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Course 9E06: Introduction to the European System of Human Rights Protection and Promotion
11 September-3 December 2006

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 11 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 lecturer at the Institute of International Law and International Relations of the University of Graz, Austria, and Visiting Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). An international lawyer by training, his main research interest is international human rights law. From 1998 to 1999 he served as legal adviser in the human rights department of the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and has in subsequent years joined the Austrian governmental delegation to sessions of the UN Human Rights Commission. From 1999 to 2002 he worked as Executive Secretary of the European Training and Research Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (ETC) in Graz, where he is now member of the Executive Board. From 2002 to 2004 he was Lecturer in Human Rights at the London School of Economics. For more than ten years, he has taught international human rights law in various programmes at the LSE, at the universities of Graz, Bologna and Prishtina and at various other institutions. He is an instructor for HREA distance learning courses since 2003. Currently Dr. Oberleitner works on a book on global human rights institutions.

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 Eastern Europe/Newly Independent States.


The deadline for applications for this course was 15 July 2006. We are no longer accepting applications. This course will be offered again in 2007.

Inquiries about the course can be sent to


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