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.

Why strategic litigation?


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.

Learn more about the Strategic Litigation Project

Related events

Tue, Sep 28, 2021

Transitional justice and accountability in Libya

Online Event A discussion on legal reform and prosecution of international crimes; mass graves and forensic analysis; and promoting transitional justice and accountability in Libya.

9:00am Democratic Transitions Human Rights Libya Middle East

Thu, Sep 16, 2021

US withdrawal from Afghanistan: What it means for Turkey and the region

Online Event A discussion on the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and the implications to Turkey and the wider region as well as the future of transatlantic engagement.

9:00am Afghanistan Conflict Extremism Human Rights

Wed, Jul 28, 2021

Covering atrocities in Xinjiang: A discussion with award-winning journalists

Online Event A panel discussion examining the experiences of two award-winning journalists in covering the atrocities in Xinjiang against the Uyghur population.

1:00pm China Civil Society East Asia Human Rights

Thu, Jun 17, 2021

The refugee question in the Middle East: Towards sustainable solutions

Online Event A conversation on the occasion of World Refugee Day about the challenges facing refugees in the Middle East.

10:30am Conflict Human Rights International Organizations Lebanon

Wed, Mar 17, 2021

Salahi joins the Rome 2021 MED Dialogue to discuss the Syrian quagmire


Human Rights Middle East

Fri, Jan 8, 2021

Kazakhstan’s repatriation of foreign fighters and their families

Online Event As one of the main sources of foreign fighters for the conflict in Syria and Iraq, Central Asia now faces the security and humanitarian challenge of repatriating foreign fighters and their families. What was behind Kazakhstan’s decision to repatriate its citizens, and what can other countries learn from Kazakhstan’s progress?

9:00am Central Asia Conflict Human Rights International Norms

Mon, Dec 21, 2020

Global litigation strategies to close the accountability gap on human rights violators in Iran

Gissou Nia and a panel of litigators—Haydee Dijkstal, Amanda Ghahremani, Scott Gilmore—discussed the tools through which the perpetrators of gross human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) can be held accountable in the United States, Europe, and Canada.

Event Recaps by Lucy Grathwohl

Human Rights Middle East

Thu, Dec 10, 2020

Free World Commission convenes lawmakers from leading democracies to discuss China challenge

On December 9, 2020, the Free World Commission, comprised of lawmakers from leading democracies, held a virtual hearing on China and called for democracies to work together to address the challenges to the rules-based order posed by Beijing. The hearing was co-chaired by MP Tom Tugendhat from the United Kingdom and Rep. Tom Malinowski from […]

Event Recaps by Atlantic Council

China Human Rights

Sign up for all the latest updates!

Sign up for the MENASource newsletter, highlighting pieces that follow democratic transitions and economic changes throughout the region.

Strategic Litigation Project

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