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Rights-Based Justice

Increased pressure on human rights is experienced in particular by people who have traditionally been marginalised in society, including those that are depending on protection from the state, for example prisoners, survivors of gender based violence, victims as well as ex-offenders. In most societies, we witness a trend towards more focus on security, punishment and protecting rules and procedures instead of people. The examples are manifold: from the shift towards more repressive detention regimes to authorities that focus on chasing fraud instead of fighting discrimination and institutional racism. These trends have a huge impact on people’s lives, in particular of those people in society that are already in an underprivileged position. It leads to more poverty and exclusion and less safe societies. At the same time, most governments are, at least on paper, committed to respecting international human rights standards.

We see their commitment, and sometimes strong political will to comply, as an opportunity to hold authorities accountable and to support catalysts of change in the justice system to ensure access to justice and to execute criminal sanctions in a humane and rights-respecting way. Our ambition is that by 2026 we have contributed to strengthening the capacity of key-actors in the justice chain to uphold fundamental rights; more attention to the well-being and rehabilitation or restoration of those affected by crime and conflict – both victims and offenders; and increased collaboration in the whole justice chain. This will contribute to our ultimate goal, which is to have justice systems that are inclusive, effective and humane.

What we do

How we work

In order to achieve this ultimate goal, we will focus on the following intervention strategies:

  • Strengthening the capacities and cooperation of actors in the justice chain (police, defence lawyers, prosecution, judiciary, correctional services and civil society), by facilitating joint projects and learning and exchange aimed at applying a rights-based approach;
  • Advising and advocating for reforms with Ministries of Justice, Health, Interior and Education on how to create justice systems that are compliant with human rights standards and best international practices and by supporting the adoption and effective implementation of rights-based policies and procedures;
  • Better monitoring on (non)compliance with international standards and increased awareness in society by supporting the work of organisations, institutes and individuals with watchdog functions, such as human rights institutions, ombudsmen, equality bodies, civil society and lawyers;
  • Integrating an intersectional approach and targeted projects for those rights-holders that are in urgent need of vocal and direct support. Building on our track record, we especially focus on: humane conditions and reintegration of prisoners, participation of children in decision-making, and access to justice for women affected by gender-based violence. Reintegration also considers which alternative forms to detention may be more suitable and how their use can be amplified;
  • Innovation and advocacy in the Netherlands: By building on best practices and action-research, we continue to develop new models and policy proposals aimed at making justice chains more humane, inclusive and future-oriented. We want to counter the trend towards more repressive prison regimes, starting in the country where we are based.

Our track record


Working together

We believe no one can achieve things alone. That is why we see the power of connecting different actors and collaboration as we work towards building and securing justice across Europe. If you are interested in collaborating with us in improving criminal justice reform, contact the Programme staff below:

Programme Staff: