Human Rights Clinic

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The details
Human Rights Centre (Essex Law School)
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 15 January 2024
Friday 22 March 2024
15 September 2021


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module is concerned with the practice of human rights advocacy and is linked to the Human Rights Centre Clinic. Its key focus is the critical engagement with efforts made to enforce human rights protection through the use of international law and mechanisms.

The module will develop students` ability to evaluate – and effectively engage with – some of the principal strategies available to human rights practitioners. It will also provide students with the skill set necessary to work as human rights professionals.

The first part of the module presents the use of human rights discourse as a tool for social justice. We will address questions such as:

1. What is human rights discourse and how can it be helpful in tackling injustice?
2. What are the benefits and limitations of human rights discourse?
3. What critiques are made of this discourse and how valid are they?
4. How is human rights law infused with this discourse and can human rights law be utilised to achieve tangible results?

The second part of the module then addresses domestic and international strategies adopted by human rights practitioners including how to gather evidence to prepare for an intervention. We will then focus on engaging the UN human rights mechanisms. This is prioritised for two reasons. First, these mechanisms are key – and often underutilised – components of a human rights professional's toolkit. A comprehensive understanding of how to effectively engage the UN human rights mechanisms coupled with an ability to critically evaluate them will be of significant long-term benefit to students. Second, focusing on the UN human rights mechanisms provides a means of teaching the essential skills necessary to work as a human rights professional: all skills learned are directly transferrable. For instance, the skills necessary to prepare effective Human Rights Council or Treaty Monitoring Body submissions are equally relevant to all written publications. As such, the UN human rights mechanisms are used as a means of teaching the more general skills essential to a human rights practitioner, while at the same time ensuring that students obtain an in-depth knowledge of key human rights mechanisms from both an academic and practical perspective.

The module will then turn to how to measure the impact of advocacy interventions with a view to critically evaluating them and modifying them as needed.

Towards the end of the module we will focus on litigation before judicial and quasi-judicial international mechanisms. These lectures will put emphasis on what specific skills are needed to advocate in a judicial setting and what strategies are most effective here.

Finally, we will end the module by tying together all that we have learnt in the Module and the Clinic and formulating good practices for developing a human rights advocacy strategy.

Students taking this course are required to participate in the Human Rights Centre Clinic. By combining this module with the Clinic, students are provided with the opportunity both to learn about international human rights protection mechanisms and to apply this knowledge through actual engagement.

Module aims

Satisfactory attendance and participation in this Module and the Human Rights Centre Clinic will:

HU902 Taught Component
• Develop students’ ability to critically engage with issues relating to the practice of human rights advocacy.
• Develop students’ ability: to reflect on different approaches taken (what has worked, what has not, and why), to learn from and utilise existing experience (that of academic staff, other students, and their own) and to apply this understanding to future challenges.
• Provide students with an understanding of the UN human rights mechanisms, and an ability to critically evaluate the operation of these entities.
• Provide students with the essential skillset necessary to become successful human rights professionals, including an understanding of how to effectively engage international human rights mechanisms.

HRC Clinic
• Provide students with the opportunity to develop the skillset necessary to become successful practitioners through structured engagement in the practice of human rights.
• Provide students with the experience of working in a professional human rights-based environment.
• Positively contribute to the overall practice of human rights through engagement with international human rights mechanisms, and other mechanisms as appropriate.
• Contribute to the capacity development of external partner organisations, inter alia, by means of a sustained and collaborative working relationship, and through the placement of Clinic staff.
• Demonstrate the practical application of human rights and its relevance to ‘ real-world’ issues.

Module learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of HU902, students will:

• Have developed a critical understanding of the international human rights machinery, its strengths and weaknesses, and its relevance to the overall practice of human rights advocacy.
• Possess an awareness of the context in which human rights work takes place.
• Be able to apply theory to the practice of human rights.
• Be able to effectively engage with the UN human rights mechanisms.
• Be able to develop focused strategies with clear objectives to address identified human rights issues.
• Possess the essential skillset necessary to be a successful human rights professional, including an ability to question, research, analyse, and apply facts to a given human rights problem, and to translate this into an effective output.
• Possess an understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of human rights practice.
• Be able to critically assess and reflect upon work undertaken, and to place this within the theoretical framework developed during undergraduate study.

Module information

The module is open only to students who have been admitted to the Human Rights Centre Clinic. Please refer to the HRC Clinic page to find out how to apply by going onto this link:

HU902 runs in parallel to the Human Rights Centre Clinic and all students working on the Clinic must enrol in HU902. No other students may enrol.

While HU902 is primarily a Spring Term module, three two-hour lectures will be held in the Autumn term, in weeks 6, 8 and 10. These sessions are scheduled to coincide with the start of Clinic work (in November) and are aimed at facilitating practical work by focusing on group work and research as well as oral and writing skills.

During the Spring Term there will be one two-hour lecture and one one-hour lecture per week.

Learning and teaching methods

This course consists of both a teaching and clinical component. The teaching component is comprised of: • In Autumn term: one two-hour lecture in weeks 6, 8 and 10. • In Spring term: one two-hour lecture and on one-hour class in weeks 16-25. Lectures address key issues relating to the practice of human rights advocacy, and effective engagement with international human rights mechanisms. Lectures are based on academic literature and research, as well as case studies and personal experiences exploring rights in practice and lessons learned. Classes are one hour long and can relate to the topic discussed during the weekly lecture. The classes are intended to be a forum for discussion. They will mix debate, the sharing of experiences, discussion of case studies, and scenario-based exercises. Some classes will focus on employability skills and others will involve guest speakers giving talks about their experiences in the field. Adjustments due to Covid19: During the 2020/2021 academic year adjustments to the teaching format will be made to minimise the risk of Covid19 infection. These adjustments will be made across all university modules and can involve switching some or all teaching to online formats according to government guidelines or University risk assessments. For example, to comply with the requirement to reduce face to face teaching time, two-hour lectures may be split into 50 minutes of pre-recorded teaching and 50 minutes of face to face teaching or may be moved entirely online. Students are expected to pay attention to online and email notifications of changes to the teaching format


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting

Additional coursework information

Assessment 100 per cent Coursework Mark broken down as follows: 80 per cent: summative essay. 20 per cent: professionalism mark (evaluates the student’s performance in their Clinic work).

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Patricia Palacios Zuloaga, email:
Dr Patricia Palacios Zuloaga, Dr Ahmed Shaheed & Dr Koldo Casla


Travel costs for UK - based unpaid, approved work placements and live projects which are an integral part of a module may be covered by your department. (NB this will usually exclude field trips and site visits). Please check with your module supervisor to ensure that the activity is eligible.

External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 33 hours, 33 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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