Every day, in countries throughout the world, people are arbitrarily detained and tortured. While we may hear about certain high-profile cases, the vast majority go unnoticed. They are ordinary, often poor, persons who are routinely detained and tortured, oftentimes for minor infractions such as stealing a bag of rice or a bicycle. Laws have been passed and commitments have been made, not least, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet, systematic torture and abuse continues in broken down legal systems, affecting millions of people. The problem is hidden in plain sight but has too long been ignored, much to our collective detriment.

The key is at hand: to provide those who are detained and accused with systematic access to competent lawyers as early as possible in the legal process. This can serve to eliminate or reduce torture as an investigative tool, and will help to guarantee everyone–man, woman and child–the right to a fair trial.

As a community of leaders, we, the founding signatories to the Declaration on Access to Justice to Prevent Torture, affirm that in order to achieve strong and stable societies, effective governance and development goals, we must address the needs of those who are deprived of access to justice. When one person anywhere is denied access to justice, we all are denied.

With the advent of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, we now have a unique opportunity to advance a stronger, more effective development agenda with concrete actions to support basic access to justice. We can realize the goal of Access to Justice and the end of systematic investigative torture in our lifetime. To do this, however, we must believe, prioritize and take action.

It will require a commitment across multiple sectors, not only governmental legal aid, but also active involvement of companies, policy makers, campaigners, tech activists, and concerned persons. Only by working together can we achieve this reality.

By signing the Declaration, we prioritize supporting a shift to a new equilibrium in justice, where all men, women and children have access to competent legal counsel and no longer are subject to torture as an investigative tool.

And we commit to each doing our part in the greater whole to bring this new hope to humanity and in so doing to affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.


Declaration on Access to Justice

To Prevent Torture

Recalling the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines the key principles of equality before the law and the presumption of innocence, as well as the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, along with all the guarantees necessary for the defense of anyone charged with a penal offence, other minimum guarantees and the entitlement to be tried without undue delay;

Recalling Article 2 of the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which states that each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

Recognizing the global commitment to advance access to justice through United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16, which confirms that access to justice for all is a central element of sustainable development;

Recognizing that legal infrastructure is the bedrock of a stable society and without it, there is no stability or social security; that the establishment of the rule of law is one of the most efficient and effective strategies to increase institutional capacity, good governance and combat corruption;

Recognizing that universal early access to justice is an essential element of a functioning criminal justice system based on the rule of law; is a foundation for the enjoyment of other rights, including the right to a fair trial; and is an important safeguard of fundamental fairness and thus public trust in the criminal justice process;

Recognizing that early access to justice, in particular through early access to counsel, is demonstrated to reduce the chances of investigative torture, and the length of time that suspects are held in police stations and detention centers; and in addition that it may reduce wrongful convictions, congestion in the courts, and prison populations and overcrowding, with the attendant public health consequences;

Emphasizing that to realize the goal of universal early access to justice requires a collaborative approach involving the commitment of all stake holders at local, national and global levels;

Believing that such a collaborative and sustainable commitment to universal early access to justice, in particular through early access to counsel, could end the practice of investigative torture in our lifetime;

Recognizing the potential of technology to advance the implementation of universal access to justice;

We the signatories hereby:

Commit to support the development and implementation, at the national, regional and global levels, of systematic and sustainable mechanisms to advance universal early access to justice to prevent torture;

Affirm, in furtherance of this commitment, to work together to develop and foster collaborative and multi-stakeholder support platforms and networks to advance universal early access to justice.

© International Bridges to Justice

About IBJ

IBJ does not accept torture as an inevitability. It can be prevented through timely, enlightened engagement. To this end, IBJ works to provide adequate legal counsel in the earliest stages of an investigation and develop national criminal justice frameworks. These interventions serve to prevent human rights abuses rather than expose them to the press after the fact.

Founding Signatories

The Declaration, launched on January 18, 2017, includes the following founding signatories:


Karen I. Tse, Founder and CEO of International Bridges to Justice

Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-Founder, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, World Economic Forum

Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

Peter Gabriel, singer-songwriter, musician and humanitarian activist.

Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, President of Mongolia

Kishore Mahbubani, Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore

Pablo de Greiff, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence

Yoon Jang-hyeon, Mayor of Gwangju, South Korea

Sally Osberg, President and CEO, Skoll Foundation

Yasmeen Muhamed Shariff, Vice-Chairperson of UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Mark Thomson, Secretary General, Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT)

Kirsten Sandberg, Rapporteur of UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Swami Agnivesh, President Emeritus, World Council of Arya Samaj

Shinichi Kitaoka, President, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)

Anusha Rahman Ahmad Khan, Pakistan Minister of State for Information Technology & Telecommunication

Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International

Jeff Adachi, Public Defender of the City and County of San Francisco

Park Wong-suk, Member of the National Assembly (South Korea)

Patrick Dlamini, CEO of the Development Bank of Southern Africa

Dean Jennifer Mnookin, Dean of UCLA Law School

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of the Board of Gavi and former Finance Minister of Nigeria

Mia Yamamoto, Distinguished Criminal lawyer and Former Chair Multicultural Bar Alliance

Antonia Hernandez, CEO and President of California Community Foundation

Tarzisius Caviezel, Mayor of Davos

Reverend Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches

Jabu Mabuza, Chairman of Telkom South Africa

Corbus de Swardt, Managing Director, Transparency International

Dr. Dean Ornish, President and Director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute

Bani Dugal, UN principal representative of the International Baha’i Community

Ayatollah Dr. Ahmad Iravani, President of the Centre for the Study of Islam and the Middle East

David Walmsley, Editor in Chief of the Globe and Mail

Ally Martina Clark, Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace

Andrew L. Cohen, CEO of J.P. Morgan Private Bank in Asia

Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space

Reverend Suzanne Matale – General Secretary for the Council of Churches in Zambia

Matthieu Ricard – French Writer, Buddhist Monk

Dr. Iqbal Survé, Physician, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, President of Zaytuna College

Nasereldin Haghamed, CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide

Andreas Raptopoulos, Co-Founder and CEO of Matternet

David Kirkpatrick, CEO of Techonomy Media

Alex Wong, Head of Global Challenge Partnerships, World Economic Forum

Lee Howell, Head of Global Programming, World Economic Forum

Richard Samans, Head of the Center for the Global Agenda, World Economic Forum

Martin Burt, Executive Director of Fundación Paraguaya

Nam Boo Won, Secretary General of Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs (APAY)

Kenneth Choi Woo-Suk, The Chosun Daily Newspaper, Seoul, Korea

Alberto Alemanno, Professor of Law at HEC Paris, Co-Founder of The Good Lobby

Shiv Khemka, Vice Chairman of SUN Group

Eytan M Stibbe, Founding Director at Vital Capital Fund

John Jameson, International Bridges to Justice Board of Directors

Mirjam Schoening, CEO of the Lego Foundation

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch

Martin Gruesser, Pastor of St John’s Church in Davos



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