The Middlesex University based European Human Rights Advocacy Centre is celebrating 10 years of bringing the governments of the former Soviet bloc to book for human rights violations.
For ten years the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) has brought cases of human rights abuse, many against Russia, before the European Court of Human Rights. In total it has taken on 310 cases leading to judgements in 101 cases – and more than €6.5 million has been awarded to the victims.
Challenging indiscriminate bombing in Chechnya, securing moral justice for enforced disappearances and accountability for attacks on journalists – the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre, based at Middlesex University in London, is celebrating ten years of securing justice at the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of vulnerable citizens across the former Soviet Union whose human rights were violated at the hands of their State.
The centre, led by Professor Philip Leach, marked the anniversary with two events at Pushkin House alongside a photo exhibition of EHRAC’s work over the past ten years. The exhibition will be at Middlesex University in the Grove from 25-29 November.
EHRAC’s lawyers conduct joint litigation and advocacy with partner NGOs in Russia and the South Caucasus to take cases of human rights violations against these countries. The centre also runs initiatives to build the capacity of lawyers and NGOs in the region, giving members of the public access to experienced lawyers who can apply on their behalf to the European Court.
It has taken on cases about the right to demonstrate, the right to a fair trial, the right to a healthy environment, the protection of journalists and human rights defenders, the rights of detainees and people being extradited, and the right to freedom of movement, and has brought litigation to challenge ethnic discrimination and the failure to investigate crimes of violence against women.
EHRAC was founded in 2003 by a team of human rights lawyers. Their expertise and experience in taking cases to the European Court meant they were in a prime position to support human rights lawyers and NGOs working in the former Soviet Union. Initially focusing on Russia, and working with Russian NGO Memorial, between them they brought and represented victims in some of the first cases against Russia at the European Court from Chechnya which found that Russian armed forces had used grossly disproportionate force in violation of the right to life of civilians.
In the last few years the centre has expanded its work beyond Russia into Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Armenia. A case against Georgia found that victims of Soviet repression were not able to access compensation under the current law and led to important changes to the domestic law.
Middlesex University Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of EHRAC Professor Philip Leach said: “The rationale for setting up EHRAC was always to strengthen the capacity of human rights organisations in the region to litigate effectively and strategically in Strasbourg, and to that end we have worked with Memorial in Russia, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association in Georgia and many other lawyers and NGOs from across the region.”
Lord Frank Judd, a long-time supporter of EHRAC said “What you have achieved on Chechnya and other Russian issues has been outstandingly significant. I take tremendous heart from witnessing at first hand academic legal experts being prepared to engage effectively in grim front line realities. You have set standards which are a challenge to everybody.”