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On June 20, 2002, IHRLG filed a request for precautionary measures, on behalf of certain post-September 11 detainees, under Article 25 of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights regulations, arguing that the U.S. government's ad hoc "clearance" policy which allows prolonged and arbitrary detentions is unconstitutional and in blatant violation of international human rights law.

On September 27, 2002, the Commission invoked an emergency procedure to order the United States to take immediate steps to protect the rights of individuals taken into immigration detention as part of the massive post-September 11 sweep of immigrant communities.

The Commission cautioned that the detainees may be suffering irreparable harm and stated that the United States has failed to adequately respond to its requests for information that could prove otherwise. The Commission demanded that the U.S. respond within 30 days by specifying the measures it has taken to protect the detainees and implement the terms of the decision.

Responding to the Commission's decision of September 27, IHRLG Executive Director Gay McDougall stated that

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a strong warning to the United States, putting U.S. government officials on notice that no person under the authority and control of a state is devoid of legal protections, even in times of national emergency.

The IHRLG request for precautionary measures, signed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for Justice and International Law, challenged the U.S. government to either release or justify why they were maintaining custody of dozens of INS detainees, and to provide details on detainee names, nationalities and places of detention.

The detainees were Muslim men of Arab or South Asian descent, who had neither been charged nor accused of terrorist activity. In each case, the detainees had agreed to voluntarily leave the country or had been ordered deported and were able and willing to return to their home countries. Yet, the United States continued to detain them on the mere premise that one day evidence linking them to terrorist activity may be uncovered. In an attempt to justify this procedure, the United States had instituted an ambiguous practice of mandating that the FBI "clear" detainees before allowing them to return to their home countries, though there is no evidence against them necessitating such action.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is a seven-member panel of the Organization for American States (OAS) that monitors human rights abuses in the Americas. The United States is a member the OAS and is bound by the Commission's actions. Since 1978, IHRLG has been involved in litigating numerous cases before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Click here to learn more about IHRLG strategic human rights lawyering within the Inter-American System.

For more information, contact Thomas Lynch, Special Projects Associate, via info@hrlawgroup.org.

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Related Material
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arrow "Statement of Principles" regarding criminal law enforcement in the US post-9/11 (PDF)
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arrow "Liberties Lost in the Hunt for Terrorists: Why We Should Care", by Thomas Lynch, IHRLG Special Projects Associate (PDF)
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