The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people.
We seek to strengthen the rule of law; respect for human rights, minorities, and a diversity of opinions; democratically elected governments; and a civil society that helps keep government power in check.
We help to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights.
We implement initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media.
We build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as corruption and freedom of information.
Working in every part of the world, the Open Society Foundations place a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities.
The Open Society Justice Initiative seeks to recruit two recent law graduates or deferred junior lawyers as litigation fellows for a 12-month placement beginning in August 2014. Such placement provides a unique opportunity for a junior lawyer to acquire direct experience in strategic human rights litigation at a global level, preparing cases in all the regional human rights tribunals on a wide variety of legal issues.
Upon acceptance, the litigation fellow will need to provide a letter from their university, law firm or a fellowship funder indicating that they are receiving credit and/or funding for the fellowship.
The Open Society Justice Initiative uses law to protect and empower people around the world. Through litigation, advocacy, research, and technical assistance, the Justice Initiative promotes human rights and builds legal capacity for open societies. We foster accountability for international crimes, combat racial discrimination and statelessness, support criminal justice reform, address abuses related to national security and counterterrorism, expand freedom of information and expression, and stem corruption linked to the exploitation of natural resources. Our staff are based in Abuja, Amsterdam, Bishkek, Brussels, Budapest, Freetown, The Hague, London, Mexico City, New York, Paris, Phnom Penh, Santo Domingo, and Washington, D.C.
The Open Society Justice Initiative engages in strategic litigation in national, regional, and international courts and tribunals across a broad range of human rights issues, combining legal cases with other program activities as a method to effect social change.
The Justice Initiative pursues cases in the broader public interest that will make an impact beyond the individual victim. Legal cases are selected that can set an important precedent to leverage policy and create reform. Such cases are much more than a legal argument. The Justice Initiative undertakes a wide range of activities including research into human rights problems, working with governments to reform policies that cause human rights violations, advocating with decision-makers for change, and building the capacity of civil society to respond to violations.
The Justice Initiative litigates in many different areas of law, covering discrimination, freedom of information, citizenship, freedom of expression, national criminal justice, deaths in custody and torture, international criminal justice, corruption and counter-terrorist policies, and develops arguments that cut across the usual legal categories. Working in Africa, Latin America, Europe, and Asia the Justice Initiative is able to replicate successes across continents, using decisions from one tribunal to argue a case in front of another.
This position is designed to allow for junior lawyers on sabbatical from a law firm or with fellowship funding to work with a public interest organization for a period of 12 months for which they will be reimbursed by the law firm or fellowship funder.
The litigation fellow will support the human rights litigation of the Justice Initiative, becoming involved in specific cases and assisting in the development of new areas of litigation. Under the supervision of the litigation director, the litigation fellow will assist programs with legal work in multiple fields. Litigation fellows have worked on the following projects, amongst others.
Torture in Central Asia
The Justice Initiative is involved in bringing cases to the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee against Torture alleging torture and deaths in custody from countries in Central Asia. Justice Initiative litigation fellows have been involved in preparing cases for filing before the Committee and in advocating for the implementation of successful judgments.
The Justice Initiative program on legal remedies for corruption has developed four case models that are being used to challenge impunity for natural resources corruption on Africa. These include actions against Heads of State for unjust enrichment in Spain and France, proceedings before the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights for spoliation of natural resources and further challenges that are being developed in the field of international criminal law. A Justice Initiative litigation fellow has assisted in drafting a criminal complaint to a national prosecution authority alleging an offense of pillage by a company director.
This project of the Justice Initiative highlights the use of racial profiling by police in a number of different countries as a crime prevention strategy. Studies have identified the extent of the problem and the ineffectiveness of such a tool. The Justice Initiative seeks to develop a number of cases in Europe which can ensure that this technique is considered by international courts. The litigation fellow will undertake the legal analysis of previous challenges to such practices, particularly in the United States, and design a plan in order to build an NGO coalition that will be able to support litigation. Case selection criteria will be designed and applied in order to find the most appropriate case for litigation. A Justice Initiative litigation fellow has assisted in preparing a challenge to racial profiling in France and supporting a similar challenge in Spain.
The Justice Initiative will seek to challenge a number of legal problems that have arisen in specific regional areas, including the use of renditions in East Africa and Eastern Europe, the use of administrative detention in Western Europe, East Africa and the Maghreb, the use of watch lists in different European countries and attacks on freedom of expression and assembly in multiple countries. Justice Initiative litigation fellow have supported this work by researching legal and jurisdictional questions involved in litigating transnational security issues, and assisted in drafting the application to the European Court of Human Rights in the case of El-Masri v Macedonia.
Rule of Law
In preparation for a United Nations high-level segment on the Rule of Law at this year’s General Assembly, a litigation fellow participated in a December 2011 strategy meeting of rule of law experts designed to input into the Secretary-General’s 2012 report Delivering Justice: A Programme of Action to Strengthen the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels. He also undertook interviews, together with the Justice Initiative’s advocacy team, of well-regarded rule of law practitioners from more than 20 countries around the world who identified their own national rule of law challenges, responded to the recommendations from the Secretary General’s report and identified how the High-Level Meeting on the rule of law could help address their national rule of law needs. These interviews were designed to feed into the negotiations of an outcome document regarding the rule of law at the national and international levels that was adopted in September 2012.
Acquire direct experience in strategic human rights litigation at a global level, assisting in cases in all the regional human rights tribunals on a wide variety of legal issues. Work is carried out independently/under general supervision.
The Open Society Foundations may add, change, or remove essential and other duties at any time.
- Undertake research and prepare “mapping” memos on new litigation opportunities;
- Write legal memos on topics in preparation for litigation;
- Assist with all stages of the preparation of legal filings, including drafting, review of drafts, fact-checking, and cite-checking;
- Liaise with law clinics, pro-bono attorneys, and consultants;
- Collate authorities in support of litigation, and prepare summaries;
- Develop, maintain, and update collections of legal resources;
- Conduct all-source research via websites, Lexis/Nexis, foreign source materials, academic studies, oral interviews of experts, legal and political documents, Library of Congress materials, etc.;
- Attend scheduled staff conference calls and relevant meetings hosted by think tanks, nongovernmental organizations, government briefings, etc.;
- Assist with the development of web-site and advocacy materials as needed;
- Assist with the development of internal continuing legal education materials.
- Law degree and minimum of one year of relevant experience and/or training, or equivalent combination of education and experience;
- Study of human rights law at postgraduate level.
- Proven ability to work efficiently in a fast-paced environment; to troubleshoot and follow projects through to completion, consistently on schedule, without loss of attention to detail and budget;
- Excellent written, verbal, organizational, analytical, and interpersonal skills;
- Excellent computer skills, proficient in Microsoft Office and experience with internet research;
- Excellent listening and communication skills with sensitivity to cultural communication differences;
- Show discretion and ability to handle confidential issues;
- High level of self-motivation and at ease working independently when necessary;
- Poised, work well under pressure, and attentive to detail;
- Flexibility and willingness to work simultaneously on a wide range of tasks and projects and ability to prioritize tasks;
- Pleasant, diplomatic manner and disposition in interacting with senior management, co-workers and the general public.
- Very strong research, writing, and analytic abilities;
- Knowledge of French, Spanish, German, or Italian a distinct advantage;
- Advanced computer research, database management, and word-processing skills, including web searching and Lexis/Nexis.
Essential functions are typically performed in an office setting with a low level of noise. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.
Upon acceptance, litigation fellow will need to provide a letter from their university, law firm, or a fellowship funder indicating that they are receiving credit and/or funding for the fellowship.
To apply, please email resume and cover letter which includes indication of funding/credit by January 25, 2014, to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Include job code in subject line: LAF-OSJI.