Thursday, May 12, 2016

Remembering Michael Ratner

Remembering Michael Ratner

Democracy Now! Suing Dictators Around the World:
A Look at How Michael Ratner Helped Reshape Human Rights Law

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network is saddened to learn of the death of human rights attorney and ETAN supporter Michael Ratner, 72. Michael was at the forefront of many legal struggles for justice both within the U.S. and internationally. He served as President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, where he pioneered the use of universal jurisdiction and U.S. law to bring rights violators to justice.

In 1994, Michael and CCR successfully sued Major-General Sintong Panjaitan for his role in the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre of more than 270 East Timorese. A U.S. District Court ordered the general to pay substantial compensatory and punitive damages to Helen Todd, the mother of Kamal Bamadhaj, the only non-East Timorese killed that day. Later, also with the help of Michael and CCR, several East Timorese sued Indonesian General Johny Lumintang for his role in the military and militia violence which surrounded the 1999 vote on independence. After hearing testimony from the East Timorese and experts, a U.S. magistrate entered a large judgement against the general that was later over-turned on a technicality.

Michael also inspired one of ETAN's most unique actions. Under a long-existing procedure, we requested a temporary street renaming supporting Timor-Leste near the Indonesian consulate in New York. After we were turned down on overtly political grounds, CCR sued the city on our behalf. On July 17, 1999, ETAN dedicated a street sign naming 68th Street "East Timor Way."

Speaking at a discussion organized in 2001 by ETAN on the 10th anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre, Michael reflected on the success of the Timor's drive for independence. "These struggles can be won," he said. "It's a lesson we can all take away from this."

We thank Michael for his dedication, inspiration, and tenacity. Our condolences to his family,friends and colleagues.

More about Michael Ratner

Video: Suing Dictators Around the World: A Look at How Michael Ratner Helped Reshape Human Rights Law, Democracy Now! May 12, 2016

Michael Ratner, Lawyer Who Won Rights for Guantánamo Prisoners, Dies at 72, New York Times,
May 11, 2016

PUBLIC LIVES; Still Tilting at Windmills, and Fighting for Rights, New York Times,  August 2, 2002

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