ISLP's Human Rights program provides targeted legal assistance to support and strengthen efforts by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and developing country governments around the world to protect human rights and promote respect for law. These have included projects that: improve legal aid representation for the poor; train and mentor human rights advocates; protect the rights of women, the disabled, indigenous populations and others who are persecuted or discriminated against; advance access to information and freedom of expression; assist local governments in adopting and revising laws; and build the capacities of ministries and the judiciary.
Strategic defense of human rights in Cambodia
Public interest litigation (PIL) can raise awareness of issues, hold governments to account and challenge laws that violate equality or human rights standards. A vivid example of PIL in practice is a current ISLP collaboration in Cambodia.
The country is in the grip of a land-grabbing crisis where the government and private developers often operate together to displace entire communities from their land, forcibly and without compensation or color of law. Recognizing their limited recourse to justice within Cambodia, local NGOs came to ISLP for help in developing a litigation strategy to hold foreign companies accountable for their role in illegal land takings. The resulting plan is an action filed in U.K. courts on behalf of 200 dispossessed villagers against a U.K. sugar company that acquired produce from confiscated lands. <More>
Pictured: Villagers board trucks to go give witness statements.
Advancing public interest litigation in Kenya
ISLP recently partnered with the Nairobi-based NGO African Center for International Legal and Policy Research and the International Association of Constitutional Law on a workshop for high-level members of Kenya's judiciary. Volunteer Andrew Scherer led discussions with the justices on public interest litigation (PIL): how PIL can promote and protect the principal rights embodied in Kenya's Constitution and challenges relating to litigating/adjudicating PIL cases.
"It became clear" recounted Mr. Scherer (pictured at left), "that the judges were deeply concerned with understanding the mechanics of public interest litigation as well as the substantive law regarding social and economic rights. The judges were very engaged and peppered me with questions...on how they might, within their role as judges, work to advance access to justice, which is in fact the responsibility of the judiciary under the new constitution. There was a feedback session at the end and by all accounts the workshop was a great success and the judges suggested that the training should be given to the entire judiciary."
Building the foundations of Liberia's health sector
After enduring 14 years of violent civil war, Liberia's government is taking steps to rebuild its devastated health sector. Aiding the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in several areas is a pro bono team from Hogan Lovells which has been led since 2007 by partners Phil Katz and Bob Leibenluft. When Liberia recently launched a national mental health action plan, the Hogan Lovells team met with the Ministry's General Counsel and various stakeholders about the structure, content and underlying policy objectives of the related legislation and is assisting with early drafting efforts. Other projects involve support to the national authority tasked with developing high-priority regulations governing pharmaceutical products and medical equipment and helping to draft reproductive health legislation and streamline contracting processes.
Pictured: Hogan Lovells partner Bob Leibenluft (right) with a member of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare
Developing accessibility regulations for the disabled in Haiti
Paul-Claude Bérubé, an attorney from Québec has just returned from his 4th trip to Haiti for his ongoing work with the Secretary of State for the Integration of Persons With Disabilities and the Organization of American States on the implementation of groundbreaking new regulations regarding the rights of the disabled. Mr. Bérubé provided significant assistance in the drafting of the regulations and is now meeting with stakeholders in ten provinces to discuss accessibility standards, the legal protections they afford and their practical application in daily life.
Pictured: Paul-Claude Bérubé (left) with Haitian lawyer Jean Vandal