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Misha Plagis, LL.M.


Freie Universität Berlin

Human Rights Under Pressure - Ethics, Law and Politics

Department of Law

Alumni (thesis defended)

Thesis Title: Access to Justice? From Human Rights and Development to Implementation and Experiences - Lessons from India and South Africa

Boltzmannstraße 3
14195 Berlin

Misha Plagis completed her LL.M. Globalisation and Law (Human Rights track) at Maastricht University in the Netherlands in 2012, where she also completed her LL.B. European Law School. During her masters, she interned with Human Rights and Law Defenders in Pune, India. It was there that her interest in access to justice and redress mechanisms started. 

Prior to starting her doctorate, Misha was an intern at Natural Justice in Cape Town after which she was a fellow and managed the “Seeking Justice at the International Level” project for six months. She was an assistant to Professor Cees Flinterman during the 108th session of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva, and interned at Human Rights Watch and Global Partners Digital in London. 

Her work and academic interests focus on contemporary human rights issues, and have related to indigenous peoples’ rights, human rights and the Internet, and redress mechanisms. Her current research focuses on the concept of ‘access to justice’ in human rights law. The aim is to further develop current understandings of access to justice through two cases studies, which highlight the difficulties of implementation in rural India and South Africa.

More generally, Misha is interested in how the legal needs of ordinary people are met in their everyday lives. Her future outlook is to other areas where the possibility of (access to) redress is called into question, and how this affects fair trial rights and the right to equality before the law.

‘Access to justice’ remains a vague and ever evolving concept that depends on the legal, historical, political, and social context of a given society. In response, Misha’s project engages with the concept by proposing the use of ‘access to justice institutions’ as a more accurate reflection of what human rights law covers. The thesis addresses the question: How can the understanding of access to justice institutions be refined by the experiences of creating new justice institutions at the domestic level in India and South Africa?

More specifically, the work engages with access to justice institutions at the ‘most basic level’ and examines the contribution of the Gram Nyayalayas Act (2009) and proposed Traditional Courts Bill (2017) in India and South Africa respectively. While many scholars focus on access to justice for human rights violations, the provision of ‘basic access’, or the first point of entry to the justice system, for the resolution of ‘everyday legal issues’ also requires attention. Hence the need to prioritise the barriers marginalised individuals and communities face in accessing the courts or other judicial institutions for minor civil and criminal issues. The approach includes how these barriers related to fair trial rights, often the de jure barriers, but also to other socio-economic factors that affect access – de facto barriers – as discussed in international human rights law and development literature.

Misha’s thesis, entitled ‘Access to Justice? From Human Rights and Development to Implementation and Experiences: Lessons from India and South Africa’ was graded summa cum laude, and successfully defended in June 2018.

Freie Universität Berlin
The Minerva Center for Human Rights
Menschenrechtszentrum Uni Potsdam
DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Einstein Foundation Berlin
Dahlem Research School