Michael Ratner’s activism and human rights work dated back to the 1960s. He was a student at Columbia Law School during the 1968 student strike. He joined the Center for Constitutional Rights in 1971. His first case centered on a lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners killed and injured in the Attica prison uprising in upstate New York. Ratner was deeply involved in Latin America and the Caribbean, challenging U.S. policy in Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and elsewhere. In 1981, he brought the first challenge under the War Powers Resolution to the use of troops in El Salvador, as well as a suit against U.S. officials on behalf of Nicaraguans raped, murdered and tortured by U.S.-backed contras. In 1991, he led the center’s challenge to the authority of President George H.W. Bush to go to war against Iraq without congressional consent. A decade later, he would become a leading critic of the George W. Bush administration, filing lawsuits related to Guantánamo, torture, domestic surveillance and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He also helped launch the group Palestine Legal to defend the rights of protesters in the U.S. calling for Palestinian human rights. We speak to three close friends of Ratner, all fellow attorneys: Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch; Michael Smith, board member of the Center for Constitutional Rights; and Jules Lobel, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
Trouble seeing the video? Watch on Democracy Now.