Incorporating Domestic Law

As non-RSD rights have few similarities across international borders, a detailed knowledge of local laws is essential to providing non-RSD legal assistance. This involves additional training for your staff and bringing experienced domestic practitioners to your organization.

You will find general subsections of laws below and you are encouraged to identify the common rights violations your client base suffers from to focus on the laws you need to investigate most. However, a general understanding of the entire legal system is important because new issues may arise.

Constitutional and Civil Rights Law

Constitutional and civil rights law are the two most likely places to find laws similar to the rights that refugees are entitled to under international law, and some countries may even go beyond these rights.

Constitutional law also describes the legal system’s procedural guarantees, which may assist your client in getting his case before the courts.

Civil Procedure and Court System Functionality

Beyond knowing what rights are enforced in your particular legal system, it is also important to know how to enforce them in individual cases. For instance, knowing whether an organization can file a claim on behalf of a group may be critical to getting a claim into court. The laws of civil procedure are not only important to being able to litigate a case; they are also critical to knowing whether a certain legal strategy is feasible.

Background information on how the courts function in your country is also essential. You should not only know what the rules are, but also whether these are widely practiced. There may be times when the organization may want to challenge the status quo, but it is important to know what is likely to happen when you file a case in reality as well as in theory.

Legal Representation and Ethics Codes

A significant part of the training materials in this Toolkit are based on the Nairobi Code, which applies to legal advocates working on RSD and on providing other legal assistance.

However, if your organization plans on providing non-RSD legal aid services which may involve domestic legal services, then your organization needs to become familiar with the domestic ethics codes and laws of legal representation. If most of your staff are foreign volunteers not permitted to represent clients in court, then you will need to find a way around this constraint if you anticipate a large number of clients who will need court representation.

Domestic Implementation of International Human Rights Law

Refugees are entitled to human rights beyond the rights specified to refugees in the Refugee Convention and regional refugee law.

In some cases, it will be useful to enforce a right that has not been incorporated into domestic law by framing it as international law. It will then be essential to understand the basics of international and regional human rights law. Furthermore, it is possible to ensure the enforcement of an international law in certain countries. You should familiarize yourself with the extent to which this is possible in your local context and if so, what the requirements are.

Typical Civil and Criminal Law Practice

After thoroughly understanding the technicalities of filing a suit and the rights that you can enforce, it is also vital that you understand the culture and the de facto obstacles surrounding the process.

For example, litigation is extremely unusual in some countries, and would only follow a trend of unsuccessful and ineffective litigation. In these cases, pursuing a strategy that immediately leads to the courts would not be advisable. Understanding these cultural norms is central to the success of your legal strategy so you may prefer to have a staff member who knows how to bring a complaint of rights violation to resolution.