CJA 2009 Highlights

2009 has been a defining year for CJA and the broader human rights community. Due to your support and the work of our experienced staff, our impact has been felt around the world. We have secured justice for our clients and celebrated many significant successes. We have also seen the laws we use tested at the highest levels. Together we have built an organization capable of rising to new challenges.

As many of you know, last winter we lost our largest funder due to the Bernard Madoff scandal. Fortunately, many of you stepped forward to fill the void and since then CJA has emerged stronger than ever. Because of your generosity, we have been able to add three new full-time staff positions including one attorney and an investigator. We are deeply grateful to you for standing with us both personally and financially.

CJA is now representing more torture survivors and family members of the disappeared than ever before. We have significantly increased our docket of human rights cases and investigations and are currently working with over 150 survivors of abuse from more than twenty countries. We have active cases against over forty individuals charged with serious human rights abuses.

We have also expanded our program to include high profile international justice initiatives. As part of the prosecution team, CJA prepared two expert witnesses and briefed numerous legal issues to help secure the conviction of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori for human rights crimes. And, we are currently assisting in the Ecuadoran Truth Commission’s final report. We also continue to aid prosecutors on the ground in Peru and Argentina to develop in-country human rights cases.

This October, we held our first client conference which brought together CJA clients from around the world to provide their perspectives on international justice and to share their experiences as survivors of torture, crimes against humanity and other abuses. We also led a delegation of clients and supporters to El Salvador to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Jesuits Massacre and to meet with government officials to seek support for CJA’s litigation against the perpetrators.

We have achieved extraordinary victories this year. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld our $6 million verdict against El Salvador’s most notorious war criminal, Colonel Nicholas Carranza. A few states away, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated CJA’s case against General Samantar, the only existing accountability effort for human rights abuses committed under the brutal Siad
Barre regime in Somalia. This remarkable reversal represented a decisive moment in CJA’s efforts to ensure that U.S. courts remain open to suits against individual human rights abusers who seek safe haven in the United States.

Today, for the first time in our history, we are defending a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Unfortunately the victory against former Somali General Ali Samantar was short lived. In September the Supreme Court granted General Samantar’s appeal and agreed to decide whether former government officials can be allowed individually to assert sovereign immunity. The fact that the Supreme Court accepted Yousuf v. Samantar for review presents a tremendous challenge for CJA and the entire human rights community. If the case is reversed, our five Somali clients – all survivors of torture and crimes against humanity – will not have their day in court and General Samantar will be able to live comfortably in Northern Virginia without consequence. This case is also emblematic of the increasing stakes for universal jurisdiction human rights cases in the United States and overseas.

CJA faces increasingly sophisticated and aggressive opposition to our cases and we expect this trend to continue. To investigate and file a case, CJA must now devote an average of $90,000 in expenses and 2,000 attorney hours. CJA does not benefit financially from the judgments we win – our clients do – and the statutes we use do not entitle us to collect attorneys’ fees.

Help us meet the Supreme Court Challenge and Continue Our Work!

For every dollar you contribute, CJA delivers four dollars in value because of our network of pro bono attorneys, investigators and researchers.

We hope you will consider making a generous year-end investment in CJA. Click here to make a donation. Your tax-deductible contribution will help us pursue human rights abusers in national courts where governments and tribunals have failed to do so. It will help us to heal and empower people who have survived torture and break the silence that enables abusers to live with impunity.

Best wishes to you for a meaningful holiday season and a new year full of promise. Thank you for your continuing partnership in our work.

The Center for Justice & Accountability

December 2009