Over the last year, we have been working to expand the Bertha Justice Network, particularly in areas where the need for radical social justice lawyers is greatest but opportunities for newly graduated lawyers to enter this field are fewest. Accordingly, we are delighted to welcome four new Bertha Justice Partners: the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, the Law Office of Michael Sfard in Israel, Lembaga Bantua Hukum Masyarakat (LBH Masyarakat) from Indonesia and the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association.
Each of the new Partners brings unique qualities that will diversify the Network, while at the same time complementing its strengths and reflecting the radical social justice lawyering ethos that is the hallmark of the Bertha Justice Initiative.
The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) was established 25 years ago to empower people to resist violations of their rights. In line with Bertha Foundation’s theory of change, HCLU utilizes the tools of activism, law and media to promote equal rights and social justice. It provides legal aid and advocacy for vulnerable people such as the Roma, people with disabilities, drug users, psychiatric patients and people living with HIV/AIDS. With multiple challenges to the upholding of human rights and social justice in Hungary, HCLU is an important addition to our Network. Bertha Justice Fellows will enjoy two-year placements working within their political rights and freedoms and privacy departments.
Michael Sfard is a Tel Aviv-based lawyer who runs a small firm that exclusively represents Palestinian and Israeli NGOs and social justice and peace activists. The firm specializes in international human rights and humanitarian law and Israeli administrative law and describes its mission as: “Ending the Israeli occupation, making world peace and having fun on the way.” Michael has been committed to nurturing newly graduated social justice lawyers through the firm’s internship program, so the office is well-positioned to provide coaching, mentorship and inspiration to Bertha Justice Fellows.
LBH Masyarakat (Community Legal Aid Institute), based in Jakarta, Indonesia, provides free legal services for the poor and victims of human rights abuses. Its purpose is to fight injustice, protect dignity and restore hope by providing legal empowerment for marginalized groups and advocating for law reform and human rights protections. LBH Masyarakat focuses on four key issues: the abolition of the death penalty; the defense of LGBTQI rights; intersections of human rights, drug policy and HIV; and mental health. LBH Masyarakat has deep links within the communities they serve. Their experience in providing community legal aid and establishing volunteer paralegal services creates invaluable learning opportunities for Bertha Justice Fellows and is an asset to the wider Bertha Justice Network.
The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), based in Harare, works across Zimbabwe to help communities assert and claim their environmental, economic, social and cultural rights within the natural resources and environmental sector. It works particularly in mining-affected areas and engages in litigation, advocacy, civic education and research. ZELA provides a great fellowship opportunity for social justice lawyers on issues that Bertha holds dearly – land rights, environmental rights, holding corporations to account and protecting individuals from profiteering multinationals. Set up by law graduates some 16 years ago, ZELA will provide an inspiring and entrepreneurial social justice environment for Bertha Justice Fellows.
With these new Partners, the Bertha Justice Network is comprised of 20 organizations across 18 countries. Now supporting 112 current Fellows and 164 Alumnx, the program continues towards its ambitious goal of creating and supporting a cohort of 1,000 radical lawyers – working alongside storytellers and activists – in the pursuit of social justice.