Litigation

Impunity and lack of accountability of actors influencing human rights or responsible for violations encourage the perpetration of crimes under international law and other grave human rights violations. This impunity is a long-term obstacle to processes of conflict and political crisis settlement, political transition and progress. Combating impunity for serious crimes contributes to their prevention and repression, the realisation of the rights of the victims to justice and reparation, and the strengthening of the rule of law.

FIDH is one of the only international human rights organisations with a broad mandate to accompany the victims of international crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, enforced disappearances) in their legal proceedings. FIDH’s involvement in these proceedings, in a leading or support role, varies according to the case.

Over the past decade, FIDH has acquired considerable experience in challenging accountability and engaging in strategic litigation, thus meeting one of its main priorities: fighting against impunity. Through the unique, dynamic interaction with its 178 member organisations in 110 countries, which are often the first interlocutors of victims in situations of grave human rights violations, and FIDH Litigation Action Group (LAG) - a network of lawyers, magistrates and academics working pro bono and acting as legal representatives of victims of international crimes - FIDH has been able to successfully engage in a series of legal proceedings challenging individual criminal responsibility, but also the responsibility of States and of multi-national corporations, with a special focus on the access to justice of victims of sexual crimes. FIDH is supporting almost 1000 victims in more than 110 judicial and quasi-judicial proceedings being held to determine the responsibilities of perpetrators of serious human rights violations committed in about 45 countries.

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  • Litigation against individuals

    The majority of FIDH’s litigation proceedings are judicial in nature and aim to establish individual criminal responsibility, in order to fight against the impunity of those bearing responsibility for serious violations of human rights and crimes under international law.

    FIDH is implementing its vision according to which, if possible, perpetrators of grave human rights violations should be prosecuted in the country where the crimes were committed. In priority, FIDH supports victims to challenge national courts to effectively investigate. These proceedings may also challenge the genuine capacity or willingness to investigate and prosecute.

    In cases of lack of remedies at the national level, alternative means of redress for victims of these violations may be found outside of the country. Judicial proceedings may be opened on the basis of extra-territorial jurisdiction. These proceedings face specific challenges but the experience also reveals that they have a real impact in the country of perpetration of the crime.
    FIDH is also involved in judicial proceedings before international tribunals, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), or internationalised tribunals, also called « mixed » or « hybrid » tribunals, such as the ECCC, which FIDH has been monitoring quite extensively.

  • Litigation against States

    In order to challenge the lack of willingness of States to ensure respect of human rights and to make up for weaknesses in national jurisdictions, FIDH is increasingly involved in proceedings targeting the responsibility of States, before regional or United Nations bodies.

    FIDH is involved as amicus or third party in a number of cases before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and is increasingly involved in bringing cases before the African and Inter-american Human Rights Courts and Commissions. Proceedings before the United Nations treaty bodies on human rights (Human Rights Committee, Committee on Enforced Disappearances) or certain UN Human Rights Council special procedures allowing for an adversary examination (Working Group on Abitrary Detention - WGAD) can also be strategic recourses to challenge State responsibility and put an end to the violations.

  • Litigation against companies

    Access to justice for victims of corporate-related abuses remains an illusion for victims in all too many cases and has even, in some countries, been made even more difficult as a result of recent reforms or judicial decisions. In order to seek justice for victims of human rights violations in specific case, FIDH supports its member organisations in turning to judicial and non-judicial remedy mechanisms to ensure accountability and access to justice for affected communities. FIDH seeks to provide practical tools for victims and their representatives, NGOs and other civil society groups to seek justice and obtain reparation for victims of human rights abuses involving multinational corporations.

    Depending on the case, FIDH can target the responsibility of corporations as legal persons, or by looking at individual criminal responsibility of a corporation’s directors, both in countries where the harm has occurred or in home countries (i.e. where the corporation is registered).

    FIDH also uses – whenever relevant and possible – other mechanisms such as mediation processes under the OECD National Contact Points (NCPs) where a company has failed to comply with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. FIDH is a member of the OECD Watch coalition and has formulated numerous recommendations to strengthen the functioning of the NCPs. At the international, regional and national levels, FIDH continues to advocate for reforms to lift obstacles victims face in accessing justice and obtaining reparation.

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