Ateneo Human Rights Center

The Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC) was founded in July 1986, a few months after the historic EDSA Revolution drew attention to the indomitable might that is People Power, which overthrew the dictatorship through peaceful and bloodless means. It became obvious immediately thereafter that much work still had to be done in the field of human rights. AHRC was established as one of the first university-based institutions engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.

As an integral unit of the Ateneo Law School, AHRC strives to do its part in espousing the university’s challenge that every Atenean should use the gift of excellence to be “lux in Domino” – light in the Lord. It keeps faith with the guiding principle of forming men and women for others which underlies Ateneo pedagogy. AHRC’s initial program was the Summer Internship Program. It was designed to provide law students with exposure to human rights work and advocacy and produced the first batch of interns in the summer of 1987. Since then, the Internship Program has been expanded substantially.

In 1990, two additional programs were set: Research and Education, and Litigation. The Research and Education Program grew out of the need of various groups and sectors for more training and education on human rights issues and laws. The need for such training and education as well as the proposal to create a litigation unit to handle human rights cases were particularly articulated by interns borne out of their experiences during the Summer Internship Program. These developments eventually led to more intense advocacy on human rights issues.

Also in 1990, the AHRC became the Secretariat of the Human Rights Committee of the Law Association for Asia and the Pacific (LAWASIA). In 1993, the interns initiated the creation of the Child Rights Desk named Adhikain para sa Karapatang Pambata (AKAP) that became a pioneer in the promotion and protection of children’s rights in the Philippines. In 1996, the AHRC took on the role of Secretariat of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism. Subsequent developments include the establishment of specialized desks, namely the Urduja Women’s and Migrants’ Desk and the Katutubo (indigenous peoples) Desk.

Today, AHRC pursues its mandate of protecting and promoting human rights through increasingly varied programs and services. Among other things, it is engaged in legal assistance, research and publication, law and policy reform advocacy, training and education, institution building, curriculum development, and values formation.

In pursuing its goals, AHRC works closely with various government, the academe, NGOs, grassroots organizations, and other civil society groups. Partnerships have been established and maintained with national and international organizations whose operations and expertise are relevant to the respective sectors served by AHRC.

As a unit of the Ateneo Law School, AHRC also actively participates in the integration of human rights laws into the mainstream legal thought and analysis. Through curriculum development, AHRC introduces law students to human rights advocacy and awareness within the framework of the legal system.

AHRC has also been instrumental in the introduction of human rights courses into the Ateneo Law curriculum. Elective courses now include subjects such as Human Rights Law, Children’s Rights Law, Gender and the Law, Street Law, Indigenous Peoples Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law and Refugee Law and International Criminal Law.