Law and legal cases
MRG’s Strategic Litigation Programme was established in 2002. The Programme aims to combat violations of the rights of minority and indigenous communities throughout the world by holding governments directly to account for those violations before regional and international human rights tribunals.
Over the years, MRG’s strategic litigation programme has become one of the global leading human rights litigation programmes on minority and indigenous issues, covering many thematic areas such as descent-based slavery (in West Africa), access to and enjoyment of ancestral land (across East and Central Africa) and political disenfranchisement and discrimination in accessing public services (in Eastern Europe and Southern Africa).
We have been involved in a wide, yet carefully selected, range of issues and activities, spanning from submitting legal argument that expands areas of law that may be unfamiliar to the judiciary, to supporting human rights victims in designing effective national advocacy campaigns, to engaging alongside victims to legally challenge the discrimination and/or denial of their rights.
We have succeeded in securing a number of ground-breaking judgements, helping to strengthen minority rights in Europe (Sejdic and Finci v Bosnia and Herzegovina, delivered in December 2009) and indigenous peoples rights in Africa (CEMIRIDE & MRG (on behalf of the Endorois Welfare Council v Kenya, delivered in February 2010) and have other landmark cases pending in various jurisdictions. In May 2017, we helped the Ogiek community win an historic land rights case before the African Court against the Kenyan government (African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights v Kenya (the ‘Ogiek case’))
We also implement successful advocacy campaigns like our campaign to prevent the forced eviction of some of the Ogiek from their ancestral habitat the Mau Forest in Kenya. With MRG’s support, their campaign was successful and raised wide awareness of their situation with key external stakeholders (including the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples) which in turn maintained pressure on the Kenyan government to respect the rights of this community.
These unprecedented results have led the Programme to carry on gaining in reputation considerably amongst indigenous and minority communities. We continue to receive an increased number of requests for support from excluded and marginalised minority and indigenous groups from across the world whose most basic rights are being threatened and denied.
The overall purpose of the Programme is to improve the capacity of minorities and indigenous peoples to effectively access the legal protection afforded by international instruments on human rights and the international courts and quasi-judicial bodies that enforce them.
We achieve this by:
- Providing holistic, in-depth advice to communities/individuals whose rights (to enjoy their freedom, their land, their culture, to access services and to participate in political processes) have been denied: this includes advice on how to legally challenge abuses as well as how to engage in domestic, regional and international advocacy with relevant stakeholders alongside legal work;
- Bringing individual test cases before regional, international and domestic bodies with the specific aim of establishing precedents that will have far-reaching effects, and thus positively influence the position of other minority and indigenous groups suffering similar violations in other countries (emphasis on the potential wider impact of a case features heavily in the selection process of cases);
- Working with key stakeholders (governments, the judiciary, international bodies) to ensure that the policies and measures adopted by states to comply with their international obligations respond to both the individual and collective nature of minorities and indigenous peoples’ economic, social and cultural rights;
- Building the capacity of local communities and those representing them (lawyers and/or community-based organisations) to ensure that these communities are able to both monitor human rights abuses during the course of the litigation and related advocacy, and subsequently able to demand the implementation of their rights on their own, outside the framework of this programme. This includes the provision of paralegal training specifically developed to match the needs of each community, and training on how to advocate for rights before regional and international mechanisms.
Find out more…
See the MRG Key Legal Cases section for more information on MRG’s work.
For information in relevant international instruments and minority rights jurisprudence see:
- Land rights
- Linguistic rights
- Non discrimination
- Right to development
- Self determination
Publications from our Strategic Litigation Programme include:
- Indigenous peoples’ land rights in Tanzania and Kenya: the impact of strategic litigation and legal empowerment (evaluation report)
- Victory for Kenya’s Ogiek as African Court sets major precedent for indigenous peoples’ land rights
- Guidance: Exhausting domestic remedies under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
- Collateral Damage of the Dayton Peace Agreement: Discrimination against minorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, twenty years on
- Enforcing Mauritania’s Anti-Slavery Legislation: The continued failure of the justice system to prevent, protect and punish
- Moving Towards a Right to Land: The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ treatment of land rights as human rights
- Still Dispossessed – The Battle of the Chagos Islanders to return to their homeland
- ‘Suddenly we have no more power’: Oil drilling on Maya and Garifuna land in Belize
- Landmark Ruling provides major victory to Kenya’s indigenous Endorois
- Discrimination and political participation in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Sejdic and Finci v Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Minority Tribes in Botswana: The politics of recognition
- Filling the Vacuum: Ensuring protection and legal remedies for minorities in Kosovo