June 02, 2008

International seminar on strategic litigation for NGO leaders from CEE countries


The two-day international seminar on strategic litigation came to an end on May 31, 2008. The seminar was organized by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Warsaw, Poland, hereinafter „HFHR”) in Dębe near Warsaw. Participants included 11 leaders of non-governmental organizations from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovenia. Participants in the seminar – persons dealing with strategic litigation or considering such activity in their home countries – were suggested by the Trust for Civil Society in Central & Eastern Europe.

Strategic litigation is a method employed by non-governmental organizations to bring significant changes in law, legal practice or public awareness by litigation of carefully selected cases. The HFHR has significant experience in this area. Its Strategic Litigation Program ( www.hfhr.org.pl/precedens ), supported by CEE Trust, proved to be successful and resulted in a numerous precedential judgments concerning the right to court, pre-trial detention, LGBT and women's rights, freedom of speech or freedom of assembly.
During the seminar, participants could share their views and experiences on different issues related to strategic litigation, such as: history of the concept, role of NGOs in strategic litigation, procedural stages in strategic litigation, methods for selection of good cases, planning the strategy, enforcement of precedential judgments and submission of amicus curiae briefs. Representatives of HFHR ( Adam Bodnar, Maciej Bernatt, Dorota Pudzianowska ) made presentations concerning those topics and moderated discussions.
The participants also had an opportunity to meet high-profile experts on human rights and constitutionalism. Professor Andrzej Rzepliński , former head of legal programs at HFHR and now judge in the Polish Constitutional Court, shared his views on the necessity of strategic litigation in CEE countries for the development of democracy. Professor Wiktor Osiatyński , member of the Board of Directors of Open Society Institute, commented on how important it is to litigate selected cases and thus to contribute to development of civil society. Ms. Andrea Coomber , the Legal Director of Interights (UK, London) presented an international dimension of strategic litigation, especially before the European Court of Human Rights. Finally, P rofessor Mirosław Wyrzykowski , justice of the Polish Constitutional Court, presented his vision of the role of NGOs in shaping rule of law and human rights' protection in domestic legal systems.
In addition, two special panels were organized. During the first panel participants met five lawyers ( Marita Dybowska-Dubois, Mikołaj Pietrzak, Agata Wacławik-Wejman, Katarzyna Woroszylska and Filip Wejman ) cooperating with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights on a pro bono basis and listened to their opinions as to why such cooperation is crucial to the success of any strategic litigation program. During the second panel, participants discussed the role of media in NGO activities with Polish journalists ( Sylwia Czubkowska, Agnieszka Jędrzejczak ).
A meeting with Mr. Thomas Hammarberg , the Council of European Commissioner for Human Rights, was a special event during the seminar. He presented his vision of activities of the Office of Commissioner and encouraged NGO leaders to update him on a day-to-day basis as regards the situation in their home countries.
There is a hope that following this seminar, the method of strategic litigation will flourish in CEE countries and that participants will use it more often or in a more organized way in their public interest activities.
The detailed program of the seminar, list of participants and selected presentations are available at the website of HFHR – www.hfhr.org.pl/precedens .  


[doc]List of NGO Addresses (93 kb)

[pdf]Agenda of the Seminar (93 kb)

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