Call for Applications: Civic Space Litigation Surgery
1-2 May 2019, Arusha, TanzaniaThe Pan-African Lawyers Union (PALU) and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights are calling for applications from Lawyers and Civil Society Organizations based in East Africa to participate in a forthcoming litigation surgery on the protection of civic space. The litigation surgery will be held in Arusha, Tanzania between 1-2 May 2019. All applicants are required to submit a current or potential case involving the protection of civic space for discussion and workshopping.
The application deadline is 17 March 2019. To apply, please complete the online application form available here.

Objectives of the litigation surgery:

  • To identify high-impact cases to submit before the African human rights system (i.e. the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and East African Court of Justice) to address key areas in the protection of civic space.
  • To confidentially workshop cases among participants and with experienced litigants in the African and Inter-American Human Rights Systems, receiving feedback and cross-regional advice on litigation and advocacy strategies.
  • To identify resources, partnerships, and ongoing support needed to facilitate the filing of cases and accompanying advocacy strategies.


Criteria for participant eligibility:

  • The litigation surgery is open to lawyers and civil society representatives from East Africa, with a demonstrated commitment to addressing threats to civic space in their home country through regional human rights litigation.
  • The participants must be involved in, or considering, litigating a case or cases that address the suppression of civic space involving a violation of the rights to freedoms of expression, assembly, and/or association. With their application, they must submit a case that they are litigating or intend to litigate before an African human rights body that could be discussed and workshopped during the litigation surgery.
  • The following non-exhaustive list of themes are a guide for the types of cases that could be submitted with the application:
    • Suppression of peaceful protests — e.g. through excessive use of force against protesters; criminalization of protestors and organizers; legal frameworks that either prevent, restrict and/or chill protest;
    • Burdensome regulatory restrictions on civil society organizations — e.g. constraints on access to foreign funding and foreign partnerships; obstacles in registering or maintaining registration;
    • Suppression of the media and access to information — e.g. misuse of criminal defamation laws; restricted access to the internet and social media; abuse of cyber-crimes laws; other violations that produce a chilling effect on the media, citizen journalism, or access to information;
    • Abuse of laws or policies in the context of countering terrorism — e.g. misuse of broad counter-terrorism laws to criminalize and/or chill legitimate activities of civic actors;
    • Impunity for threats, violence, and arbitrary detention against human rights defenders, activists, journalists, and other civic actors.


  • While all civic space cases will be considered, we encourage cases that touch on an intersectionality of issues and/or address untested or developing areas of regional human rights jurisprudence, including:
    • Cases that highlight the role of multinational corporations and the suppression of civic space;
    • Cases that link the suppression of civic space to economic, social, and cultural rights, including in particular environmental rights;
    • Cases that demonstrate how the suppression of civic space uniquely affects women, sexual minorities, persons with disabilities, or refugees and internally displaced persons;
    • Cases that address the link between the suppression of civic space and corruption.


Other important details: The working language for the litigation surgery will be English. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights will cover the costs of airfare, visas, transportation, accommodations, and a reasonable per diem for expenses not otherwise covered for up to 8 selected participants.


Please be sure to apply by 17 March 2019 using the link provided above. If you have any questions regarding the litigation surgery or the application process, please email advocacy@rfkhumanrights.org

Pan-African Lawyers Union is the premier continental forum of and for lawyers and lawyers’ associations in Africa. Established in 2002 to reflect the aspirations and concerns of the African people and to promote and defend their shared interests, PALU brings together the continent’s regional and national lawyers’ associations, and over 1,000 individual lawyers.


Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights was founded in 1968 to carry on the unfinished work of Bobby Kennedy in partnership with the leaders of social movements in the United States and around the world. Our advocacy and litigation team is currently litigating over three-dozen high-impact cases before the Inter- American, African, and United Nations human rights systems with a focus on protecting civic space and fostering civic participation.

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