The Justice Defenders Program has worked in over 65 countries publicly and discretely. Please see below for some examples of our public work.
Eastern Europe & Eurasia
Across the region, the space for civil society is rapidly closing. States increasingly misapply national security protocols and other laws to target minorities and government critics. Along with thesetrends, independent lawyers who have zealously advocated for clients or documented and raised human rights issues have been denounced for attacking the state. Such lawyers have faced disbarment, criminal charges, even forced psychiatric detention. In addition to securing pro bono counsel to assist on specific cases of retaliation, we have supported a regional network of human rights lawyers in issuing a report documenting the various threats to independence of the legal profession and to individual practitioners in the region.
Latin America and the Caribbean
In Latin America, human rights defenders face unprecedented levels of violence compounded by impunity for past abuses committed during internal armed conflicts throughout the region. Judges, prosecutors, and lawyers working to promote accountability for such violence also face significant reprisals for their work. The Justice Defenders Program assists these activists and the justice sector by intervening in high profile transitional justice cases, urging authorities to investigate acts of intimidation and monitoring proceedings to select judges to help improve the independence of the judiciary.
Middle East & North Africa
In the Middle East and North Africa, governments are increasingly cracking down on protesters and human rights defenders exercising their freedom of expression and freedom of assembly rights. To combat this, the Justice Defenders Program has coordinated with the U.S. government, other democratic governments, and international and local human rights groups to support human rights defenders and advise some governments about the rights of their people in light of their international obligations.
South & Southeast Asia
In South and Southeast Asia, there has been increased backlash against individuals and organizations exercising their rights, particularly the rights to freedom of speech, assembly, and association. The Justice Defenders Program uses various methods to protect human rights defenders that are facing repercussion due to their work, including trial observations and petitioning UN special procedures. The Program also works strategically to decrease the tools that governments use to repress civil society by monitoring the independence of the judiciary and advocating for the repeal of laws that violate international human rights standards. The Program also provides technical assistance to organizations working to hold individuals accountable for violence against marginalized groups.
The Program's cases in Sub-Saharan Africa have primarily involved protecting and promoting freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Activists engaging on issues of corruption, bad governance and land rights are often the target of government reprisals. Governments use a variety of means including legislative restrictions, administrative and judicial harassments and at times violence against activists. There is a trend to use vague and overly broad laws such as those on national security and counterterrorism laws to close the space in which activists can operate. Defamation laws have also been used to stifle free speech especially when it is critical of public officials. Accordingly, the Program’s work in this region focuses greatly on advocating for the repeal of these laws or for their limited and legitimate application.