Association of Humanitarian Lawyers

The Association of Humanitarian Lawyers (AHL) is a private, non-profit organization that seeks to enforce compliance with international human rights and humanitarian (armed conflict) law through direct legal action in national and international tribunals; monitoring of crisis situations, especially those with wars; and addressing the underlying reasons for massive violations of human rights and war.

Originally incorporated in 1982 as "International Disability Law" to support the United Nations work of Disabled Peoples' International, we changed our name in 1990 to Association of Humanitarian Lawyers to reflect our wider mission and our support for United Nations work by other UN-credentialed groups such as International Educational Development/Humanitarian Law Project (IED/HLP), Liberation, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, and Earthjustice, with whom we partner on selected projects and on whose behalf we attend United Nations human rights sessions. AHL supports preparation and dissemination of a number of publications addressing human rights and humanitarian law that are circulated at the UN sessions and elsewhere. The publications are in high demand as leading works in their fields.

Many of our direct legal actions have been at the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Right (OAS). Several of these have involved violations of medical neutrality in armed conflict, because of our special emphasis on ensuring human rights and humanitarian law protection for medical personnel, patients, facilities, and supplies during war. Our very first case at the OAS-- defending the victims at a hospital in Grenada -- and our most recent case at the OAS -- defending victims at hospitals in Falluja, Iraq -- underscore our commitment to doctors, medical staff, patients and war-wounded. Other direct legal actions have been in United States federal courts, at the European Court of Human Rights, and at UN bodies.

A major portion of our work is assisting United Nations Special Rapporteurs (investigators or examiners) mandated with monitoring violations or with preparing studies and sets of compliance guidelines in key areas of human rights and humanitarian law. Since our first work with a United Nations Special Rapporteur in 1984 on the issue of human rights and disability, we have assisted in the preparation of studies and guidelines on the rights of persons with mental illnesses and minimum mental health care standards; the right to a sound environment as a human right and guidelines on that topic; the adverse consequences of economic sanctions on human rights; globalization and human rights; the illegality of certain weapons, including weapons containing depleted uranium (DU) and cluster bombs; and human rights and terrorism and guidelines on counter-terrorism measures. These efforts help ensure that evolving law and standard-setting moves in the direction of protecting peoplesí rights rather than giving governments more leeway to deny or violate rights. We also present cases to UN Special Rapporteurs working on torture, summary execution, religious intolerance, and arbitrary detention and to the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.

While our programs have always included briefings or hearings at United States Congress, at the invitation of members of Congress, on such issues as Burma, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the UN sessions, and general humanitarian law and human rights concerns, we are especially pleased with a new program with members of Congress to provide a neutral forum for all sides of the Kashmir situation. This year is our third year of partnering with the Kashmiri American Council to provide forums at the US Congress with key leaders from all sides of the situation in Kashmir. Due to the resounding success of this program we expect to launch similar programs with members of Congress to address other conflicts of long duration, especially those in Sri Lanka and Indonesia/Moluccas.

Our internship program for students has been especially successful, as most of our interns have gone on to careers involving human rights and humanitarian law. We usually have between five and seven researchers or interns per year, some of whom are attorneys, others law students or paralegals or graduates in political science or related fields. Most of them accompany us to the United Nations human rights sessions. We have recently begun a unique high school internship, taking high school seniors to these sessions. Our recent interns have come from the United States, Botswana, Canada, China, France, Germany, Korea, Malta, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom and the.

For press inquiries, donor requests and information about the Association's legal work, call (415) 668-2752. Our address is 154 Fifth Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94118 USA. For general questions, please email us at