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Background

The Open Society Justice Initiative uses law to protect and empower people around the world. Through litigation, advocacy, research, and technical assistance, we strive to secure legal remedies for human rights abuses, and promote effective enforcement of the rule of law.

Justice Initiative lawyers have represented scores of individuals before domestic and international courts, in cases that have sought not only to vindicate individual claims, but to establish and strengthen the law’s protection for all.

We also document violations, propose solutions, engage policy makers, and offer assistance that draws on our global legal experience.

Our efforts focus on accountability for international crimes, racial discrimination and statelessness, criminal justice reform, abuses related to national security and counterterrorism, the promotion freedom of information and expression, and combatting natural resource-related corruption. Our staff is based in Abuja, Amsterdam, Bishkek, Brussels, Budapest, Cape Town, The Hague, London, Mexico City, New York, Paris, Santo Domingo and Washington, D.C.

The Justice Initiative works on the following themes:

Anticorruption

The Justice Initiative works to secure legal remedies for bribery, the theft of public assets, and money laundering arising from the exploitation of natural resources. See more about our work in anticorruption.

National Criminal Justice Reform

The Justice Initiative supports criminal justice reform, with a focus on arrest rights, torture in Central Asia, and pretrial justice. See more about our work in criminal justice reform.

Equality & Citizenship

The Justice Initiative documents and challenges statelessness and racial discrimination around the world. See more about our work in this area.

Freedom of Information & Expression

The Justice Initiative supports freedom of information laws and combats government interference with media freedom. See more about our work in this area.

International Justice

The Justice Initiative seeks to reduce the impunity for serious crimes by helping domestic and international tribunals conduct effective investigations, carry out fair trials, and engage victims and affected communities. See more about our work in international justice.

Legal Capacity Development

The Justice Initiative builds legal capacity by training and supporting lawyers, law students, and paralegals to work in underserved communities, to assist poor clients, and to advocate public interest cases. See more about our work on legal capacity development.

National Security & Counterterrorism

The Justice Initiative seeks redress for human rights violations committed in the name of national security or counterterrorism. See more about our work in national security and counterterrorism.

Open Society Justice Initiative Board

Hossam Bahgat is the founder and director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a Cairo-based independent organization defending human rights in Egypt. Since 2002, EIPR has used research, advocacy, and litigation to promote and defend the rights to privacy, religious freedom, health, and bodily integrity. Since the 2011 revolution that ended the rule of Hosni Mubarak, EIPR has expanded its scope of work to include transitional justice, the protection of civil liberties and political rights, the promotion of economic and social justice, and the reform of the criminal justice system. With training in political science and international human rights law, Bahgat is also a board member of the International Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), and a member of the Board of Directors of the Fund for Global Human Rights.

Chaloka Beyani is the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and a senior lecturer in International Law and Human Rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he has taught since 1996. He has taught international law and human rights at Oxford and at the University of Zambia. His publications are in public international law, human rights, the movement of persons and populations, territorial disputes, legitimacy of states, migrants, African legal systems, and constitutional reforms.

Beyani is an international United Nations expert on internally displaced persons, population transfers, mercenaries and private military companies, sexual and reproductive health, and the human rights approach to development. He is the chair of the Advisory Board of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics, a member of the advisory group to the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, and the Africa Advisory Committee for Open Society Justice Initiative. He is a former member of the board of Interights, Oxfam, the International Minority Rights Group, and the Independent Diplomat.

Maja Daruwala is the executive director of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, an international NGO mandated to ensure the practical realization of human rights across the Commonwealth. She presently serves on several boards including Oxfam GB, the International Women's Health Coalition, the International Records Management Trust, and the Centre for Environment and Food Security. She is chair of the Multiple Action Research Group (India), which works on legal empowerment of the poor.

Daruwala's earlier services include being chairperson of Minority Rights Group and chair and co-founder of People's Watch Tamil Nadu, a group that is particularly focused on ending torture. She is actively engaged in numerous other human rights initiatives and concentrates on issues relating to civil liberties including police reform, prison reform, right to information, discrimination, freedom of expression, and human rights advocacy capacity building. She has recently been awarded the 2010 Nani A. Palkhivala Award for defending and preserving civil liberties in India.

Pablo de Greiff took up his functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence on 1 May 2012. Since 2001, he has been Director of Research at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) based in New York, United States. Before joining ICTJ, Mr. de Greiff was an associate professor with tenure in the Philosophy department at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he taught ethics and political theory. He has lectured in many countries and universities across Europe and the Americas, including at the European University Institute, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, NYU and academic events in Morocco, Colombia, Chile, Germany, amongst others.

Yonko Grozev is a human rights lawyer practicing with “Grozev and Dobreva”, Sofia. Since 2005 he has also been Program Director with the Centre for Liberal Strategies, a Sofia based think tank. In this capacity he has been doing research and advocacy on improving the Bulgarian justice system. His law practice is focused on human rights litigation before the Bulgarian Courts and the European Court of Human Rights. Between 1995 and 2005 he was the head of the Legal Defence Programme of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. He has filed and won a large number of cases before the European Court of Human Rights on, among others, the right to life, prohibition of torture, freedom of speech, religion and association and the prohibition of discrimination. He was awarded the 2002 International Human Rights Award of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation. He is also active in providing human rights litigation training and consulting to lawyers from Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. He is a graduate of the Sofia University and holds an LLM from Harvard Law School.

Asma Jahangir is an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and has been twice elected chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Since 2004, she has been special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. She is also a director of the AGHS Legal Aid Cell, which provides free legal assistance to the needy. From 1998 to 2004, Jahangir was special rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. She has been a commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists since 1988. Jahangir has defended cases of discrimination against religious minorities, women, and children, and represented several clients who were denied their fundamental rights.

Jahangir was instrumental in the formation of the Punjab Women Lawyers Association in 1980 and the Women Action Forum in 1985. She was placed under house arrest and later imprisoned for participating in the movement to restore political and fundamental rights under the military regime in 1983. Due to her efforts to secure justice for disadvantaged groups, she has been frequently threatened by militant groups.

Anthony Lester (Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC) is a practicing English barrister and a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords. He specializes in constitutional and human rights law. Anthony is a founder and honorary president of Interights (the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights) and former chair of the European Roma Rights Center and of the Equal Rights Trust. He is a leading authority and co-editor of a major textbook on human rights law and practice. He is a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, and served on the Commission on a Bill of Rights for the UK.

Anthony was Special Adviser to Home Secretary (Roy Jenkins) 1974-76, and an architect of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 and Race Relations Act of 1976. He was also Special Adviser to the Northern Ireland Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights (1975-76). He led a 30-year campaign that resulted in the enactment of the Human Rights Act, 1998, which gave legal effect to the European Convention of Human Rights in the United Kingdom. He has introduced in Parliament influential bills on human rights, civil partnership, equality, forced marriage, cohabitation rights, and, currently, defamation reform. He has argued many leading constitutional and human rights cases in the two European Courts and British and Commonwealth courts.

Jenny S. Martinez is a professor at Stanford Law School, where she teaches international law, international human rights, constitutional law, and civil procedure. Her current research focuses on international criminal law, terrorism and human rights, and the interaction of international and domestic legal institutions. In 2004, she argued Rumsfeld v. Padilla, one of the “enemy combatants” cases, in the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to joining the Stanford faculty, Martinez worked as an associate legal officer at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, where she worked with Judge Patricia Wald on criminal trials involving genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Professor Martinez also practiced law with the firm Jenner & Block in Washington, D.C., where she focused on constitutional appellate litigation.

A graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, Professor Martinez was a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, and to U.S Court of Appeals Judge Guido Calabresi.

Juan E. Méndez is the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, a visiting professor at the American University Washington College of Law, and formerly the special advisor on crime prevention to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (2009-2010). He is the former president of International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and currently its president emeritus. For 15 years, he worked with Human Rights Watch, concentrating his efforts on human rights issues in the Western hemisphere. In 1994, he became general counsel of Human Rights Watch, with worldwide duties in support of the organization's mission, including responsibility for litigation and standard-setting activities.

From 1996 to 1999, Méndez was the executive director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in Costa Rica. Between October 1999 and May 2004 he was professor of law and director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. Between 2000 and 2003 he was a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, and served as its president in 2002. From July 2004 to March 2007—and concurrently with his job as president of ICTJ—Méndez served at the United Nations as the special adviser to the secretary general on the prevention of genocide. In 2010 and 2011, he served as co-chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association. He is the author (with Marjory Wentworth) of “Taking a Stand: The Evolution of Human Rights” (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011).

Yvonne Mokgoro is a former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, serving from its inception in 1994 and her appointment by Nelson Mandela, until the end of her 15 year term in 2009. Justice Mokgoro has taught at a number of universities in South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Netherlands, mainly teaching sociological jurisprudence, human rights, and the impact of law on society generally, and women and children specifically. From 1995-2005 she was President of Africa Legal Aid (AFLA), and served as Chairperson of the South African Law Reform Commission from 1995 until 2011. She is an honorary professor and former board member of the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria.

Christopher E. Stone is the president of the Open Society Foundations. He has served since 2005 as the Guggenheim Professor of the Practice of Criminal Justice at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and director of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations. Before that, Stone spent a decade as director of the Vera Institute of Justice. He has been a board member of the Open Society Justice Initiative since 2004.

Stone is an international expert on criminal justice reform and on the leadership and governance of nonprofits. He has guided the start-up of eight nonprofit organizations working to advance justice and respect for human dignity. He founded the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and served as a founding director of the New York State Capital Defender Office and of the Altus Global Alliance.

Stone received his AB from Harvard, an MPhil. in criminology from the University of Cambridge, and his JD from Yale Law School. He was awarded an honorary Order of the British Empire for his contributions to criminal justice reform in the United Kingdom.

L. Muthoni Wanyeki (Chair) was, until September 2012 the executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), a national, non-governmental organization that works to promote the human rights of all Kenyans through research and advocacy as well as civic action. She previously worked, for seven years, as the executive director of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), a pan-African membership organization working towards African women’s development, equality, and other human rights through advocacy at the regional and international levels, training on gender mainstreaming, and communications.

Wanyeki serves as an advisor/Board member for several African and other organizations, including: the African Leadership Centre and the African Women’s Fellowship Programme of the Conflict, Security and Development Group (CSDG) at King’s College London, the Forum International de Montreal (FIM), Human Rights Watch’s Africa program and the Open Society Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP). She is also a columnist with the East African, the sub-regional weekly published by the Nation Media Group (NMG) of Kenya.

She is currently doing her graduate studies at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) at University of London in London, England.

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