The Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School conducts research and advocacy on domestic counterterrorism practices.
A current focus is the prosecution of “homegrown terrorism” defendants. Through substantive engagement with advocates and affected communities, the Institute is working to highlight human rights concerns, including abusive law enforcement tactics, inadequate trial processes and inhumane conditions of confinement for terrorism defendants.
In spring 2012, HRI convened leading advocates, attorneys and scholars to discuss strategies that link their concerns with domestic counterterrorism practices to the broader campaign for rights-respecting national security policies. In fall 2011, Human Rights Clinic students began research on domestic terrorism prosecutions, cataloguing human rights concerns with the more than 400 counterterrorism prosecutions conducted since September 11, 2001. The project will culminate in a report to be published in early 2013.
Yusupov v. Attorney General of the United States
The Human Rights Institute and Clinic have long been involved in advocacy around the rights of immigrant populations in the United States and in promoting U.S. compliance with international legal obligations regarding the rights of foreign nationals. In 2009, clinic students produced a brief for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Yusupov v. Attorney General, a ground-breaking case regarding the application of the so-called “national security bar” to an Uzbek asylum-seeker. Marshaling the jurisprudence of foreign national courts and commentary from international human rights bodies, the brief argued that overbroad application of the national security bar was contrary to the purpose of international refugee protection and put the U.S. out of step with international practice. The brief was innovative for its in-depth discussion of foreign national court jurisprudence and helps establish the relevance of international refugee law principles in U.S. courts.
The brief is part of the institute’s ongoing effort to identify the growing trend of traditionally rights-upholding states using counterterrorism measures to defeat the humanitarian purposes of immigration law. In “securitizing” immigration policy, that is, framing immigration decisions as ordinarily implicative of national security rather than rarely so, these states relegate to the background international norms of refugee protection and the torture prohibition, reducing their salience and elevating “security” as a debate-ending justification.
Read HRI's amicus brief
Read the Third Circuit decision
Celikgogus, et. al., v. Rumsfeld, et. al.
A team from the Human Rights Clinic worked with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on federal court litigation on behalf of several former detainees at Guatanamo Bay. The team worked with CCR to conduct legal research, assist with factually development, and provide general case-related support. An amended complaint was filed on March 21, 2007, alleging violations by various U.S. government officials of customary international law, torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, the Geneva Conventions, and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS); the first and fifth amendments of the U.S. constitution; the Religious Freedom Restoration Act; and 42 U.S.C. 1985 § (3) (the Federal Civil Rights Act). This project was completed in 2007.
Challenges to Post-9/11 Anti-Terrorism Policies
Since 9/11 the clinic has been involved in a number of important challenges to the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies. The clinic was an early leader in advocacy against Guantanamo Bay detentions. In February, 2002 the clinic was co-petitioner with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and CEJIL in a case before the Inter-American Commission challenging the Guantanamo Bay detentions. The clinic also assisted in preparations for the appellate arguments in Rasul v. Bush. The clinic has done extensive work on the post-9/11 detention of immigrants in the United States, including authoring a report to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, lobbying the U.N. Human Rights Commission, and assisting CCR in drafting the complaint and briefing in the federal lawsuit Turkmen v. Bush.
The clinic alsohas been actively involved in work opposing extraordinary renditions. In addition to its current work seeking Freedom of Information Act information on diplomatic assurances, the clinic assisted CCR in drafting the complaint and briefing in Mahar v. Ashcroft, a federal lawsuit challenging the U.S.’s rendition of a Canadian-Syrian citizen to Syria where he was tortured. This projected was completed in 2006.
Road from Abu Ghraib
Human Rights Watch (Reed Brody) report Road to Abu Ghraib. This project was completed in Spring 2005.