Litigation is an important intervention method for many NGOs. Litigation can provide compensation for victims of human rights abuses, and a recognition that their rights were violated. Litigation can also create legal precedents that pave the way for systemtic change at national level.
Human rights NGOs litigate both at national and international levels. International mechanisms for human rights litigation include the African Commission for Human and Peoples Rights, the European Court for Human Rights, and the Inter-American Commission and Court. Submissions of communications to the United Nations treaty bodies, and the special procedures of its Human Rights Council, can also be considered as international litigation.
Litigation poses information management challenges to NGOs and lawyers that practice it. Our research points to the following needs which are common to most NGOs:
- To collaborate on court submissions, sometimes across multiple office locations.
- To store and access documents related to court cases – securely.
- To manage tasks, case calendars and all-important court deadlines.
- To manage the overall caseload, and keep track which lawyer is working on which cases.
- To store and manage client contacts and leads
- To produce form letters for routine correspondence with clients and courts.
We also identified several needs in terms of legal research into caselaw:
- To retrieve the relevant caselaw from both their internal archive of cases and external caselaw databases like HUDOC and the Inter-American Commission.
- To annotate and bookmark caselaw the is useful for a particular case.
- To share caselaw research with colleagues and store it for future related cases.
What are we doing?
- We are currently collecting requirements for an integrated web-based application to manage litigation called CaseBox.
- We have developed an innovative Caselaw Analyser, in partnership with the IHRDA. It holds the about 200 decisions of the ACHPR.
- We successfully developed and deployed an online custom-built contact database for an NGO with over twenty thousand leads (persons writing to the NGO asking for assistance). This database makes it possible to produce form letters for client correspondence, greatly increasing office efficiency, and allows the NGO to all correspondence with its clients safely and in digital form.