Brussels/N’Djamena, 17 December 2018 – Chad has about 12 million inhabitants…and 135 practising lawyers, almost all based in the capital, N’Djamena. Fortunately, they are not the only ones defending people’s rights: supervised and trained by national organisations and by ASF, paralegals provide legal aid services to the most destitute.
Paralegals are men and women who work voluntarily to make the law accessible to everyone. Most of them are ordinary villagers, not legal professionals.
Their work, which complements that of lawyers, is crucial: it enables conflicts to be resolved amicably, in a way that respects everybody’s rights, and promotes peace and social cohesion. They are true ambassadors of the law to the people.
Bedjebedje, aged 60, is a paralegal in Béré: “What motivates me the most is the contribution we are making to society and the way we are educating people about the law. My concern is that justice is done.”
Make a donation: help us to improve the working conditions of paralegals and ensure the quality of the services they provide. For example, 40 euros would cover their travel and communication costs for a month, and thus enable them to reach the most remote areas.Mbaibai (on the right in the photograph), aged 47, mother of five children and paralegal: “Due to a lack of means of transport, I travel on foot. But I consider myself happy and I’m optimistic. I am hopeful that the working conditions will improve one day.”Make a donation:
By bank transfer to the Avocats Sans Frontières account BE89 6300 2274 9185
If the amount that you donate adds up to €40, we will send you a tax receipt in February.
The ASF project with paralegals in Chad is partly funded by the European Union. We need your help to raise the remaining funds so we can carry out all the activities that are planned!
Thank you for your generosity.
We wish you all a very happy holiday season.
PS: We are putting together a team to run the Brussels 20 km on 19 May 2019, to raise money for paralegals in Chad. Join us: you can sign up now!
Brussels, 30 May 2018 – Last Sunday, ASF took part in this year’s biggest sporting event in the Belgian capital: the 39th Brussels 20 km race. In mixed cloud and sunshine, nearly 40,000 people, including the 24 members of our team, started off from the esplanade in the Parc du Cinquantenaire. The event raised €4,212 for victims of domestic violence and communities struggling for access to land and for the protection of the natural environment in Indonesia.
Running is good, but running for a good cause is even better! The words “human rights are good for your health” were displayed proudly on the participants’ T-shirts. It was in support of defending human rights that they rose to this intense sporting challenge. In the weeks leading up to the race, they all mobilised to raise awareness among their friends and family about ASF’s activities in Indonesia.
Carlos Mourato, a lawyer specialising in European law, was one of the first to join the team. “As citizens of the world, we should be concerned about people whose rights are under threat far from home,” he believes. “The right to physical integrity is a fundamental right. I am happy that my friends and I have been able to contribute to defending victims of domestic violence in Indonesia.”
On that Sunday morning at ten o’clock, fifteen men and nine women – some of whom had come from Antwerp, Liège, and even Luxembourg – left the starting line under the ASF banner (see photo). They battled on, over tarmac and through the city parks, for twenty kilometres, some of it pleasant and some of it gruelling. An hour and 22 minutes later, the first runner from our team, Pierre Haenecour, a Belgian, had already crossed the finishing line!
It was midday before larger numbers of runners started to arrive. Hélène Panier, who walked the route for ASF, shared her impressions with us: “It was a pleasure to complete the 20 km with the ASF team. There was a lot of sweat and aching muscles, but there was a real spirit of togetherness throughout the race, providing plenty of motivation, aside from that of running (or walking) to defend the rights of men and women!”
Once they had received their medals, the participants and their families were invited for a barbecue in the ASF garden. Just the thing for them to recharge and spend some informal time among friends. Mr Mourato said, “I also greatly enjoyed the barbecue that had been organised, which finished off the event in a convivial atmosphere.”
A huge thank you to everyone involved! See you next year?
We will spoil you before, during, and after the race with:
A weekly training session and individual guidance for fourteen weeks leading up to the race, to be held at lunchtime in the Parc du Cinquantenaire by our colleague Pascal, an exercise enthusiast (as well as weekend training for walkers, led by Karin).
A bib with your running time on it, an ASF T-shirt, a drink, and a snack during the race.
Advice on getting people you know to sponsor you.
A place to change and shower, very near to the starting line.
A barbecue in our garden after the race, which your friends and family are welcome to attend.
Sign up now via this link (registration closes on 22 March) and spread the word!
Once we have received your registration form, we will send you a confirmation e-mail with all the information you will need.
We are hoping to get a great team together and raise €4,000 in donations.
We are happy to answer any questions you might have. Please contact us by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by telephone (+32 (0)2 223 36 54).
The ASF team
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Brussels, 27 November 2017 – This week, Francesca Boniotti, Executive Director of Avocats Sans Frontières for nearly ten years, comes to the end of her mandate within our organisation and leaves to embark on new professional and personal adventures. She is succeeded by our long-time colleague, Chantal van Cutsem.
Francesca Boniotti (on the right in the photo) began her career at ASF in 2003 as Head of Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; later, she joined the Brussels headquarters of the NGO, where she occupied several positions before taking on its management in June 2008. This pen portrait, by a Congolese colleague from her early years with ASF, perfectly sums up her personality and her entire career within the organisation: “Despite her frail appearance, Francesca is in charge of things. She is like a fish in water in Kinshasa, where everyone calls her by her first name. She has a very good rapport with her team, and operates in a democratic way, with natural authority.”
Francesca, who had always been active in promoting human rights, approached the various aspects of her post with energy and enthusiasm. She was able to guide ASF through successive stages of its evolution, developing strategies for continuously increasing the impact of our activities, supporting her colleagues in difficult times, and bringing together a broad network around issues relating to access to justice. She was always very close to our teams on the ground, whose safety was one of her primary concerns. We are sincerely grateful for the work she accomplished over all these years, and wish her the best of luck in the future.
Chantal van Cutsem (on the left in the photo) will take on the post of Executive Director on Wednesday. This will be a seamless transition, as Chantal, a former lawyer, has been working with ASF for a long time. Over the past ten years, she has clearly demonstrated her qualities, coordinating our activities in the African Great Lakes Region and overseeing the development of new projects and approaches in the Middle East and North Africa, among other duties. Chantal will be able to use her skills, passion, and vision to assist ASF in the pursuit of its goal of guaranteeing accessible justice for all.
There are many challenges, as she herself explains: “The world of development cooperation is evolving, as are our ways of working. We want to build a more flexible structure and develop communities of practice that involve actors from diverse backgrounds in our discussions and activities. We would also like the members of our general assembly to play a more active role within the organisation.” ASF wants to increase its presence within European civil society, in order to defend human rights in Europe, says Chantal van Cutsem: “We are experiencing a toughening of laws. Under the pretext of guaranteeing the security of citizens, more and more repressive laws are coming into effect. Issues relating to migration are also of great concern to us. How can we promote better coordination between migrants’ countries of origin, the countries where they are in transit, and their destination countries, in order to ensure that their rights are respected at every stage of their journey? Thanks to the experience acquired over the past 25 years and the ability of the organisation to learn constantly, there is no doubt that we will be able to make an effective contribution towards tackling these major issues.”
We wish the best of luck in the future to Francesca, and a good start to Chantal!
Brussels, 23 October 2017 – For nearly twenty years, personnel of the Court of Justice of the European Union have been gathering every year for a big quiz night, the proceeds from which are donated to charities. ASF is one of four organisations to benefit from this year’s quiz, making this the thirteenth time that we have been able to count on their support!Ms Sarah Lacrampe is a Legal Secretary at the General Court of the European Union based in Luxembourg. She is a member of the organising committee of the quiz, in which fifty or so teams compete on musical, legal, and general knowledge questions (see photos). “The evening’s proceeds enable us to support organisations that provide assistance to the most destitute,” she explains. “The participants – more than 300 people in total – choose the good cause that they would like to help, from a list that we compile beforehand.”
“The choice of donating to Avocats Sans Frontières came naturally to us, because of its activities in the area of access to justice,” says Benjamin Cheynel, Secretary General of the Amicale des Référendaires, which started the event; “We hope this donation will contribute to your projects and to the sustainable promotion of the rule of law.”
Francesca Boniotti, Director General of ASF commented: “Initiatives like this provide essential support to our projects in the field. We are very grateful to the the Court of Justice of the European Union staff for their commitment in support of human rights.”
In particular, these donations enable us to finance activities that are not funded by our institutional donors: responding to urgent requests for support from lawyers or human rights defenders who are in danger, launching innovative projects in new fields, research and transnational studies, and capacity-building for our staff and partners. They are invaluable to us.
You too can support ASF! All donations over €40 are tax-deductible. Thank you!
On 14 May 1992, a group of solicitors and barristers created Avocats Sans Frontières with the aim of “defending human rights in all countries around the world”. Twenty-five years on, our ideal of ensuring access to justice for all remains very much alive. Our organisation has gained strength from its experiences through the years, its capacity for innovation, the unswerving enthusiasm of its teams and the support of its partners, who have sent us their birthday wishes in video. To discover these films, visit our website and follow us on social media throughout 2017.
On this anniversary day, we look to the future with energy and enthusiasm, driven by the desire to do the best we can to serve those awaiting access to justice. Our quest to act effectively wherever needed means we are constantly evolving, be it in the subject fields we cover, the approaches we adopt or the parts of the world in which we work.
For example, we are increasing our presence in Asia, where our first project in Indonesia is preparing for launch, operating alongside our activities aimed at strengthening the rule of law in Myanmar which began a few months ago. We are concerned to support legal professionals and vulnerable social groups in equal measure, and so our organisation provides assistance targeted towards specific population groups such as migrant women in Morocco, for whom a project has also just been launched. In addition, we support communities whose rights are endangered by industrial activity, including in Uganda and Tunisia. People seeking justice are actors: we strive to build their capacity to act and to defend their own rights.
Today, in 2017, lawyers cannot promote change alone. Other actors have now joined us to uphold the validity of human rights, combat impunity and ensure sustainable access to justice: these include paralegals, community-based groups, health and social services, psychologists and more. Our organisation champions this holistic approach, in accordance with the Lawyering for Change conference held last December.
Follow the #ASF25 campaign during the months ahead on our website and on social media. On the 14th of every month, we will share a new video and further content on the themes at the heart of our mission. And our friends, partners and colleagues, who are helping us shape our future, will share their goodwill messages and views.
Thank you to everyone for your support during these last 25 years.
Continue to stand with us to promote access to justice!
Excellent news: Avocats Sans Frontières has just been granted significant funding for five years by the Belgian DGD (Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid). This aid will be used for projects supporting justice in five countries: Burundi, Indonesia, Morocco, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This also represents ASF’s first project in Indonesia.
In line with ASF’s original and enduring objectives, these projects aim to improve access to justice for all. They have three main themes: support for bar associations, lawyers and civil society organisations to ensure high-quality legal services; the fight against impunity for international crimes; increase awareness and autonomy in communities endangered by industrial activities. ASF works hand in hand with a dozen organisations and national bar associations, in collaboration with Belgian NGOs such as RCN Justice et Démocratie, 11.11.11 and Broederlijk Delen.
“We are honoured, and we appreciate the confidence placed in us for a five-year period – a first for ASF – by the Belgian DGD“, declares Francesca Boniotti, Director-General of ASF. “Reinforced by this support, we aim for ambitious results in the five countries concerned.” For example, as a result of the project, 30,000 people in DR Congo will be advised of their rights, including 120 community leaders; over 7,000 legal consultations will be organised, and almost 2,700 people will receive assistance in court. ASF will be able to contribute to lasting attitude change in citizens seeking justice, legal services providers and institutional stakeholders.
“We are delighted by the promising perspectives, but we are also realistic“, continues Francesca Boniotti. “The funding recently granted by the DGD is only 75%* of the budget originally requested. It will not cover all of our actions in these countries, nor our expenses.” Receiving funds from generous sponsors and private donors is more essential than ever to ensure ASF’s independence from the Belgian government’s geopolitical priorities, to explore new areas for action, and also for responding to urgent situations. Last December important funding from the British government came to an end. Filling this gap is a considerable challenge for ASF.
As a result, your contribution remains vital to enable us to continue to provide high-quality and independent action. Keep supporting us!
* Moreover, the amount granted is not completely guaranteed for the five years: the DGD reserves the right to revise it annually, and hence decrease the amount, depending on the Belgian government’s budget policy.
Brussels, 20 February 2017 – ASF was recently given a donation of €10,000 by the International Association of Young Lawyers. This donation attests to the now well-established links between the NGO which advocates for human rights and the international association for young lawyers and legal professionals.
The International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA) brings together 4,000 young lawyers and legal professionals from over 90 countries. It aims to encourage meetings among its members and promote solidarity and mutual respect between them. “We organise seminars and other activities for our members“, explains Giuseppe Marletta, AIJA Association Manager. “In recent years, we have been able to count on Avocats Sans Frontières to provide thought-provoking material at our annual conference; in 2016, for example, we had a session onthe rights of refugees.”
According to ASF Strategic Coordinator Chantal van Cutsem, “in 2015, ASF and AIJA also conducted a joint advocacy campaign following the troubling arrest of lawyer Malek Adly, where we called for respect for the freedom of the legal profession in Egypt. I also had the opportunity to addressfreedom of speech issues in countries undergoing democratic transitionat the AIJA conference in London.”
“The decision to seal this collaboration with a financial donation was simply the logical next step“, adds Nicolas Thieltgen, Co-Chair of the AIJA Human Rights Committee. “It allows us to make a tangible contribution to ASF’s work supporting lawyers in the countries in which it operates.”
Donations such as the one made by AIJA are an essential supplement to the institutional funding awarded to ASF programmes. They enable the organisation to safeguard its independence from donors’ geopolitical priorities, pursue the most urgent requests, explore new possibilities for action, and meet expenses which are not covered by institutional donors.
“AIJA’s donation to our organisation demonstrates that whether we are business law specialists, corporate lawyers or lawyers without borders, we all share the belief that access to justice, the rule of law and respect for human rights are essential and contribute to sustainable development,” concludes Chantal van Cutsem. “We are grateful to them for their backing and hope that we can continue to rely on their support in the future.”
Brussels, 20 January 2017 – At the end of December 2016, we challenged you with this question: “What about you? What will you do to promote human rights in 2017?” Many of you responded, for example by making a donation to Avocats Sans Frontières. But also by sending us your encouragement and your messages. We would like to share some of these with you.
Whichever way you have chosen to get involved, we thank you.
We wish you the best for 2017.
The ASF Team
In 2017, ASF will be celebrating its 25 years of commitment to human rights.What about you? What will you do for human rights?