Human rights law and policy

OSF logoIn cooperation with Open Society Justice Initiative, New York, USA

Course date

16 July - 20 July, 2012
15 February, 2012

Experiences of past course participants

2017 course participants said:

"The idea of strategic litigation is relatively new for me and my partners. The information was really useful, because nobody knows exactly not only what SL is, but also in what ways we can achieve the best results. Learning how to communicate with judges, politicians and civil society, for instance, is extremely important to reach certain goals."

[The course] "allowed me to get an insight into making our SL work much more conscious and professional. Especially the sessions on impact, tactics strategies and planning were useful. The Case Review Checklist Handout is also a great tool that we can follow in our everyday work. The course also made me understand more that SL is just one tool in achieving our strategic goals and that building partnerships is more important than I thought before."

"I found the interactive sessions particularly useful. I can use some of the techniques learned in my practice moving froward."

"This course was very relevant to my work. It was very practical because it touched all aspects of litigation, which forms a big portion of my current work."

"The networking with peers was very important. Consultation with faculty offered great insights into my cases. There are new initiatives we can explore to raise impact in the case."

2016 course participants said:

"This was the best summer school I attended regarding organization, relevance for my work and study and also regarding the overall quality of the seminar."

"Huge step in my professional development."

"The course was useful, as it opened my eyes to other human rights issues people from around the world are working on and gave me further ideas for strategic litigation."

"This course was very practice-oriented; the presenters went straight to the point; these two things are greatly appreciated."

2015 course participants said:

"The course on Strategic Human Rights Litigation is a potent capsule for human rights litigators and activists. It was intense and dynamic. The segregation of various human rights issues in seminars and surgeries made the applicability of the course's learning extremely viable."

"Every lecture had a clear objetive and each instructor was able to successfully transmit it to the group, I found the surgeries particularly enlightening since I had more one to one time with the instructors and that way we were able to review specific cases and strategies for cases that are being prepared for litigation."

"The course was very useful. More than "learning" new things, it has helped me to underline aspects of my job I was doing well or not. I've realised how important are things I do and that there are others that I pay less attention in my day-to-day work whose I should explore more."

"As participants we had the opportunity to think and talk about strategic litigation for a whole week. The course was quite intensive and stimulating. Especially the first two days were very strong in my opinion. The course was well-structured and comprehensive. It inevitably made me  reevaluate all of our activities and also they ways we are doing things. In some ways it reinforced the workmethods we are using at my organisation, but in some aspects made me realise that we should do things differently, in a more strategic, selfconscious manner. It was also an excellent opportunity for networking, to meet fellow lawyers and human rights advocates and faculty from OSJI."
2014 course participants said:
"Surgeries were the most useful part of the whole course. We have managed to touch upon
specific difficulties that we face in our cases."
"The course has given me time to look at my work from another prospective, to exchange views with others and to single out 'best practices' that could be applicable in my field of work."
"The course gave me a fairly comprehensive understanding of the ways in which litigation and advocacy can (and should) be used together to bring about broader social change. The course also equipped me with concrete examples and case law from the various regional systems that can be referenced when undertaking strategic litigation in the future."
What were the strengths of the course?
"The possibility to interact with peers and put our own difficulties in context. The availability of instructors to talk to us and answer questions also during breaks as well as their clear expertise in their own field of work, the openness of OSJI to tell us how they do things internally down to the details of their operational procedures."
2013 course participants said:

“I would like to commend the course organizers for very thoroughly thought through schedule of the whole week, not just the class time. Coffee breaks and dinners were harmonized with the class schedule so participants were able and did continue the discussions and learning after classes.” 

“Consultations with the faculty, especially on the latest developments in certain fields. We filed an application before ECHR, where we specifically asked for decriminalisation of insult of public official as the ECHR is yet to rule that criminal sanction for insult and defamation is unnecessary in a democratic society and not proportionate in itself. This idea to ask for a specific remedy in this case came after attending freedom of expression and torture sessions.” 

“For me the course was like a week long exam to check whether what I am doing is right and my legal arguments and strategies are not at odds with what other professionals are doing in the area of strategic litigation and legal advocacy. It was a week of extensive discussions which were extremely useful for me."

"For me the course was motivating and inspiring because of two reasons: it confirmed my belief that strategic litigation is a very creative process, which is why I enjoy it so much; it gave me the opportunity to meet some of the best human rights experts and human rights litigators with whom I would really like to work in the future. "

"I learned how to do an advocacy plan for legal activities (such as litigation). I re-learned the basics of drafting legal documents. I learned different challenges that people encounter in looking for, processing and presenting evidence and I learned about the different systems of human rights. Added to these are lessons that I learned from talking to my colleagues in between sessions. Lessons that I can apply in going back to my work like, networking, choosing cases among others."

“The group composition itself was a great training tool.”

2012 course participants said:

"This was the best short course that I have ever done. I would like to thank all of those who organised, instructed and supported the course. The lessons learned and the contacts made will make a real difference in my work and my ongoing career development. I have already recommended this course to everyone I have spoken to." 

"The course combined some useful background information, but more importantly it focused on skills and applied them to real scenarios that we will encounter. In building the strategic litigation programme for my Commission I will be drawing on all the aspects of the course and taking a much more holistic view of litigation...Another important aspect was the selection of participants for the course. The discussions between participants both inside and outside of class were an essential learning point. The opporunity to share best practice and build important networks." 

"Having the chance to discuss litigation strategies and argumentation for an ongoing case on which my organization is working, was very helpful for the work on the particular case. I assume that the courses on implementation and advocacy will also be very helpful for my future work." 

2011 course participants said:

"This course was useful because individuals working in different jurisdictions on the same issues could“I appreciated a diversity of the group, both geographically but also professionally. Never before did I have an opportunity to sit in a classroom with people who were representatives of all continents and who shared one common interest in human rights litigation. This course had also this unspoken ability to inspire.”
This was a fantastic course for meeting other human rights practitioners and learning about the challenges faced by other lawyers and the ways in which they approached their work.” 

“It was useful especially for opening my mind to opportunities of litigation outside my field and for other approaches to litigation.” 

"It gave me a better idea of how human rights work is being done by cutting-edge organizations in various
regions of the world. The readings are also very useful, especially in terms of the available jurisprudence
from various human rights courts."

"The more important thing for me was the interaction with lawyers who, like me, are involved in human
rights work. As a human rights lawyer, I rarely have an opportunity to participate in seminars and trainings
of such kind and over the course of last years have grown largely disappointed with the career path that I
have chosen. Out of my personal desire to develop on the intellectual and professional level, I chose to
join this summer litigation course and I do not regret this decision because not only had I met some great
people who share my passion for human rights work but who also gave me some hope that one day, I too
can make a difference."

"There were very helpful sessions on legal drafting and practical ways to formulate human rights
arguments. The session on media and giving interviews was also very practical and useful." 

"Both consultations with the faculty and my peers assisted me with my current caseload and helped me to
think about future cases and ways to push for social and legal change." 

"Consultations with peers from other parts of the world were very helpful. It was also very inspiring to listen
to stories shared, told and re-told. The meeting of human rights workers from various regions and from
various experiences is most fruitful in a context like this." 

"The good thing about this course is that all the participants are actually already engaged for some time in
human rights work. Some in fact are veterans in the field with extensive experience. The sharing of
experiences in and out of the classrooms were very useful and inspiring."