Court Upholds Broad Interpretation Of Anti-Terrorism Law That Inhibits Work Of Humanitarian Groups
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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."
The following can be attributed to former President Jimmy Carter, founder of the Carter Center:
"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."
The following can be attributed to Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project:
"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."
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.
The ACLU's brief is available online at: www.aclu.org/national-security/amicus-brief-carter-center-and-other-humanitarian-groups-support-humanitarian-law-