The Advocates has received international recognition for a broad range of innovative programs to promote human rights and prevent the violation of those rights. The Advocates provides investigative fact finding, direct legal representation, collaboration for education and training, and a broad distribution of publications. The Advocates has produced more than 81 reports documenting human rights practices in more than 22 countries. Every year, The Advocates educates over 8,000 students and community members on human rights issues, and provides legal representation and assistance to over 1,000 disadvantaged individuals and families.
The Advocates is governed by a 27-member Board of Directors, consisting of community leaders in academia, the arts, business, law, and policy, and providing strategic oversight of financial and programmatic decisions.
Founded in 1983, the organization began with a group of Minnesota lawyers who recognized the community’s unique spirit of social justice as an opportunity to promote and protect human rights worldwide.
The Advocates was first established as the Minnesota Lawyers International Human Rights Committee. The Committee was formed to educate its members, lawyers, and the public about human rights issues; to promote, support, and encourage the efforts of lawyers worldwide in establishing judicial systems that protect human rights; and to contribute legal expertise in specific instances involving international human rights issues. The group organized and trained local professionals and advocates to use their skills and experience to defend human rights in Minnesota and around the world.
One of the organization’s first projects to receive international recognition was the preparation and publication of The Manual on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, known as the “Minnesota Protocol.” This document, adopted by the United Nations, details proper forensic procedures when conducting investigations and autopsies in cases of politically-motivated homicide. It remains one of the most significant human rights advocacy initiatives by a non-governmental organization and continues to be used throughout the world to document human rights abuses.
The organization changed its name to Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights in 1992. Then, to better reflect the scope of promoting human rights issues locally, nationally, and internationally, the organization became The Advocates for Human Rights in 2008.
Today, The Advocates continues to elevate the profile of human rights issues worldwide. Over the past 25 years, The Advocates’ groundbreaking work – in countries such as Liberia, Bulgaria, the Republic of Georgia, Albania, Mexico, Uzbekistan, Poland, Nepal, Moldova, Uganda, Peru, Sierra Leone, and the U.S. – has placed it at the forefront of the international human rights movement.
Through the vision of the founding members, the generosity of our supporters, and the energy and commitment of the board, staff, and volunteers, The Advocates for Human Rights continues to broaden the impact of its work in Minnesota and around the world.