An LLM (Master of Laws) degree is undertaken by those seeking to specialise in the area of human rights law, political theory of rights and international relations within the context of human rights, an area that has exploded into popular consciousness around the world in the last few years with the plight of asylum seekers filling the front pages of many international news publications.
A Master of Laws in Human Rights Law focuses on international treaties and agreements and the importance of individual peoples rights within these frameworks. Upholding the principles of the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a major concern of those practicing in this area and obtaining this qualification will not only help graduates to further their career, but also to gain a deeper understanding of the often complex relationship between politics, law and the rights of the individual.
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1 year full-time study
1,800+ members in the UK Human Rights Lawyers Association has over 1,800 members
84,515 is the backlog of cases at the European Court of Human Rights as of 1st July 2014
Anyone who wants to make a difference. Working in this field will not bring in the same kind of money as litigating Wall Street mergers and acquisitions, so if financial gain is your primary motivation then perhaps this area is not for you. This Master of Laws will start you on the path towards your goal of helping those in the most drastic need; asylum seekers and those whose rights are ignored.
LLMs in Human Rights Law are offered by a number of universities, with around 20 in the UK alone. The University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre is an example of one of the more highly esteemed institutions offering this LLM but there are many others throughout the UK offering courses which are of very high quality and respected around the world including The School of Law at the University of Edinburgh.
In the USA St Thomas University School of Law in Miami, Florida offers a 15-course, one-year LLM degree in Intercultural Human Rights featuring top scholars from around the world.
There are also many other places around Europe and the USA that offer this course too, with some universities offering an online option.
A law degree is not necessarily a prerequisite for an LLM in Human Rights Law, with many institutions welcoming graduates with a degree in fields such as politics or sociology. Some universities prefer applicants to have a law degree but these are certainly in the minority. Professional experience, while not absolutely essential, is certainly looked upon favourably by many universities, and those with experience working in the area of human rights law will certainly have an advantage when applying.
If you are a non-native English speaker hoping to study in a UK university then you will need to have certification from one of the recognised tests such as IELTS or TOEFL. An IELTS score of 7 or above is acceptable and a TOEFL score of 107 or above is too. This may vary with individual institutions however, so be sure to check if this requirement applies to you.
Paul Bradfield, who studied his LLM in human rights in University College Cork in Ireland said that his LLM “thoroughly enabled and excellently prepared me for my career path ahead.” Paul has worked as a defense lawyer in The Hague and is currently working at the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda.
Anyone seeking employment at a high level with international courts such as The Hague, human rights organisations, non-governmental organisations or international foundations. Both lawyers and law-makers would benefit from this LLM as well as judges and advisors in both domestic and international courts.
Amal Clooney, wife of Hollywood star George is one of the more well-known people working in this field at the moment, having worked on high-profile cases involving Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and represented the state of Cambodia in their dispute with Thailand over ownership claims over the Temple of Preah Vihear. She studied her LLM in New York University after a distinguished spell in Oxford University which she attended on a full scholarship.
International Human Rights by Philip Alston & Ryan Goodman
A Lexicon of Human Rights by Susan Marks & Andrew Clapham
Basic Documents on Human Rights by Ian Brownlie