Blog of Rights


Jamil Dakwar (@jdakwar) is the Director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Human Rights Program (HRP) which is dedicated to holding the U.S. government accountable to its international human rights obligations and commitments.  He leads a team of lawyers and advocates who use a human rights framework to complement existing ACLU legal and legislative advocacy primarily in the areas of counter-terrorism, racial justice, immigrants’ rights, women’s rights, and criminal and juvenile justice. HRP conducts human rights research, documentation and public education, as well as engages in litigation and advocacy before U.S. courts and international human rights bodies.

HRP’s docket includes both domestic lawsuits and petitions before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of individuals sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for crimes committed when they were children; victims and survivors of torture, forced disappearance, trafficking and domestic violence; disenfranchised felons; domestic workers and low-wage undocumented immigrants; as well as a challenge to the Oklahoma constitutional amendment banning the use of Sharia and international law. Jamil also serves as the ACLU Main Representative to the United Nations, and has testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, United Nations human rights bodies, and the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), about human rights violations in the U.S.

Prior to joining the ACLU in 2004, Jamil worked at Human Rights Watch, where he conducted research, advocated, and published reports on issues of torture and detention in Egypt, Morocco, Israel, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Before coming to the United States, he was a senior attorney with Adalah, a leading human rights group in Israel, where he filed and argued human rights cases before Israeli courts and advocated before international forums. He is a graduate of Tel Aviv University and NYU School of Law.

Pentagon Report Whitewashes Gitmo Abuses

By Jamil Dakwar, Director, ACLU Human Rights Program at 9:04pm
Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, the vice chief of Naval Operations, presented his review of conditions of confinement at Guantánamo Bay (PDF) at a briefing at detention facilities at Guantánamo Naval Base yesterday afternoon. The review team interviewed the military leaders in charge of the detention facility as well as staff, interrogators and guards, and spoke with “about a dozen” detainees. The team also observed “enteral” feedings of hunger-striking prisoners, which entails inserting a tube down the detainee’s nose to his stomach to pump in a protein shake twice a day as the detainee is shackled to a chair and his head attached to a metal restraint with Velcro. Adm. Walsh concluded that the detainees at the prison are being held “in conformity with all applicable laws governing the conditions of confinement, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.” Secretary Gates endorsed the report and sent it to President Obama over the weekend.

Strange Bedfellows at Guantánamo

By Jamil Dakwar, Director, ACLU Human Rights Program at 5:23pm
Photo: AP

(Originally posted on Huffington Post.)

I've been observing the military commissions since 2004, and Guantánamo never felt more surreal or otherworldly than it did in what we hope were its final days of operation. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while then President-elect Obama prepared for his inauguration the next day, the Guantánamo military commissions charged forward with the pretrial hearing of Omar Khadr, the mental competency hearing of Ramzi Bin l-Shibh, and other proceedings in the case of the "9/11 defendants," the men charged with co-conspiring in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Prior to the hearings on that Monday, the prosecution and defense teams in two cases filed a joint request to postpone the proceedings in anticipation of the changing of the guard in Washington. The military judges denied this request. Instead, "the show must go on" was the message in the days and hours before President Obama took the oath of office and had an opportunity to issue his executive orders. Neither prosecutors, defense lawyers, nor judges acknowledged during the Monday proceedings that there was an imminent change in the way the incoming administration would deal with the military commissions. Federal courts were closed on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but it was business as usual at Guantánamo. Ironically, even the Gitmo Gym was closed on Monday, but not the departing Bush administration's kangaroo courts! Three days later, President Obama issued executive orders to close Guantánamo within one year, suspend the military commissions, prohibit CIA prisons, and enforce the ban on torture.

The UDHR at 60

By Jamil Dakwar, Director, ACLU Human Rights Program at 10:54am

(Originally posted on AlterNet.)

Born of a need to recognize "the inherent dignity and...the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family," the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came into being 60 years ago…

Observing Another Guantánamo Show Trial

By Jamil Dakwar, Director, ACLU Human Rights Program at 2:39pm

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

This week, while the eyes of the American public and the world focus on the final leg of the presidential race, a new trial commenced at Guantánamo. The trial of Ali Hamza al Bahlul, al Qaeda's alleged…

Do As We Legislate, Not as We Do

By Jamil Dakwar, Director, ACLU Human Rights Program at 4:39pm

Last Friday, President Bush signed the Child Soldiers Accountability Act into law. The act criminalizes the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and gives the government the authority to deport or deny entry into the United States individuals…

ACLU Outlines Unfair Trials and the Death Penalty at Human Rights Meeting

By Jamil Dakwar, Director, ACLU Human Rights Program at 5:20pm

This week, I represented the ACLU at the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation of Europe (OSCE) in Warsaw, Poland. The OSCE is an intergovernmental organization consisting of 56 "participating…

Protecting the Constitution, At Home and Abroad

By Jamil Dakwar, Director, ACLU Human Rights Program at 6:18pm

Constitution Day serves as a reminder of the importance of this historical document, a document which embodies the concept of the rule of law and acts as the blueprint for the American people. Part of this blueprint includes the Framers' desire that the United States government respect international commitments made under treaties signed by the President and approved by the Senate. Indeed, the Supremacy Clause makes the Constitution, Federal Statutes, and U.S. treaties "the supreme law of the land."

When the incoming President takes or reaffirms the oath of office, they are committing themselves to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." In doing so, they are obliged to recognize and respect U.S. ratified treaties, at home and abroad. While this commitment is made to the American people at the inauguration ceremony, it echoes and resonates around the world, as the U.S. commitment to the family of nations to respect the rule of law and U.S. international and treaty obligations is vital to the preservation of international peace and security. The erosion of this commitment over the past seven years cannot be over exaggerated, especially in the area of protection and promotion of human rights at home and around the world.

Unlawful Command Influence

By Jamil Dakwar, Director, ACLU Human Rights Program at 8:47pm

Mohammad Jawad's military commission hearing last week was unusual for many reasons. Jawad was a minor when he was captured in Afghanistan and now faces life in prison if convicted for allegedly throwing a hand grenade that wounded two U.S. soldiers…

Guantánamo's Frequent Flyer Program

By Jamil Dakwar, Director, ACLU Human Rights Program at 4:45pm

Last week's Supreme Court rebuke of the Bush administration's attempt to preserve Guantánamo as a lawless place, a place where human beings are less worthy of protection under U.S. law than iguanas, brought newfound hope that this travesty…

Guantánamo Detainee Wants to Phone Home

By Jamil Dakwar, Director, ACLU Human Rights Program at 3:42pm

The events at today's hearing suggest distrust and suspicion from the handful of Guantánamo detainees who have been charged by the Bush administration toward the military commissions system. Guantánamo is a place where basic rights, like…

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