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January 06, 2022 REPORT

Justice Defenders Program Final Report, June 2016 - June 2021

Mobilizing the Global Legal Community to Protect Human Rights Defenders


The American Bar Association (ABA) Justice Defenders Program (the Program), based in the ABA Center for Human Rights, mobilizes the global legal community to challenge the criminalization of at-risk human rights defenders and other legal barriers to their work. The Program enables human rights defenders to promote good governance and protect basic rights by (1) increasing adherence to international standards for the protection of human rights defenders, and (2) increasing awareness of threats to human rights defenders, the legitimacy of their activities, and the responsibilities of state and non-state actors under international law.

Between 2016 and 2021, the Program provided legal assistance to 1193 human rights defenders and NGOs in 62 countries. In addition to conducting 29 campaigns and providing support in 165 individual cases, the Program provided 9 trainings for lawyers and other advocates representing human rights defenders. It has achieved its desired outcomes in 77% of its cases and 97% of its campaigns.

This final report presents an overview of the significant strides that the Program achieved over the last five years. It details the Program’s key accomplishments and strategies used to attain the Program’s objectives to date. It outlines the Program’s vision for its next phase.


The views expressed herein represent the opinions of the authors. They have not been reviewed or approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association and, accordingly, should not be construed as representing the position of the Association or any of its entities. Further, nothing in this report should be considered as legal advice in a specific case.