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European criminal law, human rights and sustainable development - Structure


STEFANO ZIRULIA , responsible for the course

Degree in SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (Classe LM-81) Enrolled from 2015/2016 academic year - Laurea Magistrale - HUMAN RIGTHS AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT - 2016/2017

Compulsory course or activityNo
Year of course2s
Term or semester2nd semester
Scientific fields (settori scientifico-disciplinari)
  • IUS/17 - Diritto penale
ECTS credits (CFU) compulsory6
ECTS credits - facultative-

General information

Aims and objectives: The course will offer students an opportunity to become acquainted with relevant concepts of both EU and ECHR Law in criminal matters. With regard to the specific topics listed in part III, the course aims at providing an in-depth knowledge of the European criminal law and the system of human rights protection before the Strasbourg Court. Finally, the course represents a chance to discuss the impact of criminal law policies and the enforcement of human rights on the goal of sustainable development.

Expected learning results: At the end of the course students must have demonstrated the ability to:
• Understand key concepts of European criminal law and Human Rights protection in the field of criminal law;
• Understand and think critically about the current role played in Europe by criminal law policy and Human Rights protection mechanisms, with particular regard to their impact on the goal of sustainable development;
• Analyze and interpret provisions related to European criminal law and Human Rights law, as well as arguing differing interpretations of them;
• Extract rules from case studies;
• Apply knowledge and critical thinking skills to perform competent legal analysis, reasoning, and problem solving;
• Effectively communicate legal concepts orally and in writing.

Teaching methods: Class attendance is mandatory. The course is based on lectures and discussions in class. With regard to the latter, students will be called to work on case-studies and other materials, which will be available at the ARIAL-webpage. Short presentations by small groups will also be encouraged. Finally, interaction between professor and students, also by means of social networking, will be a key feature of this course.
Please consider that a perfect command of English is not needed for the purposes of this course, which is also meant as an opportunity for students to enhance their linguistic skills in legal issues. After all, communication should be our aim, not linguistic perfection.


Syllabus: The course explores the EU legislation in the field of criminal law and its complex relationships with the protection of fundamental rights, as set forth by the European Convention of Human Rights. The underlying theme of the course is that criminal justice and collective security, together with the effective protection of human rights, are today considered, both at EU level and international level, as an essential part of any framework for sustainable and equitable growth.
The course will provide an outline of the emerging criminal justice system of the European Union, taking into account the EU competences for criminal law, the legislation enacted so far, as well as the most relevant case law of the European Court of Justice. According to the mentioned scope of the course, particular attention will be devoted to the following matters, which have been selected in the light of the UN Sustainable Development Goals related to criminal justice: protection of the environment, counter-terrorism, fight against human trafficking, corruption and protection of EU financial interests. The analysis will be constantly accompanied by the assessment of the impact of human rights on the criminal justice system, with regard to the protection of both the accused persons’ and the victims’ fundamental rights, as developed by the case law of the Strasbourg Court.

PART I: EU criminal law
• Introduction and basic issues of European criminal law
• EU competences, legislative processes and institutions in the field of criminal law
• General principles of EU criminal law
• Substantive EU criminal law: “eurocrimes”
• The influence of EU criminal law on domestic substantive criminal law
• Criminal law enforcement in EU
• European criminal policy

PART II: The European Convention on Human Rights and its guarantees related to criminal law
• The human rights protection mechanisms of the ECHR
• Criminal law and the right to life
• Criminal law and the prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment
• Criminal law and the right to liberty
• The principle of legality
• Criminal law and the right to respect for private and family life
• Criminal law and freedom of expression

PART III: Fostering UN Sustainable Development Goals through criminal justice (specific topics)

• The protection of the environment through criminal law
• EU anti-terrorism legislation
• The fight against human trafficking in the EU
• Preventing and combating corruption at the EU level

Readings: Text and materials will be uploaded to the ARIAL-webpage of the course

Reading list
- Klip A., European Criminal Law. An Integrative approach, Intersentia, 3rd ed., 2016
- Harris, O’Boyle, Warbrick, Law of the European Convention on Human Rights, Oxford, 3rd ed., 2014

Prerequisites, exams and assessment

Type of assessmentEsame
Assessmentvoto verbalizzato in trentesimi

Prerequisites, exams and assessment Students will be evaluated on the basis of a final written exam (worth 80 percent of the final grade), as well as on the basis of their participation to discussions and class presentations (accounting for the remaining 20 percent). Mere linguistic mistakes will not be relevant for the evaluation.

Structure of the course

Scientific fields

  • IUS/17 - Diritto penale - Credits:6

Lezioni: 42 hours

Teachers ' office hours

Teacher's office hours
TeacherOffice location
STEFANO ZIRULIA , responsible for the courseMercoledì ore 14:30 (su appuntamento)Dipartimento Cesare Beccaria, Sezione di scienze penalistiche (stanza dei ricercatori)