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Criminal Justice, Human Rights and EU Criminal Law


Admission requirements

Students who want to take this course need to be admitted to the Criminal Justice specialisation of the master’s programme in Criminaliteit en rechtshandhaving.


Traditionally, the criminal justice systems of European countries have had their own characteristics, expressing national-cultural values and norms. At their core, these systems are sometimes related, but have further developed in a long and dynamic national process. However, national criminal justice systems have increasingly been under an ever-growing influence of European and international developments.

One of the reasons for European and international influence on national criminal justice has been the changing nature and extent of (organised) crime. Some new forms of crime are trans-border by their very nature and combating of these forms of crime is therefore held to require an international approach, such as European coordination and harmonisation. Also, in order to compensate for the negative (criminal) effects of the abolishment of internal border controls in the EU, competence in the area of justice and home affairs has been created in the 1990s. In order to ensure a secure EU area of freedom, security and justice where Member States effectively cooperate in fighting crime and where rights are effectively safeguarded, the EU and its Member States have shared competences. As a result, various EU-level minimum norms have been created regarding criminal law and criminal procedural law.

Not only EU (criminal) law, but also the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR, a Council of Europe Convention) significantly impacts on the evolution of national criminal justice systems, both through the direct application of Convention rights and through the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg.

The aim of this course is, firstly, to gain knowledge on the main models of criminal procedure and criminal justice across the world, particularly across Europe. Secondly, the course will provide an insight into various mechanisms at European level (EU and ECHR) that have been influencing the national criminal justice systems (particularly the Dutch criminal justice system), and in how these mechanisms interact. The third aim of the course is to understand the way in which authorities at the national level respond to this European influence.

A field trip to Brussels forms a significant part of the course as it offers an first acquaintance with some of the EU institutions and how they work in practice. Moreover, it provides an opportunity to orientate on potential career perspectives.

Course objectives

After finishing this course, you are able to

  • Explain how different forms of crime can be harmonized in the European Union and evaluate whether a given offence should be harmonized, and to what extent, referring to subsidiarity and proportionality and by assessing the evidential basis for the proposed harmonized definitions of crime;

  • Explain how a common system of cooperation in criminal law enforcement has developed within the European Union and draw implications from this development for the various actors within this system;

  • Compare the different sources of human rights and procedural rights, explain their meaning in relation to their legal context and indicate which (problematic) consequences result from a multiplicity of procedural rights sources;

  • Evaluate the influence of human rights and fundamental freedoms, stemming from the ECHR and European Union law, on (parts of) national criminal justice systems, also from a comparative perspective;

  • Illustrate the complex interaction between national and European legal and policy dynamics in the criminal justice field by conducting literature research and/ or case-law analysis.


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction

14 Seminars (2 hours)
For most seminars, attendance is not required, but attending students are required to actively participate during the seminars. Please not that for some of the seminars attendance is required (see course guide).

1 Field trip (1 day)
A one-day field trip to Brussels, the heart of EU criminal policy. Participation is required. The field trip has the status of a practical exercise.

Assessment method

  • The final grade will be based on two components: a written exam, consisting of open questions (50%) and a group assignment (50%).

  • Each component has to be completed with a passing result (5,5) in order to complete the course successfully.

  • The grade of the group assignment will remain valid in the following academic year.

  • There will be a retake for the written exam. There will be a retake for the group assignment in the form of a possibility for improvement.

  • Depending on the number of participants, the course coordinator can decide that the retake for the written exam will take the form of an oral examination. In that case, students will be notified in time.

Regulation retake passed exams
In this course it is possible to retake an exam that has been passed (cf. art. and further of the Course and Examination Regulations), on the condition that this course is included in the compulsory components of the degree programme. Students who have passed the exam may retake the final written assessment (test) of the course. Please contact the Student Administration Office (OIC) for more information.

Procedure for handing in your paper

  • The paper must be submitted via SafeAssign (Blackboard).


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

  • Françoise Tulkens, The Paradoxical Relationship between Criminal Law and Human Rights, in Int. Crim. Just., 2011, 9, 577-595.

  • V. Mitsilegas, EU Criminal Law after Lisbon. Rights, Trust and the Transformation of Justice in Europe, Hart Publishing 2016.

  • Assigned literature will be announced through Blackboard and in the course guideline that will also be published on Blackboard.

Recommended Literature

  • N. MacCormick, Institutions of Law: An Essay in Legal Theory, Oxford University Press (latest edition).

Employability and career

The paper assignment aims to further improve students’ writing skills because good writing skills are required for many criminal justice-related career paths.
A field trip to Brussels forms an other significant part of the course as it offers a first acquaintance with some of the EU institutions and how they work in practice. Moreover, it provides an opportunity to orientate on potential career perspectives.

Contact information


  • Institute: Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Department: Criminology

  • Opening hours: 09.00 to 12.30

  • Telephone secretariat: 071 – 527 74 62

  • E-mail: