Constitutionality of Economic Powers Act challenged in US Court

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 18 October 2005, 00:05 GMT]
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), non-profit legal organization based in New York, is expected to file a case in US Courts against provisions in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) that criminalize contributions of "goods or services" to designated foreign terrorist groups. CCR represents Humanitarian Law Project, a human rights organization, and several Tamil- American organizations that seek to support the lawful activities of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka, especially in areas affected by the 2004 tsunami.

David Cole, Georgetown University
Professor David Cole
U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins ruled in July 2005 prohibiting the US government from enforcing key provision in the USA Patriot Act criminalizing three forms of support to the PKK or the LTTE: (1) "training"; (2) "expert advice or assistance" but only in the form of "specialized knowledge," and (3) "services." The Court held that each of these terms was unconstitutionally vague.

"Despite this ruling US residents may still be subject to penalties for violations of a different statute, IEEPA. Using powers granted to him under IEEPA, President Bush declared a national emergency in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and, by executive order, prohibited any contributions of goods or services to hundreds of "Specially Designated Global Terrorists," including among them the PKK and LTTE. Penalties for violations can include civil fines as well as jail time," a senior attorney for CCR told TamilNet.

"An August filing to supplement the complaint to add a challenge to IEEPA was denied on technical grounds that the material support case had essentially been finally resolved at the district court level," the attorney added.

"Therefore, CCR is planning to file a new suit, raising similar challenges to the IEEPA ban that CCR has raised to the material support statute. CCR expects that the district court will find the IEEPA ban on providing "services" unconstitutionally vague, just as it did with the "material support" statute's ban on providing services," the attorney said.

Judge Collins also struck down two other key provisions of the bill that ban the provision of “services” and “training” to designated groups.

Professor David Cole who argued the Patriot Act case for CCR said after the ruling: "This law is so sweeping that it makes it a crime for our clients to provide medical services to tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka and to provide assistance in human rights advocacy to the Kurds in Turkey.”

In December, Congress revised the Act in response to Judge Collins earlier rulings, and the case was sent back to District Court. On July 28, 2005, she ruled that Congress did not adequately clarify the bans on “training” and “expert advice.” She also ruled unconstitutional a new ban, added by the 2004 Act, on providing “services” to designated groups, the CCR website said.

Related Articles:
11.05.05   Civil Group advocates changes to US Terrorism Laws
30.09.04   U.S Court curbs FBI powers granted in Patriot Act
04.03.04   Amended US court ruling protects WTCC, FeTNA
27.01.04   U.S Court declares Patriot Act provision Unconstitutional
05.10.03   Cole, Chang lead US Patriot Act challenge by Tamils
24.12.00   Petition against Antiterrorism Law ruling filed in US Suprem..
09.06.98   US Court rules on First Amendment case
20.03.98   US Antiterrorism Law challenged in courts

External Links:
US: IEEPA: International Emergency Economic Powers Act
US: Anti Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
US:  Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004
US: American Civil Liberties Union
CCR-NY: Civil rights cases filed by Center for Constitutional Rights
EPIC: USA Patriot Act


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