Country, Date of election
Witold Klaus has introduced a new approach to legal advocacy for marginalized groups in Poland through a client-centered model that draws on individual cases of rights abuses as an instrument to reform malfunctioning laws and legal institutions.
There are many groups living in Poland who feel disempowered by the legal framework and who increasingly view the law as an instrument of denial of their full citizenship. Those groups include growing numbers of refugees and immigrants that come into Poland from other settings in Eastern Europe—the most prominent being Chechnya—as well as institutionalized children, victims of violence, prisoners, the homeless, and Romani, among others. From the point of view of marginalized groups, the law is seen as a vehicle for oppression and denial of rights rather than a tool that can improve their lives.
Since 2005, Witold and his association have achieved a number of legal changes, have worked with hundreds of public officials, and have set a new standard of legal counseling in Poland. In 2009 they have opened The Information Centre for Foreigners, aimed at advising (legally and socially) immigrants residing in Poland. Moreover a team of 10 professional mediators, supported by trainees, works in the Mediation Centre.
Witold has established a legal services center to combat discrimination against Poland’s marginalized groups. The first public interest organization of its kind in Poland, the center offers legal counsel to individual clients, but more importantly, it is building a body of needed interventions to change public and social policy so that all people in Poland can enjoy full citizenship. Initially focused on immigrants, refugees, and foster children, Witold’s Association for Legal Intervention is also distinctive in its work to educate and train public officials responsible for administering Poland’s laws to do so in a way more favorable to the disempowered.
His dream is to implement restorative justice as the major tool in reuniting children from foster families with their natural parents and in solving violent and nonviolent conflicts.