Maria Lisityna


  • Program Year
  • 2006-07
  • Country of Current Residence
  • U.S.A.
  • City/Town of Current Residence
  • New York City
  • Current Position
  • Project Manager
  • Organization
  • Open Society Justice Initiative
  • Profession(s)
  • Human Rights Specialist

  • Sector(s)
  • Advocacy, Human rights, Law, Politics / Policy, Social justice
  • Language(s)
  • Russian, English, French
  • Mentor
  • Roderick Macdonald
  • Interest(s) / Expertise
  • advocacy, human rights, law, youth rights
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“Human rights is Maria’s life’s work,” writes a colleague, “In the truest sense of the term.” After her Sauvé year, Maria started to work as a consultant with Human Rights Watch, based in Bishkek for the summer before starting a four-month Yale World Fellows program. She is now a researcher with Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia division in New York and she writes: “The main focus of my work is now human rights in Central Asia, in particular, in Turkmenistan and rights of labour migrants in Russia.”

Maria earned a BA in French from Kyrgyz National State University, and graduated from the law school of the Kyrgyz-Russian Academy of Education. A leading human rights activist, she founded the Independent Human Rights Group, liaising with the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. One of her many specialties is monitoring human rights in closed institutions, like detention centers, orphanages, and psychiatric hospitals. As a lecturer and trainer in human rights, she traveled throughout the Central Asian region.

Elected to the Constitutional Council of Kyrgyzstan, Maria was instrumental in drafting proposals to amendments to her country’s constitution that help protect human rights. In 1995, at the age of 17 she co-founded and became the director of the Youth Human Rights Group in Kyrgyzstan that specialized in child rights, monitoring of custodial institutions, and human rights education; and in 2003, she founded the Independent Human Rights Group that works mostly on freedom of information and strategic litigation).

As a Fellow

Maria focused on constitutional law and worked as a research assistant for the McGill Expert Panel on developing a response to the phenomenon of Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPPs). The report of the expert panel was widely discussed in Canada and served as a basis for the recently adopted bill on response to SLAPPs.