The Erfurt Global Justice Clinic combines legal teaching and activism. In this interactive format, students work on real-life cases and acquire legal skills through research-based learning. Participants understand how law is mobilized for legal and socio-political interventions and they establish networks in legal practice and civil society. To that end, the clinic cooperates with partners from human rights and development practice, such as the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. The Erfurt Clinic is directed by Prof. Michael Riegner.
Rights are not mere gifts or favors, motivated by love or pity, for which gratitude is the sole fitting response. A right is something demanded or insisted upon without embarrassment or shame. - (Feinberg, 1973, p. 58-59)1
2023 Clinic Cycle: Legal Interventions and Policy Work in Business and Human Rights
In the 2023 Clinic course, clinic participants work with partners and experts on cases ranging from strategic litigation related to a dam disaster in Brazil and legal interventions based on the German Supply Chain Act (Lieferkettengesetz) to policy work promoting stakeholder engagement in EU legislation on corporate human rights due diligence.
On 12 June 2023, the Clinic hosts a public launch event for the policy briefing paper “Strengthening Stakeholder Engagement in the EU Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence”, based on research by public policy professionals at the Willy Brandt School and developed in cooperation with the German Institute for Human Rights and the University of Luxemburg. Contributing authors and expert commentators discuss the policy briefing paper and the way forward in political negotiations at EU level.
The event will be held online in English language and is open to the public. For online participation, please register with firstname.lastname@example.org. The policy paper will be accessible here after the launch event.
1.- Communication Plan: One student team designed a strategic communication plan accompanying a strategic litigation case against a German company. The civil lawsuit filed in Germany includes allegations of negligence in mining operations and certification, leading to a fatal accident and thousands of victims in Brazil.
2.- Climate Accounting: Students researched the carbon footprint of German “carbon majors” and other companies with high emissions in preparation for legal analysis, and possibly litigation, concerning their responsibility for extreme weather events and ensuing loss and damage in Pakistan.
3.- Inter-American Court of Human Rights Advisory Opinion: Another student team contributed to a civil society submission to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Amicus curiae) in an Advisory Opinion proceeding on the climate emergency and human rights inittiated by Colombia and Chile. The submission focused on Business and Human Rights-related obligations and was prepared in collaboration with the European Center for Constitutional Rights and Human Rights in the context of a broader Amicus submitted by the Network for Economic, Social and Cultural rights.
4.- Strategic Litigation with the German Supply Chain Due Act (LkSG): Two other student teams invesitigated possible violations of the new German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (Lieferkettengesetz) concerning withholding of wages in Qatar and forced labor in Brazil. The legal memos also explored how these cases can influence the development of standards under the LkSG.
5.- Policy Work on Responsible Contracting: To what extend do large lead companies unilaterally impose human rights obligations on their suppliers without empowering them and addressing their own causation contributions? Students researched and wrote a report on how large companies, especially those falling under the scope of the LkSG, address this issue and drew attention to the topic by highlighting best practice / low performance.
The 2022 Course: Clinical Seminar on Business and Human Rights in Transnational Value Chains
Corporate human rights responsibilities are becoming increasingly important in German and international law. The Global Justice Clinic analyzes the legal techniques that state and non-state actors employ to address human rights challenges in a globalized economy. Special attention is paid to the human rights-based governance of transnational value chains, as exemplified in the German Supply Chain Act of 2021 and similar regulations in comparative and European law. Students work on real case studies from business and human rights practice, and guests from the human rights and business fields provide insight into the practical work.
In the 2022 course, student teams work on the following practical projects:
OECD complaints procedure: The first team researched and drafted a legal memorandum for a human rights NGO which analysed and compared the practices of OECD national contact points in preparation for lodging a complaint against a German company active abroad.
German Value Chain Due Diligence Act: The second team researched and drafted a legal memorandum for a human rights NGO analysing the application of the newly enacted German Value Chain Due Diligence Act to a German retailer.
Corporate human rights due diligence at EU level: The third team drafted a policy paper arguing for strenghtening provisions on stakeholder representation provisions in the proposal for EU Sustainability Due Diligence Draft Directive, currently under discussion by European institutions. The paper has been discussed with experts and will be published and disseminated in cooperation with the Willy Brandt School and the German Institute for Human Rights.
A one-page summary with recommendations on how to strengthen stakeholder engagement in the EU Directive has been circulated among policy makers in November 2022. It can be accessed here.
As a Public Policy student and coming from a business background I found this class extremely helpful as it helped me understand the interaction between the private sector and legal institutions. The use of guest speakers and the group case study provided a great opportunity to apply the theoretical frameworks we learned during class into a professional, real-life situation. It was also a great networking opportunity between class peers and subject matter experts in the field.
- Barbara Roman, B.Sc. Business Administration (University of Puerto Rico), MPP student at the Willy Brand School
The case studies in the Legal Clinic brought the theory learned into real life. It's a rewarding feeling to be working on an assignment that will be used to solve real issues with the partner organizations.
- Laisa Pereira
The clinic was a great and unique opportunity for me to experience the relevance of my studies for practice. Getting the necessary knowledge and benefiting from the diverse academic backgrounds of the other participants I was enabled to work on a challenging but also fascinating case within the field of Business and Human Rights.
- Isabelle Lamperti, B.A. Social Sciences, student of the Master in State Sciences (Staatswissenschften) at Erfurt University
The BHR seminar was without doubt the seminar I always looked forward to, because of the critical, insightful, and important discussions from colleagues and above all the Professor. I will therefore highly recommend this module for students who want to widen their understanding of BHR and who are also interested in putting a stop to corporate irresponsibility.
- Ebrima Jarju, Law (University of The Gambia), MPP student at the Willy Brand School
1) Feinberg, J. (1973). Social Philosophy (Foundations of Philosophy Series). Prentice-Hall.