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Europe and Central Asia

The ICJ Europe and Central Asia programme aims to strengthen the protection of human rights and the rule of law throughout the region, by:

  • Advancing the independence and accountability of judiciaries and supporting strong legal professions.
  • Increasing access to justice for marginalized groups.
  • Enhancing national implementation of international human rights law and ensuring that legislation and practice, in particular on the justice system, complies with international human rights law.
  • Supporting the development of regional human rights standards and mechanisms, in particular the European Court of Human Rights, and ensuring that they are effective in protecting against violations of human rights and providing remedies for victims.

Based in Brussels, Geneva, and Almaty, the programme uses expert analysis of international human rights law and standards to inform and influence the work of the European Union, Council of Europe, and United Nations institutions.

At national level, through research of law and practice, advocacy, capacity building, third party interventions and trial observations, the programme addresses the human rights and rule of law priorities of the ICJ, with a particular focus on the independence of judges and lawyers, migration and asylum, access to justice for marginalized or disadvantaged groups, and counter-terrorism and human rights.

Independence of judges and lawyers

Lack of judicial independence undermines the rule of law and the protection of human rights in many countries of the region, leading to routine violations of human rights in the criminal justice system in many CIS countries, and in Turkey.

Problems of judicial independence also persist in the Balkans, and in some EU states.

The essential role of lawyers in protecting human rights is also limited, in particular in some CIS states, by the dependence of bar associations on the executive, and by harassment of lawyers as a result of their defence of their clients in accordance with their professional ethical standards.

Through research and advocacy, the ICJ works to address the systemic factors that prevent the development of independent, effective and accountable judiciaries and legal professions in the region, including structures of governance and appointment, promotion and disciplinary procedures.

We conduct missions, publish reports and recommendations on reform, convene discussions with judges and lawyers, provide training, and facilitate comparative exchange on issues of human rights and judicial independence and accountability.

We also regularly intervene or observe trials in support of judges and lawyers who face harassment.

The ICJ works on these issues throughout the region with a particular focus on the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Serbia and Kosovo.

Migrants’ human rights and access to justice

Migrants, including refugees, arriving in Europe are at risk of multiple violations of their human rights, exacerbated by the failure of EU law and policy to ensure adequate reception conditions and asylum procedures for the increasing numbers of people in need of protection.

National justice systems are often ineffective in protecting their human rights as they struggle to access procedures to challenge detention, appeal asylum determinations, or uphold their human rights.

The ICJ advocates for protection of the human rights of migrants, including refugees, in EU law, and in regional Council of Europe standards, including through third party interventions to the European Court of Human Rights.

In co-operation with national partner NGOs, we provide training in international human rights law for legal practitioners working on behalf of migrants in EU countries, in the Balkans and in Turkey, and produce practitioners’ guides and training materials.

Our missions and reports address weaknesses of national legal systems in protecting the human rights of migrants, and make recommendations for reform.

ICJ country work on these issues focuses on countries of Southern Europe and along the Balkan migration route, including Turkey, Serbia, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain.

Upholding human rights in counter-terrorism

European and CIS responses to terrorist threats have raised serious human rights concerns for many years. European complicity in the US programme of renditions and secret detentions has still not led to accountability, adequate reparations for victims, or reform of intelligence oversight and co-operation.

More recently, transfers of suspects in terrorism, extremism or separatism cases between CIS countries have led to violations of human rights.

Over-broad counter-terrorism legislation in many European states and at EU level risks arbitrary or discrimination criminalization in violation of rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and freedom of movement.

In addition, administrative counter-terrorism measures impose severe restrictions on liberty, privacy rights, and in some cases lead to deportations contrary to the principle of non-refoulement.

Through legal analysis and advocacy, the ICJ works to ensure that EU law, Council of Europe standards and counter-terrorism legislation in targeted countries comply with international human rights law. We regularly intervene on issues of counter-terrorism and security before the European Court of Human Rights.