Report from the Lund disability Human Rights Clinic
Today the Independent Living Institute publishes a report authored by students at the 2020 Lund Disability Human Rights Clinic at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute. The Lund clinic runs as one of the elective specialization courses for the LLM at the Faculty of Law at Lund University.
In the report, the students Anna Lie, Bodil Ritzén, Julia Löfqvist och Louise Warvsten analyze the categorical denial in Sweden of personal assistance to persons over 65 with disabilities, who without such support are unable to participate in political, public and cultural life. Is this in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the European Convention on Human Rights? Anna Lie, co- author of the report, summarizes their conclusion:
‘The blanket denial of personal assistance to persons over 65 is directly discriminatory, and can be reasonably and objectively justified neither under the CRPD nor under the ECHR. We see good chances for a successful case.’
The Lund Disability Human Rights Clinic was started by RWI in 2019, together with the Faculty of Law at Lund University and two disability rights organizations, the Independent Living Institute and the Swedish Disability Rights Federation (Funktionsrätt Sverige). The Clinic uses the methodology of Clinical Legal Education (CLE), a legal teaching method that uses practical-oriented, student-centred and problem-based interactive learning method, including the practical work of students on real cases and social issues.
CLE is a win-win for law students and disability human rights organizations
In the case of the Lund Clinic, the disability rights organizations provide information on strategic problems experienced by persons with disabilities. The students then investigate these under the supervision of academics, as well as professionals from the organizations, gaining practical as well as research experience in disability rights law.
‘It is a simple win-win, says Anna Bruce, Senior Researcher at RWI and initiator of the Lund Clinic. The organizations get qualified legal assistance, and the students get the experience of working on real legal questions and cases, together with practicing lawyers.’
Ola Linder, lawyer at the Independent Living institute, agrees:
‘Because of the excellent work of the students we now have a deep and systematic human rights analysis of an issue we identified as central for persons with disabilities in Sweden. Our organization would not otherwise have been able to free the time and legal expertise required to do this.’
According to Anna Lie, student at the Lund clinic and co-author of the report the appreciation is mutual:
‘The course was the first real chance as part of my legal training, to actually do what I have been prepared to do. I could finally increase my knowledge about an important topic and gain competence, as an aspiring human rights lawyer. Knowing that our work would have actual effect in the world outside academia, gave me a sense of meaning.’
RWIs global involvement with CLE
RWI has been working with CLE since 2011, initially through our academic cooperation programme in Turkey, and since then also in countries including Belarus, Cambodia, Cuba and Zimbabwe. CLE comes in many forms, ranging from “street law” public awareness raising on relevant legal issues, through cooperating with civil society organisations on strategic litigation, to direct provision of legal advice to actual clients.
RWI’s own programming encompasses all of these and more, with the focus not on any one particular methodology, but rather an emphasis on assessing needs and context in order to support CLE initiatives that will be most effective in developing the capacity of students, whilst bringing about social change, says Josh Ounsted, Head of the Thematic Area ‘Fair and Efficient Justice.
The Institute also places a premium on exchange of information and experiences between Legal Clinics and other CLE-related initiatives in and beyond the countries where we work, creating spaces for practitioners to share good practices in this fast-evolving field.
CLE is a fast-growing trend in Sweden
Compared with many countries, however, CLE is a new – and fast-growing – phenomenon in Sweden. The Lund Clinic is part of a project initiated in 2015 by Civil Rights Defenders and Uppsala University, financed by Vinnova.
Being financed by Vinnova, Sweden’s Innovation Authority, illustrates that Sweden is far from the longstanding tradition of CLE in other parts of the world where RWI works, says Anna Bruce. I think as a society we are finally realizing that we are not immune to human rights violations, and not everyone enjoys access to justice when violations occur – particularly not segments of the population who routinely have their human rights denied, such as persons with disabilities or migrants. This long overdue realization opens the door for initiatives such as CLE.’
Sweden as the beneficiary of international cooperation
The Lund Clinic has been shaped by RWI’s spirit of cooperation. In addition to learning from the legal clinic at Uppsala University, the Lund Clinic has benefitted from the knowledge and experience from RWI’s global partners with decades of experience of CLE.
‘Knowing that Sweden is a relative newcomer to CLE, we began our work with the Lund Clinic by organizing an international workshop with our global partners, avoiding many mistakes by accessing their experience. International cooperation goes both ways, and with CLE Sweden is definitely on the receiving end’, says Anna Bruce.
If you want to know more you can visit the course web page at the Faculty of Law in Swedish or English or contact Anna Bruce at email@example.com. The report by the 2020 Clinic published today at the webpage of the Independent Living Institute is unfortunately available in Swedish only.
Image: Legal clinic 2019 – Participants: legal clinic – from the left Ola Linder, Maria Prokopenko, Sham Abdurahim, Fidan Abdurrahimli, Sabina Ibrahimova, Nika Arevadze, Alvin Weagar Yelloway, Jinxuan Sui , Frida Wall, Noémi Báthory-Okunlola and Anna Bruce.