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Human Rights Violations in Germany: Gender, Colonial Crimes & Transnational Corporations

The monitoring and protection of human rights is a major challenge for the international community. The course introduces the philosophical foundations of human rights as a concept. It addresses the content of human rights as well as different methods developed at international level to protect them.

Course periodJan. 6, 2020 - Jan. 24, 2020
Category Law & Economics
Course levelsBachelor
Class size

up to 18 participants

Credits and certificate

Participants will receive 5 ECTS credit points and a certificate if they attend classes regularly (at least 80% attendance) and participate actively. Additionally, six weeks after the end of the course a Transcript of Records is issued by Humboldt-Universität.

Application deadline Nov. 15, 2019, or when participant quota is reached Application period over.
Course fee680.00 Euro | (excl. program fee and discounts)


Can human rights be universal? What exclusions and injustices are inherent in law that treats everyone “equal” in unequal societies? How is it that some human rights have been finally recognized, whereas others are continuously dismissed? Which actors are involved and why? What role do power and knowledge play? Who ‘wrote’ ‘the’ history of human rights? Who was excluded from this process?

Departing from an interdisciplinary perspective the Winter School will give an insight into Critical Human Rights Discourse and Litigation in Germany. On the basis of concrete human rights cases students will learn about the different bodies and instruments of human rights protection in Germany, their practical advantages, challenges and inherent exclusions.

By focusing on specific sectors (Gender, Colonial Crimes and Transnational Corporations) and their intersectional effects students are taught to see the canon of rights protected within the legal system as constructed and thus embedded in social and political processes of deliberations on different levels. With the understanding that strategic human rights litigation is only one of the many tools used to forward social change and justice, we talk about how these legal strategies and instruments can and should be intertwined with grassroots political awareness campaigns, the creation of associations to strengthen visibility, investments in public relations and advocacy for change and justice within social movements. Studies concerning the impact of Strategic Public Litigation will be used in the discussion, potentially with representatives from NGOs involved in some of the relevant Public Interest Litigations.

Representative fundamental texts of critical legal theory will be read, discussed and applied to the German context. These are interactive courses that have participants practicing the shifts of perspective proposed by the authors of the texts as acts of resistance to the premises of objectivity, neutrality, reasonableness and universality of contemporary hegemonic law. The courses will be team taught and aim to create a platform for dialogue on equal terms. Class sessions will usually open with lecture and/or discussant presentation, case-oriented inquiry, theoretical exploration and class discussion of the topic/theme for the session.

Students will be able to communicate directly with Berlin NGO’s activists and state agencies in the field of human rights and anti-discrimination.


course program (pdf)

Course structure

Academic lessons

  • You will receive a total of 45 hours (one lesson equals 45 minutes; 15 hours per week).
  • Lessons will comprise lectures, group work, discussion sessions, excursions


Schedule (Track B)

Monday: 1.30 pm – 3 pm & 3.20 pm – 4.50 pm

Tuesday & Wednesday: 9.00 am – 10.30 am & 11.00 am – 12.30 pm

Friday: 1.30 pm – 3 pm & 3.20 pm – 4.05 pm


Cultural extra-curricular activities:

HUWISU offers a fine selection of interesting extra-curricular activities and aims to give all participants an unforgettable stay in Berlin. Your program includes excursions, sport activities and social gatherings providing you the opportunity to get to know the city, the university and your classmates better and to meet students from all parts of the world.

The costs for these offers are included in the course fees.

Activities and tours we offer regularly: Federal Chancellery, German Parliament, House of Representatives, Topography of Terror, Political Archive, Museum Island, Kreuzberg Tour, Daytrip to Potsdam, Ice Skating, Exhibitions, Farewell Party…

Language skills English: B2
Motivation Letter about one page in English
Student Profile

Undergraduate students with an academic background in law, religious studies, cultural studies, social sciences, European studies and students with a strong interest in the topic.

This course is taught in English, including readings in English. For the understanding of the texts and the discussions in class a language level B2 (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) is required.

Participating students need to be at least 18 years old.

Karina Theurer, M.A. (Berlin) is a feminist lawyer and writer. She is director of the Institute for Legal Interventions at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and coordinates and teaches the Humboldt Law Clinic for Fundamental and Human Rights (HLCMR). Between 2010 and 2018 she was Research Fellow at the Chair of Public Law and Gender Studies at the Faculty of Law of Humboldt University and tought the Masters Program "Social Work as a Human Rights Profession" at the Alice-Salomon Hochschule. She studied Law at the Ruprecht-Karls-University in Heidelberg, the Université Robert Schuman in Strasbourg und the Humboldt University (Graduate Prize for Academic Achievement in European and International Law). Her fields of specialisation include Feminst and Decolonial Legal Theory, Human Rights Litigation in Germany, Gender Equality, Sexualized Violence and Business & Human Rights. She holds a Master of Arts in "Interdisciplinary Latin American Studies", co-founded the bilingual literary magazine „alba.lateinamerika lesen“, translates poetry from Spanish to German and co-curated the symposium „(Post-)Colonial Injustice and Legal Interventions“ at the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin.

Ms. Judith Hackmack

Judith Hackmack is a graduate in Philosophy, History and Law from the universities of Regensburg, Graz, and Berlin, where she is registered as a lawyer. As a PhD candidate, she examines the legal history of German colonialism. Hackmack has worked in Germany, Ecuador and Costa Rica. She was a Legal Trainee at ECCHR and has worked for the organization since 2015. In 2017 she joined ECCHR's Business and Human Rights program where she works on surveillance technology and human rights violations in Syria. Within the Institute for Legal Intervention, she is responsible for work on German and European colonial crimes as well as critical postcolonial perspectives on law.

Dr. Miriam Saage-Maaß

Dr. Miriam Saage-Maaß is a qualified lawyer and Vice Legal Director at ECCHR, where she coordinates the Business and Human Rights program. She has worked on various cases against corporations, including proceedings against Lidl relating to exploitation of workers in Bangladesh and Pakistan and against companies trading in cotton picked through forced child labor in Uzbekistan. She regularly publishes articles on the legal liability of corporations for human rights violations in the global supply chain and is internationally consulted as an expert in the area of corporate responsibility and human rights. She is a temporary lecturer at the Freie Universität Berlin. On 15 October 2016, the Association of Democratic Lawyers (Vereinigung Demokratischer Juristinnen und Juristen – VDJ) in Germany awarded Saage-Maaß and ECCHR's General Secretary the Hans Litten Prize. VDJ made the award in acknowledgment of Kaleck and Saage-Maaß's role in the strategic approach of ECCHR's work.

CoordinatorPierre Steuer/ Carmen Opolski/ Sanja Müssig
Contact detailsInternational Department
Unter den Linden 6
10999 Berlin


This course can be combined with: