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Overview of Law

This submission presented three impact case studies carried out by 32 members of staff in the School of Law and the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) at Middlesex University.

  • REF 2021 Impact Case Studies

    • Strengthening Human Rights and the Rule of Law within the Council of Europe Region

      The impact we achieved

      Applied legal research undertaken by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) based at Middlesex has provided strategic direction to litigation at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against states in the post-Soviet region. Since 2014, EHRAC has been instrumental not only in extending human rights protection in the region but also in strengthening the rule of law in Europe and developing jurisprudence internationally. Key impacts of its work include:

      • Securing justice and compensation amounting to €5,455,000 for 519 victims in 92 cases
      • Changes introduced in laws, practice and policy
      • Benefits to a new generation of human rights lawyers from related advocacy, mentoring and training.

      The research behind it

      EHRAC’s unique institutional status within a university enables academic research to work in synergy with ground-breaking strategic litigation. Comprising 16 lawyers and programme staff who mentor litigating human rights NGOs and lawyers in Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia, EHRAC exposes systemic violations in respect of post-conflict societies, state surveillance, judicial independence, political prosecutions and gender-based violence, among other areas.

      Our litigation impact is underpinned by Professor Leach’s and Dr Donald’s joint and individual work, including analyses of and research into:

      • The ECtHR’s law, practice and procedures
      • The effectiveness of ECtHR jurisprudence and practice in cases concerning the right to life, the domestic investigatory system, the award of reparations, and approaches to systemic human rights abuses
      • Problems in gathering evidence in conflict settings – an issue we tackled by producing a web-based platform concerned with evidence of Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine in 2014, in collaboration with the multi-disciplinary team of investigators at Forensic Architecture (Goldsmiths, University of London)
      • The ECtHR’s remedial practice, which also provided recommendations aimed at strengthening the implementation of judgments
      • The implementation of decisions issued by supranational human rights bodies (including several EHRAC cases) as co-Investigators in the ESRC-funded Human Rights Law Implementation Project (2015-2019). This informed efforts towards improving the implementation of judgments secured through EHRAC litigation
      • How parliamentary human rights bodies can strengthen their structures, working methods and underpinning principles. Recommendations were disseminated in the form of a handbook to all parliamentarians who are delegates to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

      The people involved at Middlesex and beyond

      Our research team consisted of Professor Philip Leach and Dr Alice Donald.

      Their body of work included collaboration with research associates and investigators across disciplines in the UK and other European countries.

      Read the PDF of the case study submission

      Photo from EHRAC’s Legal Skills Development Programme (LSDP) which takes place annually in Strasbourg, the home of the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights

    • Minorities, Indigenous Peoples and Vulnerable Groups: Defining International Standards, Shaping National Policy and Realizing Local Remedies

      The impact we achieved

      Indigenous cultures are under threat of extinction because of the way development is being imposed on them, destroying their land and way of life. Despite some significant progress, many indigenous peoples are still not recognised by national governments. This presents enormous challenges to indigenous peoples’ rights to lands, territories, and resources. Likewise, minorities worldwide face exclusion, discrimination and denial of their fundamental economic, social and cultural rights.

      We analysed international and comparative law for a comprehensive survey of discrimination against indigenous peoples and minorities. This work has had the following impacts:

      • Strengthened international and domestic legislation and policy frameworks.
      • Reshaped aspects of human-rights based monitoring processes, including the Sustainable Development Goals.
      • Influenced implementation of decisions of regional and national courts.

      The research behind it

      This research has brought about significant impacts for minorities and indigenous peoples by:

      • Setting strategic institutional and policy directions and agendas - for example around recognition of the importance of the right to education for minorities and corporate respect for indigenous peoples’ rights.
      • Shaping policy content and implementation– for example a strategic tool to gauge, develop and consolidate increased legal protection for groups in vulnerable positions in accordance with customary international law.
      • Enabling implementation of remedies – for example advising on requests to guide implementation of the landmark Ogiek and Kalina & Lokono judgments of the African and Inter-American regional human rights courts.

      The people involved at Middlesex and beyond

      Other organisations involved or implicated include UN human rights mechanisms, SOMO/The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Human Rights Institute, the Minority Rights Group and indigenous peoples’ organizations in Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Suriname and Kenya. We collaborated with litigating organisations in India, Argentina, Germany and Mexico, and with judiciaries and legislative assemblies in India, Morocco, Bangladesh, Venezuela and Europe.

      Read the PDF of the case study submission

      Apu (community leader) Aurelio Chino observing what remained of sacred lake Shansho-cocha in the Peruvian Amazon after the oil company Pluspetrol “remediated it” and the lake disappeared (Photo courtesy: Stefan Kisler and the Indigenous Federation of Quechua people of the Pastaza river basin, FEDIQUEP)

    • Challenging Rule of Law Backsliding in the European Union

      The impact we achieved

      In recent years the EU has witnessed a significant breakdown in compliance with the rule of law. This research examined and documented these systematic and co-ordinated efforts by some national authorities to dismantle checks and balances and to establish one-party states, with a special focus on the situation in Hungary and Poland.

      Our findings and recommendations into this urgent problem have been reflected, and even transposed directly, into legislative wording and judicial decision-making by European courts. They have been drawn on in the agenda-setting activity of policymakers, judicial networks, research bodies, think tanks, and civil society organisations. We have also contributed to shaping public opinion through coverage in broadcast media nationally and internationally and when adopted or contested by engaged online groups.

      The research behind it

      Professor Laurent Pech’s publications focus on the rule of law in Hungary and Poland. Dr Joelle Grogan has addressed the rule of law implications of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. With Dr Joseph Corkin, all were members of Reconnect, a H2020 consortium project between 2018 and 2022, and of which Pech was Principal Investigator of the work package dedicated to rule of law which included an award of nearly €320k to Middlesex.

      Through publications and consultancy and public engagement with professionals, Pech and Grogan’s research has:

      • Developed ways to diagnose rule of law breakdown through precise definition and analysis
      • Proposed instruments and other remedies to constrain and sanction systemic attacks on the rule of law where they occur
      • Defined the core and sub-components of the rule of law, used subsequently by both the Venice Commission and the European Commission.

      The people involved at Middlesex and beyond

      The research team includes Professor Laurent Pech and Dr Joelle Grogan. Their work has been cited and used by the European Parliament, European Court of Justice and EU Commission as well as courts in the Netherlands and Poland.

      Read the PDF of the case study submission

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