Four professors from the Faculty of Law teach Human Rights at the University of Oxford

Posted on August 26, 2019

In July and August this year, four academics from the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria –Professors Christof Heyns, Stuart Maslen, Ann Skelton and Frans Viljoen – taught on the Master’s (MSt programme in International Human Rights Law)  and Summer School Human Rights Programmes at the University of Oxford. The MSt programme is presented mainly online, while a lecture component of three weeks annually, followed by a dissertation week, takes place at Oxford. 

Professor Frans Viljoen taught Comparative Regional Human Rights Law, as he has in previous years. This course aims to examine the European, Inter-American and African human rights systems by focusing on the similarities and differences between them, rather than looking at them in isolation. 

This year was Professor Ann Skelton’s first opportunity of teaching at Oxford, where she presented the module on International Children’s Rights. This is what she had to say about her experience: "The Master’s course attracts students who come from around the world – most of them are mid-career professionals who hold down challenging and interesting jobs in the human rights sphere. The average age of the students is 32. I taught seven students, from countries as diverse as India, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Somalia and the UK. I thoroughly enjoyed the exchange of ideas in the daily two-hour seminars with the students who elected to take my course."

Prof Christof Heyns has been teaching on the programme on and off since 2005; first Comparative Regional Human Rights systems and then the Right to Life. During 2019/2020 he will serve as a dissertation supervisor. He met with prospective students in August during supervision and gave a public lecture on peaceful assemblies.

According to Heyns: "I could say in advance that I was looking for some of these extraordinary students to work with me on drones, or demonstrations, or something we are busy with in the Human Rights Committee in Geneva. Oxford is quite an experience – a sort of retreat –  and I get much more energy out of it than I put into it." 

Heyns (second from right) at a meeting of the Advisory Council of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights in Oxford

Professor Stuart Maslen, is an honorary professor of international law in the Faculty of Law, and supervises doctoral students here. At Oxford he teaches the War, Peace and Human Rights class on the George Washington Summer School at Oxford that runs parallel to the Masters’ programme. The content is a fusion of international law on the use of force between states, international humanitarian law, terrorism law, and human rights in armed conflict. According to Maslen, "One thing that strikes me is the diversity in the group: one was a former Judge Advocate General, another was a student in Russian language and literature, and another was a former member of the US Navy." 

UP Law alumna Agatha Natalie Taballo, who was chosen earlier this year for the Master’s studies in International Human Rights at the University of Oxford, confirmed that she will start with the online part of the course in a few weeks (16 September 2019) and will head to Oxford for lectures during the summer term in July next year.  "I am looking forward to engaging again with UP academics whilst there!"

- Author Elzet Hurter

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