Finding Justice at the European Court of Human Rights : The Dynamics of Strategic Litigation and Human Rights Defense in the Russian Federation

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Title: Finding Justice at the European Court of Human Rights : The Dynamics of Strategic Litigation and Human Rights Defense in the Russian Federation
Author: Van der Vet, Freek
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Studies, sociology
Aleksanteri Institute
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2014-12-12
Language: en
Belongs to series: Publications of the Department of Social Research - URN:ISSN:1798-9132
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (article-based)
Abstract: Through interviews with 40 human rights practitioners, this dissertation broadens our knowledge as to how international litigation before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) (a) contributes to finding remedies for victims of grave atrocities and (b) impacts on the compliance of Russia to the European Convention on Human Rights. In particular, this dissertation examines the work of a group of nongovernmental human rights organizations (NGOs), and the lawyers working for them, who litigate at the ECtHR on behalf of victims of the Russo-Chechen conflicts, discrimination based on ethnicity, or victims of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment during police detention. This research examines the diffusion of human rights by connecting four previously unconnected social processes of international human rights practice: claim-making, translation, implementation, and protection. First, the influence of the political context on litigation strategies, second, the translation of human rights from the claims of the victim to the Court and vice versa, and third, the contention surrounding the implementation and search for domestic remedies following litigation. A fourth process evaluates the issue of protection in Russia: how human rights defenders manage risk and practice advocacy in a dangerous environment. This dissertation contributes to socio-legal and human rights research by examining how Russian human rights lawyers use legalism and how they operate in transnational networks of human rights experts and activists. The author argues that lawyers do not only make legalistic claims to rights, but experiment with how rights can be used to expand their potential protection to their clients: by managing expectations of clients, expanding the scope of the European Convention, and developing novel ways of protecting themselves against government repression. This dissertation is based on semi-structured interview methodologies and deterritorialized human rights research on expert human rights practitioners working in the same network but in various places. The author conducted the interviews between 2009 and 2012 during various fieldwork trips in the Russian Federation, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Finland. The dissertation consists of four peer-reviewed articles and an introduction. Article 1, Holding on to Legalism: the Politics of Russian Litigation on Torture and Discrimination before the European Court of Human Rights , examines the position of the human rights practitioner between the State and the victim before and during litigation with the ECtHR. It observes how the human rights practitioner selects applicants, conducts public investigations, and uses international litigation as leverage in cooperation with the State to find suitable remedies for the applicant. In particular, the article argues that Russian lawyers do not simply have a belief in legalism, but use legalism as a political strategy. Article 2, Seeking Life, Finding Justice: Russian NGO Litigation and Chechen Disappearances before the European Court of Human Rights , analyzes the interaction between the ECtHR and the victim. The practitioner mediates in struggles that have no easy solution. The author specifically investigates the lawyers dilemma whether to discourage the expectation of relatives of the disappeared on finding their family member alive after their enforced disappearance. This expectation at times conflicts with the NGOs and Court s aim to presume the death of a disappeared person and establish a violation of the right to life. Article 3, Transitional Justice in Chechnya: NGO Advocacy for implementing Chechen Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights , presents the interplay between the ECtHR and the Russian State. In particular, this article argues that the judgments of the ECtHR inform processes of transitional justice. Moreover, it argues that favorable judicial attention to litigation is insufficient to implement a judgment at home. Instead, the judgments provide political leverage for NGO domestic advocacy campaigns promoting the implementation of the judgment, criminal prosecution of perpetrators, remedies for victims, and transitional justice in post-conflict Chechnya. The practitioner lobbies with the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE) to promote the judgments domestic execution. Accordingly, the litigation process before the ECtHR does not end after a final judgment; instead, it prompts a series of broader political claims to ending impunity and truth seeking, informed by the NGOs strategies. Article 4, Violence and Human Rights in Russia: How Human Rights Defenders develop their Tactics in the Face of Danger, 2005-2013 (awaiting editorial decision) adds to the subject matter of the dissertation by revealing how human rights defenders respond to the curtailing legal measures by the Russian State. It analyzes how Russian human rights defenders take protective measures, practice advocacy under high-risk situations, and manage fear in dangerous situations. Moreover, it identifies how the State uses law to regulate the behavior of civil organizations and popular movements. This domestic struggle is vital to our understanding of human rights practice in Russia, since these human rights defenders are reliant on the government to guarantee their autonomy.Miten venäläiset ihmisoikeusjärjestöt pystyvät suojelemaan ihmisoikeuksia huolimatta poliittisen järjestelmän pyrkimyksistä rajoittaa näiden järjestöjen toimintaa? Vuodesta 2005 lähtien Venäjällä on hyväksytty lakeja, jotka tekevät ihmisoikeusjärjestöjen toiminnan ja ihmisoikeusloukkausten uhrien auttamisen entistä vaikeammaksi. Väitöskirjani Finding Justice at the European Court of Human Rights: The Dynamics of Strategic Litigation and Human Rights Defense in the Russian Federation ( Etsimässä oikeutta Euroopan ihmisoikeustuomioistuimessa: Strategisen sovittelun ja ihmisoikeuksien puolustamisen dynamiikka Venäjän federaatiossa ) mukaan jäljellä on kuitenkin useita keinoja, joiden avulla oikeuksia voidaan turvata, ml. valitukset Euroopan ihmisoikeustuomioistuimeen. Tutkimus tarkastelee venäläisten lakimiesten verkostoa, joka tekee valituksia sekä venäläisiin tuomioistuimiin että Euroopan ihmisoikeustuomioistuimeen T et enian konfliktien uhrien, etnisen diskriminaation uhrien ja pidätystilanteissa epäinhimillistä tai alentavaa kohtelua kokeneiden puolesta. Lakimiesten haastattelujen avulla kartoitetaan sitä, miten oikeusapu auttaa uhreja valitusten viemisessä paikallisiin tuomioistuimiin ja myöhemmin Euroopan ihmisoikeustuomioistuimeen. Tutkimus tuottaa uutta tietoa Euroopan ihmisoikeustuomioistuimeen tehtyjen valitusten hyödystä uhrien auttamiselle ja siitä, kuinka Euroopan ihmisoikeustuomioistuimen päätökset voivat vaikuttaa Venäjän mukautumiseen kansainvälisiin ihmisoikeusperiaatteisiin.
Subject: sociology
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