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Amnesty International Campaign Manual



Lawyers have been intimately involved with AI since it began. In several countries lawyers have been among the founder members of Sections and in many places they are influential campaigners for human rights. This section looks at:

N    Why the international legal network is important to AI / 208

N    Why the international legal network might contribute to AI's

        work / 208

N    Developing an outreach strategy / 208

N    Outreach structures / 209

N    Checklist: What you can ask lawyers to do / 211

Peter Benenson, the British lawyer who launched Amnesty International, rekindles the original candle on the 20th anniversary of the organization in May 1981

© ai

Why the international legal network is important to AI

Lawyers, judges, magistrates, academics, law students and others in the international legal network who are familiar with the theory and practice of law have a vital role to play in AI's work. This is because the profession is:

N     influential in its own country;

N     well-informed and adept at communication;

N     widely respected internationally;

N    linked through its national professional associations;

N    linked internationally through personal and professional contact, professional associations and membership of international associations.

Why the international legal network might contribute to AI's work

Members of the international legal network might contribute to AI's campaigns because of their:

N    personal interest and commitment;

N    professional interest in the role of law in promoting and protecting human rights;

N    professional solidarity with lawyers in other countries who are human rights activists and/or victims of human rights violations.

Many national and international legal organizations campaign on issues very close to AI's mandate through their human rights committees or branches. Whether this work is done by national bar associations and law societies, the International Bar Association or the International Commission of Jurists , the international legal network is generally very receptive to AI's message. The issue for AI is how to use this support to greatest effect and how to organize it on a long-term basis.

Developing an outreach strategy

The following questions may help you determine what is the best strategy to adopt:


g    What national associations representing lawyers exist in your country?

g    Do these associations have sub-committees or individuals with responsibility for human rights?

g    How do these legal organizations take decisions; for example, do they hold monthly or annual meetings?

g    Does the international legal network, particularly its member organizations or individuals, influence government or community attitudes on particular issues such as the death penalty?

g    Have leading lawyers' or legal organizations made public statements on domestic or international human rights issues in AI's mandate?

g    Are particular lawyers' or legal organizations likely to influence your government's ratification of international human rights treaties or government policy in relation to AI's mandate concerns?

g    Are there individuals or organizations with links to particular countries in which AI has concerns?

g    Are there lawyers' or legal organizations in a target country with influence on human rights issues? Have they made statements or taken a position on these issues?

g    How do legal organizations in your country communicate with their members; for example, through what types of publications?

Are there specialist legal media?

g    Do the publications accept articles from non-lawyers?

g    Are there particular lawyers who write media columns or provide editorial opinion in the general media?

g    Are lawyers or legal organizations affiliated to international bodies that may be able to take action, such as sending a letter raising human rights concerns?

Whatever the structure, the overall objective of outreach to the international legal network is to develop a positive working relationship that enables AI to call for action and support as necessary.

Outreach structures

Many AI Sections and some coordinating structures have established lawyers' groups. The extent and nature of campaigning undertaken by these groups varies from Section to Section, and structure to structure, depending on human and financial resources. At the very least, however, lawyers' groups can and should be asked to perform in three fundamental ways:

N    As technical advisers to the movement. They can work as legal consultants to intergovernmental organization (IGO) and home government lobbyists, country and campaign coordinators, as well as to non-specialist groups on legal issues underpinning campaigning goals.

N    As links between the movement and the wider legal profession. They can reach non-AI colleagues _ through local or national law societies, bar associations and academic institutions _ to raise awareness and encourage unified and, where appropriate, high-profile campaigning on specific cases or issues. They can also increase membership among legal professionals and create opportunities to raise funds for AI's work.

N    As defenders of victims of human rights abuses, including other human rights defenders, and promoters of legal reform. They can make representations in a professional capacity about individual cases or about human rights issues, presenting the legal arguments supported by international law.

AI's global legal network as of September 1997 comprised lawyers' groups in 50 AI Sections/coordinating structures in all five world regions. The network has held inter-Section meetings at intervals of about 18 months since its first meeting in Antwerp in 1990. The 1995 inter-Section meeting in Oslo brought delegates from all but one region of the world. Development goals for the network aim at full regional representation by 1998 and expansion within targeted regions in the South. This process has begun -- illustrated by the delegates from all regions who attended the inter-Section meeting in Amsterdam in October 1997.

Although non-specialist AI groups have lawyers as members, it is common for AI lawyer members to form specialist groups, usually comprising between six and 20 members. If greater numbers of members are available, additional groups are formed. Networks of practitioners and law students often exist alongside groups or instead of groups. These are serviced either by Section staff or by a steering committee.

Not all specialist action and campaigning has to be carried out through a lawyers' group. Sections/coordinating structures with limited human and financial resources may consider campaigning, regularly or on an ad hoc basis, by individual lawyer members or small clusters of lawyer members (two or three) who would not require significant on-going resourcing by a Section/coordinating structure.

Law students sometimes form all-student groups, working in conjunction with a group of qualified practitioners. A student group can be a good source for the time and energy needed to undertake campaigning and can provide access to practical resources such as photocopiers, reference materials or meeting rooms through their university or college law faculties.

Section coordination of lawyers' groups is done in different ways, depending on resources. Some Sections, for example, take full charge of all coordination through staff coordinators who receive all mailings from the legal network coordinator, assign the work to the group and provide the necessary training and funding. Some share the task, in which case the Section receives all mailings from the IS but services rather than directs the groups and provides only some funding. The model depends on the circumstances of the Section/structure and its members.

The IS continues to develop strategies to increase the campaigning potential of lawyers' groups in the network and encourages Sections to do the same.


What you can ask LAWYERS

to do

j    Meet the media

Participation by a leading lawyer in a media event _ for example, a press conference to launch a country report in which legal concerns are a major issue _ can help you win coverage in the legal as well as the wider media.

j    Make a statement

A public statement of support or concern by a respected legal organization or individual lawyer can be specific or general. A specific statement, such as on the need for detainees to have access to lawyers, doctors and relatives, may be useful to highlight the issue in your own and the target country. A general statement, such as one supporting AI's work, can be quoted when needed _ whether in seeking contact with government officials or seeking support or action from individual lawyers. A short statement can be signed by all relevant organizations and individuals as a simple and quick way of showing the level of support on an issue.

j    Write a letter

An official letter written by a respected legal organization or a prominent member of the legal community to government officials in a target country and copied to the embassy can be a good indication of the level of concern within your community on a human rights issue. A letter from an individual lawyer on official paper looks impressive and immediately makes clear the status of the author. Such letters also illustrate that AI's concerns are shared by the wider community.

j    Promote professional solidarity

Ask lawyers or legal organizations in your country to contact their counterparts in a target country and offer their support as co-professionals on human rights issues. This demonstration of concern and professional solidarity may also lead to opportunities for exchange visits and sharing expertise and resources.

j    Publicize AI's concerns in the media

A regular AI or human rights column in a legal publication published by your bar association or law society could feature appeal cases, or thematic and country issues, using information from AI external reports and Urgent Actions, with the legal focus emphasized. From time to time, space may be available for longer, feature-length articles by a lawyer, taking up human rights issues from a legal perspective. In the general media, an opinion piece (see Chapter 9) in the newspaper could be written by a leading lawyer sympathetic to AI's concerns (who is permitted to express wider concerns than those in AI's mandate but who must then make it clear that the article is not written on behalf of AI). Copies of articles in the legal or general press on country issues may be sent with a covering letter to the relevant embassy, asking for a comment or response.

j    Help raise funds

Ask a respected legal figure to appeal to lawyers for donations to AI as you plan fundraising events of interest to members of the international legal network.

j    Encourage legal delegations to visit a target country

A visit by a delegation of legal professionals _ for example, a group of bar association lawyers _ to a target country is an effective action for an AI lawyers' group to promote. Attending and observing trials of political detainees can be another useful form of action if carried out by experienced lawyers who have some training in trial observation. However, in either case, the country researcher at the IS should be consulted first.

j    Organize a petition

Organize a petition among the legal community on the case of a professional colleague in detention or under threat.

j    Visit embassies

Offer to join an AI delegation to an embassy when there is a relevant legal component to AI's concerns.

j    Increase awareness

Arrange a presentation at a university during the induction period for law students. Sponsor a human rights lawyer to speak at a public meeting.

j    Contact others

Contact other professionals or organizations that may have a particular interest in a case.

"I sincerely thank you for your strong condemnation of the illegal and unjust execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists..."

Letter sent to Michael Kingston from the Richmond North lawyers group in Australia from a Nigerian in relation to letters written by the group about the executions of Ogoni activists in Nigeria.

Lawyers are a crucial link in the struggle for human rights. They are persecuted precisely for this reason.

“I am glad my talk inspired you to redouble your efforts to work as lawyers in promoting human rights both in Malawi and throughout the world. You are doing a good work... “

Vera Chirwa, a lawyer and former prisoner of conscience in Malawi, in a letter written to the AI UK's lawyers' network

Human rights and laws linked

Violations of human rights are violations of law. The idea of human rights is more than a philosophical or moral concept, it is a concept embodied in law. Lawyers must be in the forefront of efforts to protect human rights, as human rights and laws are fundamentally linked in two ways:

N    The scope and meaning of the term “human rights” is defined by international


N    Most human rights violations are also violations of national law.

Lawyers holding an independent public inquiry into allegations of an extrajudicial execution in Northern Ireland after the UK Government refused such an inquiry

© frankie quinn

Delegates to the African jurists' colloquium attending the opening of the Institute for Training in Human Rights, Dakar, Senegal, 1979. At the conclusion of the colloquium, delegates adopted a detailed resolution proposing measures for the protection of human rights in Africa.

“The task which still remains to be accomplished is to make this ideal

[of human rights] a reality.”

Moustapha Seck, President of the Senegal Bar Association (front row, second from right).

Amnesty International Campaign Manual