Strategic Litigation

Strategic litigation is a valuable tool in combatting serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law.

Latest in Strategic Litigation

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  1. Event

    LAW hosts “Justice for the Rohingya: An Urgent Call” panel

    Accountability & Rule of Law - Transformative Justice - Rohingya Crisis - Advocacy - Legal Aid & Empowerment - Strategic Litigation

  2. Press Release

    First criminal case alleging slavery and slave trade of a migrant domestic worker is adjourned, marking the start of defendants’ questioning during coming sessions.

    Accountability & Rule of Law - Gender Equality & GBV - Lebanon - Advocacy - Legal Aid & Empowerment - Strategic Litigation

  3. Press Release

    First criminal case alleging slavery and slave trade of migrant domestic worker adjourned in Lebanon

    Accountability & Rule of Law - Gender Equality & GBV - Lebanon - Advocacy - Legal Aid & Empowerment - Strategic Litigation

Overview

A successful legal case can establish important legal precedents or effect changes in both domestic and global legislation, policy and practice. Even where a case is unsuccessful, it can have impact by acting as a deterrent to those involved in human rights violations and positively influencing public opinion.

Commencing litigation sends a clear and important message to individuals, states, companies and third-party states that they will be held accountable if they violate international law or commit human rights violations. For LAW, strategic casework includes civil litigation, criminal prosecution, UN complaints or OECD complaints. In addition to bringing cases, LAW will also support or intervene in ongoing cases or investigations in the interests of clients – many of whom, might otherwise be unable to engage with proceedings.

Recent highlights of strategic litigation undertaken by LAW are set out below:

Lebanon

On 8 October 2020, LAW filed a first-of-its-kind criminal case on behalf of LAW client, Meseret Hailu. The case argued that the conditions and treatment Meseret was subjected to, while a domestic worker in Lebanon working under the ‘Kafala system,’ constituted crimes of slavery, slave trading, trafficking in persons, forced labour, deprivation of liberty, national, racial and gender discrimination and torture. Meseret lived in Lebanon between March 2011 and September 2019, when she worked for her kafeel (her sponsor under the Kafala system). Meseret’s contract, and her arrival in Lebanon, were facilitated by two brokers, one in Lebanon and one in Ethiopia. Both the kafeel and the recruitment agency are defendants in this case.

Read more about LAW’s work in Lebanon here.

Rohingya Crisis

On 13 September 2021, LAW and international LAW firm, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, filed an Article 15 communication with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on behalf of LAW’s Rohingya clients. The communication argued that the Prosecutor can and should recognise a declaration made by the National Unity Government (Myanmar’s civilian government – opposed to the military junta) in July 2021, recognising the jurisdiction of the ICC. Were the Prosecutor to do this, this could significantly extend the scope of the existing ICC investigation, into crimes perpetrated in Myanmar dating back to 2002. This would include crimes perpetrated since the February 2021 attempted military coup d’état, as well as crimes perpetrated against the Rohingya prior to 2010 (the temporal limit of the existing investigation).

On 10 December 2020, LAW and international law firm McDermott, Will and Emery LLP, filed a ground-breaking complaint to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission on behalf of Setara Begum, a Rohingya widow whose husband was unlawfully executed by the military in the ‘Inn Din Massacre’ which occurred during the in 2017 ‘clearance operations’. The complaint, the first by a member of the Rohingya community to the MNHRC, outlines key failings in Myanmar’s response to Setara’s husband’s murder and asks that the MNHRC recommend USD 2 million in compensation for Setara and her community.

Read more about LAW’s work on the Rohingya Crisis here.

South Sudan

In December 2018, LAW lodged the first ever case against the Government of South Sudan on behalf of 30 South Sudanese women and girl survivors of conflict related sexual violence, for the rape, mass rape and sexual slavery of the survivors by members of the South Sudan army and the Presidential Guard – known as the Tiger Battalion. The case, lodged with the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (the Committee), which did not name the survivors in order to protect them from the very real threat of reprisals, was rejected by the Committee on claims that a case could not be lodged anonymously.

On 25 November 2020, LAW resubmitted the communication to the Committee on behalf of the 30 South Sudanese survivors, together with a request to the Committee for the protection of the survivors’ identity. The communication reiterated its arguments that South Sudan had breached numerous articles of the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and requested that the identities of the victims not be disclosed to South Sudan, to protect them from stigma and retaliation.

Read more about LAW’s work on South Sudan here.

The Syrian Crisis

LAW represents Syrian survivors of sexual violence in their pursuit of justice. In May 2021, LAW filed a submission to the ICC on behalf of 20 Syrian survivors based in Jordan. This was the first time that survivors urged the ICC Prosecutor to open a preliminary examination into crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Syrian government. The victims, 13 men and 7 women, are all survivors of sexual violence and many were children at the time of the violations. By filing the submission, the survivors were also the voices of thousands of Syrians who have been subjected to cruel and degrading treatment for daring to oppose the Syrian government.

Read more about LAW’s work on the Syrian Crisis here.

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