On International Human Rights Day, report details systematic denial of justice in Virginia and across the nation

Richmond, VA – Access to justice for victims of civil and human rights violations has been severely curbed over the last decade in Virginia and across the nation, according to a report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union. The report shows how indigent capital defendants, victims of torture, immigrants, and abused domestic workers, among others, are consistently denied appropriate redress.
“Unfortunately, because of recent laws and court decisions, victims of human rights violations here in the U.S. are continually denied their day in court while those responsible for the abuses are protected,” said Jennifer Turner, Human Rights Researcher with the ACLU and author of the report.  “Equal justice for all is a core American value and everyone deserves access to the courts to right wrongs done against them. The U.S. should amend restrictive laws and swiftly enact policies to restore access to justice for the most vulnerable among us.”
According to the report, “Slamming the Courthouse Doors,” the “[a]ctions of the executive, federal legislative, and judicial branches of the United States have seriously restricted access to justice for victims of civil liberties and human rights violations, and have limited the availability of effective (or, in some cases, any) remedies for these violations. Weakened judicial oversight and recent attempts to limit access to justice…are denying victims of human rights violations their day in court and protecting responsible officials and corporations from litigation.”
For instance, in Virginia, three women were brought to the United States under false pretenses and forced to work against their will in the home of a military attaché to the Embassy of Kuwait where they were subjected to physical and psychological abuse.  These women fled from the home and brought suit against their abusers and the state of Kuwait for human trafficking and forced labor.  However, their case was dismissed because of diplomatic immunity.
“It is appalling that in this country people can still be kept against their will and held in involuntary servitude without their captors being punished,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis.  “Such actions not only violate fundamental human rights, but also our basic sense of dignity and justice.”
The report includes detailed recommendations and measures for the U.S. government to take in order to live up to the promise of equal justice for all and comply with international human rights obligations and commitments to guarantee access to justice and effective remedies.
“Slamming the Courthouse Doors” is available online at: www.aclu.org/human-rights/slamming-courthouse-doors-denial-access-justice-and-remedy-america

Contacts: Rachel Myers, ACLU National, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; media@aclu.org Executive Director Kent Willis, ACLU of Virginia, (o) 804/644-8022

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