Governments and practitioners have a suite of legal tools at their disposal with which to hold state actors, state proxies, non-state actors, and affiliated entities to account for human rights violations, atrocity crimes, financial abuses, and acts of terrorism, among other offenses. However, despite their potential potency, these tools are often under-utilized.

The Atlantic Council’s Strategic Litigation Project injects fresh thinking into how governments and practitioners can apply legal tools to advance human rights and democracy around the world.


Legal measures target those in power who abuse their authority.

Litigation strengthens the international rules-based order and is a targeted, surgical measure aimed at holding violators accountable.


Litigation gives voice to victims and empowers civil society.

When civil society is emboldened they push back on their own leaders to demand human rights abiding, transparent, democratic governance.


Trials revealing grave human rights violations of dictatorships against their own people can counter nationalistic narratives.

Civil society leaders are aware of abuses, but the broader public living in dictatorships and authoritarian states are inundated with nationalistic propaganda that blames external factors for abuses.


Prosecutions and significant judgments for damages coupled with enforcement can incentivize a change in behavior.

If targets for prosecution and enforcement of judgments for damages are more rigorously pursued, it will raise the costs for states to perpetrate human rights violations and engage in malign acts.

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Strategic Litigation Project

The Atlantic Council’s Strategic Litigation Initiative will seek to inject fresh thinking into how governments and practitioners can apply legal tools to advance human rights and democracy around the world.



New Atlanticist

Jul 29, 2021

The US needs better tools to fight transnational repression. Here’s where to start.

By Gissou Nia

As autocrats reach beyond their borders to punish their opponents, the United States must meet the challenge by preparing effective, forward-thinking policy.

Human Rights International Organizations


Jul 13, 2021

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon: What does its closure mean for Lebanon?

By Nicholas Blanford, David Daoud, Gissou Nia, Reem Salahi

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is set to cease operations at the end of July due to lack of funds as Beirut sinks deeper into economic and political crisis. Atlantic Council experts react to what the closure means for Lebanon.

Lebanon Middle East

In the News

Jul 8, 2021

Nia in Just Security: “Will Iran’s New President be Held Accountable?”

By Atlantic Council

Corruption Elections

In the News

May 5, 2021

Nia quoted in the Star Observer on 20 year-old gay man killed in Iran

By Atlantic Council

Civil Society Human Rights

In the News

Apr 7, 2021

Nia quoted in Al Jazeera on whether Clubhouse promotes democracy in Iran

Iran Media

In the News

Feb 4, 2021

Nia quoted in Newsweek on U.S. sanctions against Myanmar

East Asia Indo-Pacific

In the News

Jan 28, 2021

Nia quoted in The Hill on the renewal of the JCPOA and related human rights concerns

Human Rights Iran

In the News

Jan 27, 2021

Nia joins BBC News Farsi to discuss how the Biden administration can factor human rights into its approach towards Iran

Europe & Eurasia European Union


Jan 8, 2021

Will the families of PS752 ever receive justice?

By Gissou Nia

The efforts undertaken on behalf of those aggrieved include diplomatic efforts, arbitration, civil litigation, and the possibility of criminal inquiries.

Iran Middle East

In the News

Dec 16, 2020

Nia in Dawn MENA: Can Mohammad bin Salman Be Held Accountable in Canadian Courts?

Iran Politics & Diplomacy