Blog: Center for Justice and Accountability

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August 25, 2020

Human Rights Clinic team submits amicus brief in Chiquita Brands lawsuit

Posted by Dana Walters

Chiquita bananas on display in grocery store
Credit: cbarnesphotography/iStock

If everything had gone according to schedule, the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) would have filed an amicus curiae brief in December 2019 in a case against Chiquita Brands International, the world’s largest banana company. The suit, on behalf of families who suffered mass atrocities by paramilitary groups during the Colombian armed conflict, seeks accountability for the reign of terror Chiquita aided and abetted from 1997 to 2004.

However, after several delays and further challenges caused by the pandemic, the clinic and the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) finally filed the brief on behalf of human rights experts on June 5, 2020. The process included dozens of drafts and memos, multiple back-and-forths with amici, and hundreds of hours of time of a dozen alumni and students in multiple time zones. The amicus brief is one small part of a larger, evolving corporate accountability litigation landscape, one in which the clinic has been involved for decades. In a globalized economy where supply chains are diffused, attorneys and affected communities have sought to use U.S. courts to stop U.S. corporations and executives from assisting in violating human rights abroad.

“Chiquita and cases like it present a central question facing U.S. courts today—whether the United States is going to become a safe haven for U.S. corporations implicated in human rights violations outside the country,” said Tyler Giannini, co-director of Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program (HRP) and the IHRC.

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March 10, 2015

Plaintiffs’ Victory Against Former Somali Prime Minister Allowed to Stand

Posted by Tyler Giannini and Susan Farbstein

After 11 long years of litigation, plaintiffs from Somalia learned yesterday that their $21 million judgment for damages for torture and war crimes would stand. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take the appeal of the defendant, General Mohamed Ali Samantar, a former Somali Prime Minister and Minister of Defense who was implicated in the abuses. Samantar, who now lives in Virginia, can make no additional appeals.

Beyond the victory for the plaintiffs, counsel from the Center for Justice & Accountability noted this ruling is critically important because it preserves a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that found egregious rights violations cannot be considered “official acts” shielded by sovereign immunity.

The ruling comes amidst ongoing debate about how the United States should treat high-ranking former foreign government officials who are accused of human rights abuses and are now living in the United States. The International Human Rights Clinic and its partners have been involved since 2007 in one such case, Mamani et al. v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, which brings Alien Tort Statute claims against the former President and the former Defense Minister of Bolivia for their role in extrajudicial killings in 2003. Last Friday, the Mamani plaintiffs filed a brief with the Eleventh Circuit opposing the defendants’ appeal, which is considering the issues of exhaustion of remedies and command responsibility.

Like Samantar, the defendants in Mamani came to the United States after leaving power, and have remained in the country ever since.

March 31, 2011

Oral Arguments in GITMO Psychologist Case Take Place in NY Next Week

Posted by Cara Solomon

Here’s an important advisory from the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). 

UPDATE:  Courthouse News Service ran an article about the hearing under the headline “Court Shrinks from Probe of Gitmo Psychologist.”  Also, in advance of the hearing, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now wrote a column about it, and interviewed the complainant in the case, Dr. Steven Reisner.

MEDIA ADVISORY

ORAL ARGUMENTS IN GITMO PSYCHOLOGIST CASE TAKE PLACE IN NEW YORK NEXT WEEK

In the First Court Hearing in the U.S. on Whether a Psychologist’s Participation in Abusive Interrogations Violates Professional Ethical Standards, CJA and the NYCLU Seek Court Order Mandating an Investigation of Dr. John Francis Leso for Conduct at Guantánamo

WHO: Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU)

WHAT: CJA and NYCLU have asked a New York State Court to order the New York Department of Education’s Office of Professional Discipline (OPD) to investigate a professional misconduct complaint alleging that Dr. John Francis Leso, a New York-licensed psychologist, violated New York’s professional ethics standards when he designed and participated in the abusive interrogation program at Guantánamo.  The OPD is responsible for regulating the conduct of all New York licensed psychologists and hears all manner of complaints against New York psychologists.

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