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Finding Justice at the European Court of Human Rights

The Dynamics of Strategic Litigation and Human Rights Defense in the Russian Federation

Van der Vet Freek

Russian human rights defenders face mounting challenges to their work. Between 2005 and 2014, the Russian government passed several laws that regulate popular protest, civic activity, and on the foreign funding of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The “foreign agent” law, passed in July 2012, stipulates that organizations receiving foreign funding and engaging in “political activities” should register as a “foreign agent” with the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation. These laws furthermore curtail the work of NGOs by tightening their reporting to the Ministry of Justice, supervising their income from foreign donors, reintroducing libel as a criminal offense, and introducing fines for participation in unauthorized protests. How can Russian human rights defenders continue to protect the rights of Russian citizens in a political system that curtails the activities of civil organizations? This dissertation argues that an important avenue of human rights protection remains: making complaints before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France (ECtHR). This collection of articles is based on interviews with forty practitioners—lawyers, NGO representatives, and activists—working for Russian, Dutch, and British NGOs. It examines how Russian human rights defenders have mobilized European Convention rights on behalf of victims of the second conflict in Chechnya, ethnic discrimination, torture, and inhuman and degrading treatment during police detention. This dissertation explains how international litigation before the ECtHR (a) contributes to finding remedies for victims of grave human rights violations and (b) impacts on Russia’s compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. This study finds that the human rights lawyer takes an intermediary role and actively manages conflicting demands that have no easy solution: the victim’s expectations on justice and remedy, the resistance of the Russian authorities to the ECtHR, and the slow institutional procedures of the ECtHR and Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. This balancing act demands that the human rights lawyer has to translate the grievances of the victim to the ECtHR and vice versa: the ECtHR’s judgments back to the victim. Moreover, the human rights practitioner has to go beyond legal action and include domestic and international advocacy in their repertoire in order to push for the implementation of the ECtHR’s judgments at home

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  • Julkaisija Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta (Helsingin yliopisto)
    Julkaisuvuosi 2014
    Sivumäärä 180
    Kieli Englanti
    Sarjat Publications of the Department of Political and Economic Studies
    Ulkoasu B5,pehmeäkantinen
    ISBN 9789521091353
    ISSN 1798-9132