Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment One essay of 5000 words.  100%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Display a knowledge and understanding of the methodology of enquiry into the causes of severe human rights violations.
2. Display an understanding of the value of this kind of enquiry for purposes of policy formation and the design of legal responses to the problem of human rights violation.
3. Apply this knowledge in a critical evaluation of the way in which human rights violations are dealt with in the international political and legal orders.
4. Locate and evaluate the relevant literature and materials in this field and to use them in critical discussion of the subject.
5. Present critical and well-informed argument for purposes of evaluating the effectiveness of international legal responses to human rights violations.


1. The significance of the enquiry into the background and causes of severe human rights violations and its value for both policy and legal process.
2. The impact of political structures, with particular reference to changes in international political organization, and mechanisms of elite control.
3. Economic, social and environmental conditions, with particular reference to economic under-development and development, and pressures on the environment.
4. The bio-social context: the human propensity for violence, aggression and hostility towards and suspicion of the `other'.
5. Problems of evidence and data collection: the collection of material and information regarding the factual background to violations, for purposes of both academic and policy argument and legal process.

Brief description

The module will enable students to study the explanations for, and factual background of, the conduct constituting the violation of basic rights. This is a subject of great contemporary significance, which relates to an increasing amount of legal activity at the international level. Study of this subject will inform an understanding of, and insight into, human rights violations and develop a critical appreciation of legal responses in this area of international regulation.

The module will in the first place consider the significance and value of a `sociology' of human rights violations by exploring what may be gained from theoretical and empirical enquiry into the causes of the conduct which legally qualifies as serious and sustained violations of the basic rights of others. In doing so the discussion will address the methodology of the subject as a `criminology of atrocities'. Main categories of explanation will then be studied. First, the significance of political structures will be considered, with a focus on changes in international political organization, and mechanisms of elite control. Secondly, economic, social and environmental conditions will be considered: especially, economic under-development and development, and environmental stress. Thirdly, the bio-social context will be studied: the human propensity for violence, aggression and hostility towards the `other'. Finally, there will be discussion of the practical problems of data collection, for purposes of both academic and policy argument, and for the legal process.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Through the study and analysis of quantitative data
Communication Through the presentation of information and argument in written answer to questions. Written communication assessed only.
Improving own Learning and Performance Through the independent study of the subject at a distance
Information Technology Through the application of IT as an essential medium of learning, teaching and study.
Personal Development and Career planning Through a process of independent learning and use of the study and qualification for purposes of career development.
Problem solving Through an examination of relevant material for purposes of explaining the occurrence of human rights violations.
Research skills Through a detailed study at advanced level of literature, historical and sociological material relevant to the subject.
Subject Specific Skills None.
Team work Through group discussion at occasional residential meetings.


This module is at CQFW Level 7