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New Resources: 8-17-2011

2011 August 17

Punishment Before Justice:
Indefinite Detention in the U.S.

This report might better have been called “Punishment Without Justice,” since many of those held at Guantánamo Bay and in the hundreds of detention facilities warehousing refugees and asylum seekers will never experience due process, or anything we would consider real justice.
            Recently released by Physicians for Human Rights, Punishment Before Justice focuses on the devastating physical and psychological health impacts on indefinitely detained individuals who have been imprisoned, without formal charge or trial and with no way of knowing when, or indeed if, they will ever be released. (Many Guantánamo detainees – even some who are not considered of “high value,” have been held for as long as nine years “in the harshest, most restrictive, and isolating conditions available.” It is not at all uncommon for ordinary asylum seekers and other would-be immigrants to be imprisoned for two years and more.)

The harms endured by individuals held indefinitely are unconstitutionally punitive, thus violating detainees’ rights to due process. Moreover, the serious harm that already traumatized populations face constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in violation of domestic and international law.

The report argues that “indefinite detention…causes severe harms in healthy individuals independent of other aspects or conditions of detention.” Those effects include severe and chronic anxiety, pathological levels of stress, depression and suicide, PTSD, and potentially permanent estrangement from family and community. PHR’s report demands the abolition of indefinite detention, but also proposes specific and concrete steps toward that goal.

Law School Clinics: A Crucial
Resource for Asylum Seekers

Writing on the Human Rights First blog, Sara Faust, a Program Associate in HRF’s Refugee Protection Program, highlights the work of the immigration and human rights-focused law school clinics with whom HRF partners in aiding asylum seekers: “Students gain legal experience and first-hand insight into the U.S. asylum system by working directly with clients. Through this process, they are often inspired to pursue careers with legal service or human rights organizations after law school.”
            Profiling the Safe Harbor Clinic at Brooklyn Law School, Faust recounts the story of  “a young woman from the Middle East who arrived in the United States after fleeing a forced marriage and the threat of an honor killing.  Professor [Stacy] Caplow supervised a team of female law students to prepare Amina’s case before the Department of Homeland Security’s Asylum Office. “They were not only my lawyers and representatives during this lengthy process, but more like a family,” said Amina after winning asylum in July 2011. “They took time to understand every aspect of my case…I couldn’t have asked for more.”
            Working with Amina, clinic student Jane Li learned “how to interact and be supportive of someone who had experienced trauma.” Reflecting on the “insurmountable barriers” which asylum seekers face without help, she says “I don’t feel like the average asylum applicant can get asylum without legal professionals.”
             Listed below are other clinics with which HRF works – all are in the New York, New Jersey, and Washington, DC, areas. If our readers can send us information about clinics in other parts of the country we’ll be glad to help disseminate the information. 

Caring for Survivors: NPCT asks for
Feedback on a Possible Conference

The National Partnership for Community Training (NPCT) invites your participation in a survey to assess interest in a national technical assistance conference next spring. Use this link to take the survey. NPCT is a partnership of the Florida Center for Survivors of Torture, the Harvard Program for Refugee Trauma, and the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture. It’s funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.


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