Everyone who is accused of a crime is entitled to a fair trial—but justice also depends on what happens to suspects before they get to court.
More than one-third of prisoners around the world—some 3 million people—are held in pretrial detention, sometimes for months or years, often without adequate legal assistance. Many face the threat of violence or torture.
The Open Society Justice Initiative seeks to promote a rational approach to pretrial justice that protects suspects’ rights to due process, ensures access to legal advice, and reduces the excessive and unnecessary use of detention. We also pursue strategic litigation aimed at eliminating the widespread use of torture by police to extract confessions, and promote measures to safeguard prosecutorial independence and accountability.
Our approach includes working closely with justice officials, police, and the legal profession on pilot projects that identify ways to ensure public safety while properly protecting the rights of suspects.
Why the Overuse of Pretrial Detention Is an Overlooked Human Rights Crisis
Every year, millions find themselves behind bars, awaiting trial on criminal charges—victims of what is perhaps the most overlooked human rights crisis of our time: the overuse of pretrial detention.
Volunteer Lawyers Give New Direction to Nigerian Legal Aid Initiative
In the town of Ikorodu, local lawyers are delivering free legal aid to detainees within 48 hours of arrest and joining an effort to steer people charged with nonviolent crimes away from unnecessary detention.
Strategic Litigation Impacts: Torture in Custody
This study looks at how activists in Argentina, Kenya, and Turkey have sought to use the courts to secure remedies for torture victims and survivors, bring those responsible to justice, and enforce and strengthen the law.
Magnitsky v. Russia
Sergei Magnitsky died in pretrial detention in Russia after being denied essential medical care, in retaliation for exposing a $230m fraud involving senior Interior Ministry officials.
Khadzhiyev and Muradova v. Turkmenistan
This case challenged the arbitrary killing of Ogulsapar Muradova, a journalist and human rights activist, who was tortured and died in custody in Turkmenistan in September 2006.
Gerasimov v. Kazakhstan
This Open Society Justice Initiative case involves the torture of a man by police in Kazakhstan.
Almost a Decade after his Death, Sergei Magnitsky Gets a Measure of Justice
The ruling from Europe's human rights court validates the underlying rationale for the laws adopted by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and some other countries to impose sanctions on designated individuals implicated in gross human rights abuses.
Q&A: Mothers Are Leading the Search for Mexico’s Missing People
Mexico continues to break records for its rates of deadly violence and disappearances, but criminal accountability remains virtually absent. A group of mothers in the state of Coahuila have taken up their own fight for truth and justice.
To Strengthen the Rule of Law, Protect the Independence of Prosecutors
The case of Laura Codruţa Kövesi at the European Court of Human Rights underlines the importance of prosecutorial independence in protecting the rule of law.
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