In October 2021, the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (CILD) and eight international law firms, including Osborne Clarke, launched the Rule 39 Initiative, a collaborative pro bono project aimed at assisting asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in several European countries in seeking reprieve from rights violations committed against by government administrations. In the short time since the Rule 39 Initiative launched, it has already seen significant success.

Rule 39 requests are a measure available in the European Court of Human Rights and typically utilised by NGOs seeking urgent help in stopping collective pushbacks of asylum-seekers, preventing expulsion or extraditions of vulnerable individuals to countries where their human rights are at risk, moving individuals out of refugee camps ill-equipped to cater to vulnerable groups, or to ensure countries provide life-sustaining food and water to refugees and asylum seekers stuck between borders.

The Rule 39 Initiative was recently able to facilitate a key win in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), securing a decision preventing the pushback of adult asylum-seekers at risk from being deported from Greek islands and prior to that was able to prevent the pushback of an asylum-seeker from Lithuania, who is now safe and is being assisted by a lawyer to lodge his asylum request.

The decision of the ECtHR against the Greek government is particularly significant as it appears to be the first of its kind: the European Court of Human Rights had asked the Greek Government for information about the steps that have been taken on allegations of pushbacks, ruled against the removal, and imposed that first-aid assistance be provided to the asylum-seekers.
Dr Daria Sartori, a lawyer and expert in European Court of Human Rights actions who leads the work of the initiative says of the successes achieved so far: “I am proud of our success and of the amazing work conducted by the volunteers of the Initiative. Interim measures adopted by the ECtHR are often the only way to grant asylum-seekers and migrants an effective protection of their rights. Hopefully, our work will not only help achieve justice in concrete cases but also promote a wider systemic change, through a coordinated approach to requests for interim measures”.

Andrea Menapace, Director of the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights says of the recent successes: “CILD is thrilled to see that the Rule 39 Initiative has been able to assist vulnerable migrants and secure such significant ECtHR decisions so early on in this project’s life. While it’s a shame that Rule 39 applications are sometimes needed, we are glad to be able to facilitate the use of this important tool to help vulnerable people in need.”

The Osborne Clarke team is led by Duncan Gorst, a Senior Associate in our Munich office, and involves lawyers from our UK and Germany offices. Duncan said: “We are delighted that the Rule 39 Initiative is making an impact and hope that it will continue to not only bring about immediate results for vulnerable people, but to also provide a basis for systemic change”.

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