About BHRC

The independent, international human rights arm of the Bar of England and Wales

OUR VISIONThe independent, international human rights arm of the Bar of England and Wales

Since 1991

BHRC is an independent and non-political body of barristers called to the Bar of England and Wales, dedicated to promoting principles of justice and respect for fundamental human rights through the rule of law.

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 members are barristers called to the Bar of England and Wales, pupil barristers, legal academics or law students. Our members include some of the UK’s foremost human rights barristers, legal practitioners and academics. Our members offer their services pro bono, alongside their independent legal practices, teaching commitments and legal studies.

BHRC elects an Executive Committee every two years to lead on the policy, strategy and delivery of our work. They are supported by a full-time Project Officer, part-time Administrative Assistant and an Advisory Board. BHRC’s Constitution was adopted in 1996 and amended in 2009, 2013 and 2015.

Image Credit: hanohiki/Shutterstock
Image Credit: hanohiki/shutterstock

Activities & Advocacy

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.
The Bar Human Rights Committee regularly produces in-depth reports on global human rights issues. We provide expert analysis of ongoing or historic human rights abuses and situations of concern, connecting detailed in-country research to our expertise on matters of international law.
Fair trials are fundamental for justice and the rule of law. Working with our partners, BHRC sends impartial observers to countries around the world to ensure the right to a fair trial through the impartial administration of justice. The aim of trial observation is to report independently on the adherence of hearings to international fair trial standards. Our trial reports are widely circulated and have been referenced in court proceedings.
Public statements and letters of concern are an important means of holding governments to account, highlighting specific legal concerns and drawing international attention on alleged violations.
BHRC intervenes in cases around the world, providing expertise on international human rights law to prevent individual injustices and strengthen broader protections in cases where legal precedents could be set. The resource-intensive nature of preparing amicus to a high standard means that BHRC seeks to intervene only in the gravest cases of suspected violations of a defendant’s fair trial rights. In most cases, this involves those facing the death penalty. BHRC condemns the death penalty as a means of punishment, but also is concerned with the flawed circumstances in which it often is applied.
BHRC furthers interest in and knowledge of human rights primarily through training and events. In addition to holding its own events, BHRC is asked to lend its expertise to other public events around the world.
Image Credit: Rosen Ivanov Iliev/Shutterstock

OUR STRATEGYWorking to protect the rights of advocates, judges, and human rights defenders around the world

Through rule of law and internationally recognised human rights standards

Our mission is to protect and promote international human rights through the rule of law, by using the international human rights law expertise of some of the UK’s most experienced human rights barristers.

Our main objectives are to:

  • uphold the rule of law and internationally recognised human rights norms and standards;
  • support and protect practicing lawyers, judges and human rights defenders who are threatened or oppressed in their work;
  • further interest in and knowledge of human rights and the laws relating to human rights, both within and outside the legal profession; and
  • support and co-operate with other organisations and individuals working for the promotion and protection of human rights.

BHRC provides training, resources and guidance to support the development of human rights protections; we raise awareness of human rights abuses through fact-finding missions; we intervene in human rights cases by submitting amicus curiae briefs in local and international courts; and we send letters of concern to government officials and leaders abroad.

As part of its mandate, BHRC undertakes trial observation missions to monitor proceedings where there are concerns as to the proper functioning of due process and fair trial rights.

The remit of BHRC extends to all countries of the world, apart from its own jurisdiction of England and Wales. This reflects the Committee’s need to maintain its role as an independent but legally qualified observer and critic.

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales does not provide legal advice to individuals or institutions. Any legal advice provided by a barrister who is a member of BHRC is provided in his or her individual capacity as a practicing barrister and does not constitute the advice of BHRC.