ACLU Clients and Government Agree to Dismissal of Lawsuit Challenging Trump’s International Criminal Court Sanctions Regime

May 25, 2021 9:45 am

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OAKLAND, Calif. — The American Civil Liberties Union and the Biden administration jointly asked a federal court to dismiss a challenge by the ACLU’s clients to former President Trump’s International Criminal Court sanctions regime. The request follows the Biden administration’s announcement last month that it would rescind the sanctions regime, which prohibited anyone from assisting the ICC in investigating and prosecuting genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, under the threat of severe civil and criminal penalties. The request for dismissal includes an agreement by the government not to enforce the Trump sanctions regime against the ACLU’s clients in the future.

“We are pleased President Biden rescinded President Trump’s unconstitutional sanctions order and has pledged not to enforce that order against our clients in the future,” said Scarlet Kim, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project. “The Trump sanctions order violated our clients’ First Amendment rights to support the ICC’s pursuit of justice, and they can now resume their work with peace of mind. We must never allow such an abuse of emergency powers to occur again.”

Three distinguished law faculty and an ACLU human rights attorney, whose work supporting the ICC was halted by the sanctions regime, filed the case, Sadat v. Biden, in January. Represented by the ACLU and Covington & Burling, they argued that the sanctions regime violated their First Amendment rights to communicate with and support the ICC, including by providing human rights expertise and evidence of war crimes, and representing victims in the ICC’s justice proceedings. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Each of our clients has made significant contributions to the ICC’s investigations and prosecutions of atrocity crimes. Leila Sadat is a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis and Special Adviser to the ICC Prosecutor who has provided legal advice to the Office of the Prosecutor in its investigations and prosecutions of crimes against humanity around the world. Alexa Koenig runs the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley Law and has advised the Prosecutor’s Office on improving the scientific and technological evidence it relies on in its cases. Naomi Roht-Arriaza is a professor at UC Hastings Law and a leading proponent of accountability for high-level officials who engage in corruption that results in atrocity crimes. She has pushed the Prosecutor’s Office to investigate this “grand corruption.” Steven Watt is a Senior Staff Attorney in the ACLU Human Rights Program, who has provided the Prosecutor’s Office with evidence of torture and other war crimes committed by U.S. military and CIA personnel, and represented victims and survivors of these crimes before the ICC.

The dismissal is available online here:

More information about the case is here:

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