Association of Humanitarian Lawyers

Association of Humanitarian Lawyers - Archives

International Disability (IDL) v. United States

The Association of Humanitarian Lawyers (AHL) was formerly know as "International Disability Law." On behalf of disabled victims in Grenada, Petition No. 9313 (United States) was filed after the United States bombed a hospital for mentally and mentally retarded patients. This was AHL's first case and they were successful.

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Ahmadi Muslims - Pakistan

AHL began addressing the situation of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan in 1984, when in August of that year Mme Elizabeth Odio Benito, then the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, showed AHL’s Karen Parker a copy of Ordinance XX, promulgated by then dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, that provided stiff criminal penalties for Ahmadi Muslims. In 1985, at the urging of Mme Odio-Benito, AHL’s Ilyas Khan and Karen Parker raised the issue at the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (now renamed the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. The Sub-Commission, in its resolution 1985/21, condemned Pakistan for persecuting Ahmadi Muslims and highlighted the risk of a mass exodus of Ahmadi Muslims and others from Pakistan due to religious and political persecution.

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The Burmese army ignored the results of a national election and re instituted military rule in 1990. Widespread, horrendous abuses against the country's ethnic minorities (including war crimes and slavery) have been documented.
A statement at the 47th session of the U.N. Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (1995), condemning slave porte rage in Burma and calling for increased U.N. attention to the child victims of war.

AHL provided support for an action filed by Ms. Parker at the then newly-formed United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on Behalf of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The Working Group, in its second official opinion, found Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi's Detention arbitrary.

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Police Cell Detention in Japan

AHL worked in partnership with the International Federation of Human Rights (Paris) to investigate Japan's "Daiyo Kangoku" (police cell) detention system at the invitation of the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations. Under this system, criminal suspects were held at the police station responsible for their arrest, and were denied the right to counsel for up to 21 days. Most were held incommunicado. During that time, most suspects were subjected to treatment meeting the international law definition of torture. Most suspects "confessed" after promises of notification of family and provision of counsel. The report, issued in 1989 in English by AHL, in French by the International Federation and in Japanese by the Japanese Bar Association, generated many reforms in Japan's criminal justice system. Copies of the report are available from AHL, the Japanese Bar and the International Federation.

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Establishing the Right to a Sound Environment as a Human Right

AHL began a partnership in 1989 with Earthjustice (then known as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund) to incorporate the right to a sound environment into international human rights law. The 1977 Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions had articles that protected the environment, but the issue had not yet been raised strongly in the international and regional human rights forums. Together we chose to investigate the use of toxic defoliants by the Guatemalan authorities in the course of the armed conflict then raging there and the encroachment into the lands of Ecuador’s Huaorani Indians as the first “cases.” Both were written up and presented to the United Nations in 1988.

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Comfort Women Case in Japan

During World War II, the Japanese military, acting on government policy, enslaved young women. Under the jugun ianfu scheme, the government of Japan abducted or fraudulently induced the recruitment of women and girls from territories under Japanese occupation, transported them away from their homes, detained them in special facilities, and allowed its soldiers to repeatedly rape them. A significant number of women and girls were murdered outright or allowed to die of injuries or starvation. The Japanese government has expressed remorse and has issued apologies for the suffering of people in many countries in Japan's advance along the road to war. However, Japan, in the opinion of many, refuses to fully acknowledge the jugun ianfu scheme and provided full reparation to the victims.

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Kashmir is boardered on the east by Pakistan, China on the west and India on the south.



AHL has addressed the situation in Kashmir since 1990 when renewed clashing between the Indian military forces and Kashmiri people broke out in Indian-occupied Kashmir. The problem arises because at the time of the withdrawal of the British colonial power and then the partition creating the separate States of India and Pakistan, the status of Kashmir was undecided. The Free Kashmir forces were resisted by the Indian military, and Pakistan was drawn into the conflict.

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An amicus curiae brief (1995), in support of a petition by the Center for Constitutional Rights before the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. CCR charged the United States with violations of human rights law and the Geneva Conventions during its invasion of Panama in 1989 (Salas, et al. v. United States, Case 10.573, 1993 Inter-Am. C.H.R. 312 (Admissibility).
The case uses similar arguments to those presented in a 1983 petition to the Inter-American Commission, which called for compensation of the victims of the U.S. bombing of Grenada's mental hospital. This was the first time a case against the United States had been admitted by any international forum.

Picture not AvailableArmed Conflict Around the World: A country by Country Review

For seven years (1994 through 2000), AHL supported the preparation of an annual review of the many wars, in which were included all UN references, as well as background and their current status. The Parliamentary Human Rights Group (UK), headed by Lord Avebury, co-sponsored this publication and printing. The review was also issued in Arabic, through the participation of the UNESCO Chair at the University of Oran (Algeria). The reports were prepared by AHL's Ms. Parker and Anne Heindel. AHL hopes to partially revive this effort.

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Rights of mentally Ill Persons

AHL began work on the rights of mentally ill persons in the mid 1980's when co founding attorney James Donald was invited by disability rights activists in Japan to visit Japan's mental health hospitals. Appalled at what he found, he presented a report to the Japanese government on improvements necessary to comply with human rights standards. At the same time, the United Nations Sub-Commission was finishing its work on international standards, and sent its draft to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Commission set up a working group to prepare a final draft. AHL's Karen Parker attended those sessions, and presented many drafts of Articles eventually adopted by the Commission. The Commission draft was formally adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 46/119 of 17 December 1991 with the name "Principles for the protection of persons with mental illness and the improvement of mental health care." You may read the resolution by clicking on "read more."

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