Equality and Non-Discrimination Law

Course Leader: Dr Adrienne Komanovics

Home Institution: Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary

Course pre-requisites: None.

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 a universal as well as a 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 intersectional and indirect discrimination. Discrimination based on race, gender, disability and age are just a few which manifest themselves on a daily basis.

The objective of the course is to provide an overview of the various non-discrimination rules in international and European 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 a European 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

I. Philosophical and Political Perspectives on Human Rights and Equality
Historical Development
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

The justification for less favourable treatment

II. The International and European Frameworks for Human Rights

United Nations


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
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with 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

Case law of the treaty bodies

The European Framework

Council of Europe

European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental
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

III. Human Rights and Equality in Various Legal Systems

Analysis of the protections around human rights and equality provided by various legal systems, freely chosen by the students (e.g. the presentation of the equality issues of their country of origin).

Instructional Method

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

Required Course Materials


• D. Shelton (ed), The Oxford Handbook of International Human Rights Law (Oxford, 2015)
• J. Katz Cogan, I. Hurd, I. Johnstone (eds), The Oxford Handbook of International Organizations (Oxford, 2016)
• C.P.R. Romano, K.J. Alter, Y. Shany (eds), The Oxford Handbook of International Adjudication (Oxford, 2015)
• Rhona K. M. Smith, International Human Rights Law (8th ed., Oxford, 2018)
• Daniel Moeckli, Sangeeta Shah and Sandesh Sivakumaran (eds), International Human Rights Law (3rd ed., Oxford, 2018)
• Walter Kälin and Jörg Künzli, The Law of International Human Rights Protection (2nd ed., Oxford, 2019)
• Frédéric Mégret and Philip Alston (eds.), The United Nations and Human Rights. A Critical Appraisal (2nd ed.) Oxford, to be published in December 2019


• Materials (handbooks, factsheets, etc.) available on the website of the various human rights monitoring bodies
• Decisions of the various international human rights tribunals (e.g. Human Rights Committee, European Court of Human Rights, Court of Justice of the European Union) available on their websites
• EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, Handbook on European non-discrimination law- 2018 edition
• Max Planck Encyclopaedia of Public International Law (relevant entries)http://tashfeen.pbworks.com/w/page/132894129/AI

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 number of participants. Emphasis is placed on engaging students as much as possible and encouraging interactivity. Grading is according to the assessment scheme of the host institution.