Justice Defenders Program

The Justice Defenders Program defends human rights advocates from harassment. We take down legal barriers to advocacy, mobilize the global legal community, and hold governments accountable for restricting human rights activities. Our program enables advocates to work freely.

Who We Help

Anyone who advocates for the protection of human rights, including attorneys, journalists, labor leaders, environmental activists and indigenous leaders who are the subject of retaliation for his/her efforts, may request assistance.

Request Assistance

We accept requests for assistance from international human rights defenders seeking pro bono legal advice.  We also welcome referrals from organizations and individuals who are aware of international human rights defenders who need assistance. 

What We Do

Freedom of Expression, Association and Assembly

In many countries, individuals are arrested or assaulted for exercising their legitimate right to participate in a peaceful gathering or protest, form associations, or exercise their right to speech. The ABA Justice Defenders supports human rights defenders -- including journalists and labor activists -- working to amend laws that restrict these rights and to challenge them in court.

View Examples - Fundamental Freedoms

Fair Trial Rights

Human rights advocates are increasingly facing frivolous legal proceedings as a way to discredit their work and impede their activities. The Justice Defenders Program observes trials and other proceedings to discourage the misuse of legal processes against defenders and provides technical assistance to local counsel representing defenders.

View Examples - Fair Trial Rights

Business & Human Rights

Many individuals working to protect the environment, expose corrupt business practices or ensure protections for workers or indigenous communities face different forms of retaliation. These include violent threats, restrictions on their ability to form associations and frivolous criminal charges. The Center works with local partners facing such threats to develop innovative strategies to document abuses, form cross-sectoral coalitions, build public support and engage key stakeholders to increase respect for human rights in business operations. Additionally, the Center helps activists to obtain protection when facing violent threats.

View Examples - Business & Human Rights

Misuse of Terrorism Charges Against Defenders

Many states have begun using counterterrorism laws to crack down on legitimate human rights defenders. The Program has analyzed various national counter terrorism laws, outlining the problematic provisions of these laws that open them up to abuse. This has helped civil society advocate for the repeal or amendment of these laws before local courts and regional bodies.

View Examples - Counterterrorism

Independence of the Judicial & Legal Profession

the Program has supported threatened attorneys, prosecutors and judges in over twelve different countries on every continent. Our efforts and support resulted in the activists' releases from prison, dropped charges, improved conditions of confinement, increased protective measures, reinstatement to the bench, decreased restrictions on the independence of the bar and increased investigations into violent attacks against lawyers.

Vew - Examples of Our Work

Protecting Defenders Against Violence

Individuals working to defend fundamental rights, including journalists, lawyers, union organizers, and indigenous leaders, are facing increasing acts of intimidation and persecution for the legitimate work that they do. The Program supports these defenders by petitioning international bodies to obtain protective measures (such as court-ordered bodyguards), referring them to organizations that provide funds for physical security and psychosocial support, raising their public profile where appropriate, engaging local authorities to investigate threats and hold officials accountable when they fail to investigate credible threats or are complicit in such threats.

View - Examples of Our Work

Who We Are

Contact Us

Please get in touch to learn more about our programs.