Michael Ratner (1943-2016)
Michael Ratner was the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and the President of European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin. Both are non-profit human rights litigation organizations. He was part of the small group of lawyers that first took on representation of the Guantánamo detainees in January 2001, a case that resulted in a victory in the Supreme Court in 2004. CCR established a network of over 600 pro bono lawyers to represent Guantanamo detainees and continues that work with the hope of finally shutting Guantánamo down. CCR is actively litigating against killings by drones and represents the family of Al-Awlaki in a damage case against government officials.He and CCR comprised the U.S. counsel for Wikileaks and Julian Assange. He was also engaged in European Courts in an effort to bring US officials including Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to justice for the Abu Ghraib abuse and torture as well as for their actions at Guantánamo. A major area of Mr. Ratner’s litigation and writing was the enforcement of the prohibition on torture and murder against various dictators and generals who travel to the United States. He sued on behalf of victims in Guatemala, East Timor, Haiti, Argentina, among other countries. He also litigated numerous suits to prevent or stop illegal U.S. wars ranging from Central America to Iraq. A constant in his work was litigation against government spying and surveillance of activists including the targeting of Muslims particularly since 9/11. He was, and CCR continues to be, active on issues of Palestinian rights, represented the Gaza flotilla, the family of Rachel Corrie, and the protection of Palestinian advocacy in the United States.
Ratner’s books, authored or co-authored include, Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in 21st-Century America (2011); and Killing Che: How the CIA Got Away with Murder (2011). Other books include International Human Rights Litigation in U.S. Courts, Second Edition (2008); Against War with Iraq; Guantanamo: What the World Should Know (2004); and The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution by Book (2008). He taught human rights litigation at Yale and Columbia Law Schools. A past president of the National Lawyers Guild, Ratner received many awards, among them Trial Lawyer of the Year, the Columbia Law School Medal of Honor (2005), the North Star Community Frederick Douglass Award, Honorary Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School (2005), and The Nation Institute/Puffin Foundation Prize for Creative Citizenship (2007). In 2006, the National Law Journal named Ratner as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the United States.