The impact of CJA’s cases can be measured in at least five important ways:
- Deterring human rights abusers
- Developing human rights jurisprudence
- Providing a catalyst for transitional justice
- Providing therapeutic benefit for survivors of torture and other human rights violations
- Creating a historic record of truth and raising awareness of past and ongoing abuses
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.
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.
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.
- 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…