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Human Rights in Asia - LAWS8060
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Faculty: Faculty of Law
School:  Faculty of Law
Course Outline: See below
Campus: Kensington Campus
Career: Postgraduate
Units of Credit: 6
EFTSL: 0.12500 (more info)
Indicative Contact Hours per Week: 2
Enrolment Requirements:
Prerequisite: Academic Program must be either 9200 or 9210 or 9230 or 5740 or 9211 or 5211 or 9285 or 5285 or 9240 or 5760 or 9220 or 5750.
Excluded: JURD7460
CSS Contribution Charge:Band 3 (more info)
Further Information: See Class Timetable


Human Rights in Asia examines issues relating to the recognition and enjoyment of human rights in selected Asia-Pacific countries. It explores the role international, regional and local organisations have played in embedding human rights norms in these nations, as well as critically interrogating claims of universality and Eurocentrism around human rights. The topics which form the focus of the course will vary from year to year.

The course will focus on the role of national human rights institutions in the protection of human rights in the region. National Human Rights Commissions in the Asia-Pacific region are now handling thousands of cases of human rights violations each year. Understanding the origins of these institutions and their mandates, functions and powers is becoming increasingly important for governments, legislators, bureaucrats, NGOs – and indeed anyone interested in promoting and protecting human rights

The course will be taught by Professor Brian Burdekin AO, former Federal Human Rights Commissioner and former Special Adviser on National Institutions to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and currently Visiting Professor at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights in Sweden, and Visiting Professor at UNSW.

PLEASE NOTE: This course will be taught during Orientation Week as a 4 day intensive course on 21, 22, 23, 24 February 2012.

LLM Specialisation

Recommended Prior Knowledge

A law degree or alternatively a degree in the humanities and some experience, or a strong interest in human rights-related activities.

Course Objectives

A candidate who has successfully completed the subject should:
  • Understand the importance of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in promoting and protecting human rights.
  • Understand the importance of using various strategies (e.g. National Inquiries into systemic violations) to protect human rights and prevent human rights violations.
  • Understand the relationship between NHRIs and:
  1. the Executive Government
  2. the Legislature (Parliament)
  3. the Judiciary
  4. Other independent institutions (e.g. The Ombudsman, Anti Corruption Commission)NGOs and civil society generally
  • Understand the value of "alternative dispute resolution" in providing effective and timely remedies for violations of human rights
  • Have a working knowledge of the diversity of NHRIs in the Asia-Pacific region

Main Topics

  • The international standards governing National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs)
  • The role of NHRIs in promoting and protecting human rights - from theory to practice; effective strategies; prevention and early intervention.
  • International monitoring mechanisms and their relationship to NHRIs; the effect of "globalisation".
  • The mandates, functions and powers of NHRIs-with specific attention to those in Australia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand - and references to those in Afghanistan, Jordan and Palestine.
  • The relationship between NHRIs and Government, Parliament, the Judiciary, other independent institutions, NGOs and civil society.
  • International and regional cooperation among NHRIs.


Research paper on a topic approved by the course convener of [between 6-8,000 words], to be submitted 6 weeks after the final class

Course Texts


Brian Burdekin, National Human Rights Institutions in the Asia-Pacific Region (Martinus Nijhoff, 2007)

You should not purchase this book without consulting Professor Andrew Byrnes as he will be able to advise you on the availability of copies at discounted prices for students in the course.

Please refer to the course outline provided by the lecturer prior to the start of the relevant semester.


Please refer to the course outline provided by the lecturer prior to the start of the relevant semester.

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© The University of New South Wales (CRICOS Provider No.: 00098G), 2004-2011. The information contained in this Handbook is indicative only. While every effort is made to keep this information up-to-date, the University reserves the right to discontinue or vary arrangements, programs and courses at any time without notice and at its discretion. While the University will try to avoid or minimise any inconvenience, changes may also be made to programs, courses and staff after enrolment. The University may also set limits on the number of students in a course.