Freek van der Vet

Socio-Legal Researcher / Social Scientist


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I am a socio-legal researcher (PhD. Sociology, 2015, University of Helsinki) working on legal mobilization under authoritarianism, strategic litigation at international courts, and the protection of human rights defenders at risk.

I am working on two projects:

I am a Kone Foundation postdoctoral research fellow at the Erik Castrén Institute for International Law and Human Rights, University of Helsinki, Finland. Previously, I had positions at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia, Canada, and the Aleksanteri Institute for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland.

I am part of Russia Media Lab and co-founded the international network on Legal Mobilization and International Courts.


Peer-reviewed articles

2018. "'When They Come for You': Legal Mobilization in New Authoritarian Russia" Law & Society Review 52 (2): 301-336

2017. "In the Shadow of the Ombudsman: Civil Society and the Struggle for an Independent Human Rights Institution in St. Petersburg, Russia", Europe-Asia Studies 69 (8): 1201-1221

2015. With Laura Lyytikäinen. "Violence and Human Rights in Russia: How Human Rights Defenders Develop their Tactics in the Face of Danger, 2005-2013". Special Issue "Critical Perspectives on the Security and Protection of Human Rights Defenders" The International Journal of Human Rights 19 (7): 979-998

Our special issue was endorsed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders:

"In the face of growing attacks on human rights in many countries, the risks faced by people who defend their universality have intensified. Human rights defenders increasingly face criminalization, persecution, arbitrary arrest and detention. They are threatened, physically attacked and assassinated. As we mark the 17th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders we should ask ourselves what more must be done to better protect defenders and promote their work. I welcome this Special Issue of the International Journal of Human Rights. It compels us to confront these challenges and to discuss critical questions, both among scholars and practitioners. Our next common goal is to translate this research into practical tools to strengthen the protection regime for human rights defenders", Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

2014. “Holding on to Legalism: the Politics of Russian Litigation on Torture and Discrimination before the European Court of Human Rights”. Social & Legal Studies 23 (3): 361-381

2013. “Transitional Justice in Chechnya: NGO Political Advocacy for Implementing Chechen Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights”. Review of Central and East European Law 38 (3-4): 363–88.

2012. “Seeking Life, Finding Justice: Russian NGO litigation and Chechen Disappearances before the European Court of Human Rights”. Human Rights Review 13 (3): 303–25.

Book Chapters

Forthcoming. "From 'Like' to Prison: The Criminal Prosecution of Social Media Users under Authoritarianism", in Freedom of Expression in Russia's New Mediasphere, edited by Mariëlle Wijermars and Katja Lehtisaari. Routledge: London, New York.

2016. With Lyytikäinen, Laura. "Violence and Human Rights in Russia: How Human Rights Defenders Develop their Tactics in the Face of Danger, 2005-2013". In Critical Perspectives on the Security and Protection of Human Rights Defenders, edited by Dana Ingleton, James Savage, Alice Nah, and Karen Bennett. Routledge: London, New York.


Other Articles in Academic Journals

2017. Comment: A.H. and Others v. Russia, European Court of Human Rights, European Human Rights Cases] [Noot:A.H. and Others v. Russia, Europees Hof voor de Rechten van de Mens, European Human Rights Cases

2015. Open Access. "Protecting Rights in Strasbourg: Developing a Research Agenda for Analysing International Litigation from Russia". In the Special Issue: "Culture of Complaints in Russia and Eastern Europe". Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research 6 (3): 105-118.

2015. Lectio Praecursoria. Venäläiset Euroopan ihmisoikeustuomioistuimessa. Idäntutkimus 1 (2015). Translated into Finnish by Hanna Ruutu

2012. "Human Rights in Russia: Going beyond the Perils of Activism". Baltic Worlds (3-4): 54-59.

Feature articles, policy papers, and blog posts

18 September 2018. With Pola Cebulak, "Internationale Gerechtshoven zijn Veerkrachtiger dan Vaak Gedacht Wordt". Knack

28 August 2018. "'When they Come for You' How Lawyers Resist Authoritarianism in Russia". Law and Society Blog

13 November 2015. With Laura Lyytikäinen. "How Can Human Rights Defenders Cope with Legal Constraints and High Risk in Russia?" New Tactics in Human Rights

6 November 2015. "Den Nordkaukasus vor Gericht bringen: Russische Nichtregierungsorganisationen und der Europäische Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte". Russland Analysen

24 March 2015. "Who is Afraid of Human Rights in Russia?" AllegraLab

2008. "Over Poetin's Jongerenbeweging en de Oppositie" Tegenlicht/Backlight

2007. "The Honest Boxer, Grigory Yavlinsky Makes Another Run for the Presidency". Russia Profile

2007. "Putin's Plan?" European Forum for Solidarity and Democracy

2007. "Elections in Russia: the Party of Putin Wins". European Forum for Solidarity and Democracy

2006. "De 'Nasji' Generatie" Alfred Mozer Foundation

2006. "De Soldaten Moeders en hun Adviesgroepen in Rusland" Alfred Mozer Foundation

Doctoral Dissertation

2014. Doctoral Dissertation: "Finding Justice at the European Court of Human Rights: The Dynamics of Strategic Litigation and Human Rights Defense in the Russian Federation". Publications of the Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki. Unigrafia: Helsinki

Book reviews

2015. "Book Review of The Reappeared: Argentine Former Political Prisoners" by Rebekah Park. 2014. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, AllegraLab

2012. "Book Review of Human Rights Matters: Local Politics and National Human Rights Institutions" by Mertus, Julie. 2009. Stanford: Stanford University Press, in Suomen Antropologi

2010. "Book Review of Surrendering to Utopia, an Anthropology of Human Rights", by Goodale, Mark. 2009. Stanford: Stanford University Press, in Suomen Antropologi 35 (3): 96-97

Funding and Awards

My work has received several grants and awards, including a VSBfonds grant, a Hendrik Muller Foundation grant, the Finnish Centre for International Mobility (CIMO) grant, a Cultural Exchange Grant of Nuffic-the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education, Mobility Grants of the Academy of Finland, the Kone Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (2015, 2017-2019) , the Swedish Cultural Foundation (Svenska Kulturfonden) Postdoctoral Fellowship, a connection grant of the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council (co-investigator), and a Visiting Fellowship at iCourts - the Centre of Excellence for International Courts at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

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