Professor Sara Chandler, chair of the Law Society’s Human Rights Committee, has been announced as the winner of the human rights worker of the year award at the third annual Latin-UK Awards (LUKAS).

The LUKAS recognise those who have worked with the Latin community in Britain across categories including music, dance, sport, food, community (including human rights), the arts, and business.

Prof Chandler won the award for her tireless work promoting the protection of human rights in Latin America, and in particular for her work with the Colombian Caravana UK Lawyers Group, a group of international lawyers that monitor the human rights abuses faced by legal professionals in Colombia. The Colombia Caravana was runner-up in the LUKAS human rights group of the year award. The Caravana was organised in 2008 as a Law Society initiative, inviting the Bar and Cilex to form a joint UK delegation. It has now established itself as an independent charity, and continues to be supported by both the Law Society Human Rights Committee and the Law Society Charity.

Prof Chandler’s work in Latin America spans more than four decades and began when she was awarded a grant to study for a Masters in Latin American Studies and went to Chile in 1971-72 to study the agrarian reform of the Popular Unity government of Dr Salvador Allende. On hearing of the military coup by General Pinochet in 1973, she promptly quit her job in Glasgow University and moved to London to work as a volunteer in the human rights, solidarity and cultural committees, and, with others, applied to the British government for a grant to run a refugee programme specifically for Chilean refugees.

When the refugee programme was closed in 1980, Prof Chandler studied and qualified as a social worker and worked for 10 years in the North Lewisham Law Centre in Deptford, studying law part-time and qualifying as a solicitor in 1995.

Prof Chandler was elected to the Law Society Council to represent voluntary sector solicitors in 2002, and in 2004 joined the Law Society’s Human Rights Committee. It is in this position, and as chair of the Colombia Caravana UK Lawyers Group, that she has been able to find ways to support Colombian human rights lawyers.

Prof Chandler said:

’It is an honour to be nominated for a LUKAS human rights award, and I am humbled to have won ahead of a strong list of finalists.

’My connection with lawyers from Latin America has been life-changing. The Colombian human rights lawyers I have met and worked with are incredibly brave, and the risks they face as they work to uphold fundamental human rights put our daily experiences in sharp relief. In contrast, these lawyers face death threats, governmental restrictions and are even shot at as they represent their clients.

‘I am deeply passionate about justice and the defense of human rights; the harrowing conditions these lawyers face are all too familiar to my Colombian colleagues, and I intend to continue my work with the Law Society and Caravana to help people in other countries realise their human rights and achieve access to justice.’

LUKAS founder and director Amaranta Wright said:

‘Sara Chandler has been a tireless campaigner for human rights in Latin America since the 1970s when she was active in the Chilean Solidarity Committee. She deservedly wins this award for her amazing work organizing the activities of the Colombia Caravana UK Lawyers Group. Her contribution to the group’s work, monitoring the human rights abuses faced by legal professionals in the country and advocating on behalf of lawyers threatened for the work they do, is truly inspiring.’

Prof Chandler finished ahead of four other finalists after a public vote and then grading by a panel of judges. She will receive her award at the LUKAS gala event on Wednesday 30 Apri