Executive Education

Human Rights Litigation Summer School 2020

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.

Please apply via our online application module application.hertie-school.org.

When registering, please select "Human Rights Litigation Summer School 2020" under study programme and upload the documents requested.

Admission is subject to availability. There is no course fee for this training but a few participants who are selected but not awarded a scholarship will have to cover travel-related costs as well as board and lodging (lunch is provided at the venue on seminar days, dinner will be provided on two seminar days). Please note that most participants will receive a scholarship, based on merit and need, to cover the costs of attending the programme.

The deadline for applications is February 21, 2020. Additional course information and instructions for applying can be found on the Hertie School's application portal.

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.



Please apply via our online application module https://application.hertie-school.org/

When registering, please select "Human Rights Litigation Summer School 2020" under study programme and upload the following documents:

  • The Hertie School online application form 
    The Hertie School's online application form enables the online submission of the application itself as well as of all other relevant documentation, including CVs and resumes, reference contacts and statements of purpose.

  • Evidence of professional experience
    Please attach your CV. Include all relevant professional experience (paid or voluntary), including your roles and responsibilities. You will also have the opportunity to list relevant training and professional courses in the form in a separate question.

  • Your statement of purpose
    This is a very important section of the form and significant weighting is placed on this to decide between short-listed candidates. In this statement, you must answer the question of how you meet the eligibility criteria and how this course will assist your human rights practice.

  • A reference
    Please list one reference. This is not a letter of recommendation, simply the contact information of someone who can attest to your suitability for this course, preferably your current or most recent manager. The reference may be contacted at the short-listing stage.

  • Proof of English ability for non-native English speakers
    As proof of your English language proficiency, if you have passed a language exam, please upload a scanned copy of the exam results in the online system. Alternatively, please upload an unedited writing sample (maximum 10 pages) or a scanned copy of a university degree that has been completed in English. 

  • For scholarship applicants only: A letter from your current employer justifying why costs cannot be met by the organisation. If you are currently not employed (but meet the other eligibility criteria) please upload a written statement explaining the need for a scholarship in your current financial situation.

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.