You are here

Risk-based argument for condemnation of Human Rights Lawyers

Do human rights lawyers perform a strategic risk assessment to determine how to generate the greatest humanitarian gain per unit of time expended? Or do they do fee based work that is not analytically predetermined to be for the greater good? Defending human rights is a delicate path to tread when these kinds of questions are used to challenge the ethics of a lawyer's decision-making.

A most exquisite example is a human rights lawyer who does not apply independently audited risk management techniques in selecting the battles he/she chooses to fight. After all, such individuals have almost God-like responsibility to make the right choices do they not? There is more human suffering in the world than human rights lawyers to deal with it, which highlights the requirement for risk management in selection of clients.

Once a human rights lawyer chooses his/her profession, such risk management techniques arguably become as obligatory as they do for organisations duty bound to follow WorkSafe Regulations. These Regulations are designed to maximise safe outcomes in a business environment in which limited resources are available to achieve such outcomes.

A business starts with a project objective such as constructing a road, or a building, or a dam. Risk management techniques first determine whether the project is technically and commercially feasible. Generally the decision to commence the work in the first place is decided by the client. The details of the project are developed using risk management to define the safest path to follow.

But for human rights lawyers the first step in the process is arguably to decide who, or what, to defend. If risk management techniques are not rigidly applied to this first step then surely the actions of the lawyers may be conceptually flawed? Are there any statutory guidelines for human right lawyers to follow; or are decisions discretionary?

Surely robust risk management techniques should have led human rights lawyers to support the "stopping the boats" strategy, given that of the last 50,000 who travelled towards Christmas Island approximately 1,100 (mostly children) drowned? Presumably lawyers would have been compelled to do this work pro bono..........so it didn't happen?

The last boat disaster, from which over 100 people were lost, was directly linked to the obstructive behaviour of the Greens in parliament - which delayed the commencement of the action plan.

2014-15: Migration program set at 190,000 places; humanitarian intake 13,750 places. SOURCES: Department of Immigration; Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Typical Human Rights Lawyer job profile:

"Human rights lawyers help protect the well-being of individuals, and a law degree and knowledge of international law is required to enter the field.

A human rights lawyer provides legal protection for people who feel that their civil and human rights have been abused.

Human rights is not a specific area of law. Solicitors who deal with human rights issues may specialise in a range of areas such as immigration, mental health, environment law, public law, discrimination, war crimes, criminal justice, property, data protection, insurance... in fact almost all areas of law.

Human rights cases involve individuals who feel other individuals or public authorities have abused their civil liberties. So they might be a prisoner who has been mistreated by prison staff, or someone with a mental illness who is being discriminated against at work.

Human rights law has become increasingly popular over the last 15 years. This is partly due to the introduction of the Human Rights Act in 1998, which enforced the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in British courts. The act came to force in 2000, and this link between the European Court of Human Rights and UK law has made it easier to provide human rights protection in the UK.

Although a lot of lawyers who work in various areas of the law will deal with human rights issues, there are firms and publicly funded centres that specifically deal with human rights cases. It is a very person-orientated area of the law."

The implication being that it is not focussed on the greater good...................