Thursday, January 12, 2006

Attorneys with clients fleeing religious persecution -- Read this

FROM: Amnesty International USA

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

Human Rights First

Jubilee Campaign

TO: Attorneys with clients fleeing religious persecution

Those of you working on behalf of refugees fleeing religious persecution may be aware of troubling recent decisions out of several federal circuits, including the Fifth Circuit's opinion in Li v. Gonzales (Case #03-60670). The decision in Li was vacated with the government's agreement after a broad coalition raised concern about the case, and particularly after the US Commission on International Religious Freedom submitted a detailed letter to the Department of Justice expressing its strong concern. That letter, and an article about the case, are each being published by Interpreter Releases this month.

Similarly troubling arguments were put forward by the DOJ's Office of Immigration Litigation in the Mkrtchyan case, but fortunately rejected by the Ninth Circuit in an unpublished decision. The government there pressed the argument that a woman arrested and beaten for proselytizing was not persecuted on account of religion because proselytizing was supposedly not required by her religion.

Amnesty International USA, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Human Rights First and Jubilee Campaign are working together to ensure that attorneys representing religious refugees are aware of these developments and of the importance of raising the International Religious Freedom Act in your cases. We are concerned that the agency and the Office of Immigration Litigation may continue to make troubling decisions and arguments defending denials of protection to those fleeing religious persecution, and we want to bring to your attention materials to help win these cases.

We are particularly interested to hear from attorneys who are facing similarly convoluted arguments on nexus from either adjudicators or OIL on appeal.

For more information about the Li case and to for a copy of USCIRF's shorter letter to the Attorney General, see their website:


If you would like an emailed PDF copy of:

A) the IRFA amicus briefs submitted in the Li case by the Christian Legal Society and many others detailing the relevance of the International Religious Freedom Act to courts hearing religious persecution claims;


B) the USCIRF's detailed letter;

please reply to this email. Please also let us know what country your client is from and what procedural stage your case is at.


-- Stephen

Stephen Knight

Deputy Director

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

University of California, Hastings College of the Law 200 McAllister Street San Francisco, CA 94102-4978 USA

415/565-4791 * 415/581-8824 (f)

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