LAW42040 Culture, Heritage and Human Rights

Academic Year 2023/2024

Cultural heritage is increasingly viewed as a human rights issue, yet the substance of the relationship between cultural heritage and human rights remains clouded in uncertainty.
This module sheds light on the nature, scope and limits of human rights vis-à-vis cultural heritage in international as well as comparative contexts. This involves dealing with the deliberate targeting of cultural heritage in times of conflict (e.g. Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali) but also with heritage under threat that is not in the spotlight and which may fall through the gaps of the institutional and normative framework dealing with heritage protection in peacetime (for example, as the result of major infrastructural development, resource extraction or energy projects).
After analysing the relevant legal framework (including UNESCO treaties, UN and regional human rights law, jurisprudence from international courts and committees), the module turns to analysing concrete case studies that exemplify some of the potential and pitfalls of articulating heritage protection in human rights terms. How have human rights approaches to cultural heritage influenced international justice? What are the synergies and antagonisms between culture, heritage, and human rights in practice? How have applicants attempted to use the human rights framework to protect heritage sites, and what are the mechanisms/barriers to accessing justice? These are just some of the questions addressed in this course.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the module, students should be able to:
- Understand of the nature and scope of human rights vis-à-vis culture and heritage;
- Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the key treaties and case law discussed in class;
- Describe and explain some of the main challenges in global heritage governance today;
- Critically assess the potential and pitfalls of human rights in cultural heritage governance;
- Apply the conceptual understanding of human rights to a given scenario involving cultural heritage protection/destruction;
- Carry out independent research in the field drawing on human rights sources.

Indicative Module Content:

Nature and scope of human rights vis-à-vis culture and heritage;
International cultural heritage law framework (UNESCO and Council of Europe treaties);
UN and regional human rights jurisprudence, including the right to participate in cultural life;
Case law from the ad-hoc international criminal tribunals, and the International Criminal Court;
Case studies from regional human rights courts, incl. the European Court of Human Rights (e.g. Parthenon Marbles, Hasankeyf and Ilisu Dam) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (indigenous peoples' collective right to property);
Synergies and antagonisms between heritage and human rights;
Substantive and procedural issues;
Access to justice.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Although the module is concerned with the role of law, it is interdisciplinary in nature and is relevant for graduate students from a broad range of Schools. Law students learn to engage with critical literature and approaches in heritage-related fields, while other students learn how to assess the significance of law - including the possibilities/limits of the human rights framework - with respect to cultural heritage protection.
In order to facilitate discussion and debate, students are expected to have read the essential materials and considered the questions/ discussion points in advance of the class. The module is taught through a combination of lectures, discussion, group-work, student presentations, case analysis, research, role-plays, and written reflection. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Attendance: Attendance and participation in class discussions Unspecified n/a Graded No


Essay: Final essay (5,000-6,000 words) Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded Yes


Group Project: Class presentation Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Thurs 14:00 - 15:50