Meet Michael Clements
Updated: Jun 30, 2022
The latest podcast episode of Activist Lawyer features Michael Clements, a Lawyer within the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights.
Clements works primarily on applications to the Court against the UK and Ireland and is a qualified solicitor in Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Here, we speak to Clements to find out what activism means to him.
How important is activism?
M: Activism is extremely important and an effective way to bring attention to issues affecting individuals, specific groups and society at large. It is often integral in effecting real change and to challenge and change structural problems within society.
Can we use the law effectively as a tool for activism?
M: Absolutely. The law is a vital element within wider activism and complements many other tactics of activism in an effective way. Law provides a way to cement many of the achievements gained through campaigns and provides protection and safeguards for what has been worked towards. We often see activist movements attempt to introduce new laws to protect certain groups, organisations, or individuals. Law then becomes a defence and a safety net, a way for those impacted to assert their rights and make sure they are afforded every protection.
Tell us about a career milestone / case that will stay with you forever.
M: My traineeship at the European Court of Human Rights as a legal assistant to the Judge for Ukraine was a big highlight for me, and it was after this traineeship that my career in human rights really began to develop. I was tasked with various drafting and research assignments, including research in relation to one of the major ongoing cases at the time in Georgia v. Russia (II). This was an interstate case relating to the conflict in Georgia in 2008. Getting to work on such a major case in the Court’s case-law alongside a Judge of the Court was a very interesting and rewarding experience.
I am also very proud of the Legacy litigation work I undertook at KRW Law. The European Court of Human Rights has had an important role to play in this regard and the Court’s case-law under Article 2 ECHR has been developed in several key cases relating to legacy matters. Working in legacy helped expand my experience and interest in the ECHR and how the Court’s case-law is implemented at the domestic level, which in turn helped me obtain my current role at the Court.
Does your current practice specialise in campaigning / representing clients in a specific area, and if so, how did you get involved in this area?
M: I work within the European Court of Human Rights, which is a part of The Council of Europe. The Court, rather than campaigning or representing clients themselves, instead aims to protect and promote human rights by hearing applications brought against member states by those claiming to have had their human rights violated in some capacity. The Court works to ensure member states adhere to their obligations under the Convention, and to hold them accountable when these have been breached.
In comparison, the Council of Europe itself is involved in a wide variety of projects and campaigns throughout Europe. It also monitors the progress of members states in relation to human rights and democracy and provides recommendations to those where issues of compliance are identified.
I first became involved in human rights when I obtained a Master’s in Human Rights Law and Transitional Justice. Thereafter, my career has ranged from internships, trainee placements at the Court and apprenticeships within human rights firms and organisations, leading me to the role I’m in today.
What is the most important change to the law that you feel needs to be addressed now?
M: One proposed change to the law that I find extremely concerning, especially in terms of my own work, is the current proposals to replace the Human Rights Act (1998). This of course depends on the nature of the changes involved but it will potentially have a very damaging effect on domestic human rights protection. The potential loss of the ability to argue under certain Convention Articles in the domestic courts could lead to a real and serious weakening of human rights within the UK.
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LinkedIn: Michael Clements