teachers; and NGO staff members from Council of Europe member states. Participants should have a good written command of English (the course language is English), have high competence and comfort with computer and Internet use, and have regular access to e-mail and the Internet.

The course involves approximately 60 hours of reading, on-line working groups, interaction among students and instructors, and assignments, and is offered over a 12-week period beginning on 13 September. E-mail will be the main medium for the course, although participants will need to have periodic access to the Web. This course will integrate active and participatory learning approaches within activities and assignments, with an emphasis on reflective and collaborative learning. Participants will do the required reading, prepare interim and final project assignments and participate in group discussions.

The maximum number of course participants is 25. Students who successfully complete the course will receive a Certificate of Participation. It is also possible to audit the course.

Course outline

Week 1. History and institutional structure of the Council of Europe
Week 2. The European Court of Human Rights
Week 3. Civil and political rights: The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Week 4. Civil and political rights: The European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Week 5. Economic, social and cultural rights: The European Social Charter
Week 6. Minority rights: The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
Week 7. Other European human rights mechanisms: OSCE and European Union
Week 8. Role of NGOs in the protection and promotion of human rights
Week 9. Role of the Council of Europe High Commissioner for Human Rights
Week 10. Case Studies: Freedom of expression; Homosexuality
Week 11. Case Studies: Violence against women; Protection of the mentally-ill
Week 12. Case Studies: The rights of asylum seekers; Rights of prisoners

About the instructor

Dr. Gerd Oberleitner is a Lecturer at Centre for the Study of Human Rights of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Holding a PhD in law, he has lectured in international law and international human rights law at the University of Graz (Austria) and in human rights courses and summer schools at other universities. From 1998 to 1999 he also worked at the Human Rights Department of the Austrian Foreign Ministry. In 1999 he co-founded the European Training Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (ETC) in Graz and worked as the Centre’s Executive Secretary until 2002. In his research he focuses on the African, European and United Nations human rights system, minority rights, economic, social and cultural rights, and the role of non-state actors in human rights. His publications include Human rights protection and State reporting (P. Lang, 1998) and (as co-editor) Human Rights of Women - International Instruments and African Experiences (ZED Books, 2002).

Who should apply

The course is intended for university students, teachers and NGO staff members of human rights/social justice organisations from Council of Europe member states. Participants should have a good written command of English and have high competence and comfort with computer and Internet use. The number of participants is limited to 25 per course. HREA aims to ensure equal gender and geographical distribution across the selected participants.


The course tuition fee is € 525 (tuition for auditors is € 200). A limited number of scholarships is available for applicants from Council Europe member states in Central and Eastern Europe/Newly Independent States.


The deadline for applications was 15 June 2004. We are no longer accepting applications. This course will be offered again in 2005.

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Syllabus 2003 course PDF file

Alumni 2003 course

Chat session with Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (13.11.2003)

Testimonials 2003 course