The Center for Justice & Accountability
In less than ten years, the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) has made a major impact on the human rights movement by bringing perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice and providing redress to victims of human rights abuses from around the world. CJA was founded to help survivors of torture and other severe human rights abuses hold their perpetrators accountable in the courts. CJA’s work is based on the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, first used in the Nuremberg trials, which holds that certain crimes are so egregious that they represent offenses against all humankind and that perpetrators of such crimes should be held accountable wherever they are found.
In its short history, CJA has brought cases against human rights abusers from Bosnia, Chile, China, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Peru and Somalia. CJA pursues civil cases in the U.S. using two laws that provide protection for torture survivors; CJA also pursues criminal cases in the Spanish court system which has initiated prosecutions into abuses around the world. To date, CJA has received favorable verdicts in all of their cases that have gone to trial.
CJA won the first jury verdict in U.S. history for crimes against humanity in a contested case involving the Caravan of Death in Chile. The Center recently secured landmark victories for asset collection in human rights litigation, freezing nearly $1 million that a former Haitian military officer won in the Florida State Lottery and collecting over $300,000 from the former Salvadoran Minister of Defense.
CJA’s cases seek to deter torture by showing human rights abusers that they will be held accountable if they travel to other jurisdictions. They also serve as catalysts for efforts to seek justice in the home country by showing that it is possible to be successful in court against those once thought to be above the law.
Read CJA’s Acceptance Speech.
Mental Disability Rights International
Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI) is a unique and effective advocacy organization fighting worldwide for the human rights of people with mental disabilities. Eric Rosenthal, an attorney, founded MDRI in 1993 and is the Executive Director. MDRI’s accomplished Associate Director, Laurie Ahern, is a former investigative journalist and a leader of the international psychiatric recovery movement.
MDRI has worked in 23 countries and published reports on the rights of people with disabilities in eight countries – Argentina, Hungary, Kosovo, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Turkey and Uruguay. These reports provide vivid firsthand accounts from mental health experts, institutional staff, and people with disabilities subject to abuse. MDRI’s exhaustive reports are supported by powerful photographs and video documentation.
MDRI has brought unprecedented international attention to the inhumane treatment, torture, arbitrary detention, and segregation from society of children and adults with disabilities in orphanages, psychiatric institutions, nursing homes, jails and prisons. Bringing violations to public attention, MDRI has pressured governments to end abuses against their most marginalized and vulnerable citizens. Nurturing, training, and supporting advocacy by people with disabilities and their allies, MDRI has brought about a new worldwide advocacy movement. MDRI has gained support for the first major human rights treaty of the 21 st century – one of the most ambitious human rights instruments ever – the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
MDRI has produced startling results. In Turkey, MDRI pressure saved thousands of people from “unmodified ECT”– electro-shock treatment without anesthesia. In Hungary, Kosovo, and Peru, MDRI helped people with psychiatric and intellectual disabilities form organizations to fight for their own rights. MDRI’s report on Mexico found children tied to beds and adults left to languish for years in inactivity and filth. Within months, Mexico closed its most abusive institution and created safe and dignified community alternatives. In Paraguay, MDRI brought an end to life – threatening treatment practices by petitioning the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Commission ordered the release of boys with autism who had been held naked in isolation cells for more than four years. Paraguay then entered into an historic agreement to restructure its entire mental health system. As a consultant to the United States National Council on Disabilities, MDRI authored a report on discrimination in US foreign assistance and human rights policy. As a result, Congress adopted legislation to make foreign assistance programs accessible to people with disabilities.