Creative Use of Law as a Positive Force for Social Change: Confronting Torture and Extrajudicial Detention – University of Iowa School of Law – Speech Notes – PDF

Abu Omar


2009 University of Iowa Law School Speech Notes

Talk I U of I 11/3/09 “Creative use of law as a positive force for social change: Confronting Torture and Extrajudicial Detention” materials clipping website

Happy to be here–shared some recent clippings–exciting moment in our work–national sec

Rendition–arar–abu omar

Detention–gitmo–habeas corpus–s ct Palau

Preventive detention–Obama

Torture–over? Accountability–Europe  National Torture Accountability Day

Private armies—blackwater

FBI guidelines

Push back—not all the way back—

(not all we do or have done: racial justice cases—vulcans/corporate—prisons–unocal—fbi—)

Tell you a bit about how CCR got here–today

Majority of our current work is a shift–from representing those I and CCR were in general agreement—social change organizations to protecting democratic rights as rights divorced from part movements—eg anti war movement; pr indep movement; acorn—vs Skokie
(social change comes from grass roots movements—set up to defend them)

Our founding—the south—social movements and how we looked at law (case even if lost—how we saw courts)

Different than than other human rights organizations—1. litigation–2. among those who litigate–openly radical—not better prisons but get rid of it–3. we were not afraid to lose—bad precedent

law as a positive force for social change–but thru grassroots struggle

difference in some of the cases today—gitmo—not about that—saving fundamental rights

point where ness to do those even if clients worst of worst—reached that point—under bush II

CCR Whv did I go there?—law school in 1968—civil rights and war warren court

what did I do—attica—sent there

Impossible case—prosecution

Vietnam—resisters; wiretapping—surveillance of anti war movement; Puerto rico cuba

Struggles in Central America 90s–no US intervention—used law—part of struggle



Personal–families wiped out


CCR key case—Filartiga—torture in other countries—mixed—not precisely social movement—but became critical in struggle against torture

Civil case


What cld you do—what was status of torture prohibition—no cat—issue of countries do it

Won in 1980 carter—

Torturer —like pirates–

Led to amazing set of cases—used is social struggles and accountability

–gramajo –guatemala —18 year old—


–Haiti unocal Nigeria Bolivia

Expanded law—not just torture—genocide war crimes disappearances

Universal jurisdiction—criminal cases—how much weight these prohibitions have

US efforts at accountability—where are we–read condolezza rice

Rumsfeld in Germany

US torture in Spain

Goldstone and war crimes—

Talk about Gitmo—

Not my or ccr’s first encounter

Where is gitmo

Why is it controlled by US

Question is what rights?

Gitmo I—haitian gitmo

Storming the court— brand Goldstein

Coup in Haiti—earlier case

What did govt do—took to gitmo processed


HIV—no longer the case—

Bush I and Clinton—both kept it going

Impossible case—HIV refugees Haitians

How did we win—eventually court —lower—clinton not appeal

Large grassroots movement of those very groups act up refugee advocates and Haitians African-Americans

My person experience —conditions–

–not back—to prisons to survivors or gitmo

Today—wide docket

Titled toward 9/11–

Gitmo–remarkable advocacy story—

Order of Nov 13 2001

What it does

Debate—change at CCR

Why do it? fundamental

Beginning—no one

No clients–next friend

No law—

No money

Most unpopular

What did we want? Simple—magna carta—test detention—deeper question

Const v human rights law

Role of lawyers movement press public

Role of court—win win win and now again

Role of congress bad bad bad

Role of president bad somewhat bad—today—said close—still preventive and mili commissions

But if close and just change physical location not enuff

Does not end with Obama—

Not get a pass

Many of these issues gitmo preventive milit commissions renditions torture and accountability fbi guidelines