Human Rights Review

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 303–325 | Cite as

Seeking Life, Finding Justice: Russian NGO litigation and Chechen Disappearances before the European Court of Human Rights

  • Freek van der Vet


This article presents findings from an interview study of human rights practitioners who assist relatives of the disappeared from Chechnya with their complaints before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). These practitioners work for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The study contributes to the scant literature on NGO litigation before the ECtHR and to the social scientific literature on how human rights are actively practiced. It investigates the NGOs’ intermediary position between the ECtHR and the relatives of the disappeared in Chechnya. Consequently, this article asserts that a significant aspect of this position lies in the practitioner’s capacity to mediate between an ambition to externalize local grievances to the ECtHR and the relatives’ hopes that the ECtHR can bring certainty to the uncertain loss of their disappeared relatives. From this position, several dilemmas emerge as to how international legal mechanisms can provide remedies following disappearances.


Russia Council of Europe NGOs Human rights Caucasus Civil society 



This study was supported through grants from the VSBfonds, Hendrik Muller Fonds, CIMO/Nuffic foundation, and mobility grants from the Academy of Finland. The author thanks Miia Halme-Tuomisaari, Markku Lonkila, Suvi Salmenniemi, members of the Helsinki Research Group for Political Sociology, and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful and supportive comments on earlier drafts of the mansucript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social ResearchUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Aleksanteri Institute for Russian and Eastern European StudiesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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