Strategic litigation against torture can be an effective way to challenge impunity and instigate the changes to policy and practice that are needed to bring about accountability and ultimately deter torture. Lawyers and activists can maximise the impact of strategic litigation by having a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve and designing their projects accordingly. At the same time, the management of litigation is a complex task.
Many anti-torture NGOs deal with a significant number of cases, necessitating the use of a case management system to organize data and keep track of deadlines. Some NGOs continue to use paper-based files, which are vulnerable to destruction or confiscation by authorities. The alternative, electronic filing systems, can be challenging to set up and can be vulnerable to security threats from governments and other actors if appropriate security measures are not put in place.
When conducting litigation, organisations have often focussed on the legal impact of cases. However, often impact of a case will extend far beyond the court and could have specific impacts on the victim and their community, broader governmental policy or on society in general. Understanding how to identify, assess and leverage different types of impact will help and encourage NGOs to develop concrete plans to enhance the tangible impact of strategic litigation and how it influences structural changes in the field of torture.
With the support of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (UNVFVT), REDRESS is working on a capacity-building project to develop best practices and a short online workshop that will support anti-torture NGOs to strengthen their systems for case management, document management, data security, and reporting on their litigation and the impact that it has achieved. The workshops will be conducted in English, French and Spanish, covering four regions, Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America.
This project forms part of REDRESS’ Solidarity programme, through which we seek to support and build the resilience of the anti-torture movement.
Whys is this project important?
Over time, most NGOs have developed their own methods for case management, security and evaluation which respond to the specific challenges of the context in which they operate. While NGOs have various answers and creative solutions to common challenges, these critical practical measures are rarely shared or discussed and there is currently no guidance as to what measures may be the most appropriate in specific scenarios.
Poor case management poses serious threats to non-governmental organisations working to end torture and to the survivors supported by them. Fragile systems will make it simpler to take or meddle with papers, physically or digitally. Moreover, poor professional standards and lack of knowledge may result in disciplinary action or poor client representation if deadlines are missed. Consequently, ensuring the protection and effective management of sensitive data is essential for the efficient delivery of legal services and safeguarding the rights of torture survivors.
What are our aims?
· Share good practices to Improve case management and data security for NGOs litigating torture cases on behalf of torture survivors.
· Develop online tools to provide practical guidance on different aspects of anti-torture litigation.
· Promote the use of holistic strategic litigation as an effective tool against torture.
· Strengthen the global anti-torture movement through collaboration and mutual sharing of experiences and expertise.
To learn more about REDRESS’s work in supporting and strengthening the antitorture movement, see previous practice notes on the Law against Torture, Holistic Strategic Litigation against Torture, Facilitating Litigation Workshops, Istanbul Protocol Medico-Legal Reports, Implementation of Decisions, and Working with Child Victims of Trauma.