Strategic Litigation to protect Digital Human Rights

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Strategic Litigation to protect Digital Human Rights
Presenter(s) Ulf Buermeyer / Daniel Moßbrucker
Title(s) Co-Founder & President / Internet Freedom Desk Officer
Organization(s) Society for Civil Rights (GFF/Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte), Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Project(s) constitutional appeal against German anti-whistleblowing penal provision
Country(ies) Germany
Social media @vieuxrenard, @damossb
2017 theme Policy & Advocacy

Governments all over the world enact legislation to deal with new challenges of digitalization. Fighting terrorism, prosecution of child pornography, countering hate speech & fake news – new regulation on digital technologies often claims to have understandable reasons. However, often Governments try to implement measures that entail certain dangers for freedom of expression. For Civil Society Groups protecting digital human rights this is a highly dangerous development: Public awareness often is insufficient, so members of parliament tend to take threats to freedom of expression all too lightly. By consequence the democratic process systematically fails to assure that laws against terrorism, hate speech or fake news are in line with human rights standards. But when advocacy and policy work fail to have the necessary impact on lawmaking, strategic litigation becomes the last line of defense for human rights.

Strategic litigation could be an indispensable instrument for the targeted enforcement of human and civil rights. It means that a organization or a alliance of NGOs and individuals goes with specific examples to court and changes law fundamentally. In Germany, the recently founded NGO Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte (GFF) pursues strategic litigation with a clear focus: Strengthen civil and human rights against state intrusion. One of the first projects is a constitutional compliant, brought in cooperation with Reporters Without Borders. This lawsuit targets a new law that criminalizes investigative journalism in Germany if journalists have to work with (especially digital) “stolen data” – for example a leak of data like the Panama Papers.

In this session, participants will learn more about strategic litigation and discuss potential cases for their own work. Ulf Buermeyer, judge and president of GFF, will present the idea of GFF and explains what makes litigation "strategic". Daniel Moßbrucker, Internet Freedom Desk Officer at Reporters Without Borders, will give insights into the first project his organization undertook and will explain chances and risks of a cooperation with other NGOs. Mainly, Ulf and Daniel would like to work with participants on challenges in their own countries: Which injust and dangerous laws are you facing in your country? What could be the first step to form a alliance against it? And who are potential partners to protect digital human rights with strategic litigation?

Format Workshop
Target Groups human rights defender, digital rights activists, journalists, lawyers, legal experts
Length 2 hours
Skill Level Novice
Language English


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