InclusiveCourts is an interdisciplinary research project which gathers lawyers, anthropologists and sociologists, in a cooperation between the Research Centre for Justice and Governance (JusGov), based in Braga, and the Centre for Research in Anthropology (CRIA), based in Lisbon. It seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the legal challenges raised by cultural diversity in Europe. It focuses on the practice of the courts because of the important role that domestic courts have been taking on as places of encounter and tension among different cultures and legal traditions, in a growing context of legal pluralism and interlegality. The project aims to map and make an assessment of the way in which courts act in cases involving ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities (what is commonly referred as 'multicultural jurisprudence'), namely, the way courts use concepts such as race, culture, ethnicity and religion; the way they interpret the principle of equality and balance it with respect for cultural difference; their openness to cultural arguments and evidence and the weight that they accord such arguments/evidence in their rulings.
The multicultural jurisprudence of Portuguese courts is a particularly good case study, given the relative novelty of Portugal's status as an immigration country and a multicultural society and the widespread (if not yet tested) assumption that Portugal is particularly apt for intercultural dialogue and immigrant integration. There are no interdisciplinary studies covering it in a comprehensive and systematic manner and Portugal is usually absent from comparative studies on multicultural jurisprudence. The project includes an inventory and critical assessment of the multicultural jurisprudence of Portuguese courts from 1976 onwards, covering all judicial areas (constitutional, administrative, civil, criminal, labour, family), and the setup of a database of annotated case law. The review of the rulings will be made in light of the theoretical debates on multiculturalism, legal pluralism and human rights, and of international human rights standards, at global and regional level. By comparing the Portuguese judicial practice with existing reports from other domestic jurisdictions in Europe, the project will advance the current state of comparative research on multicultural jurisprudence in Europe.
The project also seeks to respond to a recurring concern in recent years regarding the lack of preparation of judicial actors for engaging in intercultural communication and the need for further information and training. Through the direct involvement of judges, prosecutors and other judicial actors, the project aims to identify best practices and set up guidelines for an inclusive and 'diversity aware' judicial practice in Portugal. It will include the design of a training program for judicial actors, to be implemented ideally as a pilot training program at the Centre for Judicial Studies (CEJ) and at different courts.
The project is funded by the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (ref. PTDC/DIR-OUT/28229/2017). It was launched on 1 October 2018 and will continue until 30 September 2021. By decision of the FCT dated 29 March 2021, the duration of the project was extended until 30 September 2022.
The project received a positive review by the Ethics Commission for Research on Social Sciences and Humanities of the University of Minho (Opinion CEICSH O31/2020).