Amnesty International has been involved in undertaking strategic litigation since at least 1987.
Over the last 30 years, we have built a solid reputation for successfully litigating landmark cases across a range of jurisdictions.
Our approach to litigation
The overall purpose of our strategic litigation work is to support victims of human rights violations and human rights defenders, and to achieve systemic change.
Supporting victims of human rights violations and safeguarding human rights defenders often involves being involved in legal proceedings (litigation). Litigation is the term used to describe proceedings initiated between two opposing parties to enforce or defend a legal right.
In human rights, litigation is “strategic” when it is consciously designed to advance the clarification, respect, protection and fulfilment of rights. The idea is to change laws, policies and practice, and to secure remedies or relief following violations. Strategic litigation is also often about raising public awareness of an injustice.
Our strategic litigation work combines our legal expertise with that of Amnesty International’s researchers, campaigners and advocates throughout the litigation process.
We also work in collaboration with other prominent human rights organizations worldwide.
Strategic litigation enables us to advocate for human rights for all
How we work
We are actively involved in strategic litigation at the national, regional and international levels, through courts, tribunals, committees and other international bodies.
We do this by bringing cases as a primary litigant and through the submission of third party briefings to courts, as well as supporting others bringing litigation and collaborating with prosecutorial authorities.
Drawing on our expertise researching human rights violations by governments and others, our staff prepare detailed factual and legal analysis
We submit our analysis to courts, human rights bodies and international tribunals, in anticipation of a ruling with a wide-reaching effect
We use the outcome to influence governments, companies and decision-makers to change their laws, policy and practice, creating change beyond any legal victory
Specific issues we work on
Amnesty International has undertaken litigation across a wide range of thematic issues, including: torture and other ill-treatment; international justice; detention; the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants; children’s rights; censorship and freedom of expression; maternal health and reproductive rights; the death penalty; discrimination; and economic, social and cultural rights.
Past litigation successes
- Challenging Northern Ireland’s near total abortion ban in the UK Supreme Court
- Playing a key role in the legal proceedings against former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet in the UK
- Opposing CIA rendition programmes at the European Court of Human Rights
- Holding the Nigerian government to account over pollution in the Niger Delta
- Challenging laws enabling mass surveillance in the UK
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