Humanitarian Law Project is a
non-profit organization founded
in 1985, dedicated to protecting
human rights and promoting the
peaceful resolution of conflict
by using established international
human rights laws and humanitarian
law. Our long-term objectives
are to strengthen human rights
standards ratified by nations
around the globe and to foster
communication on compelling international
human rights issues among human
rights activists, law faculty
and students, members of Congress
and their staffs, as well as
Humanitarian Law Project is
a non-governmental organization
(NGO) with consultative status
at the United Nations with
a mandate to seek compliance
with armed conflict laws.
The Truths that Costa Rica Hides
The truth that Costa Rica hides is that
its Public Forces, Judicial Investigation
Public Ministry authorities knew from Nicaraguan
authorities that from October 1
to October 5 the Army of Nicaragua carried
out an operation against drug trafﬁck-
ing in Nicaraguan territory in localities
of the municipality of San Juan de Nicara-
gua along the border with the Republic of
The Supreme Court goes too far in the name of fighting terrorism
Editorial - WHICH OF the following is illegal under the law
that bars providing "material support" to terrorists? Read
Los Angeles Times , June 22, 2010
Terror and Free Speech
Editorial - The Supreme Court's ruling that advising terrorist groups to pursue their goals peacefully is 'material support' of their violent activities is wrongheaded. Read
San Francisco Chronicle , June 22, 2010
Giving peace advice to terrorist can be illegal
By BOB EGELKO
- The government can prosecute private citizens for giving advice to a foreign organization - on how to negotiate peace or take its case to the United Nations, for example - if the group is on the U.S. terrorist list, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.
full article, or listen to story.
Center for Constitutional Rights,, June 21, 2010
Supreme Court Ruling Criminalizes Speech in Material Support Law Case
President Carter Could Be Prosecuted for Monitoring Fair Elections in Lebanon
June 21, 2010, Washington and New York – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to criminalize speech in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the first case to challenge the Patriot Act before the highest court in the land, and the first post-9/11 case to pit free speech guarantees against national security claims. Attorneys say that under the Court’s ruling, many groups and individuals providing peaceful advocacy could be prosecuted, including President Carter for training all parties in fair election practices in Lebanon. President Carter submitted an amicus brief in the case.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the majority, affirming in part, reversing in part, and remanding the case back to the lower court for review; Justice Breyer dissented, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. The Court held that the statute's prohibitions on "expert advice," "training," "service," and "personnel" were not vague, and did not violate speech or associational rights as applied to plaintiffs' intended activities. Plaintiffs sought to provide assistance and education on human rights advocacy and peacemaking to the Kurdistan Workers' Party in Turkey, a designated terrorist organization. Multiple lower court rulings had found the statute unconstitutionally vague.
Said CCR Cooperating Attorney David Cole, “We are deeply disappointed. The Supreme Court has ruled that human rights advocates, providing training and assistance in the nonviolent resolution of disputes, can be prosecuted as terrorists. In the name of fighting terrorism, the Court has said that the First Amendment permits Congress to make human rights advocacy and peacemaking a crime. That is wrong.”
Originally brought in 1998, the case challenges the constitutionality of laws that make it a crime to provide “material support” to groups the administration has designated as “terrorist.” CCR’s clients sought to engage in speech advocating only nonviolent, lawful ends, but the government took the position that any such speech, including even filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, would be a crime if done in support of a designated “terrorist group.”
Said CCR Senior Attorney Shayana Kadidal, “The Court’s decision confirms the extraordinary scope of the material support statute’s criminalization of speech. But it also notes that the scope of the prohibitions may not be clear in every application, and that remains the case for the many difficult questions raised at argument but dodged by today’s opinion, including whether publishing an op-ed or submitting an amicus brief in court arguing that a group does not belong on the list is a criminal act. The onus is now on Congress and the Obama administration to ensure that humanitarian groups may engage in human rights advocacy, training in non-violent conflict resolution, and humanitarian assistance in crisis zones without fearing criminal prosecution.”
The Court rejected the government’s argument that the statute, when applied to plaintiffs’ proposed speech, regulated not speech but conduct, and therefore needed to meet only a low standard – “intermediate scrutiny” – to survive. Instead, the Court found that the statute did criminalize speech on the basis of its content, but then found that the government’s interest in delegitimizing groups on the designated "terrorist organization" list was sufficiently great to overcome the heightened level of scrutiny. This is one of a very few times time that the Supreme Court has upheld a criminal prohibition of speech under strict scrutiny, and the first time it has permitted the government to make it a crime to advocate lawful, nonviolent activity.
For more information on the case, including briefs and a detailed explanation of material support, visit CCR's HLP
legal case page.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.
ACLU, June 21, 2010
Supreme Court Rules "Material Support" Law Can Stand
Court Upholds Broad Interpretation Of Anti-Terrorism Law That Inhibits Work Of Humanitarian Groups
June 21, 2010, NEW YORK – The United States Supreme Court today upheld the broad application of a federal law that hinders the ability of human rights and humanitarian aid organizations to do their work by making it a crime to provide "material support" to designated "foreign terrorist organizations" (FTOs). The ruling thwarts the efforts of human rights organizations to persuade violent actors to renounce violence or cease their human rights abuses and jeopardizes the provision of aid and disaster relief in conflict zones controlled by designated groups, said the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, on behalf of the Carter Center and several other organizations known for their work to promote peace, further human rights and alleviate human suffering around the world.
Under the law, individuals face up to 15 years in prison for providing "material support" to FTOs, even if their work is intended to promote peaceful, lawful objectives. "Material support" is defined to include any "service," "training," "expert advice or assistance" or "personnel."
President Jimmy Carter, founder of the Carter Center, commented on the ruling:
"We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that inhibits the work of human rights and conflict resolution groups. The 'material support law' – which is aimed at putting an end to terrorism – actually threatens our work and the work of many other peacemaking organizations that must interact directly with groups that have engaged in violence. The vague language of the law leaves us wondering if we will be prosecuted for our work to promote peace and freedom."
"Today's decision is disappointing and inconsistent with our First Amendment position. The government should not be in the business of criminalizing speech meant to promote peace and human rights," said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project.
Organizations that signed onto the ACLU's brief are the Carter Center, Christian
Peacemaker Teams, Grassroots International, Human Rights Watch, International
Crisis Group, the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George
Mason University, the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre
Dame University, Operation USA and the Peace Appeal Foundation.
Public Radio, Feb.
"Supreme Court Examines Limits Of Material Support"
By NINA TOTENBERG
- At the U.S. Supreme
Court, it is rare
and liberal justices
team up to bludgeon
lawyers for both
sides with equal
ferocity. But that
is what the justices
did on Tuesday. Read
full article, or listen to story.
Amendment and Aid
By ADAM LIPTAK
- WASHINGTON — The
line between speech
protected by the
and aid to terrorists
at the Supreme
Court on Tuesday,
and the justices’ lively
rather than clarified
By DAVID G. SAVAGE
- Reporting from Washington - The Supreme Court struggled Tuesday to resolve a conflict between the free-speech rights of a Los Angeles-based advocate for international peace and a broad anti-terrorism law that makes it a crime to advise a foreign terrorist group, even if it means advising its members to seek peace. Read
to Free Speech
Collides With Fight
By ADAM LIPTAK
- WASHINGTON — Ralph
D. Fertig, a 79-year-old
civil rights lawyer,
says he would like to help a militant
Kurdish group in Turkey find peaceful
ways to achieve its goals. But
he fears prosecution under a law
banning even benign assistance
to groups said to engage in terrorism. Read
This spring, the
US Supreme Court
will hear two cases
brought by the
provisions of the
Humanitarian Law Project, et al.
v. Ashcroft is a case filed
on behalf of the Humanitarian Law
Project and several Tamil-American
organizations with the U.S. District
Court for the Central District of
California in Los Angeles. It challenges
the United and Strengthening America
by Providing Appropriate Tools Required
to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism
Act (USA Patriot Act), claiming it
is vague and overbroad and that it
violates their First and Fifth Amendment
brief was filed January, 2008,
in the appeal from Judge Collins’ decision
in Humanitarian Law Project v. Dept.
of the Treasury, our challenge to
the restrictions on association with
PKK and LTTE created by Executive
Order 13224 (issued just after 9/11),
the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations,
and the IEEPA statute.
Judge Collins issued a ruling against
us on most grounds on November 27,
2006, and this appeal goes to the Court
of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the
same court that last month affirmed
our partial victory before Judge Collins
in Humanitarian Law Project v. Mukasey
(the latest round in our ongoing challenge
to the “material support” statute).
In 2007 Humanitarian Law Project board
member, David Lynn, drawing from past
HLP efforts, embarked on a mission
to explore the viability of providing
accompaniment delegations for the refugees
fleeing Darfur to the camps in Chad.
David video-chronicled his experience
Face of Genocide, narrated by David
and Mia Farrow, human rights activist,
actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
Most of the violence resulting in
the deaths of an estimated 300,000,
is attributed to the Janjaweed, an
Arab militia allied with the Arab-dominated
government of Sudan. Responding to
discrimination and human rights abuses,
ethnic African rebel groups took up
arms in 2003 against the government.
Between two and three million civilians
have been displaced and have fled to
other parts of Sudan and more than
250,000 to neighboring countries, mostly
The images on the news and in The
Face of Genocide evoke outrage
at the scope and depth of the daily
tragedy plaguing Darfur. Peace talks
and efforts at the U.N. ebb and flow,
with no end to the crisis in sight.
Mia Farrow says, “Personally, I think
there should be a permanent U.N.
Force. U.N. Resolution 1706 provided
for 22,700 U.N. peacekeepers and
was passed with a robust Chapter
Seven mandate without requiring the
government’s consent but it did require
the political will to go against
the government.” Due to various obstacles,
the full deployment of the peacekeeping
force will probably be delayed until
David Lynn sums it up best: “To do
nothing concerning the crisis in Darfur
and Eastern Chad, makes us all accomplices.
The world has simply watched as hundreds
of thousands were murdered, raped and
mutilated. Today, millions more remain
vulnerable to ongoing violence and
are teetering on the brink of starvation.
What are you going to do about it?
We encourage you to view the video, The
Face of Genocide, and visit www.miafarrow.org to
find out how to get directly involved
in bringing hope and resources to the
refugees in Darfur and Eastern Chad
and ending the genocide that continues
on our watch.”