RT041 - The legal mobilization project: analyzing law-based advocacy
Convened by Jeff Handmaker (International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), the Netherlands)

This roundtable session, which is part of a larger project, will explore the potential for legal mobilization as a legitimate means to hold governments and private actors accountable for human rights, environmental and other legal violations. Legal mobilization should be contrasted with lawfare, whereby companies, as well as liberal and authoritarian regimes have engaged in state capture of democratic institutions, victimized and attempted to bankrupt social justice advocates and organizations and have otherwise instrumentalized the rule of law in an illegitimate manner. We regard legal mobilization as a legitimate form of law-based, and mostly rights-based civic advocacy. Drawing on different case studies of legal mobilization and ways of studying it, we each adopt a critical relationship between law and other fields and disciplines and explain why strategic thinking is essential to realizing social justice and political equality.

The main innovations of our Legal Mobilization project are: (1) the different analytical approaches we apply to study how legal mobilization has the potential to address structural transformation; (2) the diverse empirical range of topics, actors, institutions and levels we will study in critical and comparative perspective and (3) our active engagement between both the scholarly study and the practice of legal mobilization. Evaluating the potential of legal mobilization has been understudied, particularly in relation to its socially transformative character. The research in this area mainly comprises: social movement-based studies of law-based advocacy, studies on how legal mobilization is justified and managed and political ecology approaches. Building on this existing literature, though taking different approaches, we will reflect on our published and preliminary research in this emerging research area of legal mobilization in relation to diverse topics such as economic and social rights protection, international criminal justice, regulation of financial flows to criminal organisations, environmental protection, access to social security and water security.

Confirmed speakers:

Dr. Nathanael Tilahun Ali is an assistant professor in public international in the Erasmus School of Law of Erasmus University Rotterdam

Dr. Gaetano Best is a practising advocate in Suriname who has conducted research on Fair and Accurate Fact-Finding in Dutch Atrocity Crimes Cases.

Dr. Jackie Dugard is an associate professor in the School of Law at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa

Dr. Jeff Handmaker is an assistant professor in law, human rights and development at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Ms. Thandiwe Matthews is an admitted attorney in the High Court of South Africa and a PhD candidate in a joint programme at the University of the Witwatersrand and the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Dr. Daphina Misiedjan is an assistant professor of human rights at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Dr. Frederike de Vlaming is a senior researcher in the War Reparations Centre, which forms part of the Amsterdam Centre for International Law at the University of Amsterdam and is Executive Director of the Nuhanovic Foundation.

Dr. Margarethe Wewerinke-Singh is an assistant professor of public international law at the School of Law, Leiden University.