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Using Litigation to Defend Human Rights

Resource type: Grantee Story

Since the September 11 terror attacks, US government policy and practice against the threat of terrorism has arguably violated a number of human rights laws and norms. The US currently detains more than 13,000 people around the world, from South Carolina to Pakistan to the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Apart from on-going questions regarding the conditions of detention and the interrogation methods used in these facilities, there are also concerns over extra-legal mechanisms established by the Executive Branch of the government that effectively by-pass the judiciary.

Alongside these specific rights violations is a growing concern among advocates that the US is becoming increasingly detached from a commitment to the rule of law itself. Experience shows that the courts can provide a particularly effective remedy for US policies which violate human rights.

Purpose and Impact of the Grant

Rights of prisoners may be affected with the use of litigation to defend human rightsThe Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is at the forefront of the fight to defend human rights in the US through the rule of law. Atlantic’s grant will allow CCR to litigate more cases and take on new challenges in support of the protection of core constitutional and human rights. The Center will also use a portion of the grant to develop a strategic plan and upgrade its communications, technology and development capacities.

Since September 11, CCR has worked on multiple legal fronts to ensure that US actions comply with the letter and spirit of international and constitutional law. It has initiated legal action to address key issues that are increasingly the topics of national and international debate, including government action aimed at curbing and diluting free speech and dissent; the increasing criminalisation of immigrants; the due-process rights of non-citizen “enemy combatants”; and the use of torture and secret prisons.

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