Designating Non-Profits as Terrorist Organizations Without Due Process Undermines Security and Humanitarian Aid, Say Groups

For Immediate Release

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Rachel Myers, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; media@aclu.org

Designating Non-Profits as Terrorist Organizations Without Due Process Undermines Security and Humanitarian Aid, Say Groups

Top Humanitarian and Philanthropic Organizations File Friend-of-the-Court Brief in Support of ACLU’s KindHearts Case

TOLEDO, Ohio - Several
of the nation's top non-profit humanitarian and philanthropic
organizations told a federal court today that the government's
authority and conduct in freezing a charity's assets undermines
critical humanitarian aid and the government's own anti-terrorism
efforts. Grantmakers Without Borders, OMB Watch, the American-Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee and several other organizations made this
argument in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in support of due process
rights for KindHearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development, Inc. in
a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio
and several civil rights lawyers.

"These absolute powers ultimately
hurt those most in need of food, shelter, medicine, economic
development and other assistance," said Kay Guinane, an expert on the
impact of national security measures on non-profits and a signatory to
the brief. "Furthermore, the idea that any charity can be closed
indefinitely with no finding of wrongdoing or procedure to defend
itself is contrary to fundamental values of fairness in a democratic
society."

The U.S. Treasury Department's
Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) froze KindHearts' funds and
operations three years ago without notice or a hearing, based simply on
the assertion that the charity was "under investigation." OFAC then
threatened to designate KindHearts as a "specially designated global
terrorist" based on classified evidence, again without providing it
with a reason or meaningful opportunity to defend itself.

In the brief, the organizations
argue that "these actions and policies have created a climate of fear
and intimidation among non-profit organizations, discouraging them from
doing their critical humanitarian work - particularly in conflict-torn
regions that are most in need - for fear of being arbitrarily subjected
to these actions and policies themselves...in effect, the government's
actions and policies are counterproductive to its efforts to counter
terrorism because they discourage and undermine the vital work of
[non-profit organizations]."

"We are gratified to have the
support of so many significant humanitarian aid and social justice
groups in our effort to provide KindHearts with its day in court," said
Hina Shamsi, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project and
lead ACLU attorney on the case. "The government's unfettered authority
to shut down KindHearts based on suspicion alone has not only left the
charity unable to fulfill its humanitarian mission, it sends a
profoundly negative message to other U.S.-based non-profits that seek
to alleviate human suffering. At a time when the United States needs to
restore its image in the eyes of the world, the government's actions do
not serve either this country's security or its commitment to justice."

The brief was filed by Guinane,
Grantmakers Without Borders, OMB Watch, the American-Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Appleton Foundation, the Bill of
Rights Defense Committee, the Defending Dissent Foundation, the Fund
for Nonviolence, Grassroots International, Kinder USA, Muslim Advocates
and the Muslim Public Affairs Council in the U.S. District Court For
the Northern District of Ohio Western Division. The organizations are
represented by the National Security Clinic at the University of Texas
School of Law.

Attorneys on the KindHearts case are
Shamsi and National Security Fellow Alexander Abdo of the ACLU; Fritz
Byers of Toledo, Ohio; David Cole of the Georgetown University Law
Center; Lynne Bernabei and Alan Kabat of Bernabei & Wachtel, PLLC
in Washington; and Jeffrey Gamso and Carrie Davis of the ACLU of Ohio.

The friend-of-the-court brief is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/discrim/38852lgl20090227.html

More information about the KindHearts case is at: www.aclu.org/kindhearts

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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