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From international tribunals, to ground-breaking suits against polluting multinational corporations, to the precedent-setting case against General Augusto Pinochet of Chile, litigation is fundamental to building international justice and is becoming an increasingly attractive tool for human rights movements throughout the world. But when is human rights litigation worthwhile from the perspective of those whose human rights have been abused? Are the values and interests of those whose rights have been violated adequately represented? Are their grievances ultimately heard and addressed? The Human Rights Initiative examines the local impact of human rights litigation: does it help affected communities to mobilize or increase awareness of human rights? Or, does the litigation process give rise to community factionalization and co-optation by outside interests? What can be done to achieve better social justice outcomes? The Initiative speaks with renowned scholars, local activists, and plaintiffs in human rights cases.
Introduction: Human Rights Litigation: Promise v. Perils
This issue of Human Rights Dialogue examines human rights litigation as one aspect of the “human rights box.” It also seeks to investigate ways of overcoming barriers to greater participation in the human rights movement.
Representation in Human Rights Litigation
For human rights litigation to meet its potential as a means of political expression and community mobilization for human rights victims depends, in part, on the extra judicial skills of the lawyers who represent them.
The Story from the Oil Patch: The Under-Represented in Aguinda v. Texaco
The Aguinda v. Texaco lawsuit and its impact on the people fo the remote Amazon region in Ecuador has provided an opportunity to make the litigation responsive to the peoples whose rights are being violated and to sow the seeds of an enduring human rights legacy in the region.
Waiting for Justice in the Marcos Litigation
The jury issued a guilty verdict against Ferdinand Marcos for the human rights crimes of forced disappearance, summary execution, and torture of some 10,000 Filipinos. But the litigation itself demonstrates that human rights law and international jurisdiction need strengthening.
An Incomplete Victory at Ok Tedi
As the Ok Tedi case sadly demonstrates, policy reforms and legal precedents do not necessarily translate into improved conditions for the peoples whose rights have been violated.
What Does "International Justice" Look Like in Post-Genocide Rwanda?
"The Tribunal can make a difference for the future of human rights in Rwanda by exposing the truth of the genocide: It was not a result of ancient, tribal hatred, but rather a carefully planned exploitation of ethnic differences by rulers seeking to hold onto their power."
The Meaning of a Legal Victory in the Ecuadorian Amazon
Tamara Jezic and Chris Jochnickv try to find the meaning of a legal victory in the case of Arco Oriente and towns of Shuar and Achuar in terms of expliotation of oil, and wheter it was effective or not.
Big Oil in Louisiana and a Community's Bottom Line
"Everyone was sick–sore throats, burning eyes, headaches, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea. Convoys of trucks were bringing in waste daily, and the smell was everywhere. In March 1994 we decided that it was time we stood together and fought for our lives."
Resisting Litigation in Umm El-Fahem
Several months after the Israeli Defense Forces informed residents of Umm El-Fahem that some of their lands were to become a military firing range, the town’s mayor asked our group, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, to file a petition to the Supreme Court of Israel.
Caught in the Claws of the Rich: The Struggle of the Mapalad Farmers
Even with legal knowledge and public support, the law is a double-edged sword: It protects the interests of the poor and implements reforms, but it also preserves the interests of the elite. How can the interests of the poor be advanced if the legal system is caught in the claws of the rich?
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