This section provides overview and analysis of the major cases on counterterrorism law affecting humanitarian aid and peacebuilding organizations. Here you will find a list of cases with links to summaries and analyses.
A federal lawsuit alleging alleging bank "derisking" of charity accounts based on Arab ethnicity was unsuccessful, as the jury found in favor of the bank. Life for Relief and Development v. Bank of America, NA, was tried in August 2016 in federal district court in Detroit.
The KindHearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development (“KindHearts”) litigation against the Treasury Department (“Treasury”) represents judicial recognition of the danger of counterterrorism measures gone too far.
In June 2012, the U.S. Solicitor General decided not to file a request for Supreme Court review of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Al-Haramain v. Treasury. The appellate court opinion from September 2011 had upheld alower court’s ruling that said procedures used by the Department of Treasury to shut down the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation of Oregon (AHIF-OR) violated the organization's Fifth Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights. In February 2004, federal agents raided AHIF-OR's offices pursuant to a warrant as part of an investigation into financial crimes. The next day OFAC froze AHIF-OR's assets pending an investigation into whether or not the charity would be classified as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).
Yassin A. Kadi, a businessman and citizen of Saudi Arabia, purused court challenges to being placed on terrorist lists in the European Union (EU) and United States (U.S.). The process and standards used by the EU and U.S. courts differ substantially, leading to different results: the EU courts have ruled the EU listing process lacks fundamental protections, violating EU human rights standards, while the U.S. courts rejected Kadi's constitutional claims.
On June 21, 2010, the United States Supreme Court in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, et al. struck a blow to the American nonprofit sectors’ commitment to resolving international conflicts through peaceful and nonviolent means. In a 6-3 decision, the Court rejected the Humanitarian Law Project's (HLP) claims challenging the constitutionality of provisions of the material support to terrorism law. As a result, a broad range of interactions with designated terrorist groups, including attempts at peace building and support for non-violence, are prohibited. (See 18 U.S.C. § 2339B). This summary reviews the Court’s majority and dissenting opinions and notes issues to be addressed in developing better procedures.
On May 1, 2012, lawyers for KindHearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development, the Ohio-based charity shut down “pending investigation” by the Treasury Department in February 2006, announced a settlement agreement with Treasury ending the litigation on terms favorable to the charity. In 2009 the federal district court for the Northern District of Ohio ruled that the process Treasury used to shut the charity down while investigating alleged ties to terrorism violated the constitution, and ordered further proceedings on what remedy Treasury should provide. The settlement ends the litigation by allowing KindHearts to pay its debts and distribute the remaining funds among a list of approved charities before it dissolves. At that point Treasury will remove KindHearts from its terrorist list and pay its attorneys fees.
This timeline details the issues and procedural history of the case, which illustrates the problems created by using post 9/11 emergency measures for long term regulation of charities in the national security context.
On June 21, 2010, a divided U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal statute that bans support to designated terrorist organizations, even when that support involves using international law to resolve disputes through nonviolent means. In Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (HLP), the court ruled 6-3 that U.S. organizations and citizens teaching nonviolent methods of conflict resolution toward sanctioned terrorist groups could face criminal charges.