O Lungo Drom / taking the long route: Explaining the potential of legal mobilization as counterpower

O Lungo Drom means “the long route”, inspired by the traditions and persecution experienced by the community of Sinti, Roma and Travelers (RST) in Europe. The community’s persistent use of legal advocacy to claim recognition and protection has produced promising results in the Netherlands. Legal advocacy poses a challenge for civic groups to address rule of law deficits. Legal mobilisation in both liberal and authoritarian regimes reveal limitations of using formal rule of law mechanisms to deliver impartial justice, forcing one to think creatively. The broad conceptualisation of legal mobilisation we use encompasses different forms of legitimate, law-based, civic-led advocacy. In this paper, we introduce an analytical lens of legal mobilization that places particular emphasis on using law as counterpower. With a focus on legal mobilisation by the RST community, we critically analyse the viability of civic-led advocacy and its relation to the separation or balance of powers doctrine.