International and Domestic Human Rights: An interview with Anitra Hussain

Law and human rights may go hand-in-hand but they aren’t mutually exclusive. Our Master’s in International and Domestic Human Rights is an inclusive course that is suitable for lawyers or anyone with any interest in rights and freedoms. We caught up with Senior Tutor Anitra Hussain to discuss what the course entails and how we take our human rights for granted.

International and Domestic Human Rights (IDHR) entails the study of the rights, freedoms and obligations that apply to all people across the world. It is the study of the meaning of the rights, freedoms and obligations that some of us may take for granted. In studying the philosophy underpinning human rights, and the reality of those rights, we ask ourselves and seek answers to big questions like: ‘What does it mean to have a family life?’, ‘Why should a person be entitled to change their birth certificate?’, ‘Should prisoners be allowed to vote in general elections?’, ‘Should it be illegal to wear a hijab in public?’, and ‘Should we protect press freedom or national security?’

Because human rights belong to everyone, this course is not just aimed at lawyers. These questions can be answered by anyone. You’ll get to learn how to define what human rights are and the ways in which you can incorporate human rights advocacy into your work, whether you’re a law student or not. If you are a law student, you’ll also learn how to remedy human rights breaches through the domestic and European courts, including judicial review and immigration.

We look at the history of international human rights and the varying regional enforcement mechanisms followed by different countries and international bodies. This means you get to examine international criminal law and things like genocide, and war crimes, how victims are treated through international humanitarian law and refugee law. Once we understand the fundamentals of human rights, we’ll also examine how human rights are enforced in the UK through judicial review and immigration law.

Human rights law is relevant to so many areas of our society. Take immigration, family, employment, education, defamation or criminal law; these all have a dimension connected to human rights. With so many areas affected by human right, you’ll be able to confidently recognise when you can use human rights law to add strength to a case on a domestic level, while on an international level an LLM in Human Rights opens up opportunities to work for Non-Governmental Organisations, the United Nations, and other international development agencies. If you are a non-law student studying human rights, you’ll develop the tools required to become a great researcher, work in development, discrimination, and other thematic reporting.

On a day-to-day level we take our rights for granted and only recognise them when we are stopped from exercising them. For example, your right as a heterosexual to marry has been guaranteed for hundreds of years but your right to marry as a gay person in the UK only came into force in 2014. Therefore, think about the times when you felt your rights were violated and, on this course, we teach you how to recognise and remedy the violations.

I’ve been excited by human rights since my 20s. It’s a universal mode of recognising our rights, which I relish giving students the chance to explore through wide ranging discussions and formulating arguments to put before both domestic and international courts. We get to run through the entire hypothetical of these scenarios when we participate in a moot court. I think it’s also really beneficial that during the course you’ll have the opportunity to hear lectures from people who work in the law, to undertake a mock judicial review and to meet both like- and alternatively-minded people.

I think the best advice for anyone studying this course is to keep an open mind, analyse the facts and always bring your considerations back to what human rights are and whether they’ve been violated. It’s important to read the articles and cases as much as possible. Consider this: If someone who says something controversial or offensive is stopped from speaking, are they having their right to free speech curtailed by banning them from Twitter? Should their right be curtailed? This is a really tough question to answer because, as you study human rights, you’ll start to consider the fundamental tenant of human rights which is that rights are universal, they apply to everyone including people who make us feel uncomfortable. Your task as a student is to reconcile the rights and obligations that apply to each person. It almost always leads to fantastic debates.

If you’d like to find out more about our Master’s courses on human rights, then check out our website for information on both the LLM and MA in International Human Rights Law.