For Immediate Release
Rights Groups File Lawsuit To Allow Challenge To Targeted Killing Without Due Process
CCR And ACLU Charge It's Illegal For Government To Deny Counsel To Targets On Kill List
NEW YORK - The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
and the American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit against
the U.S. Treasury Department and the Office of Foreign Assets Control
(OFAC) to challenge their refusal to grant a license that would allow
the groups to file a lawsuit challenging the government's asserted
authority to use lethal force against U.S. citizens located far from any
battlefield without charge, trial or judicial process of any kind.
In early July, CCR and the ACLU were
retained by Nasser al-Aulaqi to bring a lawsuit in connection with the
government's decision to authorize the targeted killing of his son, U.S.
citizen Anwar al-Aulaqi, whom the CIA and Defense Department have
targeted for death. On July 16, however, the Secretary of the Treasury
labeled Anwar al-Aulaqi a "specially designated global terrorist," which
makes it a crime for lawyers to provide representation for his benefit
without first seeking a license from OFAC. CCR and the ACLU have sought a
license, but the government has not yet issued one despite the urgency
created by an outstanding execution order. CCR and the ACLU have not had
contact with Anwar al-Aulaqi.
"The government is targeting an
American citizen for death without any legal process whatsoever, while
at the same time impeding lawyers from challenging that death sentence
and the government's sweeping claim of authority to issue it. This is a
dual blow to some of our most precious liberties, and such an alarming
denial of rights in any one case endangers the rights of all Americans,"
said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "Attorneys
shouldn't have to ask the government for permission in order to
challenge the constitutionality of the government's conduct."
The OFAC requirements generally make
it illegal to provide any service, including legal representation, to or
for the benefit of a designated individual. A lawyer who provides legal
representation for the benefit of a designated person without getting
special permission is subject to criminal and civil penalties. The ACLU
and CCR charge that OFAC has exceeded its authority by subjecting
uncompensated legal services to a licensing requirement, and that OFAC's
regulations violate the First Amendment, the Fifth Amendment and the
principle of separation of powers. Today's lawsuit asks the court to
invalidate the regulations and to make clear that lawyers can provide
representation for the benefit of designated individuals without first
seeking the government's consent.
The lawsuit that CCR and the ACLU
seek to file would charge that the government has not disclosed the
standards it uses for authorizing the premeditated and deliberate
killing of U.S. citizens located far from any battlefield. The groups
argue that the American people are entitled to know the standards being
used for these life and death decisions.
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"President Obama is claiming the
power to act as judge, jury and executioner while suspending any
semblance of due process," said Vince Warren, Executive Director of CCR.
"Yemen is nearly 2000 miles from Afghanistan or Iraq. The U.S.
government is going outside the law to create an ever-larger global war
zone and turn the whole world into a battlefield. Would we tolerate it
if China or France secretly decided to execute their enemies inside the
U.S.?" He added, "This sets a dangerous precedent for other countries
that will only lead to more violence and further diminish the rule of
While there are circumstances in
which the government can legitimately use lethal force against
civilians, the authority contemplated by senior Obama administration
officials is far broader than what the Constitution and international
law allow, the groups say. Under international human rights law, lethal
force may be used outside of armed conflict only when there is an
imminent threat of deadly attack and when lethal force is a last resort.
A system in which names are added to a list through a secret
bureaucratic process and stay there for months at a time does not appear
to be limited to imminent threats or lethal force as a last resort.
Moreover, targeting individuals for
execution who are suspected of crimes but have not been convicted -
without oversight, due process or disclosed standards for being placed
on the kill list - also poses the risk that the government will
erroneously target the wrong people. Since the tragic events of 9/11,
the U.S. government has detained many men as terrorists, only for courts
or the government itself to discover later that the evidence was wrong
or unreliable and release them.
The case was filed in the U.S.
District Court for the District of Columbia. Attorneys on the case are,
for CCR, Pardiss Kebriaei, Senior Attorney Maria LaHood and Legal
Director Bill Quigley; for the ACLU, Deputy Legal Director Jameel
Jaffer, Ben Wizner, Jonathan Manes and Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro;
and for the ACLU of the Nation's Capital, Arthur B. Spitzer.
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The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org.