Aims and Objectives
The fundamental principles upon which AGHS was founded were:
- Providing access to justice through free legal representation for the marginalised and persecuted
- Building a stronger constituency of activists, mainly women
- Challenging non-discrimination, violence and threats against the vulnerable through legal action
- Ending impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations
- Reforming laws and policies through the use of court interventions, research, and partnerships from the grassroots level to policy makers.
AGHS Legal Aid Cell was co-founded by Asma Jahangir in 1980 to provide free legal representation for vulnerable women, children, bonded labourers, people in prison and religious minorities. It is now the leading law firm in constitutional and family law related legal work.
The fundamental principles of AGHS policy are essentially concerned with strengthening respect for human rights through providing free legal representation and by building a stronger constituency of activists, mainly women to challenge non-discrimination, violence and threats against the vulnerable. AGHS highlights violations of human rights and provides free legal representation to end impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations.
AGHS is celebrated for its quality service in legal aid. The firm was the first to raise the issue of women and girls being killed for honour.
AGHS has taken up impressive cases to defend those accused of blasphemy, constitutional petitions to challenge military courts, cases for the protection of those who are tortured or kept under arbitrary detention as well represented the families of those who disappeared. It has won a number of landmark cases in promotion and protection of human rights.
AGHS has a wide impact despite limited financial and human resource at its disposal because the organisation is committed to raise the level of awareness on human rights issues and has succeeded in doing so in many respects. Some of AGHS’s Board members and staff have been physically attacked, held hostage, threatened and vilified for promoting women and minority rights. AGHS has been at the forefront of the women’s movement and played a decisive role through street protests against General Zia ul Haq’s anti women and minorities legislation, the Hudood Ordinances and Law of Evidence. AGHS is an active supporter of the Women’s Action Forum since 1983, and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) was set up at the AGHS office. South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) was also proposed and initially setup by AGHS, who hosted its Secretariat for six years. AGHS networks with jail and court administrators to sensitize the police, judiciary and prison officers to human rights.