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Introduction

Welcome to the first of three courses which make up the 12 week ExpertTrack entitled Critical International Human Rights Law.
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Welcome to your ExpertTrack course in Critical International Human Rights Law. Human rights has become the global lingua franca of modern times, intoned by non- governmental organisations, politicians of all countries and persuasions, and even multinational corporations. In this first course of the ExpertTrack, we will consider questions including, Where did human rights originate and how did they come about? To whom do they apply? And do they apply irrespective of culture? Where do we locate the relevant international standards and how are they applied? In the next two of the three courses, you will consider how well human rights law serves the marginalised and the extent to which it protects particular ways of life.
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Finally, you will reflect on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights before turning towards the future to ask, ‘Can human rights make a difference for tomorrow?’ You will learn with me, Sian Lewis- Anthony, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Kent. I will be accompanying you through each of the three courses in this ExpertTrack as we explore international human rights law. By training, I am a barrister with a specialism in international human rights law. I have worked for a number of different types of organisation from non- governmental organisations, intergovernmental organisations like the UN and the European Union, as well as governmental organisations such as the French École Nationale d’Administration.
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I have delivered human rights training to judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers and prison officers in various countries across the Balkans, the Middle East and West Africa. I have taught human rights law at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels for about 20 years, and I’m looking forward to experiencing this ExpertTrack with you. This week, our focus is on the nature of human rights. We will seek to address the question, ‘What is human rights law and what purpose does it serve?’ Until 1945, international law was concerned with the relationships between States. Human rights standards were adopted after the Second World War in response to the atrocities committed by a Democratic state against its own people.
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In adopting human rights law and the various means for its implementation, for the first time, individuals became the subject of international law. Individuals were granted the revolutionary ability to make claims against States, including their own. This was a fundamental change to the nature of international law, which for centuries only governed relations between States. In the space of only about 40 years, from the date of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, in 19 93, human rights were declared by 177 States as the common language of humanity. How did this huge transformation come to pass? This is what we will start to examine this week. Next week we will examine the history of human rights.
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We will ask whether its provenance has any impact on its shape and applicability.

Welcome to the first of three courses which make up the 12 week ExpertTrack entitled Critical International Human Rights Law.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Sian Lewis-Anthony; I am Senior Lecturer in Law at Kent Law School, University of Kent. I thoughtfully designed this course with you in mind. Throughout this ExpertTrack, you will get to know my voice via audio and videos. This ExpertTracks is unfacilitated, so you won’t see me in the comments, but I encourage you to speak with your peers in the discussion and make the most of each course.

International human rights law is an exciting and ever-evolving area of international law. News media are replete with stories of human rights violations, whether at home or abroad. But, what are human rights, from whence did they originate, and are they relevant for everyone irrespective of culture, religion, class, sex, race etc? These are some of the questions you will be examining during the next 12 weeks.

I hope you come away from this ExpertTrack impassioned by the subject, and perhaps ready to play a small part in making the world a better place for everyone. Whatever the motivation for taking this course, I do hope you will enjoy the materials provided as well as the experience of discussing some of the issues with your peers.

The video you are about to watch here will tell you a little about me, a little about the component parts of this ExpertTrack, and will introduce you to the ground we will cover this week.

By the end of this week you should be able to:

  • Identify the significance of international human rights law as a departure from traditional international law
  • Identify what constitutes international human rights law and its purposes
  • Describe the relationship between human rights and the state Recognise the place of human dignity in human rights law
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What is International Human Rights Law?

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