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Human Rights

“Human rights belong to every one of us without exception. But unless we know them, unless we demand they be respected, and unless we defend our right - and the right of others - to exercise them, they will be just words ... ”

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, Human Rights Day 2011

As an organization working everyday in interpreting and applying complex laws, we know the importance of enforceable laws.

We are passionate about using our professional expertise to give resonance to human rights; to ensure that they are not 'just words'.

Human Rights Working Group: firm-wide

Now in its second year, our Human Rights Working Group co-ordinates and develops the human rights work undertaken by our lawyers in jurisdictions around the world. The Executive Committee, headed up by Andrew Denny, one of the firm's London Litigation Partners, formulates policy and strategy to guide our human rights work.

Members of the Human Rights Working Group deliver training for (and with) Allen & Overy's clients on human rights compliance. We advise commercial clients on their human rights policies, particularly in the light of the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (known as the 'Ruggie Principles'), and the applicability to their business of instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. We are also proud to publish the "Business and Human Rights Review Archive", which provides a key forum for the exchange of ideas in relation to the challenges faced by businesses in seeking to prevent adverse human rights impacts arising from or connected with their activities. As a business, Allen & Overy also faces these same issues itself, and the Human Rights Working Group is currently engaged in the process of investigating what implementing the Ruggie Principles would involve for Allen & Overy worldwide. We also assist human rights charities and international non-governmental organisations pro bono in the delivery of their work, for example, by representing marginalised communities in court, submitting interventions and amicus curiae briefs and undertaking international comparative research projects to inform policy work.

Allen & Overy is well placed to use its position as an international business with core expertise in Public Law to achieve high impact results for its clients and for charities and international non-governmental organisations. We believe that everyone should have access to justice and legal representation. Here are some examples of our pro bono human rights work:

Acting for segregated Roma children: Budapest office

For five years, lawyers in our Budapest office worked on an important test case brought by Hungarian NGO, the Chance for Children Foundation. Allen & Overy represented several Roma people (an ethnic minority) pro bono in their dispute with the city of Miskolc, in relation to the segregation of Roma children in schools. The Supreme Court recognised the unlawful segregation of the children represented in the case as well as its detrimental effects upon their education and in an unprecedented decision awarded damages to each child. The landmark ruling could benefit more than 150,000 Roma students in Hungary.

Defending the rights of Guantanamo Bay detainees:  New York office

Our New York litigation department represents a number of Yemeni citizens detained at Guantanamo Bay in federal habeas corpus proceedings. The team working on these cases have participated in the briefing of several appeals concerning the rights of non-citizens who are alleged “enemy combatants”. The team also represented the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association and filed amicus curiae briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Guantanamo Bay detainee litigation.

Human rights support and strategic litigation: London office

Our lawyers regularly work with organisations such as Liberty, INTERIGHTS, Fair Trials International and Amicus. Lawyers in our London office undertake detailed intervention work for Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), a charity challenging UK immigration detention, recently working with them to intervene in a case before the UK Supreme Court.


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If you have an enquiry about the Human Rights Working Group, please contact the Pro Bono and Community Investment team.

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