What do Human Rights Lawyers do?

Advocate for Individuals Seeking Compensation for Human Rights Violations

This type of work is frequently assigned to human rights lawyers. Consider, for example, a situation where an individual has been unjustly held in an immigration facility. Legal professionals specializing in human rights can assist individuals in securing compensation for the duration of their detention. It is important to note that individuals may also face discrimination due to their sexual orientation, race, or other legally protected attributes. In 2019, two British paratroopers successfully won a case for discrimination against the Ministry of Defence. This was a result of the extensive mistreatment they endured. They will have received assistance from their legal representatives in obtaining a monetary settlement and an acknowledgment of accountability from the Ministry of Defence regarding the incident.

In such scenarios, the human rights lawyer will usually meet their client and ask them to describe what happened in detail. They will also assist in gathering all pertinent evidence. The attorney would proceed to present the details of the case to the opposing party through written communication. A legal professional specializing in human rights will assist the client in commencing legal proceedings if the opposing party declines to reach a settlement outside of the courtroom.

It is possible to contest government decisions by arguing their illegality

Human rights lawyers also contest government decisions in the courts. In certain jurisdictions, this process is referred to as a judicial appeal. A court review of the government’s decisions could be requested by human rights lawyers, arguing that the actions were arbitrary, exceeded their jurisdiction, or displayed unfairness. Lawyers specializing in human rights can utilize the legal system to contest a ruling made by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. These cases often require immediate attention as the client seeks to avert an imminent occurrence. A prompt response is crucial for the human rights lawyer to secure funding and proceed with the legal proceedings.

Advocate for measures to safeguard families during inquests into the passing of their dear one

When a person dies unexpectedly while in state custody, such as in prison, police custody, or at a military facility, inquests are typically conducted. A legal proceeding called an inquest is conducted when there are concerns about potential breaches of human rights. Human rights lawyers play a vital role in this process. They advocate for the families of the deceased, ensuring that witnesses are summoned and that the necessary inquiries are made to uncover the truth about their circumstances.

Defend the rights and interests of individuals and organizations through the acquisition of protective injunctions

Court orders known as injunctions can either prohibit individuals from carrying out specific actions or compel them to perform certain actions. Lawyers who specialize in human rights frequently pursue injunctions on behalf of their clients. An attorney specializing in human rights can assist a victim of domestic violence in obtaining a protective order, which prohibits their partner from making contact or entering their residence. Lawyers who specialize in human rights and media law often utilize injunctions to protect individuals’ privacy from being violated. For example, a celebrity successfully obtained a legal injunction to stop the release of information regarding their involvement with a sex worker. The court order effectively prohibited the disclosure of any information pertaining to the public figure.

Represent Groups at Commissions and Inquiries

When there are extensive human rights violations, such as a tragic incident resulting in multiple deaths, it is often customary for a country to establish a commission to thoroughly investigate the events and gain valuable insights. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Chile’s Rettig Commission serve as notable examples. Legal professionals specializing in human rights play a crucial role in such circumstances, as they advocate for individuals with vested interests. In the Grenfell Tower Fire Public Inquiry, for instance, legal professionals specializing in human rights represented survivors of the fire and the bereaved family members. They made sure that the concerns of those impacted by the fire were given due attention. They collaborated as a team to ensure that the investigation’s attention was directed towards the most crucial matters. They provided valuable assistance to the investigation, helping to establish that the contractors hired by the local authority had utilized improper materials during the renovation of the tower. This, in turn, played a significant role in the rapid spread of the fire.

Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives

Large law firms have a moral obligation to provide support to their communities. Corporate social responsibility teams frequently hire human rights lawyers to supervise projects with a focus on human rights, such as the management of legal advice drop-in centres. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, a renowned corporate law firm, is dedicated to providing expert guidance to its clients in the field of Business and Human Rights. This encompasses policies related to human rights, adherence to regulations, and the implications of legislation such as the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015. The firm has also played a significant role in the development of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Provide Guidance to Non-Governmental Organisations

Lawyers specializing in human rights often find employment with organizations that are dedicated to a specific mission or cause. Martha Spurrier, for instance, serves as the director of Liberty, an organization dedicated to protecting human rights and civil liberties. They are dedicated to upholding the principles of justice and equality in the UK. She is also tasked with clarifying the crucial matters at hand, such as the challenges posed to the Human Rights Act and the use of facial recognition technology. Human rights lawyers also serve in advisory roles for human rights organizations, offering their expertise on crucial matters.

Compose Laws, Policies, and Conventions Pertaining to Human Rights

Human rights lawyers are hired by national and regional governments to create legislation and regulations concerning human rights. They meticulously craft policies and ensure that governments are held responsible for fulfilling their commitments to human rights.

Human rights lawyers also contribute to the work of the United Nations, playing a crucial role in drafting human rights conventions and treaties, as well as overseeing their enforcement. The Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, for instance, is made up of human rights experts hailing from various parts of the globe. Among the notable individuals are Hiroko Aizuki, a distinguished professor of International Law at Asia University, and Gunnar Brgby, the esteemed Secretary-General of the Supreme Court of Norway. These experts oversee the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, ensuring its proper execution.

Defend and Pursue Justice against Individuals Accused of War Crimes

Experts in International Criminal Law, specializing in human rights, will represent both the prosecution and defence at the International Criminal Court. Sierra Leone has charged Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, with war crimes. In 2012, a sentence of 50 years of imprisonment was handed down. He had legal representation from Courtenay Griggs QC. Griffiths made every effort to ensure that Taylor received a fair trial, despite the widespread international condemnation of Taylor’s actions. Griffiths, when questioned about his role in this case, emphasized the importance of providing the defendant with the highest quality legal representation, regardless of the severity of the crime committed.

Engage in Humanitarian Work

Protection officers are employed by various organizations, including the UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and others. Protection officers are employed by international organizations like UNHCR and non-governmental organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross or Non Violent Peaceforce. They employ various legal frameworks, including international, regional, and national human rights laws, to provide support to individuals and communities who have experienced human rights violations. Protection officers are present in South Sudan to address issues such as sexual and gender-based abuse, community violence, and the protection of children. Protection officers in Kenyan refugee camps provide assistance to displaced individuals from neighbouring countries. In addition, they provide support to certain individuals in obtaining refugee status.


If you aspire to become a human rights lawyer, it would be wise to pursue your legal qualifications. It is highly recommended to engage in pro bono or voluntary human rights work in order to gain valuable experience and explore your areas of interest

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