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, The Hague, Johannesburg, London, Mexico City, New York, Paris, Santo Domingo and Washington, D.C.
The Justice Initiative works on the following themes:
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.
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
The Open Society Justice Initiative is governed by a board composed of the following members: Chaloka Beyani, Maja Daruwala, Yonko Grozev, Asma Jahangir, Anthony Lester, Jenny S. Martinez, Juan E. Méndez, Herman Schwartz, Christopher Stone, and L. Muthoni Wanyeki.
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. show more 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.
Beyani was a member of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons of the African Union on the Formation of an African Union Government. He has advised the African Union on the issue of universal jurisdiction and was a member of the African Union and European Union ad hoc Expert Group on Universal Jurisdiction. He has drafted and negotiated the adoption of the Pact of Peace, Stability and Development of the Great Lakes Region in 2006. He also drafted and negotiated the adoption of the African Union Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in 2009. He was a member of the Committee of Experts on the Constitutional Review of the Constitution of Kenya, which prepared and drafted the new Constitution of Kenya 2010.
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. show more 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.
Yonko Grozev is a human rights lawyer practicing with “Grozev and Dobreva,” Sofia. show more 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. show more 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. show more 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 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 Committee 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, executive powers, 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
Jenny S. Martinez is a professor at Stanford Law School, where she teaches international law, international human rights, constitutional law, and civil procedure. show more 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
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). show more 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).
Herman Schwartz, professor of law at American University, has worked for human rights both in the United States and abroad for over five decades. show more When communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union fell, he advised numerous former Soviet bloc countries as well as emerging democracies elsewhere on constitutional, human rights, and other legal reforms. Schwartz served as a member of the United States Delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and in June 1993, was one of four public members of the U.S. Delegation to the UN World Human Rights Conference in Vienna. In 1983, he founded and now administers the U.S./Israel Civil Liberties Law program, which is designed to train and develop a Jewish and Palestinian human rights bar in Israel. He also chaired a Human Rights Watch committee in 1987 that visited and reported on prison conditions throughout the world.
Schwartz is co-director of the Washington College of Law Human Rights Center and has worked with many other domestic and foreign public interest organizations. He is the author of various books and articles on American and European constitutional and human rights issues.
Christopher Stone is president of the Open Society Foundations. Read his full biography.
L. Muthoni Wanyeki, Chair
L. Muthoni Wanyeki 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. show more 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 L’Institut d’etudes politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris, France.