European Western Balkans

Online courses of the Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP) programme

In times of the COVID-19 confinement, when you are online probably more than ever before, why not use the time at home to gain and advance your knowledge and expand your horizons?

A Council of Europe programme, Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP) offers free online courses on various topics related to human rightsAnd which is important, it targets not only legal professionals, but anyone who would like to improve their knowledge on the European standards in the field of human rights. The European Western Balkans discussed about the courses available with Valentina Boz from the Council of Europe’s Office in Belgrade who is in charge of this programme in the Western Balkans.

What is HELP? How would you describe it in three words?

In one sentence: HELP develops and implements online courses on human rights for legal and other professionals. This is the main education platform of the Council of Europe for legal professionals.

The first word for HELP would be tailor-made because national versions can be and have been developed complementing the European legal systems and jurisprudence with the national ones. Such national versions have also been created for Serbian audience in Serbian language.

Quality would be the second word. All courses are developed by an international working group including specialists from the Council of Europe dedicated entities (for example, the course on key human rights principles in biomedicine was developed jointly with the Council of Europe Bioethics Unit) and lawyers from the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights.

Finally, user-friendly would be the third word. HELP online courses offers something new to many practitioners and general public, but exploring the platform is the best way to understand its benefits.

Why legal professionals?

When judges, prosecutors and lawyers know and apply European human rights standards, it directly benefits us all, because we know that our human rights are better protected.

However, when you think about the heavy workload of these professionals, you realise that having access to updated and reliable sources of understandable and concise information, discovering new trends and learning new concepts is a challenge which sometimes looks unsurmountable.

Here, HELP comes to help offering online courses which cover not only Council of Europe instruments, such as European Social Charter and other Council of Europe Conventions, but also EU legal framework.

Although the primary target group of the Council of Europe HELP courses are legal professionals, some courses may also involve other professionals (health and medical specialists, prison and probation staff, law enforcement, journalists, Ombudsperson staff, NGOs, etc.)

Can everyone participate?

Yes! In this period of confinement, anyone who is interested in human rights, can benefit from the HELP courses. There are no geographical limitations either. So, basically anyone  having an account on the HELP online platform, can complete the course.

It takes less than 2 minutes to create an account and a tutorial (https://vimeo.com/399804233) is available online along with step-by-step instructions. It is not necessary to be a legal professional to create an account as courses are available to whomever is interested.

And of course, students of universities – especially law schools are a natural target audience for HELP’s online courses. In fact, these courses can supplement the educational materials in the law schools’ curricula.

What can one expect from a HELP course?

First of all, one must be curious, determined and self-disciplined. HELP online courses are interactive and visual and are based on self-studies. They cover various topics, reflecting the different areas of work of the Council of Europe. All courses are available in English as well as in more than 70 regional languages, including Serbian and other languages of the region.

Secondly, in the first place they have been developed by professionals for professionals and practitioners. As many publications are already available on various human rights topics, HELP courses don’t go much into theory. They are designed to be rather concise and practical.

In addition to the self-study courses, under HELP there are also tutored courses that the Council of Europe organises in co-operation with a partner institution, usually training institutions for judges and prosecutors or Bar Association. These tutored courses are facilitated/moderated by a HELP-certified tutor, and successful participants are certified jointly by HELP and the partner institution. These courses are available online, which is of great help, especially during the confinement period.

If you are a legal professional and you would like to take a tutored course, you can contact your training institution or the HELP Focal and Info Points.

What does it cost to take a course and how long does it last?

All HELP courses, self-study or tutored, are free of charge.

On an average, it takes 6 to 12 hours to complete one of the HELP self-studies courses. The approximate duration and the date of the last update is indicated in the catalogue of online courses. Once completed, users can obtain a self-generated “statement of accomplishment”.

Over the years, HELP courses have been developed thanks to the support of various donors – the Human Rights Trust Fund, the Member States of the Council of Europe and the European Union.

HELP Conference