Since the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights’ founding, it has been clear that the overarching goal of enforcing human rights would have to be pursued and communicated not just through casework, but also other means. Our work must take our various target groups’ different needs and living conditions into account, especially in fields where powerful actors are systematically privileged and the marginalized are prevented from enjoying their rights.
Limiting work to the use of conventional “hard law” instruments can prove problematic for those affected by human rights violations. Civil lawsuits seeking compensation can drag on for years and they are expensive, risky and arduous. Criminal complaints can be filed with a prosecutor, but they are quite limited in scope in that they focus on individual perpetrators, whereas serious human rights crimes are borne of systemic issues, and go far beyond individual actors.
From quite early on, it was clear that we would need to engage in an ongoing and comprehensive analysis, and above all, a strategic dialogue between partners in the North and South to continue to progressively develop the available legal mechanisms and to put together a toolbox of local, regional, transnational and international legal instruments from which to choose in a given case. It is therefore necessary to have comprehensive knowledge of new issues and build an understanding of the political, economic and social status quo, as well as the potential impact litigation could have in various fields.
This kind of undertaking goes beyond the day-to-day work of a law firm; it involves many other players, including young lawyers, universities, local experts, affected communities and civil society. By working with artists, for example, this work pursues a kind of communication that extends beyond the immediate outcome of a legal action. This is the approach ECCHR has adopted from the beginning, and the establishment of the Institute for Legal Intervention represents the logical and necessary next step.