International Law, Human Rights and Corporate Accountability

Course summary

This course will examine the history of human rights, beginning with a discussion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948, through to contemporary issues generated by globalization.

In addition to analysing International Human Rights Law, and the rights and duties of multinational corporations and state actors regarding human rights, the course will also consider the contributions of institutions, NGOs and the international human rights movement

Throughout the sessions we will evaluate aspects of accountability, enforcement and legal liability. Case study analysis will be used to examine human rights abuses, litigation, the role of states to protect human rights and the culpability of corporate actions. 

We will also discuss the controversial issues surrounding corporations as subjects of international law while considering trends for future remedies including the concept of legally binding requirements.


  1. History of human rights
  2. Globalization and corporate social responsibility
  3. States duty to protect - evaluating human rights practices
  4. Institutions, movements and international initiatives
  5. Corporate power, influence and legal status
  6. International human rights law
  7. Civil liability for overseas corporate human rights abuses
  8. Corporate criminal liability
  9. Mechanisms of enforcement on corporations and other private actors
  10. Trends in international law relating to corporate liability for human rights violations

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • explain human rights issues in the context of global business;
  • reconcile the need for competitive markets, sovereignty and human rights protections;
  • compare institutions and methods for enforcement of international human rights law and corporate social responsibility;
  • evaluate the legal findings on human rights cases and assess corporate civil and criminal liability;
  • recommend measures to achieve human rights through due diligence and corporate accountability.


One Essay, 4000 words (60%); one piece of assessed course work (20%); participation in online activity (20%).

Terms and conditions

Please note the University reserves the right to make variations to the contents of programmes, including the range of courses offered, and the available choice of courses in any given year may change.

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