Executive Education

Strategic Human Rights Litigation Summer School

Meet our Open Society Justice Initiative Fellows - human rights practitioners and world-changers from 23 countries.

The summer school provides a unique opportunity for human rights professionals to build on their experience and to develop their skills to successfully bring cases to domestic courts, regional human rights systems and the United Nations (UN) treaty bodies, as well as to use those cases to achieve practical change. The curriculum will combine presentations, case studies, exercises and discussion groups with preparatory work and further reading to ensure maximum benefit for those attending the course. Participants will be invited to provide information on cases they are working on and those concrete examples will help shape the discussions.

Purpose and Priorities

The course encourages its 25 participants to approach human rights litigation strategically, viewing litigating a human rights case as one step in the process of achieving social change. It includes modules that examine the steps involved in strategic litigation, such as case selection, client care and forum choice. It also uses case studies to explore how to build a strong evidential record in support of the case, how to develop campaigning and advocacy to raise awareness of the issues involved, as well as how to implement a successful judgment. Other presentations will focus on the challenges of drafting legal petitions dealing with human rights claims, complex case building, use of open source investigation and dealing with the ethical problems that arise in human rights cases.

The curriculum will cover a range of human rights tribunals, such as the African, Inter-American, and European regional bodies, as well as the most frequently used UN treaty bodies. The course will also allow participants to choose specialist seminars to examine key issues in their field. In previous years, these have included the subjects of torture and the right to life, discrimination, freedom of information and expression, as well as socioeconomic rights.


Eligibility Criteria

Participants need to be practicing lawyers with some experience in human rights litigation and should ideally have two to five years' experience in human rights practice. Participants will be required to submit examples of cases and issues that they are or have been involved in. Instruction will be in English. Bursaries towards expenses, including travel, are available where the need can be demonstrated.


2019 Participants

After a highly competitive process in 2019, we selected participants representing a variety of backgrounds, thematic areas and geographies. Human rights advocates attending the programme came from countries including Argentina, Antigua and Barbuda, South Africa, Colombia, Turkey, the United States of America, Nepal, Nigeria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Uganda, Peru, Sierra Leone, Ukraine, Hungary, India, Germany, Mexico and Cambodia. Learn more about the 2019 edition of this programme here.



The summer school faculty consists of practitioners from the Justice Initiative and its human rights litigation partners, combining both an academic analysis and a practical assessment of different human rights situations faced by lawyers and activists around the world.