The Justice Defenders Program supports activists who advocate for the rights of minorities, including women, the LGBTQ+ community, and religious and ethnic minorities. These activists are often arbitrarily detained and face frivolous legal proceedings as a way to discredit their work and impede their activities. The Program observes trials and other proceedings to encourage adherence to fair trial standards and provide technical legal assistance to local counsel. The Program also petitions U.N. Special Procedures, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The Program also recognizes that the risks are even greater for those facing intersecting forms of discrimination, such as racism, homophobia, and transphobia. The Program helps activists obtain protection from violent threats.
Please see below for examples of our public work involving minority rights activists.
The Justice Defenders Program drafted a letter to President Juan Manual Santos regarding threats and frivolous criminal charges against Colombian women's rights defender Mónica Roa. The Colombian Deputy Inspector General reportedly accused Ms. Roa of criminal defamation, a move that has been interpreted by many as retaliation for Ms. Roa’s efforts as Director of Programs at the organization Women’s Link Worldwide.
In the wake of violent attacks on marginalized communities in India in 2018, the Maharashtra police arrested several activists and lawyers who historically advocated for the rights of these communities. A preliminary review of the judicial records by the Justice Defenders Program raised serious concerns of procedural irregularities, abuse of process, and violations of fundamental human rights. Several United Nations’ (UN) experts on human rights have expressed concern that the arrests and charges were brought in retaliation for the defendants’ legitimate human rights work.
The Justice Defenders Program, in consultation with the ABA Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence, conducted a comprehensive review of Iraq’s Protection Against Domestic Violence bill. As a result of this review, the Program submitted suggestions and comments to Dr. Ibtisam Aziz Ali, Director General of Iraqi Women Empowerment Directorate. These suggestions were based on international best practices and informed by realities on the ground in Iraq.
Violence against Women in Kyrgyzstan: Barriers to Accessing Justice, Fair Trial Rights, and the Right of Peaceful Assembly
This report finds that the actions taken by the state authorities with respect to the 2020 Women’s Day March—including the arrest and illegal detention of the march participants—were unwarranted and violated the participants’ rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of association under the ICCPR and the Kyrgyz Constitution.