Holy Land Foundation Case Summary: Controversial “Material Support” of Terrorism Convictions

Date: 
October 9, 2012

The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), a Texas-based charity with a mission of providing humanitarian aid in Palestine, was the largest Muslim charity in the United States until its closure in December of 2001. HLF had been legally operating for over a decade before it was designated and shut down by the Bush administration three months after 9/11. Its former officials were convicted of providing material support for terrorism on retrial in November 2008, and received sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years. The case, the evidence, the procedure, and the convictions all highlight the precarious legal position of U.S. nonprofits trying to carry out humanitarian missions.

Summary: The Fifth Circuit’s Holy Land Foundation Decision

Date: 
December 20, 2011
Author: 
By Alan R. Kabat, Bernabei & Wachtel, PLLC
On December 7, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued its long-anticipated decision in the Holy Land Foundation prosecution.  United States v. El-Mezain, et al., No. 09-10560, 664 F.3d 467, 2011 WL 6058592 (5th Cir. Dec. 7, 2011). While this decision upheld the jury verdict and judgment against the defendants, the Fifth Circuit did address a number of issues of broader legal significance, and recognized the legitimacy of several arguments raised by the defendants as to the improper use of certain categories of evidence at trial.

IRS Rejects Complaint Against Doctors Without Borders for its Medical Work in Gaza

Date: 
October 24, 2018

In late August 2018 the Zionist Advocacy Center (TZAC), which is spearheading legal tactics aimed at NPOs working in Palestine, announced via facebook that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rejected its effort to revoke the charitable, tax-exempt status of Doctors Without Borders’ (MSF - Medecins Sans Frontiers). The IRS does not publish its decisions in such cases, but TZAC’s complaint, minus the appendices, is available in a 2016 news story from War News Information Press. It argues that by working with the Ministry of Health in Gaza to provide hospital services MSF provided material support to Hamas, because the Ministry of Health is part of the Hamas-ruled local government in Gaza. A source at MSF said it had no information about the complaint. 

If it Ain’t Broke …..

Date: 
August 14, 2017
Author: 
Andrea Hall

As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The spokesman for the “let’s-shut-down-U.S.-charities-because-they’re-conduits-for-terror-finance” school of thought has been pushing this outdated and discredited narrative in Washington, D.C. over the past year or more. He seems to believe that the Obama administration’s enforcement policy was negligent in its duty to “bust terrorist charities” (his words, not ours), that U.S. nonprofits have been given a free pass over the past eight years, and the result has got to be more terror financing. He is urging lawmakers and the new administration to take us back to the time when he served as a terrorism finance analyst at U.S. Treasury during the George W. Bush administration, and his research seems to reflect those outdated strategies. Since a Hill hearing was held in May 2016, this spokesman has been active in the blogosphere. He has convinced Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) to introduce a bill that, if passed, would create more problems than it would solve.

Index Gauges Quality of Humanitarian Assistance of Relief and Recovery Efforts

Date: 
June 15, 2011

The Humanitarian Response Index (HRI) aims to improve the quality and effectiveness of humanitarian aid for at-risk populations by identifying and promoting best practices for donor governments and civil society. Produced by DARA, the latest HRI says anti-terrorism measures like the “material support” prohibition make it extremely difficult for aid agencies to meet the needs of at-risk civilians.

Multimedia resources for the Supreme Court case: Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project

Date: 
March 9, 2010

On Feb. 23, 2010, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (HLP). At issue is the constitutionality of a provision in the USA Patriot Act that makes it a crime to provide “material support or resources” to any group that the government has labeled as a terrorist organization.

The Constitution Project and Charity and Security Network held a panel event where speakers discussed the case in regards to the First Amendment’s free speech provision and the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause. This event was broadcast on C-SPAN.

On March 4, The Kojo Nnamdi Show, a live two-hour magazine program on WAMU 88.5 based in Washington D.C, featured a discussion surrounding the issues involved in the Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project case.  The full transcript from that program is available here.

Charity and Security Network Principles to Guide New Policies

The following ten principles should guide the U.S. government's approach to fixing national security rules and policies that create problems for legitimate charities, development programs, grantmakers, peacebuilding efforts, human rights advocacy and faith-based organizations:

  1. The charitable mission, as stated in an organization's governing documents, should be protected at all times.

Article: Chilling Effect of the Material Support Statute on Humanitarian Aid

Date: 
June 20, 2013

A May 2013 article in the Harvard National Security Journal outlines how the “material support” statute has led some humanitarian organizations to scale back or withdraw assistance programs in conflict zones where aid is often most needed.  After providing background on the law and the way it has been enforced, it makes recommendations for reforms, including prosecutorial guidelines to formalize safe harbors to allow for humanitarian activities in these types of places.

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