VIENNA, Austria - In a case that could set a global legal precedent for granting basic rights to apes, animal-rights advocates are seeking to get a 26-year-old male chimpanzee legally declared a "person."
The supporters of the chimp, Hiasl, who used to reside at an animal shelter that went bankrupt, argue that he needs the status of "person" to become a legal entity who can receive donations and get a guardian to look out for his interests.
"Our main argument is that Hiasl is a person and has basic legal rights," said Eberhart Theuer, a lawyer leading the challenge on behalf of the Association Against Animal Factories, a Vienna animal-rights group.
"We mean the right to life, the right to not be tortured, the right to freedom under certain conditions," Theuer said.
"If we can get Hiasl declared a person, he would have the right to own property. Then, if people wanted to donate something to him, he'd have the right to receive it," said Theuer, who has vowed to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. *