JUS5503 – Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism: Striking a Balance?

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

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).

For students enrolled in Rettsvitenskap (jus) (master - 5 år): Have you considered a specialization as part of your degree? The course is part of the profile Internasjonal rett.

Read more about profiles.

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.

Students admitted to other Master's programmes may apply for guest student status.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Students must fill one of these requirements:

  • Passed 1st - 3rd year of the 5-years degree Master of Laws (Master i rettsvitenskap at UiO) (or exams that qualify for exemption for these) or
  • Hold a 5-years Master’s degree in Laws (Master i rettsvitenskap at UiO) or equivalent.

Exemptions from the formal prerequisites will be given to students with admission to the faculty's own exchange or master’s degree programmes. This rule does not apply to students with admission to other master’s degree programmes at the University of Oslo, unless otherwise agreed.

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.


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


The examination consist of a term 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. Max. lenght of paper is 6000 words.

In addition, students should hand in a draft paper with description of the topic in in the middle of the semester (one page). Delivery of the topic paper 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

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

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.

Guidelines for the evaluation of grades at The Faculty of Law.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take this exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

There are special rules for resitting a passed examination in the master's programme in Law.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


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.
  • The course has replaced HUMR5503

Facts about this course






Every other autumn starting 2013


Every other autumn starting 2013

Teaching language