Speaker series 2014/2015

During the 2014/2015 academic year, the Project hosted several events on the themes of clinical legal education and strategic litigation at the EUI campus in Florence, Italy. Invited experts and practitioners discussed the value of strategic litigation and clinical legal education for the protection of human rights, children’s rights, and issues of equality and marginalised groups.


  • Ulrich Stege and Maurizio Veglio (Directors of the EU and International Migration Law Clinic at IUC Turin)
  • Anthony Valcke (Director of EU Fundamental Rights Clinic at the University of Kent at Brussels)
  • Costanza Hermanin (Senior Policy Officer at Open Society Foundations)

Clinical legal education is a method of legal teaching that endeavours to simultaneously expose law students to hands on practical legal experience (in contrast to the largely text-book driven nature of much academic legal studies); and promote equal access to justice (e.g. by providing legal services to those members of society who may otherwise have no access to legal redress). The last couple of decades have witnessed an explosion of legal clinics at European universities. Just 20 years ago, there were only a handful of legal clinics in Europe. Today, there are over 100.

The last five years or so have seen the birth of pioneering European human rights and EU law rights clinics in Belgium (the University of Kent in Brussels) and here in Italy (the International University College Turin). In this seminar, the founders of these clinics spoke to EUI researchers and faculty to share their experience and explore what the EUI might learn.

This seminar investigated what these European legal clinics are doing to connect European citizens and third country nationals to their EU law and ECHR rights. These clinics aim to breed a new generation of sophisticated, socially conscientious, and multi-jurisdictional European human rights lawyers. The seminar also reflected on what EUI researchers could do to be a part of this new generation of lawyers.

In collaboration with the EUI Gender, Race and Sexuality Working Group


  • Professor David Oppenheimer (Clinical Professor of Law at Berkeley, University of California)

Clinical legal education is well established in US law schools. Clinics figure importantly into prospective students’ decisions of which law school to apply to. Employers increasingly look for graduates with clinical experience, due to the substantial skill-set which students develop in legal clinics.

Clinics also contribute to making law students aware of their role in society. Law can be a powerful tool for social justice. Clinics can facilitate access to the courts for marginalised individuals and push for social change via strategic litigation, policy work and other means. Law students are involved in every stage of respective projects, gaining valuable real life experience and skills.

Professor Oppenheimer talked about the development of clinics in the USA. By example of marriage equality and the struggle for same-sex rights, he described the possibilities for contributions of clinics in social change endeavours.


  • Edwin Rekosh (Executive Director of the Global Network for Public Interest Law and Professor of Law, Columbia)
  • Atanas Politiov (Director of the Budapest office of the Global Network for Public Interest Law)

PILnet (the Global Network for Public Interest Law) is an independent non-profit organisation with offices all over the globe, which collaborate with local partners to develop the legal landscape essential to rights-respecting societies. It provides lawyers with the tools they need to challenge injustice, strengthens the ability of citizens to shape law and policy, and connects a global community of activist lawyers who are using law to advance change.

PILnet was created after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the countries of Central and Eastern Europe were re-inventing themselves. At that time, the law was seen by many as a means of state control rather than an instrument for the common good. With seed funding from the Ford Foundation, PILnet was established in 1997 as the Public Interest Law Initiative in Transitional Societies at Columbia University (PILI) to promote the use of law as a tool to serve the interests of the whole of society rather than those of a powerful few.

In 2002, PILnet established an office in Budapest, Hungary, from which it coordinated efforts across Central and Eastern Europe. Subsequently, PILnet set up offices in Russia (2004) and China (2008) to address the on-the-ground needs of its International Fellows (i.e. domestic public interest lawyers) and to apply its unique approach to activating, empowering, and connecting those who use legal tools in the public interest.

The seminar invited PILnet to talk to the LiA Project, interested EUI researchers, and faculty about the role that PILnet has played in the growing European clinical legal education and pro bono movements. The speakers also reflected on why the EUI might embrace clinical legal education and how a clinic at the EUI could be structured. Finally, the speakers reflected on the career paths open to young lawyers/law students who want to work towards social justice in Europe today and what it means to be a public interest lawyer in a European context.


  • Adam Weiss (Legal Director of the European Roma Rights Centre [ERRC])

Adam Weiss talked about the development of Roma Rights Litigation in Europe and the challenges and opportunities for strategic litigation in Europe in general, particularly in comparison to the US situation.

He outlined the different stages of strategic litigation efforts, also pinpointing the pitfalls to be avoided, and gave a few examples from the Roma Rights context. Furthermore, he analysed the potential of both the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to foster social change.

In collaboration with the EUI International Law Working Group and the EUI CineClub


  • Professor Martin Scheinin (European University Institute)
  • Professor Ebrahim Afsah (University of Copenhagen)
  • Professor Audrey Macklin (University of Toronto)
  • Andrea Galindo (Director, Training Institute, RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights)

Every year on 10 December, the international community commemorates the day in 1948 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When the Declaration was adopted, it was hailed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”, towards which individuals and societies should “strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance”. The Declaration, a non-binding document, inspired the adoption of more than 60 human rights instruments on political, civil, social, cultural, and economic rights. Together, these documents underscore the importance of human rights in our daily lives.

On the eve of this important day, the LiA Project together with the International Law Working Group hosted a panel discussion on the theory and practice of human rights. Professor Martin Scheinin and Professor Ebrahim Afsah reflected on the theoretical foundations of human rights in the West, whereas Professor Audrey Macklin and Andrea Galindo spoke about the more practical aspects of advocating and lawyering for human rights. Professor Macklin discussed the role of clinical legal education and particularly programmes such as the International Human Rights Programme of the University of Toronto in educating future lawyers to become effective human rights advocates. Andrea Galindo spoke to participants about her work with human rights defenders, and the challenges they face in many countries around the world. Both addressed how the EUI might contribute to the global fight for human rights through the establishment of a Legal Clinic.

Following the panel discussions, and in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI, Stanley Kubrick’s acclaimed 1957 film ‘Paths of Glory’ was screened for participants in collaboration with the EUI CineClub.


  • Professor Aoife Nolan (University of Nottingham)
  • Dr. Conor O’Mahony (University College Cork)

This event focused on the specificities of advancing children’s rights through strategic litigation.

Prof. Nolan presented a paper she was working on, addressing the child-friendly strategic litigation from the international standards perspective. She reflected on values and principles which should guide lawyers when litigating for or on behalf of children.

This theoretical perspective was completed by Dr O’Mahony’s presentation, who explained how a clinic dedicated to children’s rights had been created at the UCC. He also illustrated the clinic’s functioning by giving details of its involvement with the O’Keefe case, which started at the domestic level and culminated in a Grand Chamber judgment of the European Court of Human Rights Rights.


  • Professor Eva Brems (Ghent University)
  • Professor J.H.H. Weiler (European University Institute)
  • Doctor Paul Harvey (European Court of Human Rights)

This session provided the participants with an opportunity to look at the amicus curiae briefs and other third-party interventions submitted the European Court of Human Rights from various perspective.

Prof. Brems talked about the experience of the Ghent Human Rights Centre in submitting amicus curie briefs before the Court. Dr Harvey shed light on how the briefs are perceived by the Court’s lawyers and sought to systematise elements of a good brief/intervention. Prof. Weiler completed the session with more general remarks on public interest law and the potential contribution of PhD students to human rights litigation.


  • James Goldston (Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative)
  • Erik Uszkiewicz (PHD Researcher, ELTE University Center for Theory of Law and Society)

James A. Goldston is the executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, which advances the rule of law and legal protection of rights worldwide through advocacy, litigation, research, and the promotion of legal capacity. A leading practitioner of international human rights and criminal law, Mr Goldston has litigated several groundbreaking cases before the European Court of Human Rights and United Nations treaty bodies, on issues of torture, counterterrorism, and racial discrimination (including DH and others v. Czech Republic and Oršuš and Others v. Croatia).

In this session Mr Goldston talked to the LiA Project about some of his many experiences as a strategic litigator in Europe and globally.

In addition, Erik Uszkiewicz, founder of the Roma Rights legal clinic at ELTE University Center for Theory of Law and Society talked about why he decided to found a legal clinic to fight for Roma rights in Hungary.


  • Wolfgang Kaleck (European Center of Constitutional and Human Rights)

Wolfgang Kaleck is the founding father of human rights strategic litigation in Europe. He founded the ECCHR in 2007 with a small group of renowned human rights lawyers, in order to protect and enforce the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other declarations of human rights and national constitutions, by juridical means. Ever since the ECCHR engages in innovative strategic litigation, using European, international, and national law to enforce human rights and to hold state and non-state actors accountable for egregious abuses. Their aim is to set precedents and to give victims a voice. Being focused on the fields of international crimes and accountability, business and human rights and gender and human rights, their most famous cases include criminal charges against the US and UK administration for tortures in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, deploying civil law mechanisms for suing multinational companies for their involvement in totalitarian regimes (e.g. Daimler and the Apartheid Regime) and exploitation of labour condition in South Asia (e.g. KiK and the factory fires in Pakistan) as well as conflict-related sexual violence in Colombia and Sri Lanka. The ECCHR is working on pressing legal challenges such as how to deal with the use of drone strikes, companies supplying surveillance techniques to dictatorships and whistle blowers. Wolfgang Kaleck also recently joined the legal team of Edward Snowden. Furthermore, the ECCHR has in depth experience in working together with legal clinics and is promoting the education and incorporation of junior human rights lawyers.

In our Question and Answer Session we talked about the role that academics can play in strategic litigation and human rights lawyering and about what ‘success’ means in strategic litigation which does not necessarily correspond to winning a case. We discussed ethical dilemmas, the pros and cons of ‘Western’ human rights lawyering (e.g. being supportive or paternalistic) and the specific challenges for young academics to openly pursue critical agendas. Furthermore, we developed approaches of how to choose a case depending on the broader aim and what role the affected individual should ideally play. While discussing some of the cases of ECCHR, we also became aware that time plays a crucial factor. Most of the important achievements of ECCHR only became visible after a long period of time in which many different routes (e.g. different legal system, different legal argumentation, also different cases) were tested, tried and used to build upon each other.


  • Professor Elisabeth Holzleithner (Head of the Department of Legal Philosophy, University of Vienna)

Professor Holzleithner talked about the opportunities and limits of strategic litigation in the struggle for LGBTI rights.

In order to explore this question, this lecture put to the test law’s emancipatory potential in the light of queer discourse. It asked first, whether and in how far legal discourse has an emancipatory quality at all. To explore this question, Professor Holzleithner discussed examples from recent legal developments, particularly European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence. She also gave an account of the meanings of queer as a radical challenge of all conventions, focusing in particular on the inter-sectional entanglements of sexual orientation with other axes of power such as gender, ethnic origin, economic position, citizenship or religion.


  • Dr. Nora Markard (Assistant Professor of Public Law, International Law and Global Constitutionalism, Hamburg University)

Nora Markard is a Junior Professor for Public Law, International Law and Global Constitutionalism at the University of Hamburg. She holds a PhD in law from Humboldt University and an MA in International Peace and Security from King’s College London. Nora studied law in Berlin and Paris (Sorbonne) and was a Visiting Fellow at the University of Michigan and at Columbia Law School. She has published widely in the areas of migration law, human rights, and legal gender studies. Nora is a co-founder of the Humboldt Law Clinic and of the Migration Law Network and a member of the European Commission on Sexual Orientation Law.

In 2010, the newly founded Humboldt Law Clinic on Human Rights was contacted by the NGO Intersexuelle Menschen e.V. for support in drafting a Parallel Report on Germany for the Committee Against Torture (CAT). The Parallel Report, presented to the CAT in Geneva in 2011, drew the Committee’s attention to the fact that children whose bodies do not fit the male/female gender binary had to be assigned a sex at birth and were often subjected to life-changing surgery at a very early age. Nora Markard is a co-author of the report for the Clinic.

The purpose to invite Nora Markard as a speaker to the EUI was twofold. First, the session aimed to discuss the problems inter* people continue to face. Second, Nora Markard gave an account of the role of ‘shadow reports’ in obtaining support from UN human rights bodies for domestic human rights issues.

Beyond that, Nora Markard provided insights into the founding process of a Law Clinic and its risks and challenges. She worked for several NGO’s and is well experienced in fruitful collaborations between research institutions and organisations outside academia.


  • Dr. Nora Markard (Assistant Professor of Public Law, International Law and Global Constitutionalism, Hamburg University)
  • Harri Ruohomäki (PhD Researcher, EUI Law Department)

This talk addressed the issue of migration control. Dr Markard spoke about her paper ‘The Right to Leave by Sea – Legal Limits of EU Migration Control by Third Countries’. As their own migration control measures have come under scrutiny from a human rights and refugee law perspective, EU Member States are increasingly looking to involve countries of origin and transit in EU border control at sea. Seeking to avoid exercising jurisdiction themselves, they engage such third countries in joint patrols, build their border control capacity and share high-tech intelligence on movements at sea with them, enabling and encouraging them to prevent would-be migrants from leaving for Europe. Nora Markard explored whether such third-country practices violate the human right to leave any country including one’s own, whether they are compatible with the law of the sea, and whether the indirect involvement of EU Member States engages their responsibility under international law.

Harri Ruohomäki gave insights into his research on ‘Maritime Crimes, Criminal Jurisdiction and State Obligations’. The discussion was moderated by Rutger Birnie, PhD researcher from the SPS department at the EUI, working in the area of migration control and deportation.