In an ever-evolving legal landscape, staying ahead of the curve is essential. The STARLIGHT programme, a joint initiative by the Hertie School and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), has paved the way for 60 legal practitioners in the European Union to harness the full potential of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR) through strategic litigation.
A year-long journey of learning and networking
The STARLIGHT project, funded by the Citizens, Equality, Rights, and Values (CERV) programme of the European Union, aims to empower legal practitioners in the EU with the skills and knowledge to apply the CFR strategically. With a focus on three thematic areas – asylum and migration, criminal justice, and rule of law and civic space – the programme equips participants to promote systemic and social change through strategic litigation.
Over the course of 12 months, STARLIGHT provided 60 experienced legal practitioners with a comprehensive training programme that included both online and in-person components. Participants start the programme with online thematic modules, supported by mentor-led legal clinics (read the developed legal arguments here) that allow for an in-depth examination of individual case studies. The modules are followed by an on-site skills workshop.
Unlocking the potential of the Charter of Fundamental Rights
Judit Zeller, a Senior Legal Adviser at the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, had been seeking the opportunity to learn about EU fundamental rights enforcement, as litigation before the Strasbourg Court is a daily part of her work. She was motivated to apply because, like many lawyers, she felt unsure about procedures and options before EU institutions. “I wanted to gain a better insight into the legal avenues that allow for the assertion of fundamental rights before EU bodies. I also wanted to gain structured knowledge and more confidence in using EU law.”
Developing skills for strategic human rights litigation
One of the key features of the STARLIGHT programme is the chance to connect and exchange experiences with peers from various EU member states. The programme culminated in a workshop in Potsdam, where participants strengthened the skills they needed to litigate cases successfully in three areas: documentation and evidence, advocacy, and communication and litigation PR.
Reflecting on the advocacy workshop, Judit said that her favourite part was the group work and role play: “Both were complex tasks, requiring cooperation and careful thought. The cases we worked on were real-life based, so we also had the opportunity to relate them to our own running cases and adapt some of the elements of the strategy we developed in the small group to our everyday work later on.”
A year of transformation
As the STARLIGHT programme concludes almost a year of intensive training, the impact of this initiative will spread across the EU. With participants hailing from countries including Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland, Hungary and more, the knowledge and skills gained through this programme will undoubtedly influence Europe’s legal landscape. The STARLIGHT alumni will return to their professional roles armed with the tools to protect fundamental rights and drive positive change in their home countries. The EU’s legal community is evolving, and STARLIGHT is at the forefront of that transformation.
Interested in being part of the next STARLIGHT cohort? Apply by 29 October 2023!