About us

ASF in a few dates

1992 – Birth of ASF

In 1992, a group of solicitors and barristers from several countries launched the idea of Avocats Sans Frontières. A core group of Belgian lawyers united united around the idea, and a few months later, ASF was born in Brussels.


First urgent assistance missions under the project Solidarity and defence (later renamed Lawyers for Lawyers). ASF helped and/or defended those who could not defend themselves before the courts and victims of flagrant human rights violations. ASF intervened in such cases in Albania, Brazil, Bolivia, Burundi, Chile, Cuba, Spain, Guinea, Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritania, Palestine, Russia, Sierra Leone, Syria, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, etc.

1994 Genocide in Rwanda

Faced with the tragedy and the cruel lack of trained lawyers to defend both victims and the accused, ASF set up a training programme for lawyers to guarantee the principles of fair trial and respect for international standards.


Creation of the project Justice for all in Rwanda. Opening of the first ASF offices in Rwanda.  Now established abroad, the association obtained official status as an NGO (non-profit organisation).


In January, Justice for All in Burundi launched with the support of the Belgian and French Government aid agencies.

ASF became a genuine international movement: exploratory missions undertaken in Ireland, India, Ecuador, the Basque area of Spain, Uganda and Libya.

ASF participated in the Conference of Rome and became a member of the Coalition for an International Criminal Court.


ASF office in Burundi opened, as well as a legal aid programme.

In light of the war in the Balkans, ASF organised several missions to Kosovo.


ASF office in Kosovo opened. ASF widened its principles of action.

Gacaca tribunals in Rwanda launched to try genocide cases: ASF asked to offer technical assistance to the Supreme Court of Rwanda to explain the new gacaca system to the population.


Legal aid project in Rwanda closed; and torch passed to the Rwandan bar. An ASF team maintained to continue to monitor the ‘genocide trials’ and deliver training to judges.


ASF programme in Israel and Palestine launched.

ASF office in the Democratic Republic of Congo opened.

ASF office in Timor-Leste opened.


ASF awarded the Democracy Prize and was one of five finalists for the Peace Prize of Ypres.


ASF awarded the Solidarity Prize of the Dutch language newspaper De Standaard.


ASF nominated Peace Ambassador 2005 by the organisation Pax Christi Flandre.


The project Solidarity and Defence is renamed Lawyer for lawyer.


Opening of an ASF office in Uganda.

27 November: Avocats Sans Frontières received the first Human Rights Award for European Lawyers from the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE)


24 September: private launch of the ASF exhibition ROOM for JUSTICE at the Courthouse in Brussels.

Exploratory mission to Nepal.

27 November: first seminar in the series Justice and Globalisation: a challenge for lawyers took place in Brussels.


26 January: commencement of the first case heard by the trial chamber of the ICC (Thomas Lubanga case).

The ROOM for JUSTICE exhibition of ASF is presented in Antwerp, Bruges, Liège, Charleroi and Amsterdam.

ASF was awarded the “Law and Sustainability” prize by the Association of Flemish Jurists, for its initiative Fair trade and public procurement (Regelrecht voor Fair Trade).


Launch of ASF’s International Legal Network.

Luc Walleyn, member of the Board of Directors of ASF, received the annual prize of the KUL (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) Law SchoolAlumni Association for being an “especially distinguished member of society”.

ASF participated in the first Conference on revision of the Statute of Rome in Kampala (Uganda).

Opening of an ASF-office in Nepal.

Launch of a multi-country project, Promoting the Rome Statute and Enhancing the Effectiveness of the ICC. Participating countries include: DRC, Uganda, Burundi, Columbia, East Timor, Nepal, Guatemala, Chad, Guinea, Kenya and Zimbabwe.


Project launched to support and protect lawyers and other human rights defenders in the Great Lakes and East Africa regions, from Arusha to Kenya.

ASF was awarded an “honorary diploma” from the Bujumbura Bar Association for its work improving access to justice for the most vulnerable people in Burundi for the past ten years.

The first person detained and accused before the ICC, the Congolese ex-warlord Thomas Lubanga was found guilty and held responsible for the recruitment of child soldiers and for their participation in the hostilities in eastern DR Congo.

The International Legal Network welcomes its 500th member.

A project to improve social and legal aid for minors in Ndjamena, Chad is launched.

ASF activities start in Tunisia.


Launch of the Kalima project for the promotion of freedom of expression and the protection of journalists and bloggers in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.

Launch of ASF’s new project in Chad.

Launch of a UNDP-funded “rule of law” pilot-project in Myanmar.

Launch of a research project analyzing the impact of ASF’s work and the relation among access to justice, rule of law, and economic and social development in our countries of intervention.


Launch of ASF’s first projects in the Central African Republic and in Zambia.

ASF and lawyers in Burundi mobilise to defend the rights of those arrested during demonstrations following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement that he intended to stand for a third term in office.

ASF contributed to the launch of a fund to protect defenders of human rights.

ASF and the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights file the first regions as victims case in the court hearing cases of crimes committed in Tunisia.


As a result of ASF-initiated workshops in Chad, seven non-governmental organisations sign the first joint statute on paralegal assistance in Chad.

A congress on traditional justice in Tunisia brings together civil society, courts and public authorities, political decision-makers and victims’ associations.

ASF et REDRESS raise the issue of reparations in Uganda.

ASF carries out studies interviewing officials and detainees on their experience of detention in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Chad.

ASF is awarded the international Henri La Fontaine prize.

ASF is involved in conflict resolution at community level, carrying out an Action Research in Central Congo and a study on natural resources in Chad.


ASF headquarters move to new offices.

ASF is awarded substantial five-year funding by the Directorate General for Development Cooperation in Belgium.

ASF resumes its activities in Morocco and launches its first project in Indonesia.

ASF celebrates its 25th anniversary, at which 25 participants give testimony on the importance of access to justice.