This course is discontinued

HUMR5503 – Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism: Striking a Balance?

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Choose semester

Course content

New course code starting from 2013 - please see the website for JUS5503 (the course now gives 10 credits).

In order to combat terrorism, states and international organizations have adopted numerous policies and initiatives, especially since 11 September 2001. These counter-terrorism measures pose certain challenges to the international legal system. The course addresses the challenges to the international legal system that counter-terrorism measures entail. We provide an introduction to relevant topics of international law, but the course focuses on the accommodation of and limitations to counter-terrorism measures that international human rights, refugee law, international humanitarian law, and international criminal law place on states.

The basic outline of the course is as follows:

I. Counter-terrorism and international law:

1. Human Rights
a) Violation of Socio-Economic Rights as Root Cause
b) Derogations and permissible limitations to rights
c) The effects on the enjoyment of specific rights: Selected case studies

2. Refugee Law
3. Humanitarian law

II. International counter-terrorism:

1. The United Nations
2. The regional context of Europe and the Americas
3. The International Criminal Court & Accountability

Learning outcome

This course will challenge you to draw the line of legality of counter-terrorism efforts. Yet, it asks you to understand the maxim stated by Blaise Pascal that “Justice without force is powerless; force without justice is tyrannical.” In other words, students should understand the necessity of counter-terrorism to human rights, but that unfettered counter-terrorism undermines human rights itself. Through the study of specific cases in the context of counter-terrorism, students will also understand that there is constantly a necessity to balance competing demands to uphold the principles of democracy and rule of law.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

You may register for this course if you have admission to a Master's programme at UiO. All applicants must fill the formal prerequisites.
Priority is given to students on the Master of Philosophy programme in the Theory and Practice of Human Rights.


Recommended previous knowledge

An understanding of international law, the substance of individual human rights, and structures of major international organizations are recommended. This is an advanced course that builds upon these foundational elements.

Overlapping courses



The course is conducted through lectures, student assignmentsand seminars with oral presentations by students.


The examination consist of a written paper which should be handed in at the end of the semester. Students will be notified about the deadline and the examination question(s) in the beginning of the semester.

A draft should be handed in in the middle of the semester. Delivery of the draft is mandatory. There is no grading, but students will receive useful comments from the teacher.

Use of sources and rules for citing.

Be sure that you are familiar with the use of sources and the rules for citing/quoting from others’ work
UiO uses a plagiarism checking tool as one of several instruments for detecting suspicion of cheating and attempted cheating.UiO uses a plagiarism checking tool as one of several instruments for detecting suspicion of cheating and attempted cheating.

Examination support material

All resources allowed.

Language of examination


Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

If a student has submitted a written assignment a second time in the same course s/he can only submit it in a new version. This means that there must be another title and theme, or that the new version must be considerably changed from the first version.

Students who wish to retake the exam in a later semester are not guaranteed that the course is ever repeated with a similar reading list, nor that the exam arrangement will be the same.

Withdrawal from an examination

A student can sit for this exam up to 3 times. If a student wishes to withdraw from the exam, s/he must do this in Studentweb at least two weeks prior to the first day of the exam. Failure to do so will be counted as one of the three opportunities to sit for the exam.
A study programme may have rules that further limit the number of times a student may re-take this exam. In such instances the rules of the study programme will have priority.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Please se Detailed regulations for the Faculty of Law, Chapter 3 regarding application, responsibilities and special measures.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.


This course is possible to include in the Norwegian degree "Master i rettsvitenskap" from autumn 2012.

Facts about this course






Autumn 2015

Autumn 2013

Every other autumn semester


Autumn 2015

Autumn 2013

Every other autumn semester

Teaching language