Lawyers for Human Rights – Four decades of human rights activism and public litigation in South Africa

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) is a human rights organisation with a 39-year track record of human rights activism and public interest litigation in South Africa. LHR uses the law as a positive instrument for change and to deepen the democratisation of South African society.

To achieve its aims, LHR provides free legal services to vulnerable, marginalised and indigent individuals and communities who are victims of infringements of their constitutional rights. The LHR has three law clinics and three advice offices in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Musina, Pretoria and Upington.

LHR’s activities are centred around six programme areas, namely the Strategic Litigation Programme (SLP), Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme (RMRP), Environmental Rights Programme (ERP)), Penal Reform Programme (PRP), Gender Equality Programme (GEP), and the Land and Housing Programme.

Highlights of recent programme activities include:

The ERP regularly represents communities experiencing the negative impacts of mining at all phases in the mining cycle.  To this end, LHR won a critical victory earlier this year, ensuring that mining-affected communities were consulted as key stakeholders in the drafting of the Mining Charter. The ERP has also conducted essential research into the effects of mine closures on local communities, sought protection of those communities’ right to water and basic hygiene in the aftermath of closure, and negotiates on behalf of communities on whose land mining companies seek to begin operation.

The RMRP provides vital assistance to refugees and asylum seekers navigating the asylum process. It also monitors areas of immigration detention and runs a Statelessness Project that has assisted many children get the necessary documentation to enable them to access all other rights such as access to healthcare and education.

The GEP co-authored the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights’ guidelines for African states on Combatting Sexual Violence and Its Consequences in Africa.

The PRP performs work around overcrowding in prisons, the torture of inmates and incidental matters relating to detention.

The LHP aims to strengthen the capacity of its clients through advocacy and rights awareness. It conducts training on promoting socio-economic rights in six provinces with community-based organisations and community advice offices. It also assists clients to lodge land claims, provides legal protection to farmworkers in relation to their land rights, and works towards building jurisprudence that dismantles apartheid era restrictions on land ownership for women that still exist today.

The SLP manages a nationwide network that advocates for the rights and protection of protesters and ensures marginalised communities can effectively lead their own social change movements without repression. It advocates for the rights of vulnerable workers, victims of international crimes and victims of discrimination in society.

Some of LHR’s most recent litigation successes include:

LHR was involved in a matter that culminated in a landmark labour judgment in the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land. LHR represented an amicus curiae, the Casual Workers Advice Office (CWAO), a non-profit organisation that provides advice, assistance and support to precarious workers. The judgment affirms the interpretation of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 in a manner that effectively provides greater protection and security to outsourced workers.

LHR also achieved victory in the Constitutional Court in the context of refugee and migrant rights. In the landmark judgment, the Constitutional Court held that section 34(1) of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002 was unconstitutional to the extent that it did not allow a detained person, suspected of being an illegal foreigner, from having their detention subjected to automatic judicial oversight and which would allow a detainee to appear in court to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.

In addition to litigation, LHR also conducts advocacy work and provides legal advice.

LHR is a member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), an international non-governmental federation for human rights organisations aimed at protecting human rights. LHR also participates in the Public Interest Law Gathering (PILG), an annual South African event bringing together public interest legal practitioners and organisations, law students, paralegals, social movement leaders and legal academics.

The greatest challenge facing LHR, like many other non-profit organisations, is access to resources to expand and sustain its activities. In order to continue making major strides in the protection of human rights in South Africa, LHR requires additional funding to support its programmes.

Click here to make a donation to LHR, or contact Carol Mohlala, Communications Manager, about how best to support LHR’s work.

Contact details:

Tel: +27 12 320 2943
Twitter: @LHR_SA
Facebook: @LawyersForHumanRights

This is the forty-second NGO profile of my 2018 #NGOs4Africa Campaign.

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