Which tools we use

Legal interventions

Since the founding of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) it was clear
that the overarching goal of enforcing human rights would have to be pursued and communicated not just through casework but also through other means. Our work has to take into account the very different life situations and needs of the various target audiences, especially in fields of work where powerful actors are systematically privileged while the marginalized are prevented from enjoying their rights.

Limiting the work to the use of conventional "hard law" instruments can prove to be 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 these are quite limited in scope in that they focus on individual perpetrators, whereas serious human rights crimes are borne of systemic issues and are of a dimension that goes far beyond the individual actors.

From quite early on it was clear to us 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 to build an understanding of the political, economic and social points of departure and the potential impacts that 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 and local experts as well as affected communities and civil society groups. By working with artists and others, this work pursues a kind of communication that extends beyond the immediate outcome of the legal action. This is the approach adopted by ECCHR since the beginning, and the establishment of the Institute for Legal Intervention represents the logical and necessary next step.