Case study: helping those on death row

Lawyers from the UK have a long history of defending human rights around the world, including providing pro bono help on death penalty cases. We highlight here the work of two initiatives. 

The Bar Human Rights Committee 

The Bar Human Rights Committee was established in 1991 and is an independent body of barristers dedicated to promoting principles of justice and respect for fundamental human rights through the rule of law. Its work has included helping save numerous lives through its death penalty work. Following the abolition of the mandatory death penalty in Uganda, the BHRC worked to provide pro bono judicial training, advocacy training and legal support, with many lawyers from across the UK participating to help countless people in a sustained programme lasting several years. 

Over three decades the BHRC’s work has included filing Amicus Curiae briefs, conducting fair trial observations and carrying out international advocacy and training. More recently, in November 2021, the BHRC established a new project led by Advocate to provide urgent legal assistance to a number of vulnerable individuals in relation to the ongoing situation in Afghanistan.

More information is available on the BHRC website.

The Death Penalty Project

The Death Penalty Project was started in 1992 by lawyers at Simons Muirhead Burton LLP dedicated to working on death penalty cases in the Caribbean, and together with a number of barristers, has since assisted thousands of prisoners facing execution in 30 countries around the world. 

For example, over 15 years ago, as a barrister Keir Starmer QC helped the Project bring a series of successful strategic appeals in the Caribbean leading to the abolition of the mandatory death sentence in a number of countries, before assisting in Uganda where they succeeded in a mass appeal for 419 prisoners. 

Visit the Project’s website for more information.