October 18, 2011 – Los Angeles, New York, Paris – Late last night, in a lawsuit brought against the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) by California-based agricultural labor company Global Horizons, Inc. and its president, Mordechai Orian, lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Bostwick & Jassy LLP defending FIDH filed a motion to strike the lawsuit, calling it an effort to chill the human rights group’s public statements on an issue of public interest.
FIDH was sued for libel and tortious interference with business relations regarding a report it issued in 2003 – entitled “Migrant Workers in Israel: A Contemporary Form of Slavery” - stating that Orian and the company he directed had failed to pay Chinese migrant workers and, instead, had them beaten and deported. Orian is currently facing charges in Hawaii for forced labor of approximately 400 Thai nationals. Orian and Global Horizons are seeking at least $110 million in damages, claiming that material in FIDH’s report was defamatory and was “republished” last year.
“We hope the court will strike down this lawsuit for what it is - a pathetic attempt to silence one of the most respected and distinguished human rights organizations in the world,” said Maria LaHood, a Senior Staff Attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.
If FIDH’s motion is successful, Orian and Global Horizons would be ordered to pay attorneys’ fees and costs. FIDH has also moved to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction, insufficient service, and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
“FIDH is confident that the court will positively consider our motions,” said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH’s president.
The Special Motion to Strike requires parties who bring a lawsuit to demonstrate that it is not a Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation—SLAPP—suit targeting constitutionally-protected free speech.
CCR co-counsel Gary Bostwick of Bostwick & Jassy LLP said, “The anti-SLAPP motion filed yesterday makes it plain that this lawsuit is a transparent attempt to gag FIDH from speaking openly and truthfully about the evil conduct of Orian and Global Horizons.”
SLAPPs are civil complaints or counterclaims in which the alleged injury was the result of petitioning or free speech activities protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and by the California Constitution. While many cases that qualify as SLAPPs are without legal merit, they can effectively achieve their principal purpose: to chill public debate on specific issues. Defending against a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources, and can divert attention away from the public issue and intimidate and silence others. California has an anti-SLAPP statute to deter such lawsuits.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is co-counsel on the case with Los Angeles attorneys Gary Bostwick, Jean-Paul Jassy, and Kevin Vick, of Bostwick & Jassy LLP. For more information about Bostwick & Jassy LLP, visit http://www.bostwickjassy.com/.
FIDH is an international NGO defending all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It acts in the legal and political field for the creation and reinforcement of international instruments for the protection of Human Rights and for their implementation. Founded in 1922, FIDH is composed of 164 member organisations. Visit FIDH at: www.fidh.org.