University of Pennsylvania Law School Honorary Fellow Award – Speech Notes – PDF

2005 Honorary Fellow Notes U of Penn

I don’t think it is chance that I am here speaking to you at this particular moment on our nation’s and worlds history—

Yes–I have spent my life at ccr fighting in the courts and outside the courts for what I believed was right-for the underdog, the rule of law—against oppression—-better world—

In my early days—defended those prisoners maimed at the Attica prison rebellion; supported those opposed to the war in Vietnam—

Later I supported those opposing the wars and murders in Central America-carried out with US complicity–

I fought for the rights of Haitian refugees and was part of the team that closed the US run HIV prison camp at gitmo bay in the 90s

I sued on behalf of victims of torture whether in guat, Haiti or east Timor-

I helped establish the principle that those who torture are enemies of all humankind I could go on—but it not those struggles that bring me here today—-

Today we and our nation are at a critical juncture—at a great divide- Will we have a country where authority is under law —

or where an executive branch which believes that in the so called war on terror-anything goes-

The divide is between -law and lawlessness—the lawlessness of the current administration—

The divide is between democracy and ultimately its destruction–

Almost a year ago in the ccr’s Guantanamo cases—the Supreme Court pulled us back from the brink; from crossing over to the dark side-from crossing that divide-

The court established limits on the president’s authority even in the so called war on terror—

lt declared that that all people-even non-citizens imprisoned outside the US –cannot be imprisoned by executive whim—

That each of the gitmo detainees has the right to test the legality of their imprisonment in a court of law-

That is why I am here today—because of the Guantanamo cases brought by CCR—and other cases in which we are litigating disappearance, torture and summary justice-at the hands of US officials—

At one of the darkest moments of our nation’s history—

Just months after the wtc attacks which I witnessed-and occurred near to where I live-­ Just weeks after the first of the alleged terrorists-worst of the worst-as Rumsfeld said–

Were taken to gitmo-

To Gitmo because the bush admin wanted a court free and law free zone-where the writ of habeas corpus-the legal method of testing a detention would not run—

To gitmo where they were to be held indef.; as long as 50 years or until the war on terror was over-

Where they were to be held incommunicado; without hearing or trial; without lawyers­ and as we later learned tortured—

In these circumstances ccr-a filed a lawsuit on behalf of the imprisoned in gitmo—-a writ of hc—-

Represented them although for all I knew those imprisoned may well have been al qaeda or involved with the murder of thousands—-

Yet we went ahead—

We saw what was at stake—-fundamental principle—laid down as early as the Magna Carta—–embodied in our constitution-and in numerous human rights treaties—–

No imprisonment without trial; without a right to go into a court and say to the govt­ Why am I in prison?; justify my detention—(police state)

For –Gitmo was and is about executive detention; about checks and balances of our const;

About authority under law-the key principle of our democracy—-

It was not an easy decision—–devastated—

Debate within CCR-diff-normal those we agree–­ No allies—

Hate mail–

The rest as they say is history-got killed—­ Sct–change—korematsu; pows etc–­ Historic victory—-1215—-king john—-

Anyone citizen or non-citizen imprisoned anywhere in world by US can test their detention——

Continuing—now hundreds of cases and lawyers—-

Why do I tell you this story—yes it is about taking risks, having courage, sticking to fundamental values, impt of law; can win—(not always)

But really to tell you-each one of you– about the remarkable position you are in and obligation that you have—an obligation that is no less then saving our society; our freedom and our democracy—whether in my area or others—where rights are under attack—(other rights)

Lawyers are now like the monks in the dark ages who kept knowledge alive—when the world and its values were deeply endangered—

The rules of our society of civilization are in jeopardy—- Lawyers understand this better than most–

We must reassert the rule of magna carta-authority under law—­ We must etcc prohibition of imprisonment without trial—-no longer The Prohibition on torture-that is what—accountability

The Prohibition on disappearances-still today

Most if not almost all of you will not do what I did—not all go to ccr -not all my politics—but you need not to make a difference–

Gitmo team—big and small firms pro bono Jew Christ and Muslim—­ Here in phila-montgomery-torture case–

Whatever you do —suing or defending corporations; prosecutors or legal aid—not forget what it means-to live in a society of justice and law-where everyone’s rights are respected—

Nor does work need to be gitmo/torture and the like-but whatever it is— I admonish to take on the passions and issues of the day–­


Gay rights



Environmental destruction

Death penalty–mumia

Lynne Stewart

A lot to do—I have I loved it; do I still love it; do I wake each day—