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.
Report Dec 10, 2020
Closing the accountability gap on human rights violators in the Islamic Republic of Iran through global litigation strategies
By Gissou Nia
Gissou Nia presents recommendations for new laws, amendments to existing laws, and the creation of enforcement mechanisms to aid in the effort to combat impunity for the IRI’s human rights violations and atrocity crimes.
Issue Brief Jun 14, 2022
Attacks on hospitals from Syria to Ukraine: Improving prevention and accountability mechanisms
By Elise Baker, Gissou Nia
When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, it soon began implementing one of its frequent—and criminal—tactics that it had already been using in its military intervention in Syria: bombing healthcare and medical facilities.
New Atlanticist Feb 24, 2023
How legal actions against Russian aggression in Ukraine can serve as a model for other conflicts
By Celeste Kmiotek, Lisandra Novo
There is an unprecedented number of investigations and accountability efforts under way in response to Russia’s invasion. It’s a sign of success—but it also shows how victims of international crimes have unequal access to justice.
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