Rule of law

Intervention tracker

Our intervention tracker compiles information on non-confidential actions we have taken to support lawyers and human rights defenders who are threatened because of the cases they work on or the clients they represent.

The intervention tracker is part of our Lawyers at Risk programme to support lawyers and human rights defenders who are being prevented from carrying out their professional duties.

The map indicates the countries where we took action during the period January to December 2021. This does not necessarily reflect all incidents against lawyers and human rights defenders in 2021 worldwide.

We regularly send letters to state authorities, highlighting not only individual cases, but also the context in which these lawyers operate.

The programme also aims to address the structural causes that give rise to risk through our policy, research and advocacy work.

We target:

  • relevant British all-party parliamentary groups
  • the Commonwealth secretariat
  • parliamentary select committees
  • the Foreign and Commonwealth & Development Office
  • the Council of Europe
  • United Nations (UN) and regional human rights bodies

We make submissions to the UN Human Rights Council as part of the universal periodic review (UPR) process, as well as to UN special rapporteurs and relevant international bodies.

We also draft and present amicus curiae briefs to domestic high courts and international tribunals. Whenever possible and appropriate, we also carry out trial observations.

In 2021, we have added other activities to the intervention tracker to give a comprehensive overview of all actions taken and in line with the increase in substantial submissions. This work includes:

  • joint oral statements at the UN Human Rights Council
  • UPR reports
  • UPR pre-session statements

See all our intervention letters, filtered by region

2021 key findings

We took 31 actions relating to 17 countries, 15 of which were letters.

Most actions regarded countries in:

  • Africa and the Middle East (32%)
  • North Asia (16%)
  • other regions (each 13%)

The highest percentage of incidents concerned:

  • arrest or detention (48%)
  • harassment or threats (22%)
  • threats to judicial independence (10%)
  • assassination (10%)
  • enforced disappearance (10%)

The most frequent type of human rights violation committed against lawyers and human rights defenders across the world has consistently been arbitrary arrest and detention, which has been the most frequent violation in our tracker every year since our launch in 2017.

In 2021, harassment and threats again followed arrest and detention as most frequent incidents (as in 2020 and 2019).

There was a noticeable increase in arrest and detention compared to 2020, as well as an increase in assassination and enforced disappearance (mostly relating to the Philippines and Myanmar).

We again included threats against judicial independence as a category, primarily noted regarding Venezuela and Turkey.

Download the 2021 intervention tracker (PDF 805 KB)

Previous findings

We sent 24 letters relating to 21 countries.

The most letters we sent in 2020 were addressed to countries in:

  • Europe (54%)
  • the Middle East and North Africa (21%)
  • South Asia and ASEAN (13%)

The most common types of human rights violations addressed in the letters were:

  • arrest or detention (38%)
  • harassment or threats (29%)
  • threats to the rule of law and judicial independence (21%)

The most frequent type of human rights violation committed against lawyers and human rights defenders across the world has consistently been arbitrary arrest and detention.

In 2020, we introduced the category of threats to the rule of law and judicial independence to reflect an increase in structural threats to the rule of law worldwide.

Compared to previous years, there was a significant increase in letters concerning the Europe region (especially Turkey and Poland).

Download the 2020 intervention tracker (PDF 827 KB)

We sent 17 letters relating to 13 countries.

The highest number of letters we sent in 2019 was addressed to countries in:

  • North Asia (23%)
  • the Middle East and North Africa (18%)
  • Commonwealth of Independent States (18%)
  • Europe (18%)
  • Latin America (17%)

The most common types of human rights violations addressed in the letters were:

  • arrest or detention (47%)
  • harassment or threats (41%)
  • enforced disappearance (6%)
  • assassination (6%)

The most frequent type of human rights violation committed against lawyers and human rights defenders worldwide has consistently been arbitrary arrest and detention.

The percentage of letters that addressed harassment and threats doubled in 2019 compared to 2018 and 2017.

Download the 2019 intervention tracker (PDF 822 KB)

We sent 15 letters relating to 13 countries.

Most letters were sent to countries in:

  • the Middle East and North Africa (26.7%)
  • Latin America (26.7%)
  • South Asia (20%)

The human rights violations most often committed against lawyers and human rights defenders in 2018 were:

  • arrest or detention (53.3%)
  • assassination (20%)
  • harassment or threats (20%)

Arrest and detention continue to be the most frequent violations and the number of assassinations increased in 2018. Killings were most frequent in Latin America, followed by South Asia.

Download the 2018 intervention tracker (PDF 823 KB)

We sent 19 intervention letters relating to 12 countries.

The highest number of letters sent in 2017 were addressed to countries in:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa (31.5%)
  • Europe (21%)
  • the Americas (15%)

The most common human rights violations addressed in the letters were:

  • arrest or detention (42%)
  • harassment or threats (21%)

Download the 2017 intervention tracker (PDF 1.68 MB)

We sent 28 intervention letters relating to 18 countries.

The highest number of intervention letters were sent to:

  • the Middle East and North Africa (29%)
  • Turkey (14%)
  • Sub-Saharan Africa (14%)
  • the Americas (14%)

The most common types of human rights violations committed against lawyers and human rights defenders were:

  • arbitrary detention (40%)
  • assassination (20%)

Download the 2016 intervention tracker (PDF 834 KB)

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