Human Rights for Open Societies

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About this course: Human rights are under pressure in many places across the globe. Peaceful protests are violently quashed. Voting is tampered with. And minorities are often excluded from decision-making. All of this threatens the ideal of an open society in which each of us can be free and participate equally. A solid protection of human rights is needed for an open society to exist and to flourish. But it is often an uphill battle to work towards that ideal. Equip yourself and learn more about what human rights are and how they work. In this course, we will introduce you to one of the world’s most intricate human rights systems: the European Convention on Human Rights. You will see w…

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When you enroll for courses through Coursera you get to choose for a paid plan or for a free plan

  • Free plan: No certicification and/or audit only. You will have access to all course materials except graded items.
  • Paid plan: Commit to earning a Certificate—it's a trusted, shareable way to showcase your new skills.

About this course: Human rights are under pressure in many places across the globe. Peaceful protests are violently quashed. Voting is tampered with. And minorities are often excluded from decision-making. All of this threatens the ideal of an open society in which each of us can be free and participate equally. A solid protection of human rights is needed for an open society to exist and to flourish. But it is often an uphill battle to work towards that ideal. Equip yourself and learn more about what human rights are and how they work. In this course, we will introduce you to one of the world’s most intricate human rights systems: the European Convention on Human Rights. You will see when and how people can turn to the European Court of Human Rights to complain about human rights violations. You will learn how the Court tries to solve many of the difficult human rights dilemmas of today. We will look, amongst other things, at the freedom of expression and demonstration, the right to vote, and the prohibition of discrimination. And we will address the rights of migrants, refugees, and other vulnerable groups. And, of course, we will see whether it is possible to restrict rights and if so under what conditions. You will even encounter watchdogs and ice cream in this course. We invite you to follow us on a journey of discovery into the European Convention!

Who is this class for: This class is for everyone interested in the protection of human rights and the linkages with open societies. No specific background knowledge is necessary, although some basic knowledge of law may be helpful.

Created by:  Utrecht University
  • Taught by:  Antoine Buyse, Prof. dr.

    Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM), Utrecht Law School
  • Taught by:  Janneke Gerards, Prof. dr.

    Jurisprudence, Constitutional and Administrative Law, Utrecht Law School
  • Taught by:  Paulien de Morree, dr.

    Jurisprudence, Constitutional and Administrative Law, Utrecht Law School
Level Beginner Commitment 6 Weeks of study, approximately 2-3 hours per week. Language English How To Pass Pass all graded assignments to complete the course. User Ratings 4.6 stars Average User Rating 4.6See what learners said Coursework

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Utrecht University Utrecht University is a research university comprising seven faculties which collectively span the entire academic spectrum in teaching and research. Founded in 1636, the University is now a modern, leading institute enjoying a growing international reputation. In the Shanghai Ranking, Utrecht University ranks 1st in the Netherlands, 17th in Europe and 56th worldwide. The research focuses on four main strategic themes: Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability. Our motto is: Bright minds, better future.

Syllabus


WEEK 1


Introduction to the ECHR



The protection of human rights is closely linked to the idea of open societies. In an open society, people enjoy freedom and they are to a large extent free to live their lives as they wish. This week, we explore the idea of open societies and see how it relates to the protection of human rights. We also introduce you to the European Convention on Human Rights. This document forms the foundation for one of the world’s most intricate international human rights systems. Finally, you learn about the background and history of the Convention, the rights that are protected therein and the procedure which individuals can use to lodge a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.


3 videos, 5 readings expand


  1. Video: Open societies and the ECHR
  2. Reading: The birth of the ECHR
  3. Video: The foundations of the ECHR
  4. Reading: The European Convention on Human Rights
  5. Reading: The institutions of the Council of Europe
  6. Reading: Articles 34 and 35 ECHR
  7. Video: The admissibility requirements
  8. Reading: Procedure in Strasbourg and execution of judgments

Graded: The linkages between the ECHR and an open society
Graded: Where to find rights in the ECHR?
Graded: The admissibility checklist of the ECtHR applied
Graded: Test your knowledge on the foundations of the ECHR

WEEK 2


General principles



When someone complains that his or her right to privacy or right to freedom of expression has been violated, the European Court of Human Rights has to assess whether that is truly the case. But how does it do this? In this part of the course, we will focus on the general principles and methods the Court uses in order to assess whether a State has violated the Convention. We will see how the Court approaches human rights cases and learn about the dilemmas it faces in this regard in the context of open societies.


5 videos, 2 readings expand


  1. Video: How does the ECtHR consider a fundamental rights case?
  2. Video: The principles and methods of interpretation
  3. Reading: Additional reading on principles and methods of interpretation
  4. Reading: Positive and negative obligations
  5. Video: Categories of rights in the ECHR and possibilities for limitation
  6. Video: Conditions for restriction of ECHR rights
  7. Video: The intensity of review of restrictions and the margin of appreciation doctrine

Graded: How to interpret the ECHR in a concrete case?
Graded: Determining States' obligations in practice
Graded: The justification of restrictions - a practical exercise
Graded: The impact of the margin of appreciation in concrete cases
Graded: Test your knowledge on the consideration of fundamental rights cases by the ECtHR

WEEK 3


Human rights and democracy



Open societies require a democratic form of government. But how are human rights and democracy linked? In this part of the course, we focus on what democracy entails from a human rights perspective. We also address what voting rights are and how political parties are protected under the European Convention on Human Rights. Finally, we take a look at the protection of political rights in countries in transitions from war to peace and from dictatorship to democracy.


3 videos, 2 readings expand


  1. Video: The protection of human rights in a democratic society
  2. Reading: The right to vote and the right to stand for election
  3. Reading: Article 11 ECHR - the freedom of assembly and association
  4. Video: Political parties
  5. Video: Human rights in transitions to democracy

Graded: Voting rights for people with a mental disability
Graded: Restricting the freedom of association
Graded: Test your knowledge on the connection between human rights and democracy

WEEK 4


Insiders and outsiders: non-discrimination, vulnerable groups, migrants and asylum seekers



Open societies are all about inclusion. In an open society, everyone should be allowed to participate on an equal footing. No one should be excluded. Equally, human rights should be enjoyed by all people and discrimination is prohibited. Yet, even in an open society, universality of human rights and the prohibition of discrimination may raise many questions. For example, what about the rights of people who are not (yet) citizens of that society, such as asylum seekers? On the one hand, asylum seekers find themselves in the extremely difficult and vulnerable position of being in transit. For that reason, their needs deserve extra consideration. For example, they may need special protection against hostile responses by the local population, they may need food, education and housing, and they must be protected against discrimination. On the other hand, not being citizens, the question is often raised to what extent they should be included and benefit from the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights. Finding the right balance and solving such dilemmas is crucial in open societies. In this week, we focus on (1) the rights and freedoms of insiders and outsiders under the European Convention, (2) non-discrimination and (3) the protection of vulnerable groups. To illustrate, we pay special attention to the rights of migrants and asylum seekers, as well as of other minority groups.


4 videos, 2 readings expand


  1. Video: The ECHR and the universal protection of human rights
  2. Reading: Article 14 ECHR - the prohibition of discrimination
  3. Video: Non-discrimination
  4. Reading: Suspect grounds of discrimination and the very weighty reasons test
  5. Video: Vulnerable groups
  6. Video: The rights of migrants and asylum seekers under the ECHR

Graded: Grounds of discrimination - a practical exercise
Graded: The protection and definition of vulnerable groups under the ECHR
Graded: Test your knowledge on the inclusion and exclusion of vulnerable groups, migrants and asylum seekers under the ECHR

WEEK 5


Freedom of expression and public protest



The right to freely express yourself, the freedom of the press to report news and the right to protest are essential in an open society. The freedom of expression enables you to gather information about public issues and to let others know what you think. The media plays an important role in conveying information about matters of general interest. And public protest enables you to publicly support a cause you believe in. Together, these rights provide the essential conditions for the free and peaceful sharing of thoughts and ideas. Nevertheless, the unlimited freedom to say whatever you want and the freedom to protest might also undermine the openness of society. Hate speech and discriminatory speech, for example, might contribute to the exclusion of minority groups. In this learning unit, we take a closer look at the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of assembly. Thereby, we also address the limits of these rights in an open society.


3 videos, 2 readings, 1 practice quiz expand


  1. Reading: Article 10 ECHR - the freedom of expression
  2. Video: Freedom of expression in a democratic society
  3. Video: The ECHR and the role of the media
  4. Reading: The importance of the freedom of expression in the political arena
  5. Practice Quiz: ECHR criteria for freedom of expression for politicians
  6. Video: The freedom of public protest

Graded: ECHR criteria for protection of the media

WEEK 6


Closure



This is the final assignment of the course on Human Rights for Open Societies. In this assignment, the various topics of the course are brought together. The first aim is to help you test the knowledge and insights you have acquired during the course. The second aim is to help you understand the interrelatedness of the main topics discussed.


1 reading expand


  1. Reading: Final Survey

Graded: The case of Jacob Scholten
Graded: Reflection

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