Center for Justice and International Law
|Founded||15 February 1991|
|Location||Washington, D.C., US; San Jose, Costa Rica; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina|
|Key people||Viviana Krsticevic (Executive Director)|
|Area served||The Americas and the Caribbean|
|Focus||Human rights in the OAS|
|Method||Litigation, legal assistance, negotiation, education, advocacy, lobbying, monitoring|
The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) founded in 1991 by a group of human rights defenders in the Americas, to protect and promote human rights in all member states of the Organization of American States (OAS). A central element of its work is the defense of human rights before the Inter-American Commission (IACHR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
CEJIL has consultative status before the OAS and the United Nations (UN), and observer status before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Its headquarters are located in Washington D.C., United States of America (where the OAS and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights are headquartered); San Jose, Costa Rica (where the Inter-American Court is headquartered); Buenos Aires, Argentina ; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil . CEJIL offers free assistance, consultation and representation to human rights organisations and victims of human rights abuses. The organisation is funded through donations from foundations, individuals, European governments and other supporters, and operates with the help of several volunteers willing to support the mission, including attorneys, law students, communications professionals, and translators.
Table of Contents
Activities and gender work
Litigation before the Inter-American system
Litigation before the Inter-American System is the most well-known area of CEJIL’s work. Operating through its staff of international human rights law experts, CEJIL provides free legal representation to victims of human rights abuses. As of December 2007, CEJIL jointly, with partner human rights defenders and organizations, represented over 13,000 victims in over 250 cases in varying stages of the litigation process before the Inter-American Commission and Court. In 2006–2007, CEJIL obtained reparations of over US$ 19 million, for over 1,000 victims.
Its legal defense strategy is characterised by its cooperative litigation model, that is, by filing law suits as co-petitioners with human rights defenders, civil society organisations and the victims themselves. The organisation’s litigation work generates decisions and judgments mobilising change in the region’s domestic laws and policy and setting doctrinal and jurisprudential precedents that strengthen and solidify international human rights standards. CEJIL’s litigation has resulted in:
- the payment of monetary reparations;
- the reopening of investigations and cases that were mired in impunity;
- public apologies and recognitions of responsibility;
- the modification of laws and State practices; and
- the formulation of public policies consistent with international obligations.
In order to have the broadest impact with limited resources, CEJIL cannot permit itself to provide assistance in all cases it is presented with, but engages in cases that are emblematic of widespread human rights violations in the Americas, for which litigation has a potential to contribute to social justice and institutional change. CEJIL prioritises the hemisphere’s most excluded and persecuted groups and sectors, including women, rural workers, immigrants and refugees or displaced persons, children, indigenous peoples, prisoners and political dissidents, as well as human rights defenders who suffer threats and/or violence due to the work they perform.
The most prominent case regarding women’s rights is Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes v. Brazil“Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes v. Brazil”, Case 12.051, Inter-Am. C.H.R., Report No. 54/01, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.111 doc. 20 rev (2000). Retrieved 9 July 2012. with CEJIL as well as the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (Comité de América Latina y el Caribe por la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer, CLADEM ) as co-petitioners. This landmark case – relating to the impunity of the former husband of Maria da Penha, after he attempted to murder her twice, thus causing her to become paraplegic – revealed the systematic pattern of violence against women in the country and spurred the promulgation of the first law on domestic violence against women in Brazil , that is, the Maria da Penha law , which intends to prevent the evasion of penal sanctions for acts of domestic violence against women, promotes rehabilitation programs for the aggressors, and creates political bodies and specialised courts. Besides contributing to internal changes, the Maria da Penha case is considered a watershed in women’s rights as it was the first one of domestic violence analysed by the Inter-American Commission and the first time that the Convention of Belem do ParáOrganization of American States. “Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (“Convention of Belem do Para”)”. 9 June 1994. Retrieved 31 July 2012. had been applied.
Another case that is expected to be a breakthrough is María Isabel Véliz Franco v. Guatemala.“María Isabel Véliz Franco v. Guatemala”, Petition 95-04, Report No. 92/06, Inter-Am. C.H.R. (2006). Retrieved 31 July 2012. It relates to the lack of an effective response by the Guatemalan State to the complaint by Rosa Elvira Franco Sandoval in 2001 to report the disappearance of her 15-year-old daughter, María Isabel Véliz Franco, as well as subsequent failings in the investigation of the facts. On 3 May 2012, the case was sent to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights because the Commission considered that the state of Guatemala had not complied with the recommendations contained in its report on the merits.Organisation of American States (7 June 2012). “IACHR Takes Case on Guatemala to the IA Court HR”. Retrieved 31 July 2012. The case is already considered emblematic because it is the first Guatemalan femicide case to reach to Inter-American Court and it is expected to shed light on the impunity surrounding femicide in Guatemala . María Isabel and her relatives are represented by CEJIL as well as the Red de la No Violencia contra las Mujeres en Guatemala (No Violence against Women in Guatemala Network, REDNOVI).CEJIL (10 May 2012). “First Guatemalan femicide case reaches the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
Empowering human rights defenders
CEJIL seeks to share its knowledge with a variety of entities around the world, including human rights defenders, national and international NGOs, and all those interested in the Inter-American System and international human rights standards. In order to fulfill this objective, it has a training and communications programme whereby it organises seminars, presentations, courses and workshops throughout the hemisphere, both for government officials and civil society. An internship program provides further opportunities for activists, students and graduates. CEJIL also uses its knowledge and resources to serve the media and general public through the dissemination and coverage of important issues concerning the situation of human rights in the Americas and across the world. In addition, it devotes a large amount of time and attention to publishing a wide range of materials, from litigation manuals to documentary films, while also seeking to create innovative databases.
With respect to gender issues, in 2010 CEJIL published a new volume of the collection Summaries of Jurisprudence, addressing principles of protection of women against Gender-based Violence.CEJIL (2010). “Tools for the Protection of Human Rights – Summaries of Jurisprudence: Gender-based Violence”. Retrieved 31 July 2012. The selected cases are some of the most paradigmatic ones among those which, to date, have motivated some type of response from human rights protection systems, but they also reveal the indisputable persistence of gender-based violence in the world, in spite of the advances in the normative field. CEJIL is also the co-author of Los derechos humanos de las mujeres: Fortaleciendo su promoción y protección internacional (“Women’s human rights: Strengthening its international promotion and protection”)Pacheco, Gilda; Inter-American Institute of Human Rights (2004); & Center for Justice and International Law “Los derechos humanos de las mujeres: Fortaleciendo su promoción y protección internacional”. Inter-American Institute of Human Rights. Retrieved 31 July 2012 and the author of other material, including reports (e.g. Women in Prison – Regional Report: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and articles on women’s rights),CEJIL (2007). “Women in Prison – Regional Report: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and articles on women’s rights”. Retrieved 31 July 2012. position papers and articles (e.g. Challenges in the protection of women’s rights before the Inter-American System).CEJIL (2002). “Challenges in the protection of women’s rights before the Inter-American System”. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
Strengthening the Inter-American system
CEJIL’s campaign to strengthen the Inter-American System is built on a wide variety of advocacy activities before government officials, the Inter-American Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and OAS political bodies. Such activities generally seek greater transparency, dialogue, accessibility and effectiveness in the region’s protection of human rights, and include:
- the participation at meetings and discussions that take place within the framework of the General Assembly and the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs, including discussions on the functioning and improvement of the Inter-American System;
- the formulation of analysis and recommendations to these bodies with regard to national and international human rights implementation mechanisms;
- the production of reports, position papers and an annual Journal, all with the aim of fostering discussion on important human rights issues (see above – Empowering human rights defenders); and
- the monitoring of the nomination and election process for members of the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights.
See AlsoMaria da Penha law
- “CEJIL” – official website