Association of Humanitarian Lawyers


Karen Parker, J. D.

Ms. Parker is a San Francisco based attorney who practices human rights and humanitarian law full time. She is responsible, in part, for the evolution of international law in such areas as economic sanctions, weaponry, environment as a human right, and the rights of the disabled. She also consults and serves as an expert witness in legal disputes involving the application of armed conflict law. In 1982, she founded the Association of Humanitarian Lawyers (originally incorporated as International Disability Law), and has served as its president for over ten years. In addition, she is the chief delegate for International Educational Development - Humanitarian Law Project, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) accredited by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). She has also represented or served as a consulting attorney for Disabled Peoples International, Human Rights Advocates, and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund.

Ms. Parker received her J. D. degree with honors from the University of San Francisco Law School in 1983. She interned at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, and externed for California Supreme Court Justice Frank Newman, a close friend until his death in 1996.

Ms. Parker received a special diplôme (cum laude) in Droit International et de Droit Compare des Droits de l'Homme (International and Comparative Law of Human Rights) from the Institut International des Droits de l'Homme in Strasbourg, France in 1982.

Today, she testifies regularly at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva and its Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. She is a recognized expert on the application of humanitarian law with regard to Depleted Uranium (DU), and more recently has brought a lawsuit against the United States on behalf of victims of Iraqi medical facilities bombed by U.S. forces. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has accepted this case.

Her legal arguments on a variety of issues and conflicts are regularly cited by U.N. officials in their reports and included in the final drafts of resolutions adopted by the Commission on Human Rights. In 2000, she worked closely with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Sanctions in developing a six-prong test to determine if a trade embargo and other economic sanctions violate human rights and humanitarian law, and on the report as a whole. She has also worked closely with U.N. officials appointed to report to the commission on disability, the environment, terrorism, toxic dumping and weaponry, and the human rights situation in specific countries.