International Law and Human Rights

The Master of Arts Degree programme in International Law and Human Rights is a multidisciplinary programme that seeks to provide a thorough knowledge and understanding of these two fields. The programme offers a solid foundation in international legal scholarship and practice before focusing on the specialized area of human rights.

The programme is founded on a balance between three core dimensions. The first dimension is doctrine and practice. This element focuses on the foundations of international law and the vocabulary of norms and concepts (such as sources, sovereignty, and jurisdiction) employed by international lawyers and activists in the pursuit of their agendas, and of international organizations and tribunals in the performance of their functions. The second is theory and philosophy. International law and human rights are areas that enjoy worldwide intellectual attention and are the focus of ideological and scholarly debates and controversies. Authors and theorists from diverse fields will be studied as a means to connect the participants to ongoing debates in the discipline. Finally, a focus on “skills” is meant to prepare the student for the practical application of international legal and human rights concepts and norms in concrete situations. This includes the ability to draft reports and legal briefs, participate in negotiations, and critically analyze legal documents including treaties, resolutions, and judgments.

The programme is designed for participants from all professional or academic backgrounds, and not only those possessing a legal education. Normally, successful applicants have demonstrated a high level of academic achievement in the field of law or the social sciences and possess 2-5 years or more of relevant working experience. Candidates must have a demonstrated interest in the promotion and protection of human rights and should offer a clear picture of how the programme matches their career goals.

The 40 credits programme is divided into two semesters, between August of one year and May of the following year, followed by a 2-3 months independent study project for a total duration of 11 months. In the first semester, all International Law participants are instructed together from both the International Law and the Settlement of Disputes and the International Law and Human Rights Programmes. They are exposed to foundation courses in public international law, human rights, international organizations, legal research methods, and peace and conflict studies. In the second semester, participants will have the opportunity to focus on their specialized area, delving deeper into the exploration of human rights (see specialized courses list below). During the end of the first semester and throughout the second semester, participants will be also working on an Independent Study Project.

The University for Peace has access to the main focal points for the protection of human rights in the Americas. Both the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights are located in San José, Costa Rica, and leading personalities in these institutions are involved in the work of the programme. Courses are taught by leading scholars in the field from all over the world. Such scholars include prominent professionals from international organizations and specialized agencies. The International Law and Human Rights Department has agreements with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in San Jose and the International Committee of the Red Cross to cooperate with the Programme in the teaching of refugee law and humanitarian law within the context of the Master's degree programme.

The required Courses are

Common Courses First Term (15 credits)
IPS-6000 Foundation Course in Peace and Conflict Studies (3 credits) UPeace Resident Faculty
DIL-6030 Foundation Course in Public International Law (3 credits) Juan Carlos Sainz-Borgo
DIL-6035 Legal Research and Writing (1 credit) Mihir Kanade.
DIL-6031 Foundation Course in the United Nations and Other International Organizations (2 credits) Christer Persson & Juan Amaya-Castro.
DIL-6032 Foundation Course in Human Rights Law (3 credits) TBA
DIL-6046 Law related to Armed Conflict (3 credits) Juan Carlos Sainz-Borgo

Common Courses Second Term: (5 credits)
DIL-6038 International Refugee Law (1 credit) UNHCR team
DIL-6045 Research Seminar (1 credit) Mihir Kanade

Electives UPEACE Institute (3 credits): In addition participants can choose an elective course (3 credits) offered by the UPEACE Institute or other UPEACE programmes.

  • UPE-6056 The European Union: A Model Peace Project? Christer Persson 2 Credits / 2 Weeks
  • UPE-6018 Derecho Internacional Fluvial (Spanish speaking course) Juan Carlos Sainz-Borgo 1 credit / 1 Week
  • UPMUNC Student's activity 1 credit.

Specialized Courses Human Rights Programme Second Term (12 credits)
DIL-6215 Global and Regional Human Rights Systems (5 credits) TBA, Leo Zwaak; Frans Viljoen; Olger Gonzalez; Natalia Riveros.
DIL-6217 Transitional Justice and Human Rights (1 credit) Natalia Riveros.
DIL 6261 Human Rights Law and Gender (1 credit) TBA
DIL-6043 Globalization and Human Rights (2 credits) Mihir Kanade
DIL-6041 Human Rights Advocacy (1 credit) TBA
DIL-6048 Health and Human Rights (2 credits) Kaveh Khoshnood and TBA.
DIL-7100 Independent Studies Project (8 credits)

Total Credits: 40

For complete course descriptions, course calendar and information about the professors, please follow this link:

Participants enrolled in this programme can expect to gain the skills and tools that will enable them to serve as officers in international organizations, non-governmental organizations, humanitarian aid agencies, and governments, as well as a platform for further graduate study, research, and scholarship. Participants will also acquire advanced skills in critical analysis and research.

Here are some examples of the professional involvement of our ILHR graduates:

  • A graduate from the Philippines is now working as Expert on Indigenous Peoples Rights and Local Economic Development at the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva
  • A graduate from Costa Rica has been working for five years as Legal Officer at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Costa Rica
  • An Icelandic graduate is now the Director of the Icelandic Human Rights Centre
  • A graduate from Tanzania recently started an internship position with the International Criminal Court in the Hague
  • A Mexican graduate is now part of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva
  • A graduate from Kenya is now the Africa regional Programme Officer for the Global Alliance Against Traffic