Human Rights in the Contemporary World

General Information
mgr Yulia Lesyk
Number of Hours: 
Monday 15:30 - 17:00
Preliminary requirements: 

Basic knowledge of the modern history, constitutional and international law and international political relations

Course Description: 

1.Introduction. What Human Rights are?

2. History of HR. Students will learn the historical context of the evolution of HR and the main philosophical theories which created the fundament for its development.

3. Relation between Human Rights, the national legal order and international law.

3. Regional systems vs. the UN system of H protection.

4.Protected rights and freedoms collected in regional and universal conventions. Theoretical and practical aproach.

5. Three generations of HR. New challenges. The role of HR in a globalised and interdependent world.

6. HR as a political tool in international relations.

7. Test

8. Evaluation.

Aims of the course: 

W1. Students explains the content of fundamental rights and freedoms. Student knows the important differences between political, economic, social and cultural rights.

W2. Student understands and is able to exemplify the problems of interference of different rights and the supremacy of some rights over others.

W3. Student is able to analyze and evaluate the meaning of the key regional and international factors  of why is so difficult to impose an effective HR global order, such as problems with democracy, the regional and global powers politics regarding HR, the coexistence of several moral, legal and ethic systems in the world .

W4. Student knows the distinction between national law, international legal order and supranational regulations and its impact to HR protection.


U1. Student is able to properly operate the main concepts from the theory of international human rights protection and use them to understand the different approaches of  modern perception of HR.

U2. Student has the skills to evaluate and describe the role HR in regional and international policy. Student is able to distinguish and differentiate the concept of “soft power” from the traditional concept of power and its implications for the HR policy of actors of IR.

U3. Student posses the ability to present the processes and occurrences such as democratization, populism, fundamentalism, ethnic and religious conflicts, different forms of discrimination, and is able to use them to describe the current events.

U4. Student is able to present a claim to international courts regarding HR violations. Students understand procedural obligations and restrictions. They are able to distinguish the role of NGO and governments and the instruments that both have at their disposal to promote HR protection.


K1. Student is qualified to formulate and verify his/her own opinion about the internal and international processes occurring mainly in the European states but also in Asia, Africa and the Americas regarding HR violations.

K2. Working individually and in a group student can prepare analytical models, presentations, papers and reports on a given topic.

K3. Student understands the importance of HR for policymakers, NGO’s, civil society and that the knowledge about contemporary dynamics in this field is essential for a peaceful development of international relations.

Teaching methods: 

Seminar, text analysis, discussion, case studies, work in groups, presentation, report, paper.

Evaluation & Completion: 

Passing of a written test consisting of 5 questions. Preparation of presentation or writing of an essay. Active participation in the discussion.

Basic Literature: 
  1. S. Power, G. Allison, Realizing human rights. Moving from inspiration to impact, Palgrave 2006
  2. J. Symonides, Human Rights: New Dimensions and Challanges, Aldershot 1999
  3. Wiktor Osiatyński, Human Rights and Their Limits, Cambridge 2009
  4. United Nations Actions in Field of Human Rights, UN 1994
  5. Naomi Klein, No logo,


  1. Marek Antoni Nowicki, What are Human Rights?, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Warsaw 1990.
  2. Verena Zöller, Liberty Dies by Inches: German Counter-Terrorism Mea-sures and Human Rights, German Law Journal Vol. 05.Nr 05.
  3. Racheblr Ett, The Role and Limits of Human Rights NGOs at the United Nations, Political Studies 1995, XLIII, 96-110.
  4. Michael Kirby, Human Rights and Good Governance: conjoined twins or incompatible strangers?, 3 November 2004 Chancellor's Human Rights Lecture.


1. Charter of the UN

2. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

3. Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

4. European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

5. International Convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination.

6. European Social Charter.

7. European Charter of Fundamental Rights.



  1. Mc Cann and others vs UK
  2. Mesese vs Turkey
  3. Osman vs UK
  4. Castells vs Spain
  5. Pretty vs  UK
  6. Jersild vs Denmark
  7. News Verlags GmbH & Co KG vs Austria
  8. Oberschlick v. Austria (no. 2)
Additional Literature: 
  1. Agnieszka Bieńczyk-Missala,  Human rights in Polish foreign policy after 1989; The Polish Institute of International Affairs ; [transl.: George Szenderowicz].
  2. "Germany for Germans" : xenophobia and racist violence in Germany / Human Rights Watch/Helsinki.
  3. Dalfovo A.T., Ethics, human rights and development in Africa, R. Randle Edwards,.Louis Henkin, Andrew J. Nathan,  Human rights in contemporary China