Step 1: Prepare the draft complaint
Evidence: Look carefully at the rules of evidence at your chosen forum, and at subsequent regional or international levels. Outline the necessary evidence to support the case, taking its strengths and weaknesses into consideration. File primary and secondary evidence meticulously. If the reliability is in doubt, can you use authoritative international organisation or UN reports for further proof. Review how to write Country of Origin Information (COI) in order to develop support evidence.
Laws: Outline national, regional and international legal frameworks applicable to the case, and situate your legal arguments within these. Look at how international law or principles can be applied in domestic courts. This relationship may be expressed in an explicit hierarchy, or you may need to be persuasive.
Research jurisprudence at each level: regional and international courts’ websites catalogue their past decisions. It may be helpful to look at high-level decisions from other jurisdictions (countries) which may constitute authoritative interpretations in your own context. Free online resources such as Refworld may be a useful starting point for such research. Recent developments may be reported on platforms such as Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Network, or on more informal discussion boards such as UNHCR’s Policy Development and Evaluation Service social media page.
- UNHCR’s Refworld
- Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Network
- UNHCR’s Policy Development and Evaluation Service (PDES) Facebook Page
Consider whether this case requires urgent attention (e.g. an application for an injunction or a request for precautionary measures)
Share the draft complaint for comments with management staff, directors or other relevant parties (academics or pro-bono lawyers).
Coordinate submission of amicus curiae (interested party) brief(s) in jurisdictions where all such interventions must be received at the initial presentation of the complaint. In many jurisdictions this may be submitted at a later stage in proceedings, however keep this in mind from the outset.
Undertake a comprehensive review of the complaint before submission to the court or commission.
Go over the complaint and related submissions with the client(s) and prepare your client(s) for any potential court appearances. This may require practice in public speaking, working with an interpreter, and travel arrangements and orientation