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We use law to protect and empower people around the world.
Through litigation, advocacy, research, and technical assistance, the Open Society Justice Initiative promotes human rights and builds legal capacity for open societies.

Open Society Justice Initiative

The Open Society Justice Initiative is an operational program of the Open Society Foundations—rather than giving grants, the Justice Initiative’s team of human rights lawyers and staff pursue legal work that supports the broader mission and values of the Open Society Foundations. 

Since 2003, 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 policymakers, and offer assistance that draws on our global legal experience.

The current areas of work include:

National Security and Human Rights

We conduct strategic litigation and research to ensure that government counterterrorism and national security policies conform to human rights standards and the rule of law.

Putting the Law in People’s Hands

Some 4 billion people around the world have no access to the protection and power of the law. In concert with governments and other funders of civil society, we support efforts to build access to justice for everyone through the provision of both civil and criminal legal assistance.

Citizenship and Equality

The Justice Initiative has used strategic litigation and advocacy to confront the blight of statelessness, and to challenge other forms of discrimination against minorities.


We have supported migrant worker groups in Nepal, Indonesia, and the Middle East in efforts to inform workers of their legal rights, and used the law to challenge abuses of undocumented migrants.

Criminal Justice

About one third of the people in detention around the world are still awaiting trial. We work to promote rational pretrial detention standards and to provide access to free legal advice for those who cannot afford a lawyer. We have used strategic litigation aimed at ending the routine use of torture in police cells.

International Justice

Our International Justice Monitor website provides regular updates on trials at the ICC and other tribunals around the world, as part of a broad effort to support that holds to account those responsible for atrocity crimes.


The Justice Initiative has focused on confronting high-level corruption involving senior government figures, their cronies, and the bankers, lawyers, and other agents who enable it. We support the revival of pillage as a corporate war-crime.

Economic Justice

Too often, unfair lending practices enable wealthy companies and corporations to take advantage of their clients. We are working in Europe to ensure that human rights are part of the solution to the resulting injustices.  

The Right to Know, Assemble, and Speak

Our lawyers have challenged the increasing use by governments of both force and legal restrictions to suppress peaceful protest. We have also sought to defend and extend the public’s right to information, and to develop the right to know about historic abuses that are often suppressed by those in power.

Building Human Rights

We have supported efforts to increase the transparency around the operations and selection of international human rights tribunals, and to strengthen these tribunals’ enforcement mechanisms. We seek to develop strategic litigation capacity, through both research, and training.