SAHR was founded in 2008 as a student-led network of from all over the world, primarily from the global south. For a decade, SAHR operated as a student-led pro-bono group and is now a peer-led network, by HRDs for HRDs.
SAHR has received international recognition and awards for its "jaw dropping" work from the former UK Attorney General, Dean of SOAS, University of London and the Clinton Global Initiative Conference, amongst others.
With a focus on access to justice in the global south and Muslim-majority countries, SAHR has represented survivors of SGBV, mentored and supported lawyers in SGBV cases, and, submitted expert and amicus opinions to aid and advocate international and local courts.
Below is a summary of some of our notable work.
Described as "jaw dropping" work, SAHR was competitively selected by Paul Koehler, the then Dean of School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London for “Best Volunteering Project” in 2013.
Prior to this, SAHR's Founder, Natasha Latiff, won the "Best Individual Contribution to Pro Bono Amongst UK Law Schools" (2010) The Former UK Attorney-General Dominic Grieve awarded Natasha for “Best Individual Contribution to Pro Bono amongst all law schools” in 2009.
Lead for SAHR's Justice Network, Humaira Ameeri, has also won several national and international awards including the Asia Human Rights Award by the Taiwan Democracy Foundation in 2021.
SAHR's Co-Executive Director, Sara Bergamaschi, who co-produced the HBO’s documentary "It Will Be Chaos", won an Emmy Award at the 40th annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards, under the Outstanding Current Affairs category. Part road movie and part intimate portrait of lives in transit, the movie unfolds between Italy and the Balkan corridor, intercutting two unforgettable refugees’ stories of human strength and resilience.
In 2019, SAHR was invited to speak at TEDx Rovigo in Italy, where Sara simulated a cross-examination of rape victim, to raise public awareness of secondary trauma and why victims do not report.
In 2020, SAHR was selected as Project Circle by Giving Women (GW). GW is a membership association, which seeks to build a community of informed women philanthropists and to make a meaningful difference in the lives of women and girls in need.
Natasha Latiff and Humaira Ameeri in Geneva to submit before the CEDAW Committee and attend Swiss legal proceedings for one of our cases in February 2020.
In Afghanistan, SAHR worked with lawyers and civil society to repeal discriminatory laws and enact gender-competent legislation.
In 2010, at the request of the Afghan Family Law Drafting Committee, we reviewed the initial draft of the family bill together with renowned professors of law including Professor Mohammad Fadel, Assistant. Professor Kecia Ali, Professor Ayesha Shahid and Professor Rebecca Probert and in consultation with international organizations (the bill was never passed due to objections by Parliament).
In 2014, SAHR drafted amendments to Criminal Procedure Code 2014 to incorporate protection measures for minor, at-risk and vulnerable witnesses and victims, to ensure they would be protected for participating in the justice process.
Between 2016 - 2020, SAHR provided technical support to local legal aid organisations in Afghanistan on drafting or amending the Anti-Harassment Law 2016, Elimination of Violence Against Women Law 2009, and, Penal Code 2017. SAHR coached lawyers to bring test cases in court to prohibit the use of forensic reports on virginity - some of which were successful and stopped the referral of women for virginity examination by police, prosecution and judiciary. Virginity testing was later prohibited by law under the Penal Code of 2017.
"Natasha worked and supported me to achieve my dreams of being a great human rights lawyer."
Yalda Ahmadi, lawyer, Afghanistan
Humaira Ameeri in an advocacy meeting with civil society, academics and members of the government.
Advocacy with the former 2nd Vice President to prohibit virginity testing as a form of torture.
In 2019, SAHR represented victims in a systematic case of sexual harassment by a professor at renowned university. The case was submitted to the Constitutional Court of Colombia and through several other legal and administrative avenues.
SAHR also made submissions on holistic reparations in the Case of Jineth Bedoya Lima before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The case involved Jineth Bedoya Lima, a journalist, who was abducted, kidnapped and taken to a warehouse where she was sexually abused and assaulted by several men.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared the Colombian State responsible for the violation of the right to personal integrity, personal liberty, honor and dignity, and freedom of thought and expression of Colombian journalist, Jineth Bedoya - because it did not implement effective protection measures for the victim, even when it was aware of the risk she faced because of the issues she covered and because she was a female journalist.
Our work in Colombia was led and represented by our Legal Associate, Angie Garcia.
In 2019, when we launched our first fellowship program, we supported Yasmine Bjornum, a young human rights defender from Vanuatu fighting for justice for survivors of rape and sexual assault by a serial sex offender, who held a high position in the Vanuatu medical circle.
The case was stuck “under investigation” for 4 years. Within one year of SAHR support, particularly holding the prosecution office responsible for the undue delay, the case was revived within one year of SAHR’s support and offender set for trial. This case was a testimony of the transformative potential of SAHR’s support to WHRDs.
South Sudan/ Italy
In 2019, SAHR represented Ms. Sabrina Prioli, an Italian humanitarian aid worker who survived conflict-related rape in Juba, South Sudan during a breakout of civil war between the South Sudan army and rebel groups in 2016.
Her mission: to bring justice to her case, to move governments and multi-lateral institutions to recognise rape as a weapon of war and take practical actions to safeguard victims’ right of reparations.
Through 2019, SAHR negotiated reparations with the government of South Sudan to ensure that they fulfill their international legal obligations to remedy her as a victim of armed conflict.
The negotiation with the South Sudan government was beset with difficulties due to a fledgling transitioning government, long history of impunity and political unwillingness to be accountable towards victims of war crimes.
With the support of a group of Italian lawyers, in 2022, the case was resolved, setting an important precedent for the recognition of reparations for conflict related sexual violence, and, paving the way for justice and accountability for thousands of other South Sudanese survivors.
In the last 10 years, SAHR supported local legal aid organisations such as Medica Afghanistan and WJO to advocate for justice for survivors in SGBV cases. SAHR provided mentorship in the investigation of those cases, searching for victims and witnesses to come forward, applying and arranging for their protection, interviewing them and taking their statements, documenting evidence, designing the legal strategy for the case, drafting legal arguments, preparing court submissions and building a strategic alliance of local and foreign organizations, and advocating in court.
SAHR's Founder, Natasha Latiff, working with Yasmine Bjornum on her case to map out potential witnesses
Picture of the trial in South Sudan
Source: Human Rights Watch
Capacity Building and Mentorship
Workshops on using Shariah law to advocate for women's rights in court
Between 2012 and 2014, SAHR led the first training in Afghanistan on how to use gender equity within Shariah law to strategically litigate child custody cases, rape cases, adultery, divorce due to harm and domestic violence. SAHR ran mock trials and mapped arguments and the counterarguments for different scenarios. Within 6 months, the lawyers were able to obtain the release of rape victims from prison or reduced sentences in 19 cases and obtain divorce for 36 cases of domestic violence. After 6 months, they obtained justice for hundreds of other women.
“Where did you get this defense statement from? This is exactly how a case should be argued.” - Judge in one the cases
Workshops for HRDs on gender-equal interpretations and applications of law in SGBV cases
Throughout 2008 - 2020, SAHR delivered workshops and working group dialogues on "Women's Rights in Islam", and “Tactical Approaches to Combating Sexual Violence” to human rights defenders from Kenya, Indonesia, Nigeria, Nepal, Syria, Pakistan, and, Egypt, amongst other countries. The key themes for most of the workshops are Debunking Rape Myths and Stereotypes, Investigating Sexual Violence and Approaching Reparations Holistically.
Mentorship on case advocacy
Between 2016 - 2018, SAHR's founder was providing monthly mentorship to a group of 10 lawyers from Medica Afghanistan, a legal aid and women support organisation on case advocacy and quality assurance.
SAHR also connected lawyers and judges from India and Nepal with women human rights lawyers from Afghanistan to exchange experiences and learn more how to use the law as a strategic tool towards gender justice.
In 2020 and 2021, to support diverse HRDs seizing opportunity for strategic litigation and law and policy reform, SAHR provided mentorship and financial support to WHRDs fighting:
To recognise former wives of Boko Haram soldiers as victims and give them access to holistic reparations in Nigeria;
To make justice more accessible to disabled survivors of sexual violence in Indonesia;
To recognize sexual, health and reproductive rights of diverse and lesbian women in prison in Mexico; and
To strengthen public institutional accountability and financial reparations for sexual harassment committed by a civil servant in Argentina.
SAHR presenting landmark case law on rape at an exchange workshop with Moroccan lawyers and rights group, UFL, in 2019.
Natasha Latiff conducting a workshop on proving crime of rape in 2019
SAHR workshop on prosecuting cases of sexual violence
SAHR workshop. on submitting reports to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women
In 2015, SAHR conducted a research on enforced disappearances of men in Kashmir by insurgent groups and the Indian army in the wake of Kashmir’s fight for independence, and the effect of these disappearances on the wives of these men, also known as ‘half-widows’. We created comics to explain how these women could obtain compensation from the Indian government. The investigation and awareness work was conducted by SAHR Associate, Deya Bhattacharya.
The report was later published at the Hindu Center for Public Policy.
In 2012/2013, SAHR conducted case law research to extract gender-equitable jurisprudence of Shariah courts and local courts of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Our findings were published in a online database for other HRDs to use.
In 2020 and 2021, SAHR conducted extensive research on rape laws in Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, India and Kosovo to participate in study by the former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against women Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, to criminalize and prosecute rape as a grave and systematic human rights violation and harmonise rape laws globally. SAHR was thoroughly thanked for producing those reports which culminated in a model legislation on rape law. SAHR’s country reports were published on the UN SR’s website.
SAHR regularly networks with HRDs from Latin America, Africa and South and East Asia. These are pictures from our virtual and in-person events.