Safeguarding Human Rights

The firm's work to defend human rights worldwide is a significant component of our pro bono program.

In the United States, our lawyers seek to reform the criminal justice system, including advocating against mass incarceration and defending against the use of capital punishment. Outside the U.S., the firm's support for human rights transcends borders and includes extensive collaboration with international organizations on matters advancing peace, rule of law, and access to justice. We also advise hundreds of NGOs focused on improving access to food, water, healthcare, education and economic opportunity in the world’s poorest regions.

Representative Matters

Enforcing Workers Rights

Covington represented labor unions in an arbitration proceeding with a global fashion brand to enforce workers’ rights to safe working conditions in garment factories under the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. In 2018, the firm reached a favorable $2.3M settlement on behalf of the unions.

Expanding Access to Opportunity

Since 2002, the firm has provided legal support to FINCA International, a nonprofit that fights poverty through financial inclusion offering credit to entrepreneurs in underdeveloped countries, thereby enabling low-income families to create their own solutions to progress. FINCA serves over 2 million clients across 5 continents. FINCA’s work focuses on economic empowerment for women, helping to correct global social and political practices that leave women and their children vulnerable.

Defending Against the Death Penalty in the U.S.

Covington represents clients facing the death penalty during the trial, appeal, and post-conviction phases, with ten active cases in Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas. Covington has been honored for its capital defense practice, receiving recognition from, among others, the American Bar Association, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, the Office of the Public Defender of Maryland, and the New York City Bar Association. Beyond seeking justice for individuals on Death Row, the firm aims to have broad impact on the use of capital punishment in the United States including, in recent years, establishing important precedent for Alabama’s death-penalty bar and playing an active role in the abolition of the death penalty in Maryland.

Guantánamo Detainees

Covington has been involved in Guantánamo-related litigation since 2004 and has represented 21 detainees, all of whom were from Yemen and none of whom  were charged with any crimes. The firm obtained favorable rulings in habeas cases on behalf of five detainees, as well as favorable rulings on challenges to government procedures that restricted detainees’ access to legal counsel and subjected them to excessively humiliating physical searches. 18 of our clients have been released to Yemen or transferred to third countries; one died in his cell under uncertain circumstances. The firm continues to represent its two remaining detainee clients in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and the Supreme Court. In addition, we have acted as co-counsel in Boumediene v. Bush (extending privilege of the writ of habeas corpus to detainees); filed amicus briefs and coordinated the amicus effort in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld; filed an amicus brief on behalf of Human Rights First in a recent due-process challenge to the ongoing indefinite detention at Guantánamo; and advocated on behalf of our clients' rights to obtain exculpatory evidence from the government, to be told of the allegations against them, and to confront their accusers.

Promoting International Peace and Rule of Law

For over a decade, Covington attorneys have supported Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), a global pro bono law firm which provides legal and policy advice to state and non-state entities in regions affected by conflict, helping the organization in its mission to promote peace, rule of law and effective post-conflict governance. In recent years, the focus of Covington’s work with PILPG has centered on projects across the Middle East and North Africa. Covington has advised PILPG on counseling policy-makers, government officials, and civil society groups on significant and historic projects tackling the region’s rapidly evolving legal landscape.