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Protection of Human Rights in Europe


Admission requirements

Background in law and sufficient command of English. Preferably students are familiar with the basics of Public International Law and EU Law.


The main purpose of this course is to provide an overview of the various European systems that have been developed to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. What are human rights, what is their scope, how are they balanced against public policy aims, by which means are they protected? Do we have common standards throughout Europe? In seeking an answer to these questions – and many others – our main focus will be on the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In addition we will pay attention to the role of the European Union (EU) and its relationship with the ECHR. It is impossible to discuss all the details of the vast amount of Strasbourg case law. We have therefore selected a few ‘hot topics’ and some of the most important cases that have come before the Court. These leading cases will illustrate how the Court approaches human rights, what main principles have been developed in its case-law, and what their impact on the legal order of the states can be. At the same time, the discussion of the cases will make you familiar with the procedure followed under the Convention.

This course, which is offered to exchange students in the first place, is intended for law students. Students from other backgrounds who take an interest in human rights are welcome to attend, but they should realise that the emphasis will be on legal questions and procedure rather than on philosophical or sociological aspects. As said, the course is primarily intended for exchange students. If any place is left, Leiden based students are welcome to follow the course as a keuzevak, as part of the Bachelors programme.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
The course aims to provide an overview of the various European systems that have been developed to protect human rights and the way they operate. The course will explain the background and the contents of the ECHR and explore the most important characteristics of the case law of the ECtHR. It will also analyse the role of the European Union (EU) in protecting human rights and the rule of law.

Achievement levels
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:

At the end of this course, and on the basis of the assigned materials, students can:

  • explain the procedure before the ECtHR and the most important characteristics of its case-law;

  • solve a fictional case concerning human rights issues addressed during this course;

  • answer an essay question reflecting on (elements of) the ECtHR case law and/or pertinent human rights issues in Europe today, while showing critical thinking.


Check MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • 10 to 12 interactive lectures (2 hours each)

  • Required preparation by students: preparation of the assigned reading materials

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Exam which, depending on the circumstances, may be in writing or oral (70%) of the grade.

  • A case note, to be written jointly with another student (30% of the grade)

Students who fail the exam are entitled to sit a re-examination. Depending on the number of students failing the exam, the re-sit may take the form of a written or oral exam.

Areas to be tested within the exam

  • Knowledge of ECHR protection mechanisms, knowledge and understanding of cases and procedures discussed and ability to critically assess evolutions and new cases.

  • The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (case law and literature) for the course, the course information guide and the subjects taught in the lectures and all other instructions, which are part of the course.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials
The course will be based on case law and journal articles as assigned in the reader. Students are expected to collect all the course materials themselves (these are easily accessible online). No separate text book will be assigned, although the reader will contain suggestions for further reading.

Course information guide:
See reader.


  • The reader will contain all practical information

  • The reader will be available on Brightspace three weeks before the start of the course

Recommended course materials
See the reader for an extensive list of recommended reading.


Registration for courses and exams takes place via MyStudymap. If you do not have access to MyStudymap (guest students), look here (under the Law-tab) for more information on the registration procedure in your situation.

Exchange students have priority and will be registered for the course first. Any remaining seats will be available for students from Leiden University and other Dutch Universities.


  • Coordinator: E. Kukovica LLB

  • Work address: KOG, C1.02

  • Contact information: By appointment through e-mail

  • Telephone number: +31 (0) 71 527 2727

  • Email:


  • Institute: Public Law

  • Department: European Law

  • Room number secretary: KOG, B.1.11

  • Opening hours: Monday to Friday 09:00 – 17:00

  • Telephone number secretary: +31 (0)71 527 3596

  • Email: