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The Human Rights Law Foundation uses strategic litigation and targeted advocacy to ensure perpetrators of human rights violations are brought to justice. Torture and other crimes against humanity are violations that cannot be justified by any political, religious or cultural claim. Yet a global culture of persecution against persons based on these and other grounds allows persecution to occur daily and with impunity. HRLF is aware of these challenges and is dedicated to protecting the moral rights of all people to be free from torture and persecution. The cases we handle are cases in which these principles are at stake. Our basic philosophy is that law serves these principles rather than the reverse. While this may seem an unusual approach for an NGO, it is nonetheless part of the tradition of human rights law and the moral principles upon which it is based.

Through a combination of litigation and advocacy, HRLF has developed an expertise in several areas that include the use of propaganda to further egregious human rights violations and the role of the Internet to further and suppress fundamental freedoms. HRLF is also committed to creating partnerships with Chinese human rights lawyers to further the rule of law in China.


Ronald Dworkin, the leading political, moral and legal philosopher of the 20th century, died February 14, 2013, in London. He was 81.

In his most recent publication, Justice for Hedgehogs,  Ronald Dworkin reminds us “without dignity our lives are only blinks of duration. But if we manage to lead a good life well, we create something more.  We write a subscript to our mortality. We make our lives tiny diamonds in the cosmic sands.”

Known to most as a prolific author and brilliant thinker, to some (including the founder of the Human Rights Law Foundation), he contributed in major ways through his teaching. As a wise and eminently clear professor who taught at Yale Law School, NYU Law School, and Oxford, Ronald Dworkin generated a clarity of thought in his students as he taught so many of us to “decide how to make something valuable of our lives” and like him, to enable others similarly to enjoy the benefits of what he called in his recent book,  “Justice for Hedgehogs,” a legitimate government.

Jack Weinstein, by far the best judge in all of the Second Circuit if not the country when it came to honoring this nation’s commitment to equal justice and civil rights, has retired as a judge in the Eastern District of New York. His cases have been re-assigned, including a case filed by HRLF. His victories at the NAACP helped overturn the “separate but equal” doctrine. His attentiveness to other social inequalities in addition to racial ones are illustrated in the briefs he filed as a lawyer and the opinions he issued from the bench. As others have noted, he has generated clarity of thought and compassion in those who have appeared before him. As one of the lucky ones, I would add that he taught me how to take on difficult issues and think outside the box while following legal precedent. Many of us shall miss him. We wish him well.

Chinese Lawyers at Risk

The protection of the rights of human rights defenders is itself indispensable to the vital operation of the United Nations as well as to the ability of human rights defenders to give voices to those who are unable to speak themselves, and more generally to interface between the victims of human rights abuses and the mechanisms of legal redress. Read more >>

Connie Smead Fellowship.

Each year, HRLF awards the Connie Smead Human Rights Fellowship to a recent law graduate with a record of excellence in litigation and international human rights law. This year’s recipient has not been selected. Read more >>


Direct Litigation

Our cases include:

Zhang Jingrong v. CACWA [USA]

On March 2, 2015, HRLF filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of a group of individuals in Flushing, New York, who claim they were targeted for violence and intimidation as a result of their public opposition to the Chinese Communist Party in China.  The case was filed under the KKK statute (42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), FACEA (18 U.S.C. § 248 (2)(a)) in addition to New York hate crime statutes and common law. After the Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ federal claims, District Court Judge Sandra Townes adopted Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon’s report and recommendation which recommends that defendants’ motion to dismiss be denied in its entirety. Plaintiffs prevailed at the summary judgment phase of the case in important respects. Read more >>>

Does v. Cisco [USA]

According to a lawsuit filed by HRLF against Cisco Systems, Inc., in the mid to late 1990s, the Communist Party and officials of China’s Ministry of Public Security proposed a “Golden Shield” project to include technological capabilities of China’s security forces in order to detect/monitor ordinary criminal conduct. At the same time, the Chinese Communist Party desired to upgrade the technological capabilities of Chinese security to single our various dissident groups for persecution, including Falun Gong, then well known as its “number one” enemy. The design of the Golden Shield, prepared by Cisco in San Jose, reflects these goals in two major platforms: the “Targeting Criminal Activities Platform” that covers all systems intended for ordinary criminal justice activity; and the “Maintenance of Social Stability Platform” that includes a subsystem for Tibetans, Uyghurs, democracy activists, and human rights lawyers, et cetera. Most prominent among these systems are the anti-Falun Gong systems. Read more>>>

Other US based HRLF cases involve civil claims under peonage and forced labor statutes, successful claims under the ATS and TVPA, as well as asylum appeals. Read more>>>

China Task Force

Cases Filed Map

HRLF collaborates with a team of human rights attorneys involved in the litigation of cases dealing with human rights in China.

These include cases filed in:




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