Lawyers for Human Rights has six programme areas that focus on promoting and protecting rights of the marginalised in post-apartheid South Africa.

Penal Reform Programme

South Africa’s prisons and penal system have been plagued by grave concerns for years despite their being robust and progressive legislation protecting the rights of accused persons and sentenced offenders. The Penal Reform Programme is a response to the growing need for the protection and fulfilment of such rights. We seek to achieve this through strategic litigation, research and advocacy.


The programme’s objectives and interventions are shaped by the needs of the those it serves. And when necessary or required we represent the experience, needs and concerns of those in custodial settings in the public sphere.

Some of the PRP’s objectives include:

  • Promoting and protecting inmates’ rights to dignified conditions of detention and to be free of torture and ill treatment
  • Assisting inmates to challenge policies or practices that amount to infringements of the rights to health, education and just administrative action.
  • Facilitating access to justice where an offender wishes to lodge a criminal complaint or requires the assistance of a police official.
  • Working to strengthen the oversight bodies mandated to inspect prisons and investigate complaints.
  • In very limited circumstances the PRP engages in criminal appeal work for those who have been wrongly convicted.

To get in touch with the Penal Reform Programme email Clare Ballard (Head of Programme) or call the LHR Cape Town office on 021 424 8561.

Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme/Statelessness

LHR established the Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme (RMRP) in 1996. Walk-in law clinics provide legal advice and representation, to ensure due process for asylum seekers and refugees. The programme also builds networks and is part of the social justice movement to combat xenophobia through engagement and education at community level. We advocate for the prevention of xenophobia, and work to promote access to protection for asylum seekers and refugees.

Strategic Litigation Programme

Strategic Litigation Programme litigates strategic and public interest cases that have the potential to improve the law and make a difference in peoples’ lives. The programme is active in its own litigation projects, as well as in supporting the litigation of LHR’s other programmes.

Land and Housing Programme

The Land and Housing Programme aims to protect the constitutional property rights of all disadvantaged and vulnerable people in South Africa. The programme is a leading advocate in efforts to address failed land reform programs, land claims, developing common law and ownership, regularising legal entities holding land, communal land and mining issues, large scale evictions, and other property rights.

Environmental Rights Programme

The Environmental Rights Programme focuses on environmental justice for marginalised communities and individuals. It seeks to promote and enforce the constitutional environmental right, as well as a just distribution of environmental benefits and burdens in our society more generally.

Gender Equality Programme

The Gender Equality Programme pursues systemic remedies for gender-based violence and discrimination in South Africa and the region. It also provides capacity and technical expertise to other LHR programmes. The programme serves women and girls, and LGBTIQ+ communities.