Improving our strategic litigation work: Estonia workshop

estoniahumanrightscentrelogo

On 28 May Claire, our Legal Officer, participated in a workshop on Strategic Litigation organised by the Estonian Human Rights Centre (EHRC), an independent human rights advocacy NGO dedicated to the advancement of protection of human rights in Estonia and abroad. The centre was founded in December 2009 and is based in Tallinn.

The workshop was the final step of a project on strategic litigation that also included trainings and study trips over the past 1.5 years. It consisted of discussions on the different means and opportunities of strategic litigation, exchanges of experiences and learning new methods form each other.

Participants

Staff from EHRC and representatives of NGOs from Norway and Malta.

Summary
  • Strategic litigation as a tool for change: experiences from Norway and Malta

The Director of OMOD Norway (The Institution against official discrimination) introduced the activities undertaken by the organisation in the area of non-discrimination. He explained that the situation in Norway with regard to immigration is quite poor, and that discrimination is rampant across all sectors (e.g. labour market, housing, etc.). OMOD’s tools include advocacy, dialogue with the authorities and also strategic litigation.

Claire introduced our work on the Suso Musa case: the context, the case, and the decision. She also discussed our main challenges and achievements and concluded on the follow-up activities to this decision and our policy regarding strategic litigation.

  • Lessons learnt from the study visit to the Polish Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

The Director of the EHRC reported on this study visit, held earlier this year.

  • Discussions on strategic cases so far in Estonia: obstacles and solutions

The EHRC Director introduced the situation in Estonia regarding asylum and equal treatment. He reported that the situation is very worrying, particularly since within society there is quite a low understanding of relevant issues resulting in public discourse that is very hostile to migrants, especially since the Mediterranean crisis. Estonia receives very few asylum-seekers per year, but recent proposals by the EU Commission could result in a few hundreds of persons being transferred to Estonia in the coming years. Furthermore, Estonia has also refused to participate in the resettlement scheme.

EHCR have concerns about the way asylum-seekers are treated and is aware of push backs at the borders. The detention of asylum-seekers is also an issue of concern. Regarding equal treatment, Estonia transposed EU legislation on equal treatment but only to the minimum required level. It seems that for the moment the law is not effectively enforced.

Conclusion

Although small, this workshop gave us the opportunity to explore strategic litigation policies and activities with like-minded partners. It will feed into the work of our Pro Bono Unit, strengthening our ability to engage in those cases that result in broader institutional or legal changes.

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