IBAHRI submits Amicus Brief to US courts, precipitated by President Trump’s attack on the judiciary

Prompted by the comments of President Donald Trump and other United States Executive Branch officials questioning the validity of judicial rulings, and denigrating the motives and integrity of US federal judges, the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has submitted amicus curiae briefs to US courts in the pending travel ban cases. In the amicus briefs, the IBAHRI urges the courts to consider international law principles regarding judicial independence and due process rights of refugees in assessing the travel bans.

Martin Šolc, President of the International Bar Association, commented: ‘Across the globe, there are reports of the judiciary coming under increasing criticism and judges being on the receiving end of vitriolic remarks from many sections of society. It is particularly disheartening to hear the President of the US disparage the bench. Many still look to the US as a beacon of democracy, one that respects fully an independent and confident judiciary. President Trump’s comments are in stark contrast to this generally held view, and are unhelpful to his nation’s judiciary. As the holder of the highest office in the US, the President should lead the way in showing respect for the judiciary and support for court decisions, even when they may not be in his favour.’

Global law firms Debevoise & Plimpton, DLA Piper and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett fulfilled an IBAHRI request to research, draft and file the amicus briefs with the Fourth and Ninth Circuits. In both courts, federal judges had issued partial injunctions blocking key provisions of President Trump’s controversial Proclamation 9645, the successor to prior travel ban executive orders. The amicus briefs were filed on 17 November 2017 in support of plaintiffs-appellees in the Fourth Circuit case of International Refugee Assistance Project v Trump and on 22 November 2017 in the Ninth Circuit case of Hawaii v Trump

David W Rivkin, Immediate Past President of the International Bar Association, Debevoise & Plimpton partner and a signatory of the briefs, commented: ‘By threatening the core principle of an independent judiciary, and seemingly issuing veiled threats, the rule of law is severely undermined. Such actions have the potential to influence future rulings, with the cumulative impact giving an appearance of attempted political interference or intimidation. This, in turn, would most likely dent public confidence in the entire judicial system. One cannot underestimate the importance to democracy of individual judges, and the judiciary as a whole being, and being seen to be, impartial and independent of all external pressures. I was pleased to join in this effort by the IBAHRI to reaffirm the importance of judicial independence so that the public has confidence that cases will be decided fairly and in accordance with the law.’ 

Further, the IBAHRI’s amicus briefs address the impact of Proclamation 9645 on the due process rights of refugees. International law agreements and federal law commit the US to provide due process protections to refugees within its borders, and prohibits the US from discrimination against refugees based on national origin or religion. By placing a blanket ban on individuals from certain countries, the Proclamation effectively violates these commitments.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, IBAHRI Co-Chair, commented: ‘It is unconscionable and ludicrous that any person could be prevented from entering a democratic nation based solely on her or his religion or place of origin. The targeting of entire populations for their personal beliefs and affiliations has no place in our world. It is inhumane and diminishes our collective dignity. Aside from this, banning people from specific countries violates international law and international human rights obligations prohibiting discrimination on race, nationality or religion. Moreover, if the travel ban comes into force, the US will be in breach of its obligations as a signatory of the Refugee Convention. We must do all that we can to resist rash and degrading measures and stand firm on our core principles of respecting each other and upholding the body of rules that bind our conduct toward one another.’


Notes to the Editor

(1)   The IBAHRI amicus briefs can be downloaded from the following link: tinyurl.com/yaryndzb

(2)   The International Bar Association, established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

(3)   Debevoise & Plimpton is a premier law firm with market-leading practices, a global perspective and strong New York roots. We deliver effective solutions to our clients’ most important legal challenges, applying clear commercial judgment and a distinctively collaborative approach.

(4)   DLA Piper is a global law firm with lawyers located in more than 40 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, positioning us to help clients with their legal needs around the world. Our clients range from multinational, Global 1000, and Fortune 500 enterprises to emerging companies developing industry-leading technologies. They include more than half of the Fortune 250 and nearly half of the FTSE 350 or their subsidiaries. We also advise governments and public sector bodies.

(5)   Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is one of the world’s leading international law firms. The Firm was established in 1884 and has more than 900 lawyers. Headquartered in New York with offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, São Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo and Washington, D.C., the Firm provides coordinated legal advice and transactional capability to clients around the globe.

(6)   Find IBA updates on Twitter @IBAnews.


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