Human Rights Summer School: An unconventional legal education model
As the Covid pandemic retires, Empowerment through Law of the Common People (ELCOP) organised the 21st edition of the Human Rights Summer School (HRSS) for law students. It took place in Proshika HRDC, Koitta, Manikganj, from 17 to 27 December 2022.
HRSS is an intensive residential human rights short course organised usually at a rural-based venue. Adhikarbhumi (the land of rights) is a fictitious land for the participants to showcase their legal skills for ten days. This year's theme for the summer school was "Human Rights and Bangladesh: Leadership in Prospect". A total of 42 participants from 19 universities in Bangladesh, Nepal, and India, attended the HRSS.
Professor Mizanur Rahman, the leading human rights educationist in the country, started this unique residential model of law and human rights teaching in 2000. Professor Rahman champions the idea of "Lawyering with the poor is lawyering for justice". A flock of law teachers from both home and abroad trains summer school participants to craft the technique of human rights advocacy and interpret the law through the lens of the disadvantaged.
Following the clinical method of legal education, the HRSS allows the participants to understand human rights and other related issues. The residential training comprised class lectures, brainstorming, small-group exercises, presentations, simulations, community visits, negotiations, and mooting.
In the simulation segment, the students were tasked with a fact-finding mission in which various fictional characters were created and played by the residential instructors and volunteers. The students played the role of the fact finders, and the instructors shadowed them throughout the process and provided them with their insights on the student's performance. In short, the principle of "I listen, I forget; I see, I remember; I act, I understand" was followed in the process.
The participants made a day-long community visit to the remote villages of Manikganj to investigate the socio-legal grievances of the community. The purpose of this visit was to acquaint the students with the reality of society and get their mindset out of the mere assembly of words in law books. With the direct contact of the people in a community, the stages of implementation of laws written in the text can be realised.
This year summer school conducted a negotiation simulation where the participants assumed the role of various stakeholders such as the government, international development bank, human rights defenders (NGOs), and community members. It helped to nourish creativity among the students by encouraging them to seek new and unorthodox approaches to legal issues.
Leading scholars, media personalities, judges, advocates, and academics from the USA, Nepal, and Bangladesh attended the HRSS as speakers and trainers. Professor Biswajit Chanda, Dr. Manmay Zafar, novelist Harishankar Jaladas, dramatist Mamunur Rashid, storywriter Professor Syed Manjoorul Islam, essayist and critic Professor Salimullah Khan, freedom fighter Lt. Col. Sajjad Ali Zahir Bir Pratik, among others, conduct sessions. Roshani Adhikari of Tribhuwan University received Professor KAA Quamruddin Memorial Trophy for being adjudged as the Best Fellow of the Summer School. Jannatul Ferdous Shrabony of Jahangirnagar University bagged the Professor ZI Choudhury Award for showing Academic Excellence, while Noor Ariya Alam of East West University received the KM Subhan Memorial Best Mooting Trophy for her brilliant submission on moot fact. Baishakhi Karmakar of Jagannath University was awarded the Best Fact-Finding Trophy named after late Professor M Shah Alam.
Event report by Shanto Deb Roy, Law Student, Jagannath University, and Participant in the 21st HRSS.