2011 Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) President’s Reception – Speech Notes – PDF

2011 Zella Luria Awarded CCR Philanthropic Partnership Award Speech Notes

Good evening, everyone. I’m Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Love seeing all of you

We have this event every year—to thank you– our generous donors and supporters–

And to give special recognition to those who have helped us make a real difference

Tonight we’ll honor Zella Luria;

our friends at the National Day Laborers Organizing Network;

and the New York office of the law firm of Jenner & Block.

Before doing so—I want to highlight a bit of the times we are in and out work:

We are living in extraordinary period–very difficult but also possibly a time of major transition–

You can all make the bad list—wars—possibly 4 or 5 at the last count and obama engaging in the last one—Libya– without cong consent; draconian cutbacks on liberty with Gitmo still operating, a skewed economic system that continues to crush the poor and make corporations and a few wealthier and wealthier, and a political system in which money is destroying democracy

But then–in the midst of this darkness- along comes Tunisia, Egypt, and peoples revolts throughout the Middle East—

And then comes along Wisconsin—and people taking on their republican cong who want to privatize medicare —

And then there is Wikileaks—exposing lies and demonstrating that many govt secrets should not be secret at all;

all of sudden great hope is in the air—hope that may take years to realize—none of us can predict —but not the status quo—Nothing like this in decades—

And Ccr is more exciting and impt then ever –taking on the key issues of the day—here at home and abroad—mention a few–

  1. In new Orleans—where we challenged the crime against nature statute—

As a cc atty said –like pinning a scarlet A on a person for acts historically associated with homosexuality—

(first case of the copelon fund for racial justice—named in memory and honor of our extraordinary bd member Rhonda copelon)

2. In Arizona and elsewhere where we are defending the persecution of the undocumented—and one our attys- even arrested by a wicked sheriff–

  1. In nyc where we are in a constant battle with the police over its discriminatory stop and frisk policy and the city’s discrimination against black and Latino fire fighters–
  2. in Yemen where we challenged an Obama assassination order of an American citizen;
  3. in Haiti where we have tried to prevent evictions from the post-earthquake camps, stop the gender violence in 22 camps and have tried to get Obama stop deportations—
  4. And then there is Guantanamo—there is no way I thought I would be standing here before you almost 10 years since Guantanamo opened — and ccr filed the first challenge and won—and gitmo wld still be open

Some 200 remain in Guantanamo—many whom even the govt believes should not be there-

– and we are still fighting to close it—despite obama’s promise that it would be closed in a year—

I fear the prison with its underlying preventive detention scheme and military commissions is becoming a permanent fixture of our legal landscape—

  1. Wikileaks release on gitmo–confirmed some remarkable conclusions-

-a principal one is that gitmo had little to do with highly dangerous criminal terrorists—but more to do with picking up the innocent for interrogation—it was an interrogation and torture camp—what we have said all along-

–second—that the so-called “evidence” against many is utterly unreliable—a few tortured detainees implicated some 235 other gitmo detainees—

Gitmo for me is like a ship with a million leaks—but somehow it’s still floating–­our goal is to rescue its survivors and sink it–

  1. some success with accountability—for bush and the torture team—closed off in every case—bush and then obama opposed any accountability in US court—secret—secret—secret—

Went to Spain—so far amazing success—one court is trying the case–­doing so despite efforts to Obama admin to derail it in secret talks with the judges-­-that was revealed by materials in wiki leaks—-

Went to Switzerland—heard bush was going to travel. Prepared a complaint—an admitted torturer—

News got out—bush cancelled—a remarkable moment—a former US president –afraid of foreign travel—unheard of even a few years ago already a success—sure more to come —

In closing I want us to remember 3 amazing people—close to CCR–

Greg finger bd chair Rhonda Copelon our vp

Lenny weinglass—who represented ccr—his memorial may 13 7 ethical culture

There is much more you will hear about tonight and can read about on our website-

Remember—ccr take on the injustices that other prefer not to see—

and if they see, they chose not to act on—Thank you all–our supporters—for the courage to understand that—and for being with us!