An Enduring Passion for Human Rights

Ignacio Alvarez LL.M. ’99 began working in the field of human rights protection on a pro bono basis, carving out about a half day per week to the endeavor at the start. But what began as a side project soon took center stage as his fascination with the field grew.

Ignacio Alvarez LL.M. ’99
Ignacio Alvarez LL.M. ’99

Alvarez, a recipient of the 2020 Peter M. Cicchino Award for Outstanding Advocacy in Public Interest, decided that protection of human rights was where he wanted to focus his life’s work. He was drawn to American University Washington College of Law because of the school’s LL.M. program in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. “This was exactly what I was looking for,” he said.

His choice immediately proved fruitful. Even before he had set a foot in the classroom, he was invited to attend a moot court where he made connections that led him to an internship—and later fulltime work—with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Alvarez served at IACHR for more than a decade, culminating in his role as Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

Among his notable achievements at IACHR, Alvarez played a role in an important case for the conviction and imprisonment of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, found guilty of human rights violations.

Born in Venezuela, Alvarez contributed with his ideas to the creation of the Human Rights Center at Venezuela’s Andrés Bello Catholic University, where he earned his undergraduate degree. Those ideas were based on the AUWCL’s Center for Human Rights, he said.

Alvarez, who was recently elected co-chair of the American Society of International Law’s Human Rights Interest Group, works in private human rights practice and continues to take pro bono cases. His pro bono work has included representing the widow and children of Fernando Alban, a Venezuelan politician who died in detention after being tortured at the headquarters of the Venezuelan secret police. He also obtained precautionary measures from the IACHR for Juan Guaido and his family.

Alvarez is the founder and executive director of IHR LEGAL, a new firm that provides international human rights law services worldwide.