In the academic year 2014/2015, the Human Rights Law Clinic worked on six projects, in partnership with six different civil society organisations.
The Right to Inclusive Education of Children with a Disability
In partnership with the non-profit organisation Ouders voor Inclusie (‘Parents for Inclusion’), the Human Rights Law Clinic addresses the right to inclusive education of children with a disability in Flanders. The project focuses on analysing the Flemish government’s so-called M-Decreet (‘M-Decree’) of 12 March 2014, intended to progressively move Flemish educational practice towards guaranteeing children with a disability a right to inclusive education (Art. 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; CRPD). The aim of the project is to analyse to what extent the M-Decreet complies with Belgium’s human rights obligations under the CRPD, primarily in terms of duties of reasonable accommodation.
The Social and Economic Rights of Travellers
In partnership with the non-profit organisation Minderhedenforum (‘Minority Forum’), the Human Rights Law Clinic addresses the social and economic rights of travellers in Flanders. The project aims to present a human rights analysis of the situation of travellers in Flanders, who are a distinctly disadvantaged group in Flemish society. Travellers and their way of life are often regarded with disdain by persons in their surrounding environment. Places where they can stay legally are moreover vastly insufficient in terms of both numbers and provided services. The combination of both factors leads the relevant authorities (mostly at the municipal level) to force travellers to continuously be on the move, constantly relocating to new places. As a result, travellers face a particular risk of suffering human rights violations, especially in the area of social and economic rights. The objective of the project is to provide the partner with a comprehensive human rights analysis of the current situation of travellers in Flanders, particularly in terms of their human rights to housing, education, health care, and social security. The students will further provide the partner with legal advice in terms of strategic litigation and will also work on the production of a brochure in which their human rights analysis is explained in laymen’s terms, to be distributed among travellers.
Muslim Women’s Right to Manifest their Freedom of Religion
In partnership with the Belgian equality body Interfederaal Gelijkekansencentrum (‘Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities’), the Human Rights Law clinic addresses a number of specific cases in which Muslim women have been prohibited from wearing their headscarf, in the context of (public) employment and in the context of private service delivery. The project aims to analyse to what extent the contested practices constitute a violation of these women’s human rights, primarily in terms of their right to manifest their freedom of religion and their right to be free from discrimination on the basis of religion. The project consists of three smaller case files, addressing the same general issue in three different contexts. The objective of the project is to deliver relevant end products to the partner in each of the three case files, ranging from an initial legal analysis of the issue – where the partner has not yet formulated recommendations on the matter – to providing in depth recommendations for governmental authorities, where the partner has already formulated initial recommendations on the matter.
The Social and Economic Rights of Detainees
In partnership with the NGO Liga voor Mensenrechten (‘League for Human Rights’), the Human Rights Law Clinic addresses the social and economic rights of detainees in Belgian prisons, focusing in particular on working conditions and the right to work. The objective of the project is to assist the partner, through the provision of legal advice in terms of both procedure and substance, in the submission of a complaint to the European Committee of Social Rights, alleging a violation of the relevant provisions of the European Social Charter.
The Right to a Fair Trial and Evidence Obtained through Torture
In partnership with the NGO Amnesty International Vlaanderen (‘Amnesty International Flanders’), the Human Rights Law clinic addresses the absolute prohibition of torture and its effect on the right to a fair trial. The project aims to particularly analyse to what extent Belgian criminal procedural law currently complies with Article 15 of the UN Convention against Torture (CAT), which stipulates that statements obtained through torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, and similar human rights provisions. According to initial analyses by the partner, Belgian criminal procedural law is insufficiently explicit on the matter. The project aims to deepen the legal analysis, also in light of relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights. The objective of the project is dual: (i) to formulate a legal opinion advocating for the explicit inclusion of the exclusionary rule for torture tainted evidence in Belgian criminal procedural law, to be used by the partner in its political advocacy work; and (ii) to deliver a legal analysis of all relevant issues to be used by the partner for internal purposes, for instance in the preparation of shadow reports.
‘Life in Limbo’ of Persons Excluded from Refugee Status
In partnership with the Dutch NGO Stichting 1F (‘Foundation 1F’), the Human Rights Law Clinic addresses the issue of persons who have been permanently excluded from refugee status in the Netherlands on the basis of Article 1 (f) of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which stipulates that the Convention does not apply to persons with respect to whom there are serious reasons for considering that they have committed, inter alia, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Such persons can often not be sent back to their country of origin either, because they would run a real risk of being tortured there. Their expulsion would thus violate Art. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). As a result, the partner submits, such persons live in a constant state of ‘limbo’ in the Netherlands, never really sure about what will happen to them. Evidence suggests that this causes deep psychological problems, leading – in extreme cases – to suicide attempts. The aim of the project is to determine whether or not this situation of ‘life in limbo’ constitutes itself a violation of Art. 3 ECHR. The ultimate objective of the project is to examine avenues for strategic litigation at the European Court of Human Rights.