In one sentence: HELP develops and implements online courses on human rights for legal and other (justice) professionals.
The HELP Network, the only European peer-to-peer Human Rights Training Network, is composed of representatives of National Training Institutions for Judges and Prosecutors (NTIs) and Bar associations (BAs) of the 46 member states of the Council of Europe (and beyond).
The HELP Network is entrusted with the implementation of paragraph 9.vi of the 2012 Brighton Declaration (“Providing appropriate information and training about the [ECHR] in the study, training and professional development of judges, lawyers and prosecutors”) and shall, in this respect:
- Support the development and promotion of initial and continuous training of legal professionals on European human rights standards, and in particular the European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
- Share best practices and provide assistance in the development of study programmes, training materials and teaching methods intended for legal professionals, in the field of human rights.
- Provide advice in order to assist member states improve their human rights training of judges, prosecutors and lawyers.
- Provide support to improve the capacity of lawyers to lodge good quality applications to the European Court of Human Rights and to meet the admissibility criteria, in order to decrease the amount of unsuccessful applications to the European Court of Human Rights and reduce its workload.
- Promote the coordination of human rights training initiatives for legal professionals proposed by international and national institutions.
The NTIs and BAs are represented in the HELP Network through the so-called HELP Focal Point (for judges and prosecutors) and HELP Info Points (for lawyers) for each state.
The HELP Network has annual plenary meetings, at the HELP Annual Network Conference. In between the annual meetings, the HELP Secretariat constantly coordinates with the HELP Network members.
Other key partners of HELP are the European Judicial Training Network (EJTN), the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), UNHCR or OSCE/ODIHR.
The Council of Europe HELP e-learning platform hosts our online courses. The courses are free and of the highest quality as they have been developed with the top experts of the Council of Europe, including lawyers from the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights. Partners like EJTN, CCBE or FRA also contribute with their expertise.
The access to the HELP e-learning platform is free and open to anyone who creates an account on it. In January 2020 the HELP online platform had more than 43 000 active users.
The HELP online courses are interactive, visual and practical. They cover various human rights related topics, reflecting the different areas of work of the Council of Europe.
The HELP courses are produced jointly with the respective Council of Europe content entities (for example, the course on Key human rights principles in Biomedicine was developed jointly with the Council of Europe Bioethics Unit, the course on Human Rights in Sports with the Council of Europe Sports Department, the course on Data Protection with the Data Protection Unit, the course on Labour Rights with the European Social Charter, the course on Violence Against Women with the relevant Council of Europe Division, the course on CPT Standards with the CPT Secretariat, the course on Refugee and Migrant Children with the Office of the Special Representative of the Council of Europe Secretary General for Migration and so on). The involvement of lawyers from the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights ensures the best possible reflection of the European Court of Human Rights case-law in the specific topics covered by the HELP courses.
HELP Human Rights Training Methodology
The HELP Human Rights Training Methodology is a set of steps and principles under which the HELP Programme develops and implements its courses. It takes into account the heavy time pressure imposed on legal professionals in their daily work.
The key steps of the HELP Methodology are:
Development of a model HELP course in English (usually) by an international Working Group, supported and coordinated by the Council of Europe HELP Secretariat.
Translation of the model HELP course in the national language of the target country.
Building the national version of the HELP course, by supplementing the translation of the HELP model course with various legal documents (legislation, case law) on the domestic legal framework on the specific topic.
The HELP courses and Methodology are used in Council of Europe capacity building activities, including within the framework of European Union/Council of Europe Joint Programmes.
HELP and Universities
HELP’s mandate stems from the Recommendation 2004(4) of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the European Convention on Human Rights in university education and professional training. It was reinforced with the Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation (2019)5 on the system of the European Convention on Human Rights in university education and professional training.
According to this Council of Europe Recommendation, member states are recommended, among other things, to:
- ensure university education on the system of the European Convention on Human Rights in line with the needs and expectations of the different categories of the public,
- enhance the effectiveness of such university education and professional training by ensuring that each category of the public has access to the necessary tools to comply with the obligations stemming from the Convention.
Universities and, in particular, law schools are therefore part of the core mandate of the HELP Programme. Therefore, university students (with a focus on law students) are a natural target audience for HELP’s online courses.
HELP courses can easily and efficiently supplement the educational materials in the law schools’ core curricula. They are increasingly being used by university professors to complement their academic programmes.
Which HELP courses are best adapted for university students?
The diversity of the HELP courses enables their use in universities depending on the level of knowledge or topical interest of the students.
For example, Bachelor students can take some of the more basic HELP courses, such as the course on Introduction to the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. The more specialised courses (e.g. Data Protection and Privacy Rights, Violence Against Women, Refugee and Migrant Children etc.) can be offered to more advanced students, including Master and PhD students.
I am a university teacher. How can I benefit from HELP and its courses?
- I can encourage my students to use HELP online courses for self-study.
- I can use a HELP course as part of or complement to the subject I teach. I can also contact the HELP Secretariat through the online contact form to open a virtual ‘classroom’ in the HELP online platform for my group of students. In case my University has its own e-learning platform, the HELP Secretariat can also transfer a HELP course to my University’s platform.
Other ad-hoc arrangements are also possible (e.g. cross–border or cross-professional groups).