The PILP is a project of the Dutch Legal Committee for Human Rights (NJCM). We help NGOs, interest groups, lawyers, scientists and activists with strategic procedures for human rights in the Netherlands.
The PILP accepts things that meet four criteria, they must be things that:
A) Protect, strengthen and/or develop human rights; and
(B) relate to Dutch or Dutch policy; and
(C) are in the public interest; and
(D) be strategic.
What kind of business do we not do?
The PILP is not a test case fund.
Nor is the PILP unlimited in capacity, we have to make choices.
The PILP is for the progressive realisation of human rights. The PILP does not help organisations or individuals that (partly) aim to counter (the progressive realisation of) human rights.
Elaboration of the four criteria
A) Protecting, strengthening and developing human rights
By human rights, the PILP means human and civil rights as enshrined in the Constitution, international and European treaties, directives and instruments. These include, but are not exhaustive, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, the European Charter for the Protection of Fundamental Rights and the European Social Charter.
(B) Relationship with the Netherlands
The PILP selects cases relating to the Netherlands. This includes cases that are related to events taking place on Dutch territory or under Dutch jurisdiction. This may also include acts of Dutch public or private actors.
C) In the public interest
The PILP selects matters that have the potential to bring about structural social and/or legal changes in legislation, policy and/or practice.
We choose both cases in which we can demonstrate to a wider public that human rights concern all citizens, and cases in which the experts and those involved in that area in particular judge that there is a violation of human rights.
That is why we have opted for this:
subjects that are experienced as very problematic by a large part of the Dutch population and/or that affect a large part of the people on Dutch territory; and
subjects that are not on the minds of a large section of the population, but which affect a specific minority.
Affairs can be conducted for interest groups as well as individuals, as long as they are in the public interest. If matters are conducted for an individual, the PILP will endeavour to involve interest groups on that subject as well.
The strategic in ‘strategic litigation’ is twofold for the PILP.
On the one hand, it refers to the strategic use of legal proceedings to bring about social and legal change alongside other means such as campaigns, demonstrations or lobbying. The effect of legal proceedings will sometimes extend beyond the court: it is therefore wise to always think about drawing up a political analysis and a possible media strategy.
On the other hand, ‘strategic’ refers to the choices made with regard to the content of the proceedings, such as the determination of the claim, plaintiff, opposing party, forum, timing and lawyer.
The PILP will first examine whether the NJCM or one of the organisations with which the NJCM cooperates a great deal has already committed itself or expressed an opinion on the subject matter for which proceedings are being sought. We will always look at what lobbying or campaigning is still possible to achieve the goal. Strategic litigation is not an ultimum remedium, but a procedure should not be used too quickly and should never be an end in itself.
Other factors to be taken into account
The PILP also takes the following factors into account when deciding whether or not we are going to do a case.
Dedication. The bringers of the case must be committed to solving the problem in the public interest and to continuing their commitment to a case.
Sufficiently important interest. The problem that needs to be resolved through a procedure is of sufficient weight and falls within the core of human rights.
Potential precedent. The case must have a potential precedent effect and thus sustainably strengthen the protection of human rights even after the procedure in the Netherlands.
Sufficient chance of success. There must be a sufficient chance of success that the desired judgment will be handed down by the highest national courts or by an international court or tribunal. Success can sometimes also be measured by increased public awareness.
Limited loss. The negative effect of a possible unwanted judgment must be very limited.
The facts and evidence must be clear and easily available.
It is feasible to find and deploy experts (scientific, legal, etc.).
Influence and repeatability: Cases preferably have a long-term influence and can strengthen interest groups and communities, even if the PILP is no longer involved. There is a possibility of sharing knowledge about the results of a procedure.
Impact: The case should have a significant impact on the protection and development of human rights. This can be done, for example, by setting a legal precedent, influencing public awareness, changing legislation and practice, demonstrating certain wrongdoing/hypocrisy, revealing certain facts or strengthening a community.
The PILP has limited capacity, budget and manpower. There may also be reasons not to take up a case.
The PILP works on four themes:
Asylum and migration,
discrimination and racism,
the rule of law and democracy, and
Within these themes, the PILP identifies key topics. We are trying to find a balance between the human rights issues that receive a lot of attention and those issues that are yet to gain in popularity.
The PILP prefers to be involved at the earliest possible stage in setting up a strategic procedure. Preferably, the PILP first chooses the subject matter and then the strategy (which forum? What kind of procedure?), the client and the case lawyer(s).
The issues we investigate mainly come to us through organisations, activists, lawyers and NGOs. First, the NJCM Executive Director is always asked what he thinks of the problem and the potential case.
The PILP then investigates whether the NJCM has already taken a position on this and, in case of doubt, inquires with the NJCM working group that is most familiar with the issue. We therefore check with the relevant NJCM working group whether it is really a problem that has been identified.
The PILP then organises a brainstorming session with experts from the field and we ask them for their opinion. We also check what other NGOs have already done about lobbying. In this way, an issue can lead to a case, but often not. Every possible new case is first discussed with the delegate from the NJCM board and the PILP advisory board.
Subsequently, on the basis of an application form, advice is requested from the entire PILP Advisory Council. Among other things, the PILP explicitly indicates what the public interest of the case is, what the strategy in the case is, who is involved and what the risks of the procedure are.
The PILP is not a test case fund: the PILP plays an active role in the procedures we conduct. The PILP has a coordinating role. In addition, the NJCM can be (co-)plaintiff in proceedings and a lawyer from the PILP can act as (one of the) advisers (where possible alongside other lawyers and preferably pro bono lawyers via Pro Bono Connect).