Criminal Justice and Human Rights LLM

Criminal Justice and Human Rights, LLM


Criminal Justice and Human Rights at Aberdeen combines the key specialist topics of criminal justice with some of today’s most powerful human rights issues.

Key Facts

1 Year / 2 Years
Study Mode
Full Time / Part Time
Start Month
January / September
Learning Mode
On Campus Learning

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One of the biggest changes in recent times has been the increasing global demand for criminal justice systems to comply with human rights. Whether studying international conventions to confront human trafficking or legal frameworks to investigate war crimes, this programme will help you explore both Criminal Justice and Human Rights in depth and breadth. You will have the opportunity to study subjects such as Criminological Theories, Criminal Evidence and Proof and The Use of Force in International Law.

This programme was designed in collaboration with criminal justice and human rights experts as well as our internal staff at the University. With this combined input, you will gain unique insights into both subjects from an international perspective, which will advance your understanding of the factors that influence them. The programme has been carefully coordinated to align with the competencies required for today’s international job market.

The University of Aberdeen is known for attracting world-class teaching staff with international experience in their specialist subjects. You will have access to first rate teaching from globally respected staff, such as Programme Director Professor Duff, who specialises in criminal justice, evidence and procedure. He has also worked at the Centre for Criminological Research in the University of Oxford, the City University of Hong Kong and the University of the South Pacific.

What You'll Study

The information below applies to the 1 year full time / 2 year part time on campus learning LLM programme which runs in September and January. You will find information about other ways to study this programme in the next section on this page.

Semester 1


The information listed below is for September start students. Information for January starts can be found under "Other Ways to Study".

Compulsory Courses

All candidates must take the following course:

Critical Legal Thinking and Scholarship (LS501T)

This compulsory course provides students from diverse legal and educational backgrounds with a common understanding of the core research, analytical, and writing skills which would be required to excel in LLM-Taught courses. It commences with a few lectures and progresses to working within smaller groups in a workshop environment and finally to the submission of an individual assignment. It also incorporates elements such as library workshops to provide students with hands-on experience with the resources available for course and dissertation work.

Optional Courses

Thereafter four optional courses must be selected over semesters one and two.
At least two must be selected from the Criminal Justice programme (LS5096, LS501R, LS551R, LS551S, LS5597) and at least one from the Human Rights programme (LS501D, LS5068, LS5549, LS5590, LS551G). One course may be selected from another LLM programme (excluding, LS501E, and LS551K).

Oil and Minerals for Good (LS501D)

The course examines the relationship between law, energy and natural resources, ethics, governance and development at the national and international levels on the one hand and variable developmental outcomes, particularly the resource curse phenomenon, on the other hand. The course then proceeds to apply advanced academic and experiential knowledge to formulate the fundamentals for overarching legal frameworks that will enable the good exploitation and development of energy and natural resources, thereby producing enduring benefits for all key stakeholders.

The Politics of Human Rights (LS5068)

The course addresses the political processes by which human rights law is created and sustained (e.g. by exploring the main drivers of the change in human rights norms – like global civil society activism). Classroom discussions look into the ways in which international human rights law shapes controversial issues of international politics (like the problems of international development or humanitarian intervention). Two seminars are dedicated to ‘case studies’ on human rights politics: (1) the practice of human rights activism, and (2) the relevance of human rights for dealing with the social and political tensions generated by the oil industry in Nigeria.

Criminological Theories (LS501R)

The course focuses on different theories that attempt to explain why people engage in criminal or deviant behaviour. We will examine explanations of crime/deviance that appeal to the following factors: 1) biological factors, 2) economic conditions and 3) environmental conditions. We will also consider theorists who analyse criminal behaviour in terms of the ‘labels’ social groups apply to different kinds of conduct. There are six 2hour seminars. Assessment consists in an exam (50%), an essay (40%) and a presentation (10%, which is assessed on a pass/fail basis).

Issues in Criminal Justice (LS5096)

This course is comparative in nature and examines in depth certain aspects of the criminal justice process, focussing upon differences between the adversarial and inquisitorial models. Examples are mainly drawn from Scotland, England and continental Europe. Topics addressed include: prosecution systems; the position of the accused; the status granted to the victim; plea-bargaining; the trial process; and appeals. The emphasis is not so much on ‘black-letter law’ but on the principles and policies, often clashing, which underlie the detailed legal rules and regulations governing the relevant institutions and processes.

Semester 2

Optional Courses

Criminal Evidence and Proof (LS551R)

This course is comparative in nature and examines in depth various, key evidentiary doctrines, focussing upon the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and differences in the approaches adopted by national jurisdictions. Topics addressed include: the nature of proof; expert evidence; vulnerable witnesses; hearsay; the right to confrontation; similar facts evidence; corroboration; and the presumption of innocence. The emphasis is not so much on ‘black-letter law’ but on the principles and policies, often clashing, which underlie the detailed legal rules and regulations governing the relevant types of evidence.

Criminal Law (LS551S)

The course examines topics of current interest in criminal law from a theoretical perspective. The course focuses on the moral principles and policy considerations underlying specific criminal laws, rather than taking a purely “black-letter law” approach. It considers how some of the most serious offences, such as murder and rape, should be defined and also examines various defences such as provocation, diminished responsibility, mental disorder, coercion and necessity.

International Criminal Law (LS5597)

The course explores the history, ambit and nature of ICL and the notion of individual criminal responsibility, issues of immunities, superior orders and subordinate responsibility. War crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression are also critically examined. National and international prosecution of international crimes with emphasis on the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court (ICC) and questions of international cooperation to suppress international crimes are carefully studied in light of relevant cases such as decisions of the Nuremburg and Tokyo tribunals, the ICC, ICTY and the ICTR (tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda respectively).

The use of Force in International Law (LS5549)

The course analyses how international law regulates the use of armed forces between States. It is of interest to students who want to understand the legal considerations which frame contemporary conflicts. The course will study the fundamental principle of the prohibition on the use of inter-State force. It will examine the current exceptions to this principle, and how States try to justify the use of force. Consequently, the course will study the most recent recourses to force on the international plane, in particular in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine. Teaching will be delivered mainly through discussion based seminars.

International Human Rights Law (LS5590)

The course was designed to help students build competence in dealing with the doctrinal issues about international human rights. It involves understanding the place of human rights in public international law, finding one’s way around the foundational human rights documents and the jurisprudence of human rights bodies. The course delivery puts heavy emphasis on classroom discussion on the controversial issues on contemporary human rights law that shape doctrinal development in this field: the justifiability of torture, the limits of freedom of religion, the justiciability of social rights, etc

International Humanitarian Law (LS551G)

The course explores the history, nature and salient features of the principles of ‘the laws and customs of war’, also called IHL; they are enshrined, inter alia, in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977. The principles of distinction, humanity, necessity and proportionality as applied to contemporary armed conflicts are examined. The course emphasises the rules and challenges pertaining to civilian immunity, occupation, legal controls on weapons and how IHL is implemented and enforced. It also clarifies the differences/complementarity between IHL and international human rights law and the law on the use of force.

Semester 3

Compulsory Courses

Master of Law Dissertation (LS5904)

Between May and mid-August students prepare a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic of their choice related to their specialist LLM programme. Students are instructed through the delivery of a preparatory lecture, two supervisory meetings and a two hour dissertation planning workshop in a small group setting. Students are expected to spend considerable time on independent research throughout the course of the dissertation module, including; preparation of dissertation plan, amendment of plan in accordance with supervisory comments, preparation for the dissertation workshop, and, of course, in the final 10,000 word dissertation itself.

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

How You'll Study

In addition to being taught through traditional lectures and seminars, the University Law School employs a range of teaching methods to suit your learning style. Even when studying independently, you will benefit from having regular contact with your course coordinator and other members of the teaching staff.

Learning Methods

  • Lectures
  • Seminars


Assessment: By course work, by written examination, or by a combination of these, as prescribed for each course. The degree of LLM shall not be awarded to a candidate who fails to achieve a CGS grade of D3 or above in the specified dissertation course, irrespective of their performance in other courses: such candidates may, at the discretion of the Examiners, be awarded a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate.

Why Study Criminal Justice and Human Rights?

Ever since the University’s opening in 1495, the Law School has played an integral role in Aberdeen’s history - and there’s no substitute for experience.

  • Our Law School is ranked 11th in the UK, out of more than 90 law schools (The Guardian, The Times Good University Guide 2015).
  • Aberdeen is ranked in the Top 10 for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey 2014 and has a 95% student satisfaction rating.
  • The University is one of the top 5 for graduate career prospects (National Student Survey 2014) with 96% of our students entering directly into employment, research or further study within six months of graduation.
  • In an LLM exit survey that we carried out in 2015, 95% of our students felt the programme met their expectations and 94% would recommend the University to others.
  • There are over 40 nationalities within the School of Law postgraduate community, so you will benefit from the experiences of international students from all over the world.

Students choose to study Law at Aberdeen because of our reputation for academic excellence and unrivalled student experience. At Aberdeen, you will:

  • Gain an advanced understanding of how both criminal justice and human rights are two of the key drivers for change in today’s world.
  • Develop your critical thinking and deepen your knowledge of the relationship between criminal justice and human rights, which will help establish your career as a legal professional.
  • Benefit from studying at one of the oldest universities in the UK where teaching is always modern and forward-thinking.
  • Benefit from the inclusive teaching approach that our staff adopt, ensuring that you will learn in a way that suits your learning style.
  • Have access to our faculty experts whenever you need, which will maximise the interaction of ideas and create a relaxed, informal forum for learning.
  • Study alongside a diverse mix of international students and gain a deeper understanding of how criminal justice and human rights interact in different countries and cultures.

You will be part of a vibrant, close-knit community of students that provides a personal and friendly atmosphere where staff have the opportunity to know students by name and can closely monitor progress.

Fees and Funding

You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.

Fees and Funding Table for HOME, EU, RUK and International Students
Nationality Status Amount
Home / EU / RUK Students Tuition fee for main award £6,000
International Students Tuition fee for main award £14,300
  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trip courses. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.


View all funding options in our Funding Database.

Students Rate Programmes as Excellent

95% said programmes met their expectations, 94% would recommend to others, 93% felt they had value for money

Entry Requirements


Normally a 2:1 honours degree in Law (or another related discipline) or equivalent. Relevant practical experience in the field of commercial law will also be beneficial.

Document requirements application, we require at least:

  • A full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and marks you achieved in your degree(s).
  • A detailed personal statement explaining your reasons for choosing this programme.
  • CV/Resume optional.
  • Reference letter from your university discussing your academic ability.

Language Requirements

All students entering the University must provide evidence that they can use English well enough to study effectively at the University of Aberdeen.

Details of our English language entry requirements can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages. This programme requires that you meet the College of Arts and Social Sciences Postgraduate Standard level of English proficiency.

If you have not achieved the required scores, the University of Aberdeen offers pre-sessional English courses. Further details are available on our Language Centre website.

Nationals of some English-speaking countries or those who hold degrees from some English-speaking countries may be exempted from this requirement. Details of countries recognised as English-speaking can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages.

Document Requirements

  • Degree Transcripta full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
  • Personal Statementa detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme
  • Referencea reference letter from your university discussing your academic ability


By studying Criminal Justice and Human Rights at Aberdeen, you will gain a unique insight into the two disciplines from an international perspective. You will benefit from having a competitive advantage in the job market, particularly in careers related to foreign and security policies and international organisations. The programme will also provide a solid grounding for an academic career and help you prepare for a PhD.

Our Experts

Dr Mátyás Bódig is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen. At the Law School, he is Director of Postgraduate Taught Programmes, as well as Programme Coordinator for LLM in Human Rights.

Professor Duff specialises in criminal justice, evidence and procedure. He worked at the Centre for Criminological Research in the University of Oxford, the City University of Hong Kong and the University of the South Pacific.

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.


School of Law
University of Aberdeen
Taylor Building


AB24 3UB
+44 (0)1224 274260
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