Litigation with principles
Human Rights Lawyer Committee -With high-profile legal cases about fundamental rights, the NJCM wants to bring “strategic litigation” to life in the Netherlands in the coming two years. To this end, it launches the Public Interest Litigation Project (PILP) in September. The ambitions are high. Project leader Jelle Klaas: “There is an extensive human rights discourse on violations abroad in the Netherlands, but it is still in its infancy at home.”
The Netherlands Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (NJCM), an organization in which around a thousand lawyers, including lawyers, judges and civil servants are active, has been making important contributions to the identification, reporting and discussion of current human rights issues in the Netherlands for some time. . From September a new initiative will be added: the Public Interest Litigation Project (PILP). In an interview with this site, project leader Jelle Klaas talks about the ambitions and objectives of the PILP.
“We don’t have these rights for nothing”
Klaas has been working as a lawyer at Fischer Advocaten in Haarlem for more than ten years, where he mainly focuses on socio-economic human rights. “Rights of persons excluded from basic rights; this includes matters such as food, clothing, medical care and shelter. The legal aid of these people – the so-called homeless and undocumented migrants – is under enormous pressure, not least because of the considerable cutbacks that this government implemented in this area. The social advocacy in the Netherlands will probably no longer exist in five years time. ”It is one of the reasons for the founding of the PILP.
An equally important reason is that both in the Netherlands and in Europe human rights are being taken less and less seriously by governments. “Notes, shadow reports and letters from human rights organizations no longer lead to debates in Parliament, let alone that they influence policy.” That even applies to recommendations from the UN, a study by the University of Maastricht recently concluded: In the Netherlands politicians quickly react in a disgusted and defensive manner to such criticism, believing that there is little room for improvement in the human rights field in the Netherlands.
Not long ago there was another call from the VVD to restrict the scope of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Dutch judges should no longer be able to test whether laws are contrary to fundamental human rights, laid down in the ECHR. At the same time, there are more and more legislative and policy proposals that are clearly contrary to fundamental human rights, says Klaas. “We don’t have these rights for nothing, they stand for a basic principle about how we treat each other. They are principles that we have acquired through damage and disgrace. If several organizations then point out that policy is in violation of international human rights treaties, and nothing happens with this input, then that is serious.
High profile procedures
Not only should the PILP provide a counterweight to this development, it is also explicitly intended that the issues raised attract the attention of the media and politicians. “The aim is to conduct ten high-profile cases over the next two years in areas such as socio-economic human rights, the environment, sexism, discrimination and civil rights. Issues that are very difficult financially, politically or legally, but that represent a social problem. At the moment, many of these issues do not go to court, and if they do, the link with the media, politics or NGOs is often missing. ”
An example of such a high profile case is the case concerning the SGP and women’s suffrage. “A very nice case that shows that there is a fundamental human rights problem, which was followed by a powerful principle procedure, supported by the Clara Wichmann Foundation.” , the matter also received ample attention in the media and politics. Klaas: “It is not necessarily about winning such things; equally important to put the subject on the map by attracting public attention. ”
To this end, the PILP has appointed a council of judges, journalists and professors, among others, who will assess matters before proceedings are started. “Because of my background in socio-economic human rights, I have a certain signature, just like the office I work for. That makes it even more important that the processes that we start are supported by human rights and are taken up.
Following an American example, the PILP wants to conduct business, accompanied wherever possible by a campaign that feeds a public discussion. A guide is provided for this