What is strategic litigation?

Strategic litigation is the identification and pursuit of legal cases as part of a strategy to promote human rights. It focuses on an individual case in order to bring about broader social change. These cases set important legal precedents by publicly exposing injustices, raising awareness and bringing about changes in legislation, policy and practice. Strategic litigation can have a lasting impact on a large number of people at the national, regional or international level.

Why does TRIAL International engage in strategic litigation?

TRIAL International believes it is not enough to litigate cases that would only bring justice to individual victims: what is needed is systemic change for all victims of the same crimes. In countries where gross human rights violations are committed and impunity is the norm, the only way to durably improve the victims’ situation is to use all available legal avenues, not only at the national level, but also at the regional and international levels.

The objectives of TRIAL International’s strategic litigation are:

  • Creating progressive jurisprudence by setting innovative legal precedents
  • Ensuring that national laws are correctly interpreted and enforced
  • Triggering reforms in national laws, policies and practices going against human rights standards
  • Strengthening and clarifying international and regional standards
  • Enabling individuals to seek remedies for the harm suffered


How does TRIAL International operate?

TRIAL International works in partnership with local and international organizations and lawyers to litigate the cases. Together with these partners, the organization selects cases on the basis of several criteria, including:

  • TRIAL’s mandate, expertise and potential added value to the case
  • The exemplary nature of the case nationally and/or internationally
  • The innovative nature of the chosen legal remedy
  • The number of victims affected
  • The likelihood of winning the case
  • The impact of a positive decision and the potential backlash of a negative outcome

On the basis of this selection, TRIAL International and its partners submit criminal cases before domestic courts, and human rights cases before regional and international human rights bodies. The organization is also breaking new legal ground by taking on cutting-edge issues such as economic crimes and universal jurisdiction.