The Rule 39 Initiative - a pro bono project supported by Osborne Clarke, along with seven international firms and which has already assisted more than 500 migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers located across 10 member states of the Council of Europe to seek justice for human rights abuses perpetrated by those states  - has been announced as the winner of the PILnet Global Partnership Award.

The award was announced at the 2023 PILnet Global Awards Dinner in Brussels on Tuesday 17 October and recognises the best, most innovative pro bono legal project undertaken as a cross-sectoral collaboration, with an impact felt in more than one country, and the project partners were very grateful to be on hand to accept the award in person at the 2023 PILnet Global Awards Dinner in Brussels. 

The Initiative is a true collaborative project harnessing the collective efforts of CILD, DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, Linklaters, Orrick, Osborne Clarke, Reed Smith, Dr Daria Sartori (Project Supervisor) and Muriel Vicquery (Project Officer).

The Initiative supports vulnerable foreigners, and the NGOs working with them - preparing and lodging applications before the European Court of Human Rights, including requests for interim measures under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. These are urgent measures to prevent irreparable harm to fundamental human rights such as the right to life or the protection against torture.

Thanks to the collective effort of all involved, the Initiative has managed to achieve several first-of-their-kind interim measure decisions.

One concerned the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers who were stuck in Ukraine during active conflict and being held in a detention centre dangerously close to the frontlines. Our intervention ensured their relocation to a relatively safer area. The centre they had been held in was then bombed, mere days after our successful intervention. Subsequently, the Initiative ensured the safe expatriation from Ukraine of several applicants through follow-up exchanges with State and diplomatic authorities.

The Rule 39 Initiative has also ensured the protection of several asylum-seekers from border violence and unlawful deportation from three European countries, so that they could safely lodge asylum requests after previous failed attempts had almost cost them their lives.

CILD’s Chief Operating Officer and Legal Expert, Fabi Fugazza, said of the win, "it’s truly humbling to see the Rule 39 Initiative recognised in this way and we are grateful for the opportunity to work alongside our project partners to deliver this critically important work helping asylum-seekers and migrants in need. This project has been so effective only because of the truly collaborative effort of all involved.”

Daria Sartori, Project Supervisor of the Initiative, said: “I am moved and deeply grateful for this award, which is particularly welcome at a time when the role of the European Court of Human Rights is being questioned by several countries. Rule 39 Initiative has allowed for critical interventions in life-threatening situations where the mere national remedies would not have succeeded, and I am proud to be supervising such an impactful cooperative project.”

The eight firms who are project partners in the Initiative, said of the win “we are proud to support this fantastic initiative and have our firms and lawyers be a part of achieving such impactful outcomes for the client NGOs and those in need who have been able to access support due to our collective cooperation in the Rule 39 Initiative.” 

Osborne Clarke's team is led by Duncan Gorst, a Senior Associate in its Munich office, and involves lawyers from its Germany, the Netherlands and UK offices. "As lawyers, we often navigate sensitive legal issues for our clients, but initiatives like these remind us of the profound impact our profession can have on individual lives. The collective determination and collaborative spirit of all firms and partners involved make a tangible difference in the lives of many who are most in need," said Duncan.

A spokesperson for PILnet said of the Rule 39 Initiative’s win: “The PILnet Global Partnership Award celebrates and honours the extraordinary efforts made by our partners to strengthen civil society, advance social change, and protect the public interest. Decided by PILnet Global Forum participants, we are excited that the Rule 39 Initiative is this year’s winner highlighting that collaboration between different actors can have a direct and positive impact on people’s lives.

"We look forward to continuing our critical work on this, and to keeping addressing human rights abuses by using the tools available before the European Court of Human Rights, including urgent requests under Rule 39, targeting human rights atrocities such as border violence, pushbacks of asylum-seekers, and extraditions of vulnerable individuals to dangerous countries. We invite any person or NGOs who know of any persons in need, who can be helped through actions to the European Court of Human Rights, to get in touch at Your referral could save a life!"

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