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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 specific and characteristic system of protection. At their core, these systems are sometimes related, but have further developed in a long and dynamic national process. However, national criminal justice systems are under ever growing influence and pressure from European and international developments. In order to ensure a secure EU area of freedom, security and justice, where Member States effectively cooperate in fighting crime and safeguard rights, various EU-legislation regarding minimum harmonization of criminal law and criminal procedural law in has come into force. Besides these developments at EU level, the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) also has a dominant influence on national criminal justice systems. Both through the application of the rights of the Convention on the national level, as well as through the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
This course aims to reflect on the meaning of this European influence on national criminal justice systems of the member states of the European Union and the Council of Europe, particularly for the system of the Netherlands. For instance regarding defense rights, the principle of legality, victims rights and the rules of evidence. Attention will also be paid to the developments of specific European and EU instruments that influenced the national criminal justice systems. For instance the Council of Europe Conventions and the harmonizing EU legislation on terrorism and human trafficking. The increasing significance of policy documents in the EU (impact assessments, EU-policy cycles, Serious Organized Threat Assessments) as a foundation for new legislation will be a main topic of interest as well. Finally, the functioning of midterm reviews and evaluation cycles will be reviewed.

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, referring to legal bases and using subsidiarity and proportionality as benchmarks;

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

  • Compare the different sources of 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;

  • 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

17 Seminars (2 hours)
Attendance is not required, but attending students are required to actively participate during the seminars.

1 Field trip (1 day)
A one-day field trip to Brussels, the heart of EU criminal policy. Participation is required (in case of absence students are obliged to hand in an additional assignment in order to successfully complete the course)

1 Session of paper presentations (4 hours)
Students are required to present their papers to their fellow students. This will not be separately graded.

Office hours
During the course (12 weeks) all lecturers are available for questions for 1 hour each week.

Assessment method

  • The final grade will be based on two components: a written exam, consisting of open questions (70%) and a paper (30%).

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

  • Grades for these components only hold for the present academic year.

  • There will be a retake for the written exam. There will be a retake for the paper 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.

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

  • S. Miettinen, Criminal Law and Policy in the European Union, Routledge (latest edition).

  • K. Davies, Understanding European Union Law, Routledge (latest edition).

  • 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).

Contact information

  • Co-ordinator: dr. W. Geelhoed

  • Work address: Law Faculty, Steenschuur 25, Room C1.21

  • Telephone number: 071 – 527 8828

  • Email:


  • Institute: Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Department: Criminology

  • Opening hours: 09.00 to 12.30

  • Telephone secretariat: 071 – 527 74 62

  • E-mail: