Legal updates in our family separation lawsuit against ICE
In 2018, we filed an emergency case to reunite a father whose then 19-month-old son was forcibly taken from him at the Southern border where they had arrived seeking asylum from deadly persecution in Honduras, and who were then separated incommunicado for nearly six months. A federal judge ordered them released immediately, calling the Trump Administration’s family separation policy “the most cruel of all cruelties.”
We are now seeking accountability against the Trump administration for this horrific policy, by seeking damages on the family’s behalf, raising claims not previously put forward in such cases, but which appropriately describe these crimes: that the separation constituted torture and crimes against humanity under international law.
We received remarkable support by way of seven amicus briefs from a range of leading scholars and domestic and international human rights organizations highlighting the monstrous cruelty and illegality of this policy.
- a brief by legal and medical experts from a Stanford Human Rights Center explaining the myriad long-term psychological traumas family separation will impose on father and child alike, which meets the legal definition of torture under US and international law;
- a brief on behalf of international human rights organizations and scholars showing that Trump’s family separation policy constituted a “widespread and systemic attack” on a civilian population so as to rise to crimes against humanity as established in the Nuremberg trials;
- a brief on behalf of leading U.S. constitutional law scholars arguing that the United States should not be entitled to sovereign immunity for the commission of these serious human rights violations, which among the community of nations can never be lawfully authorized;
- a brief on behalf of family law and liberation-Reconstruction scholars describing the echoes of forced family separation of enslaved families in the antebellum period, and how the Reconstruction Congress enacted the Thirteenth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment’s due process protections with these very horrors in mind;
- a brief of leading U.S. human rights organizations and Special Rapporteurs on Torture, about the international law requirement that victims of human rights violations must be afforded a meaningful remedy in court;
- a brief on behalf of a broad coalition of U.S. immigrant rights organizations detailing the high-level official design of the family separation policy and it’s intentional goal to inflict maximal cruelty against non-white migrants so as to deter future asylum seekers; and,
- a brief on behalf of leading federal jurisdiction scholars arguing that the government cannot claim it was acting according to its policy discretion, because there is no discretion to violate the Constitution.
More information on this case can be found at the case page on our website.
We condemn the detention of human rights defenders in Uganda
In response to Uganda’s detention of four human rights defenders, including Ugandan attorney Nicholas Opiyo, we issued the following statement:
Our colleague and partner Nicholas Opiyo has taken on some of the most political and principled cases in Uganda, tirelessly fighting for the rights and dignity of targeted activists. Given his work on some of Uganda’s most politically challenging issues, this kind of backlash is not unexpected. It takes place on the eve of Uganda’s January 2021 election, when communities are witnessing an alarming rise in attacks, killings, and detentions of activists. Opiyo’s supporters in Uganda report that he has been actively investigating a series of murders in mid-November by Ugandan security forces and is readying a challenge to the government’s decision to pressure Google and Facebook to take down web pages of political opposition figures and human rights activists. The detention of Opiyo is undoubtedly retaliation for his advocacy to protect human rights and democracy in Uganda, including his fearless defense of LGBTQIA+ people. We join calls from human rights defenders and partners around the world in demanding the immediate, unconditional release of Opiyo.
We encourage all who, like Opiyo, are committed to principles of freedom, justice, and human rights to fight to #FreeNicholasOpiyo.
Continue reading on our website.
Save the date! -- "Rights or Rightlessness? The Lives of Men Imprisoned at Guantánamo"
Join the Center for Constitutional Rights, Justice for Muslims Collective, Witness Against Torture, and Amnesty International USA for a virtual conversation on the 19th anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo Bay prison.
On January 11, 2002, the first “War on Terror” suspects landed at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for detention in a military prison designed to be outside the law and beyond public scrutiny. Immediately, a movement of lawyers and advocates fought hard to assert the rights of the hundreds of Muslim men and boys held there, and in 2008 the Supreme Court upheld the detained men’s right to challenge their detention. Throughout the last two decades, hundreds of men have been released, but without any vindication or measure of justice. Forty men currently remain imprisoned, and their rights continue to be contested in and out of the courtroom.
Author A. Naomi Paik outlines the concept of “rightlessness,” a framework that helps explain the power the U.S. government wielded to torture, render, and detain hundreds of citizens of other countries to an offshore camp, as well as the resistance—and insistence—of the Muslim men detained there and their effort to create community within and outside the prison walls.
Guantánamo, extreme as it is, can and must be situated in a broader history of U.S. detention camps and harms of the carceral state. What lessons can we learn from Japanese-American camps during WWII, the detention of Haitian refugees at Guantánamo in the 1990s, and the last two decades of the military prison itself, to aid ongoing work towards the closure of the prison?
To find out more information about and register for this event, head to our website.
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