The Russian Justice Initiative (RJI) began as an ad-hoc effort on the part of human rights activists and researchers in mid-2000 to facilitate initial contact between victims of human rights violations in Chechnya, whose efforts to seek judicial redress in Russia had failed, and lawyers with experience in international litigation at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). RJI was registered as a non-profit organization in Utrecht, the Netherlands, in September 2001. Ever since, RJI has carried out its litigation work in the North Caucasus as the main focus of its mandate in collaboration with the Nazran-based organization “Pravovaia Initsiativa”, and since 2011, with the Moscow-based “Legal Assistance - Astreya.”
Since its founding, RJI has focused on the most serious violations of the European Convention on Human Rights related to armed conflict and to post-conflict transition: disappearances, extra-judicial killings, torture and unfair trials. RJI’s caseload includes cases from Chechnya, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Dagestan. In late 2008, following the most recent conflict over South Ossetia, RJI initiated a partnership with the Tbilisi-based Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) to carry out strategic litigation on conflict-related abuses in the South Caucasus at the ECtHR, and currently has over 30 cases pending from this region at the Court.
By mid-2014 the organization had won over 120 cases at the ECtHR concerning violations in Chechnya and Ingushetia, more than half of the Court’s entire case law on the North Caucasus. Judgments in the organization’s cases over the years have established or confirmed important precedent concerning the right to life in disappearance cases, the burden of proof, the rights of family members of the disappeared, and the standards for effective domestic investigations.
In response to the Court’s rapidly expanding case-law on the North Caucasus, RJI has developed and implemented a unique program on implementation of judgments in Russia, which combines international advocacy with renewed domestic litigation on specific cases in an effort to realize the full potential of the European Court’s judgments on the domestic level.