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Book Launch

Panel Discussion and Book Launch: Strategic Human Rights Litigation Understanding and Maximising Impact

Monday 3 December 2018
Wijnhaven Building
Turfmarkt 99
The Hague

Book launch event – 3 December 2018

A panel discussion will be held on the role of human rights litigation in these challenging times. How much difference do judicial processes really make, when and why? How should we consider success? What are the barriers that impede the judicial function and how can they be overcome? What is the role of lawyers and non-lawyers, including  from across academic disciplines and practice?


Prof. Helen Duffy, International Human Rights Lawyer and Professor

Mr. Rupert Skilbeck, Director Redress

Ms. Celeste Hicks, Freelance Journalist, author of "The Trial of Hissène Habré"

The panel will be chaired by Prof. Larissa van den Herik, Vice Dean and Professor of Public International Law, Leiden Law School 

Registration: Please register for this event before 2 December 2018 by sending an email to grotiuscentre@law.leidenuniv.nl.

About the book

Strategic human rights litigation (SHRL) is a growing area of international practice yet one that remains relatively under-explored. Around the globe, advocates are increasingly resorting to national, regional and international courts and bodies ‘strategically,’ in other words to advance human rights goals that go beyond the particular outcome of the case or the impact on the parties to the litigation. The book asks the simple question of how much difference these processes make, for whom, when and why.  The book suggests a reframing of how we view impact in its multiple dimensions, direct and indirect, positive and negative. It provides a framework for considering SHRL and the types of impact it can and does have, as well as exposing its limitations and some of the many tensions and challenges that arise in practice and undermine its effectiveness.

Five detailed case studies, drawn predominantly from the author’s own practical experience as a lawyer, explore and illustrate these issues in a range of contexts (genocide in Guatemala; slavery in Niger; forced disappearance in Argentina; torture and detention in the ‘war on terror’; Palestinian land rights). The studies surface some of the complexity of the role of SHRL in the real world. Ultimately, the book considers how the impact analysis at the heart of the book might influence the development of more effective litigation strategies in the future.

The author

Helen Duffy  runs ‘Human Rights in Practice,’ an international legal practice specializing in strategic human rights litigation and advice. Her litigation practice has addressed a broad range of rule of law and human rights issues across systems, such as CIA rendition and torture (e.g. Abu Zubaydah v Poland/Lithuania, European Crt. of Human Rights), terrorism prosecutions and fair trial (e.g. Sabbeh v Egypt, African Commission), judicial independence (Garzon v Spain, UN Human Rights Committee), slavery (e.g. Mani v Niger, ECOWAS court) and genocide (Plan de Sanchez v Guatemala, Inter-American Crt. of Human Rights). She set up her own practice in 2011, before which she was Legal Director of INTERIGHTS for ten years. Previous positions included as Legal Adviser in the Prosecutors Office of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and as Counsel to Human Rights Watch on International Justice engaged in negotiating the ICC statute and in the Pinochet proceedings. For three years she was the Legal Director of the NGO Centro para Accion Legal en Derechos Humanos based in Guatemala. She began her career in the UK government legal service, from where she was appointed Asst. Secretary to L.J. Scott’s Arms for Iraq inquiry.

Helen is Gieskes Chair of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law at the University of Leiden. She is a graduate of the Universities of Glasgow (LLB Hons) (where she is now honorary professor), University College London (LLM) and Leiden (PHD). Her publications include ‘The ‘War on Terror’ and the Framework of International law’ (CUP, 2nd ed. 2015) and ‘Strategic Human Rights Litigation: Understanding and Maximising Impact’ (Hart, 2018).

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