For Immediate Release
Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Law That Inhibits Work of Humanitarian Organizations
ACLU Filed Brief on Behalf of Carter Center and Other Organizations Supporting Challenge to Vague "Material Support" Law
NEW YORK - The
United States Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a case
challenging the constitutionality of a 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 American Civil Liberties Union
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. The brief charges that the vague
language of the law could prohibit the speech and advocacy of groups
whose only purpose is to promote peace and deter terrorist activity.
Under the challenged 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 vague language potentially criminalizes the humanitarian
organizations' efforts 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
The following can be attributed to former President Jimmy Carter, founder of the Carter Center:
"Our work to end violence sometimes
requires interacting directly with groups that have engaged in it.
Unfortunately, efforts like ours, and those of the many other human
rights groups who signed onto this brief, are hindered by the extremely
vague 'material support' law that leaves us guessing whether our work
to encourage peace could actually be considered illegal. Sadly, the law
being challenged in court - which is aimed at putting an end to
terrorism - actually threatens the work of humanitarian groups that
share the same goal. We hope the Supreme Court will overturn this law
so that groups like ours can continue the important work of advancing
peace and freedom without concern of prosecution."
The following can be attributed to Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project:
"People engaged in conflict
resolution and human rights advocacy shouldn't have to be constantly
questioning whether their work could land them in prison.
Unfortunately, that is the inescapable impact of this law. 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 brief is available online at: www.aclu.org/national-
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.