About the Bar Human Rights Committee
The Bar Human Rights Committee was founded in 1991, by the former Chairman of the Bar Council of England and Wales, Anthony Scrivener QC. Its structure was first approved by the Bar Council’s subsequent Chairman, Gareth Williams QC (the late Lord Williams of Mostyn).
BHRC was set up to fill the vacuum of a Bar organisation dedicated to human rights. Its original core aims were to support judges, lawyers and others being persecuted or prevented from protecting the rule of law where it was under attack by governments.
Since its founding, BHRC has become autonomous of the Bar Council and expanded both the scope of its activities and its membership.
Who we are
BHRC currently has over 250 members, all of whom are barristers called to the Bar of England and Wales, trainees, law students or academics. Our members include some of the UK’s foremost human rights barristers and legal practitioners. Our members offer their services pro bono, alongside their independent legal practices, teaching commitments and legal studies.
BHRC elects an Executive of eighteen members to lead on the policy, strategy and delivery of our work. They are supported by a full-time Executive Officer, an Advisory Council, and a Drafting Committee (who provide initial drafts and research for BHRC statements and publications).
BHRC’s Constitution was adopted in 1996 and amended in 2009, 2013 and 2015.
Our aims & work
BHRC’s mission is to protect and promote international human rights through the rule of law, by using the international human rights law expertise of the UK’s most experienced and talented human rights barristers.
BHRC works internationally to support and defend those under threat of human rights abuses, particularly lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals, as well as marginalized groups including children, women and refugees. We provide training, resources and guidance to support the development of human rights protections in countries where legal systems are lacking; we raise awareness of human rights abuses through trial observations and fact-finding missions; and we intervene in human rights cases by submitting amicus curia briefs in domestic and international courts and sending letters of concern to government officials in various jurisdictions.
Our vision is for a world in which human rights are universally protected, through every government and state actor’s adherence to international law obligations and internationally-agreed norms.
BHRC’s main objectives are:
- to uphold the rule of law and internationally recognised human rights norms and standards;
- to support and protect practising lawyers, judges and human rights defenders who are threatened or oppressed in their work;
- to further interest in and knowledge of human rights and the laws relating to human rights, both within and outside the legal profession;
- to advise, support and co-operate with other organisations and individuals working for the promotion and protection of human rights;
- to advise the Bar Council of England and Wales in connection with human rights issues
We achieve our objectives by:
- conducting international fact-finding investigations and investigative research on human rights situations;
- conducting trial observation missions to monitor proceedings where there are reasons to believe that the judiciary may not be independent or impartial and/or the defendant might otherwise be denied the right to a fair trial;
- building capacity through training in advocacy, human rights and humanitarian law;
- training and supporting judges, lawyers, academics, civil society activists and others concerned with human rights;
- monitoring human rights violations and raising awareness of human rights violations before state and non-state actors;
- participating in international litigation, including by intervening as amicus in foreign proceedings;
- promoting the rule of Law and human rights through public events; and
- assisting individuals and groups to hold states accountable for abusive practices and to ensure adherence to international human rights norms and practices.
BHRC is a member of the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk, the Attorney General’s International Pro Bono Committee, the Justice Working Group of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network and the Lawyers’ Advisory Committee for Peace Brigades International (PBI).