International Non-Discrimination Law

Course Leader: Dr Adrienne Komanovics

Home Institution: Corvinus University of Budapest

Course Overview
Since the French and American revolutions in the 18th century, the principle of equality has been regarded as one of the cornerstones of democratic states. It has become a central provision in many international human rights treaties, at universal as well as regional level. However, such achievements cannot be taken for granted; societies are
not free from discrimination. While outright defiance has become rare in the Western world, there are new and more subtle forms of discrimination, such as indirect discrimination. Discrimination based on race, gender, disability and age is just a few which manifests itself on a daily basis.
The objective of the course is to provide an overview of the various non-discrimination rules in international human rights law. It introduces the most important notions governing international non-discrimination law and presents the relevant international instruments adopted in the framework of the United Nations, and at the regional level. It also provides an overview of international practice and case law with a particular emphasis on the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Learning Outcomes
On completion of the course, participants will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a substantial range of the concepts, values, rules and principles of international human rights law, as well as critical awareness of current legal issues and developments. Furthermore, through case studies, students will be able to undertake analysis, evaluation and synthesis of new and complex ideas, and to demonstrate self­ direction and originality in tackling advanced legal problems. An integral aspect of the course is the development of legal and other study skills, which will enhance the participants' ability to reason, explain, and present an argument. Finally, participants will be able to demonstrate the ability to exercise initiative, learn independently, communicate their knowledge and conclusions clearly and unambiguously, as well as construct and develop a persuasive legal argument.

Course Content

1. Concepts

Categories of discrimination

Direct and indirect discrimination

Positive action

Grounds of Prohibited  Discrimination

- Racial and religious discrimination

- Sex discrimination

- Age  discrimination

- Discrimination based on disability

- Other

The justification for less favourable treatment

2. International Rules and Instruments

Historical  Development

United Nations

- Instruments

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Arts. 2, 3 and 26)

- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Art. 2)

- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

- UN Convention on the Rights of Person wíth Disabilities

- UNGA Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief

- UNGA: the United Nations Principles for Older Persons

- State reports and General Comments/Recommendations of the treaty bodies

- E.g.HRC General Comment No 18 on non-discrimination

- The case law of the treaty bodies


Regional Instruments


- Council of Europe

European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

Protocol No. 12 to the ECHR

- European Union

Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU

Non-discrimination directives


- American Convention on Human Rights

- Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against People wíth Disabilities

- Inter-American Convention against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination  and Intolerance


- African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights

- Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Right s of Women in Africa

3.International practice and case law

Case studies are used  throughout  the  module  to  highlight  the  relevance  and application of key principles.

Instructional Method

The teaching method to be used is a combination of various instructional techniques, depending on the developmental level of the students and tbe subject matter to be presented. These techniques wíll include lectures, whereby a large amount of information can be conveyed to a large group of people in a short amount of time; using the question-and-answer technique in arder to assess the students' acquisition of particular information as well as to stimulate thought and encourage divergent thinking; and discussion, i.e. an exchange of opinions and perspectives, with a view to engage students in a more intensive treatment of the subject matter. Students will be required to read and prepare cases and to actively participate in the classes.

Required Course Materials


  • Shelton (ed), The Oxford Handbook of International Human Rights Law (Oxford, 2015)
  • ]. Katz Cagan, Hurd, I. Johnstone (eds), The Oxford Handbook of International Organizations (Oxford, 2016)
  • P.R. Romano, K.J. Alter, Y. Shany (eds), The Oxford Handbook  of International Adjudication (Oxford, 2015)
  • Rhona M. Smith, International Human Rights Law (8th ed., Oxford, 2018)
  • Daniel Moeckli, Sangeeta Shah and Sandesh Sivakumaran (eds), International Human Rights Law (3rd , Oxford, 2018)


  • EU Agency for Fundamental
  • Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Handbook on European non­ discrimination law- 2018 edition
  • Decisions of the various international human rights tribunals (e.g. Human Rights Committee, European Court of Human Rights, Court of ]ustice of the European Unían) available on their websites


Assessment of participants will be undertaken through a variety of methods including problem-solving exercises, presentations, project work and group work . The actual methods depend to a large extent on the developmental level and the number of participants. Emphasis is laid on engaging students as much as possible and encouraging interactivity. Grading is according to the assessment scheme of the host institution.