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Federal Judge Sides with Human Rights Lawyers over Trump Administration’s ICC Ban

US SDNY Opinion and Order on Open Society Justice Initiative et al. v. Donald J. Trump et al. Download the 34-page document. Pages, 338.18 Kb, PDF Download
January 04, 2021
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NEW YORK—Today, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York has ordered the Trump administration not to enforce an executive order that effectively prevented human rights lawyers from collaborating with the International Criminal Court (ICC) on cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

District Judge Katherine Polk Failla granted the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction based on free speech grounds, sending the first signal that the executive order is legally fraught. The judge has prohibited the government from enforcing civil or criminal penalties. A preliminary injunction—an extraordinary legal remedy—is only granted when plaintiffs are able to show that they are likely to win the underlying case.

The lawsuit—the first to challenge Executive Order 13928—was filed in October 2020 against President Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Andrea Gacki, Attorney General William Barr, and their respective U.S. Departments. The suit argues that the executive order violates constitutional rights, including the plaintiffs’ freedom of speech, and prevents them from carrying out work in support of international justice.

James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said, 

“This preliminary injunction affirms what we have said from the start: the executive order is misguided and unconstitutional, violating our fundamental rights to free speech. Rather than spending time defending an order in direct conflict with Washington’s historic support for international justice, the incoming administration should rescind it on day one.”

The government’s response to the underlying complaint that prompted the lawsuit is due January 19.

Co-plaintiffs with Open Society Justice Initiative in the case include law professors Diane Marie Amann, Gabor Rona, Milena Sterio, and Margaret deGuzman. The plaintiffs are represented by a team of lawyers at Foley Hoag LLP, led by Andrew Loewenstein.

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