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. Press Release

    Tigrayan Victims Secure Provisional Measures Relief in Landmark Human Rights Case Against Ethiopia

    Accountability & Rule of Law - Transformative Justice - Tigray and northern Ethiopia - Legal Aid & Empowerment - Strategic Litigation

  2. Brief

    African Commission order Provisional Measures against Ethiopia, in complaint filed by LAW and partners

    Accountability & Rule of Law - Tigray and northern Ethiopia - Legal Aid & Empowerment - Strategic Litigation

  3. In the press

    The Telegraph: UK will support Rohingya ‘genocide’ court case as refugees mark five years since fleeing Myanmar

    Accountability & Rule of Law - Transformative Justice - Rohingya Crisis - Advocacy - 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

LAW is undertaking innovative strategic litigation and advocacy on behalf of 40 victims of conflict related sexual violence committed in South Sudan.
In focus: First communication to CEDAW for violations of the Convention, including Gang Rape and Sexual Slavery
On 6 December 2018, LAW submitted the first ever communication to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva for the rape, mass rape and sexual slavery of thirty South Sudanese women and girls. South Sudan has been emerging from an armed conflict that lasted from 2013 to 2018, when the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) was signed. A number of reports provide detailed information on the widespread and systematic use of sexual violence by all parties during this conflict and up to now, targeting mostly women and girls. To date almost no one has been held accountable.
Following the initial dismissal of the communication, a new communication was submitted to CEDAW in November 2020 along with a request to protect the identities of the survivors, who wished their identities not to be disclosed to the government, fearing stigma and retaliation. The communication and request were again dismissed in December 2020 on the ground that “individual communications under the Optional Protocol to the Convention shall not be anonymous”.
Since the submission of the communications, LAW continues to advocate on behalf of now 35 survivors to encourage and support South Sudan to recognise the violations of the Convention committed, to provide reparations and to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice. LAW also works on improving the mechanisms for the protection of victims and witnesses, in international judicial and para-judicial settings.

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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