Monday, May 16, 2016

The Passing of US Human Rights Visionary, Michael Ratner

We were saddened to learn of Michael Ratner's death on May 11, at age 72.  In addition to his many other contributions to individual liberties, few lawyers have done as much to bring human rights home to the US.  Ratner's bold litigation on behalf of Guantanamo detainees following September 11 -- and the rights that he secured for his clients -- is one of his most visible legacies.  But in the 45 years of Ratner's association with the Center for Constitutional Rights, he also led the growth of one of the most effective human rights advocacy centers in the world, and mentored two generations of advocates who understand that human rights can be made real here and abroad only through continued struggle.  As the Center for Constitutional Rights observed, even while we mourn our profound loss, we can best pay tribute to Michael Ratner's life by continuing with the same vigor that he brought to his life's work.

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In contemplating the loss of Michael Ratner, I have a particular thought that comes to my mind. When I consider his work, namely his work on behalf of the Guantanamo Bay detainees, I think of him as the ideal patriot this country needed and continues to need. He was an advocate for the values that make America a beacon of democracy and civil liberty, a beacon that tragically came under attack by enemies abroad in the form of literal attack, and by powers at home in the form of political attack. I can think of no truer way to be a patriot or to demonstrate to the world our conviction for human rights than to guarantee the protections of our nation to alleged combatants seeking to do us physical harm, than to not surrender to the pressures of the moment and stand up for what we as a nation were founded upon: freedom and the rule of law for all. While his loss is one felt by many, we should remember that Michael Ratner was a patriot that, as you indicated, has mentored generations of lawyers who will surely do the same. That is how I will remember his work and will celebrate his life.

Posted by: Ethan A. Dazelle | May 19, 2016 7:23:15 AM

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