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Avocats Sans Frontières

Avocats Sans Frontières
Founded 1992
Focus Human rights
Area served Development aid
Method Field interventions, providing access to justice, legal aid and legal assistance
Key people Francesca Boniotti, Executive Director
Hafida Talhaoui, President of the Board of Directors
Employees more than 130 full time staff world-wide
Slogan Justice for a fairer world.[1]

Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF), also known as Advocaten Zonder Grenzen, is an international NGO, active in the human rights and development sector. Created in 1992 by a group of Belgian lawyers, ASF’s main objective is the realisation of institutions and mechanisms that facilitate access to independent and fair justice systems that ensure legal security and guarantee fundamental human rights for everyone.


  • History 1
  • Goal 2
  • Activities 3
    • Access to Justice 3.1
    • Defending the "defenders" 3.2
    • Supporting international justice 3.3
    • Strategic litigation 3.4
    • Economic and social rights 3.5
  • International Legal Network 4
  • Awards 5
  • Misc 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The ambition of the first Lawyers Without Frontiers in 1992 was to lend assistance and/or to defend persons whose rights were not respected in their country, because the cases were ‘sensitive’. Between 1992 and 1996 countless missions for immediate assistance were realised. As part of the project ‘Solidarity and Defence’ (later renamed ‘Lawyer for Lawyer’), lawyers were sent abroad for several weeks to give assistance and/or intervene in sensitive cases.

In 1994 the genocide in Rwanda caused commotion within the international community. Even though ASF was not yet equipped for long-term interventions, it decided to take action anyway. Between 1995 and 1998 different trainings were realised in Arusha, Tanzania, to educate lawyers on the proceedings of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Furthermore, there was the problem of a gross lack of lawyers in the country. During the genocide many people died, while others fled. The remaining lawyers could not or did not want to be involved in trials to convict the perpetrators. To answer this problem ASF started the program ‘Rights for Everyone in Rwanda’. To realise this program, ASF opened its first permanent mission abroad in Rwanda.

The necessity to execute a long-term detailed project facilitates ASF’s growth into an international organisation. Besides the initial mission for direct assistance and defence of people, ASF sets itself another goal: to contribute, as an independent actor, to a more just and equitable society, in which the law serves the most vulnerable people.

In this respect, ASF opens new missions in Burundi (1999), Kosovo (2000), the Democratic Republic of Congo (2000), Timor-Leste (2000), Uganda (2007), en Nepal (2010).


Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF), also known as Advocaten Zonder Grenzen (AdZG) is an international non-governmental organization contributing to the creation of fair and equitable societies, in which the law and its institutions serve the most vulnerable groups and individuals. ASF aims to realise this objective through field interventions in the areas of access to justice, legal aid and legal assistance before both national and international jurisdictions, such as the International Criminal Court.

ASF uses the law to serve the most vulnerable people: e.g. minors, women, persons illegally imprisoned, victims of human rights violationsm and any individual or group unable to access justice.

ASF currently has field offices in

ASF intervenes in cases where lawyers and human rights defenders are threatened, criminalised, harassed or even killed. ASF intervenes in these cases by providing legal and/or material aid to the victim, or serves as an observer at their trial.

ASF also supports local bar associations and human rights organisations through capacity building and advocacy.

Supporting international justice

An international justice system assures the protection of human rights and supports the restoration of victims’ dignity. ASF assists victims who wish to be represented before national and international courts that prosecute international crimes. In this context, ASF provides assistance to victims in several court cases pending before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Strategic litigation

Intervening in a specific case not only contributes to ending injustice for the involved parties, but can also serve – by changing the law – greater public interest.

ASF intervenes for the benefit of vulnerable people in emblematic cases through negotiation, mediation and/or taking a case to court for groups such as child soldiers, victims of human trafficking, torture or mistreatment, threatened journalists, etc.

Economic and social rights

Economic and social rights, such as the rights to decent work conditions, the highest attainable standard of health, education, adequate standard of living including access to land, food and water, are typically violated as a result of lack of political will, negligence and/or discrimination.

ASF provides legal assistance to vulnerable communities to ensure that they have equal access to legal mechanisms in their interactions with more powerful actors (State and non-State), to ensure that people know their rights and are empowered to use them. ASF works with communities to encourage legislative reform through advocacy and, if need be, strategic litigation.

International Legal Network

Created by Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) in 2010, the ILN brings together legal professionals from around the world eager to share their expertise and participate in activities to ensure that the law is a driving force for sustainable change.

Members of the ILN take part in ASF interventions in countries where justice is inaccessible or where there are few security guarantees for vulnerable populations. They contribute to developing mechanisms and actions for strengthening judicial stakeholders and improving access to justice.

With a strong emphasis on solidarity, members of the ILN perform their missions in accordance with pro bono conditions: voluntary work, constantly ensuring quality of services that benefit the most vulnerable people. The ILN offers a lasting partnership for law firms and other legal professionals wishing to develop their pro bono activities.[2]


In 2007, ASF was granted the CCBE Human Rights Award by the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe.[3]

In 2009, ASF won the Law and Sustainability Prize of the Association of Flemish Jurists.[4]


Avocats Sans Frontières has no affiliation with "

See also


  1. ^ "Homepage". Avocats Sans Frontières. Retrieved 16 November 2009. 
  2. ^ "What is the International Legal Network?". ASF. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  3. ^ "CCBE Human Rights Award granted to Avocats Sans Frontières". The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE). Retrieved 16 November 2009. 
  4. ^ "Prijs "recht en duurzaamheid" - 4 december 2009". Vlaamse Juristenverening. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 

External links

  • Avocats Sans Frontières Official Website in English, French and Dutch
  • Download ASF general flyer
  • ASF Canada
  • Official press release of The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE)announcing that the CCBE Human Rights Award is granted to Avocats Sans Frontières
  • ASF publication that won the Solidarity Prize (Solidariteitspreis) of the newspaper De Standaard
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