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The impact of CJA’s cases can be measured in at least five important ways:

Deterring Human Rights Abusers

CJA’s cases expose the perpetrators and cause them public embarrassment.  Being named as a defendant in CJA’s cases can limit the careers of foreign officials to the extent that their advancement depends on their ability to live or travel to the U.S. without controversy.  Many violators who have enjoyed retirement, health care, education of their children, or vacations in the U.S. are now less likely to do so due to the threat of ATS litigation.  Losing those benefits as the result of ATS litigation is also likely to deter some foreign officials from engaging in human rights violations, and the deterrent potential will increase over time as more civil and criminal cases are brought.  CJA’s cases also impose financial hardship on the defendants because of the significant expense associated with defending an ATS case.

Developing Human Rights Jurisprudence

CJA has played a leading role in developing the emerging body of ATS jurisprudence.  Our cases have resulted in numerous precedent setting opinions, which are relied upon by others who are pursuing ATS litigation against corporations and U.S. officials. CJA is also the recognized expert in proving the doctrine of “command responsibility” at trial.  In addition to the command responsibility precedents we have set, CJA’s cases have also delivered crucial precedents in the areas of accomplice liability, statute of limitations, exhaustion of remedies, state action and whether crimes against humanity are actionable under the ATS.  

In another example, our recent case against Haitian death squad leader Toto Constant is an important addition to the body of law prohibiting sexual violence.  The judgment against Constant marks the first time a U.S. court has ruled that the systematic use of rape against a civilian population is a form of torture.  

CJA’s cases are also important because they domesticate international conventions and mechanisms in U.S. courts.  CJA’s cases are a primary vehicle for bringing international law concepts, including rulings from the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, into U.S. courts.  CJA’s cases play a critical role in helping to develop U.S. human rights law in a manner that is consistent with international law.

Catalyzing Transitional Justice and Accountability

CJA’s cases serve as a catalyst for transitional justice and accountability because they create a vehicle for a broad range of organizations and activists to work together to seek accountability and help build a civil society.  We work closely with country experts, survivor coalitions, accountability organizations and groups that seek to promote a civil society when we are building our cases.  We also work closely with torture survivor and refugee communities to ensure that the victim’s voice is a core component of the litigation.  CJA’s cases also serve as a catalyst because they generate legal and media attention.

The transitional justice area of our work has become increasingly important as we mature and develop strong networks in home countries with those who are committed to the rule of law.  In December 2007, CJA completed its first training program geared toward building the capacity of government prosecutors to use their national court systems to prosecute human rights cases.  The training, held in Tegucigalpa, brought together 80 Honduran prosecutors with a faculty of legal practitioners from throughout the Americas, Spain and the United States to cover the practical “how to” specifics of investigating and trying human rights crimes, particularly forced disappearances.  

The training was historic on many levels and represented the first time that prosecutors in Honduras were trained on international law and human rights prosecutions.  It was also part of a larger trend of increased collaboration between CJA and governments on human rights accountability efforts that included providing legal support to the prosecution team in the groundbreaking trial of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori for corruption and human rights abuses.  

Providing Therapeutic Benefit for Survivors

Part of CJA’s mission is to heal and empower refugees who survived torture or whose family members were killed; in particular, to help them:
  • overcome the sense of powerlessness and distrust that prevents many of them from achieving their full potential, professional and personal;
  • find meaning in their survival; and
  • break the silence that enables abusers to live in impunity.

CJA’s cases help survivors experience a sense of justice, a sense of meaning in their survival, and a tremendous satisfaction in knowing that they have brought dignity to themselves and the memories of those who were killed or tortured.  
Read testimonials from CJA clients on the impact of our cases…

Creating a Record of Truth

Revealing the truth about periods of human rights abuse is an essential part of transitional justice.  CJA’s cases uncover facts and witnesses that are critical for building a record of accountability.  For example, former Salvadoran Vice-Minister of Defense Carranza admitted at trial that he had been on the CIA payroll for approximately twenty years.  CJA’s case against Pinochet operative Fernandez Larios was built almost entirely on the testimony of Chileans who had never spoken publicly about the events they observed prior to being approached by CJA.  CJA's $37 million judgment against former Peruvian military officer Hurtado represents the first time that anyone has been held to account for atrocities committed in connection with the Accomarca Massacre.