To counter injustice with legal interventions – this is the aim and daily work of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).
ECCHR is an independent, non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to enforcing civil and human rights worldwide. It was founded in 2007 by Wolfgang Kaleck together with other international human rights lawyers, in order to protect and enforce the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other declarations of human rights and national constitutions, through legal means.
Together with affected persons and partners worldwide, ECCHR uses legal means to end impunity of those responsible for torture, war crimes, sexualized violence, corporate exploitation and fortressed borders.
ECCHR, together with FIDH and REDRESS, have formally launched a new two-year project to promote investigation and prosecution by EU Member States of cases involving international crimes and to improve victims’ access to justice, protection and support.
This project is part of a longstanding collaborative effort amongst our three organisations to combat impunity for international crimes through recourse to national courts exercising universal or extraterritorial jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed abroad by foreign perpetrators against foreign victims. In circumstances where neither local authorities nor international courts are able to address such crimes, this often represents the last resort for victims in order to obtain access to justice.
In past years, an increasing number of EU Member States have established dedicated units to investigate and prosecute such cases in order to prevent Europe becoming a safe haven for perpetrators. Now, under the EU Directive on Victims’ Rights, such States are under an obligation to ensure victims affected by such crimes receive appropriate information, support and protection and are able to participate in criminal proceedings.
While EU Member States have taken steps to implement the Directive in their national systems, victims of international crimes continue to face barriers to justice. Their unique situation—often severely traumatised, outside their country of origin and in need of special protection—prevents them from benefiting from the same rights as other categories of victims. This project will increase awareness amongst Member States of these challenges and will identify best practices for addressing them.
The project will involve comparative research, fact-finding missions and consultations with key stakeholders and experts on how EU Member States are implementing the Directive in practice, with a particular focus on the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and Sweden. It will also further our organisations’ commitment to enhancing cooperation amongst Member States, including through support to institutions such as the EU Genocide Network, national authorities, civil society and victims.
For further information concerning the project, please contact Sarah Finnin, coordinator of the project (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Syrian government led by president Bashar al-Assad is responsible for systematic and widespread torture. ECCHR together with seven Syrian torture survivors as well as the Syrian lawyers al-Bunni and Darwish submitted the first criminal complaint against six high-level officials of the Syrian military intelligence service to the German Federal Prosecutor.
The group around the former Syrian military police employee 'Caesar' took for the first legal action by filing together with ECCHR a criminal complaint against senior officials from the Syrian intelligence services and the military police concerning crimes against humanity and war crimes.
In March 2009, ECCHR partner lawyer Gonzalo Boye filed a criminal complaint against six former US officials of the Bush administration regarding their accountability for violations of international law, including war crimes and torture. The US officials became known as the "Bush Six."
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