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Here you can find answers to frequently asked questions about the Society for Civil Rights (GFF). If you are looking for further answers, please feel free to contact us!
What is strategic litigation and what makes it “strategic”?

Strategic litigation involves lawsuits or legal proceedings aimed at clarifying a fundamental issue that goes beyond the individual case. The long-term goal determines the selection of suitable cases, appropriate legal steps and the individual steps in the specific lawsuit or legal proceeding. Long-term goals may also be pursued through several or additional proceedings building upon each other.

Strategic litigation generates synergies through trust-based cooperation with committed plaintiffs, established NGOs and activists in Germany, Europe and worldwide. The lawsuits are accompanied by targeted public relations work that raises awareness of the underlying fundamental rights issues and facilitates discourse.

How does the GFF select its cases? Which rights does the GFF fight for?

The GFF goes to court in order to achieve landmarks judgments which strengthen fundamental and human rights. However, as a relatively young organisation, we cannot take on all cases that people make us aware of. We focus our resources on four key areas of our work:

A vibrant democracy: We stand with those who fill our democracy with life: journalists and whistleblowers, individuals and organisations working to strengthen democracy, scientists and artists. When the government systematically violates their civil liberties or unlawfully restricts their freedom of action, we oppose it with strategic litigation and legal interventions. A resilient, vibrant democracy needs individuals and groups that dedicate themselves to democratic values.

Freedom in the digital age: We oppose any move to put the population under general suspicion or to impose complete surveillance. If the government or companies interfere disproportionately with our privacy, we will take legal action. Democracy needs safe spaces in which people can develop freely and unobserved.

Equal rights for all people: All people have a right to live free from discrimination. We take action against laws, public authorities and companies that discriminate, exclude or stigmatise. Jointly with civil society organisations and activists we fight for precedents to establish justice for all.

Social participation: All people have a right to an adequate standard of living, housing and health care. Without social participation, freedom is not worth much and a life in dignity is not possible. Our goal: landmark judgments that transform the welfare state imperative into individual and enforceable rights - and enable all people to participate in society.

We mainly defend citizens against the government. However, fundamental rights also shape relationships to companies and other private actors. When we intervene here, we do so in favour of groups of people or fundamental rights that have a less powerful lobby: tenants, informational self-determination, the free press, those who experience discrimination and exclusion.

What do we mean by civil rights?

Fundamental and human rights are indivisible, and we are committed to protecting the rights of all people.

Classical civil liberties guarantee the indispensable right of every human being to free development of their personality in a state. This is stated for example in the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany. These are inviolable rights guaranteed by the constitution to all people and citizens vis-à-vis the government. These include the right to informational self-determination, the right to freedom of information and opinion, the right to free speech and freedom of the press.

However, our understanding of freedom rights extends beyond the classical understanding. We also stand up for basic social rights as well as against discrimination. Freedom, as understood in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, knows neither need nor fear. If a person has no roof over their head or cannot go to the doctor or to school, then it is of little help to them that they can freely express their opinion, that they enjoy freedom of movement, or that art is free. To put it in Hannah Arendt's words: "Only those who can participate in public political life as equals among equals are free". For us, too, freedom is not freedom if it is not equal freedom that is actually available to all.

How can I support the GFF’s work?

We appreciate your interest! The easiest way is to donate to the GFF or become a supporting member. If you have a case that is suitable for a strategic lawsuit aimed at promoting fundamental and human rights, please contact us - we turn cases into civil rights victories. If you are a lawyer and would like to take on cases, we would be happy to hear from you by email (encrypted please) to info@freiheitsrechte.org.

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Is the GFF a charity?

According to our bylaws, the GFF directly and exclusively pursues charitable purposes. Donations and contributions by supporting members are hence tax-deductible. The GFF is also recognised as an observer by the European umbrella organisation of NGOs in the field of digital civil rights, European Digital Rights (EDRI).

Who funds the GFF?

The GFF's work is supported by the contributions of supporting members as well as donations. The GFF also receives project-related funding from organisations and foundations. Our annual financial report is published on our website.

Does the GFF work with corporations and accept corporate donations?

Does the GFF work with corporations and accept donations from them?

We focus on partnerships with NGOs, activists and the media. Depending on the case, a cooperation with a for-profit partner could be strategically valuable; for example, in order to win corporate plaintiffs for a test case. In principle, the GFF is also open to donations from companies, but decides on their acceptance on a case-by-case basis, which may in no way lead to any corporate influence. The GFF does not accept corporate sponsorship. The annual financial report of the GFF will be published on the homepage and creates transparency.

Does the GFF always act as a plaintiff?

The GFF supports and accompanies lawsuits. Usually, plaintiffs are individuals close to strategically "suitable" organisations or such organisations themselves. The GFF as such has not acted as a plaintiff so far, but rather takes over the legal and organisational coordination, funding and communication.

Is the GFF a law firm? Can the GFF also provide assistance in other fields?

No, GFF coordinates, accompanies and funds lawsuits, but it does not provide legal advice or representation. This task is taken on by lawyers and law professors with whom the GFF cooperates.

What is the GFF's position on political parties?

The GFF is strictly neutral non-partisan. Our motivation is a cross-party commitment to our democracy, the fundamental rights of our constitution and human rights. GFF members include members and supporters of the SPD, FDP, Greens and Left as well as non-party activists. The GFF welcomes supporting members from the entire democratic spectrum.

Is the GFF only active in Germany?

The GFF mainly initiates lawsuits in Germany, but cooperates and networks closely with European and international partners. We will use our experience to support cases for the protection of fundamental and human rights in Europe and worldwide.

What are law clinics and amicus curiae briefs?

Law clinics are university programmes which form a part of legal education. They offer students practical experience, for example by working on specific cases through research, drafting and client interviews. For example, the GFF works with the Humboldt Law Clinic Fundamental and Human Rights, the Humboldt Law Clinic Internet Law and numerous Refugee Law Clinics to introduce students to fundamental rights issues and enable them to work on high-profile cases at an early stage.

Amicus curiae briefs are legal opinions as a "friend of the court" that the GFF files in ongoing cases we are not otherwise involved in ourselves. In this way, we support the litigation of partner organisations by providing additional expertise, thereby highlighting the importance of specific cases and legal issues. By doing so, the GFF extends its legal influence far beyond the area it helps shape through its own litigation. This system of friendly advocacy is not yet established in Germany and large parts of Europe, while it has long been standard in the USA and contributes to a more human rights-friendly jurisprudence. The GFF has set itself the goal of establishing this instrument in the interest of human rights in Germany and Europe as well.

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