On December 22, 2020, CJA joined an amicus brief filed on behalf of human rights organizations and former U.N. Special Rapporteurs on Torture in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in D.J.C.V. v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The case was brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of a two-year old child and his father, asylum seekers from Honduras who were detained and separated for nearly six months under the Trump administration’s family separation policy.
Plaintiffs filed an action under the Federal Tort Claims Act and Alien Tort Statute against the Trump administration for torture and deliberate infliction of emotional distress. For over 30 years, survivors of the most serious human rights abuses have used the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) to seek truth, justice, and accountability in U.S. courts.
At issue in this case is whether the United States can claim absolute immunity from suit for fundamental violations of international and domestic law, such as the universal prohibition against torture. CJA and its fellow amici argue that under international law, breaches of fundamental norms carry corresponding obligations on the part of states to remedy any resulting harms. The ATS was enacted by Congress to ensure accountability for violations of international law that are specific, universal and obligatory, such as those at issue in this case. The failure to provide a remedy in these circumstances would itself be a violation of international law by the United States. Thus, amici urged the Court to interpret the ATS consistent with its purpose as a remedial mechanism to redress violations of international law, and to reject the U.S. government’s blanket claims of sovereign immunity as a defense to accountability.