Fall 2019 - POL 330 D100

Protecting Human Rights: Courts, Constitutions and Legislatures (4)

Class Number: 7452

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Thu, 11:30 a.m.–2:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 12, 2019
    Thu, 3:01–3:29 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    Six lower division units in political science or permission of the department.



How can we best protect human rights? How do we define what is a human right and what is not? We examine these questions within countries and at the international level. We will look at the courts-based approach versus systems that give politicians the final say. Students with credit for POL 339 Selected Topics in Comparative Government and Politics under the title Protecting Human Rights may not take this course for further credit.


How can we best protect human rights? How do we define what is a human right and what is not? We will examine these questions at the domestic and international level, and from the perspective of constitutional law and political science. First, we will compare how different countries grapple with the trade-offs between the public interest and individual rights. We will look at the courts-based approach (e.g. in Canada and the US) and systems which give politicians the final say (e.g. the UK). We will also assess critiques of the Western human rights paradigm.

We will then move this debate to the international level: examining the impact of treaties, such as the Genocide Convention, and courts, such as the International Criminal Court. Throughout this course you will look at the big picture: is “human rights” a useful concept, and if so, which systems best protect rights? You will also examine the content of human rights law, giving you skills in interpreting legal texts and applying legal principles to individual cases. Throughout the semester, you will work on your own research project, with classes on research design and peer review of each other’s drafts.

There will be a 3 hour class once a week, plus a 1 hour tutorial once a week. Tutorials start in Week Two.


  • Participation (tutorial and during lecture) 10%
  • Research Proposal & Annotated Bibliography 15%
  • Peer Reviews of Draft Research Papers 5%
  • Research Paper inc. memo responding to peer review 35%
  • Final Exam (take home) 35%



Goodhart, Michael (ed.) (2016). Human Rights: Politics and Practice, 3rd ed.  Oxford University Press.
Available at the SFU Bookstore.
ISBN: 9780198708766

Department Undergraduate Notes:

The Department of Political Science strictly enforces a policy on plagiarism.
For details, see http://www.sfu.ca/politics/undergraduate/program/related_links.html and click on “Plagiarism and Intellectual Dishonesty” .

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html