Ethical Problems of an International Human Rights Law Practice

This article examines two sources of ethical constraint on U.S. lawyers practicing international human rights law: the Model Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR or Model Code), which was adopted by the American Bar Association (ABA) in 1969, and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (Model Rules), which were adopted in 1983. Part I establishes that these sources apply to the U.S. lawyer regardless of whether or not the lawyer is in the United States and whether or not he is acting as an attorney. Attorneys who leave the countries where they practice law and travel to other nations to observe trials of political or human rights interest are free of the many customary inhibitions which domestic lawyers may consciously or unconsciously feel. Foreign observers may be freer to use their presence creatively to encourage trial participants to pursue justice and fairness. However, international trial observers engage in a number of activities that raise ethical issues. Part II of the article considers how these issues might be resolved under the CPR and the Model Rules.