Access to legal support can be crucial for human rights defenders (HRDs) – whether to obtain justice when they or the people they represent are the victims of human rights violations, or to lend support when their communities, land or environment are under threat from powerful state or corporate interests.
CEJIL (Center for Justice and International Law) was founded to provide greater access to the Inter-American System of Human Rights (the Court and the Commission) for victims of human rights violations. It provides support for individuals and organisations presenting cases to the Inter-American Commission and Court, with a particular focus on HRDs at risk and emblematic cases. Its Pro Bono Guide provides a list, by country, of organisations willing to provide free legal advice for representation before the Inter-American System. (Many of these organisations are also likely to provide this legal advice for cases brought before the national authorities).
Microjustice4all - This network is dedicated to the legal empowerment of the poor and excluded, which includes advice on housing and land registration and gaining legal status for organisations. In Latin America, it has a presence in Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.
Dejusticia is a Colombian human rights legal organization that works regionally and internationally. It work includes supporting and strengthening community and civil society organizations, and participating in strategic public interest litigation. Its main issue areas include the strengthening and defence of human rights, in particular economic and social rights, rule of law, environmental justice, and discrimination. It is creating a team of experts to provide communities and local organizations with environmental and social impact assessments of projects affecting them, which can be used in support of litigation as well as for other actions.
Center for Constitutional Rights (website only in English) is a US-based organisation “committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.” It has taken a number of cases regarding human rights abuses committed or facilitated by corporations.
Canadian Center for International Justice (website only in English and French) works with survivors of genocide, torture and other atrocities with strong connections with Canada to seek justice and hold perpetrators responsible for their crimes. It also assists people with close relationships to victims who died as a result of human rights violations. It has taken cases against Canadian mining companies for alleged human rights violations associated with their activities in Latin America.
CLADEM (Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights) is a feminist network which works towards the full realisation of women's rights, using the law as an instrument of change. It has branches in a number of countries.
AIDA (Interamerican Association for the Defence of the Environment) is an environmental law organization that works to defend threatened ecosystems and the human communities that depend on them. Its work includes helping nonprofit organisations to work for environmental enforcement when governments fail to.
EarthRights International (ERI) works in defence of human rights and the environment. It specialises in fact-finding, legal actions against perpetrators of abuses, training grassroots and community leaders, and advocacy campaigns. It has brought a number of important cases before the courts, including the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and US courts.
EDLC (Environmental Defender Law Center) helps environmental defenders without charge by finding top law firms to advocate, negotiate, or litigate on their behalf; advising, filing legal briefs, and providing resources and giving grants to fund cases. It can provide scientific expertise as well. The cases they take up include defending HRDs charged in politically motivated criminal prosecutions; negotiating or litigating on behalf of groups facing harm from projects that affect their land, way of life, and environment; fighting against impunity for violations of the human rights of environmental defenders, and pursuing indigenous peoples’ traditional land claims.
CEDHA (Center for Human Rights and Environment) focuses on promoting greater access to justice and defending the human rights of victims of environmental degradation, or of the non-sustainable management of natural resources, and to prevent future violations. Many of its activities focus on Argentina, where it is based.