Witness to Abuse: Human Rights Abuses under the Material Witness Law since September 11

Document Date: June 27, 2005

This 101-page report documents how the Justice Department denied the witnesses fundamental due process safeguards. Many were not informed of the reason for their arrest, allowed immediate access to a lawyer, nor permitted to see the evidence used against them. The Justice Department evaded fundamental protections for the suspects and the legal requirements for arrested witnesses. Their court proceedings were conducted behind closed doors, and all the court documents were sealed.

The report also documents the long-term effects of the Justice Department’s material witness policy on witnesses and their families. While recovering from the trauma of being jailed in harsh conditions, witnesses often continued to live under a specter of suspicion. They faced lingering questions in the community about their ties to terrorism, even in cases when the government apologized. Many lost businesses and job opportunities, and some had to move to new communities to restart their lives.

Author: Anjana Malhotra

Press Coverage: WSHU – NPR

Articles/Blogs Written by Author: “Material Witness Law Is Being Abused” – Washington Report on Middle East Affairs | “Overlooking Innocence: Refashioning the Material Witness Law to Indefinitely Detain Muslims Without Charges” – SSRN Papers

Related Advocacy/Litigation: ACLU Memo to Interested Persons Regarding Reforms to Materials Witness Detentions in S. 1739 | ACLU Letter to Senator Leahy Supporting Reforms to Material Witness Detentions in S. 1739 | Abdullah Al-Kidd v. United States, et Al. | Citing Growing Abuses, ACLU Intensifies International Human Rights Advocacy in the United States


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