Human Rights’ Legal Clinics
Despite growing demand from students and lawyers for intense human rights training, the educational offer in this field is still too limited, often theoretical and excluding interactive methodologies and practices likely to promote students’ critical thinking and analytical ability on the role of the law, courts and civil society in promoting human rights. University courses, including human rights are often disconnected from the real world and experiences of victims of human rights violations and civil society activists who work for the defense and promotion of these rights.
A PILnet study (in partnership with Legal Agenda) of lawyers engaged in defending human rights and promoting social justice in the Arab world has shown a growing demand among law students and young lawyers in the commitment to the defense of human rights. But this enthusiasm is often hindered by several obstacles, including the lack of adequate training that would enable them to use all existing means and strategies to advance human rights and social justice effectively.
Furthermore, it seems that the legal profession in general and the bar associations in particular, show little encouragement to those who dedicate their careers to defending and protecting human rights and bring them little support. Two factors contribute greatly to widen the gap between the lawyers involved in human rights defense and the rest of the legal profession. First, legal studies give very little importance to the commitment in human rights’ defense. Then the channels of communication and exchange between law schools and the nonprofit sector are very limited or nonexistent.
The development of clinical legal education helped provide an answer to similar problems in Latin America, Eastern Europe and other countries in the MENA region such as Egypt and Palestine. Human rights’ Clinics in law schools combine theoretical studies and field experience, which consists of providing services to "clients" in need or to nonprofit associations. This approach allows students to apply what they have learned in class on real cases under the supervision of a clinical professor. These experiments show that the clinical teaching of human rights in particular contribute to:
• Strengthen the capacity of students who can expand their knowledge and practical skills, and gain field experience in working with indigenous people, victims of violations of human rights, NGOs and civil society;
• Provide free services and assistance to marginalized and vulnerable people and support to nonprofit organizations.
• Expose the students to real life situations and problems faced by victims of violence, discrimination and poverty and also allow them to benefit from the experience knowledgeable human rights defenders. This helps to raise the clinic’s students’ awareness of real stakes of human rights in their environment, create new talents and generate a commitment to the poor and victims of violations of human rights, which in turn promotes the development of socially responsible legal professions.
• Reduce the gap that often exists between the legal profession and civil society, by creating links between universities, lawyers, judges and other jurists, victims and NGOs. These links allow defenders to benefit in their work from a caring and supportive environment for their causes. They also provide an essential safety net in countries where human rights defenders face harassment from the authorities or the hostility of certain pressure groups.
Professors of law, committed lawyers and NGOs that we met through our activities and during missions to Morocco are well aware of the benefits that training in clinical law can offer. They requested PILnet assistance in developing human rights’ clinics in Moroccan universities.
In response to this request, this project aims to contribute to capacity building, to provide technical assistance and advice to law schools, professors and NGOs in their efforts to develop clinical training in human rights Morocco. It will be implemented by PILnet and the Regional Commission for Human Rights Casablanca-Settat, in close collaboration with universities and associations. The project is part of a broader PILnet initiative aimed to support the development of clinical human rights in the MENA region, including in Tunisia and Lebanon, in collaboration with French speaking universities including Canada, France and Switzerland as well as other partners.
To this end, two activities are planned.
As part of the World Forum on Human Rights in Marrakech, a one-day workshop on clinical teaching of human rights is organized. The workshop is led by experienced teachers in the field of clinical teaching of human rights from Canada, Egypt, the United States, France, Switzerland and Palestine. The workshop participants include law schools’ professors as well as activists in the local and international civil society participating in the Forum. The workshop aims to familiarize participants with the concept of legal clinics, creation procedures, their operation, and management of relationships with civil society, victims of human rights’ violations and other potential clinic “users”. The workshop includes presentations and interactive group work and will take place on November 27 or 29 in Marrakech.
The second planned activity is the organization of two sessions, one with professors from the universities of Casablanca and Mohammedia and the other with professors from the University Hassan I Settat. These universities are already involved to some degree in projects aiming to create legal clinics, these working sessions will focus on discussing practical strategies for their implementation and to assess the need for such a projects. Both sessions are led by experts invited to the Marrakesh WFHR and will be held on December 1 and 2 in Casablanca and Settat.
Soumicha Riyaha, President, Human Rights Council of Casablanca-Settat; firstname.lastname@example.org
Habib Nassar, Director of Middle East and North Africa, PILnet: The Global Network for Public Interest Law, email@example.com