Special report on Anwar Haddam and The Center For Constitutional Rights (CCR)
Anwar Haddam and the Center For Constitutional Rights: What went wrong?
Special Report to the Muslim Media
By El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan <SSaala@...>
This is one of those times when I wish the late William H. Kunstler was
still around. I had the pleasure of meeting him before he passed away, and
having him share a few interesting and instructive war stories with me on a
couple of occasions. He also shared little personal tidbits with me about
Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, for whom he seemed to have an almost reverent
admiration, and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who he also appeared to admire and
If Bill were alive today I'm sure that he would be chomping at the bit
to become involved in the defense of his old friend, Imam Jamil. However,
the issue that would be most pressing for me to discuss with him, would
involve a man who (to my knowledge) Kunstler never met, and the
organization that he played an instrumental role in establishing - Dr.
Anwar Haddam, and the Center For Constitutional Rights (CCR). The burning
question that I would raise with him...what went wrong?
Dr. Anwar Haddam, a political figure and member of the Islamic
Salvation Front (FIS), was elected to the Algerian parliament in December
1991. Unfortunately, before he and other FIS leaders could take over the
reins of governance by popular mandate, and lead Algeria out of its
social, economic and political chaos, a military coup highjacked the
election results and a brutal crackdown occurred. Dr. Anwar Haddam was
selected to head the FIS Parliamentary Delegation Abroad, and eventually
made it to the United States where he set up an office in Washington, and
began the work of seeking a just and peaceful resolution of the Algerian
The New York based Center For Constitutional Rights is an organization
with a stellar history of defending the constitutional rights of those
more often than not outside of the American mainstream; those oft-times
considered a threat to the status quo. Known for something that Bill
Kunstler often referred to as movement law, CCR attorneys have a history
of representing clients that range from the American Indian Movement (AIM)
to the Black Panther Party. Since the early 70s, the CCR and its attorneys
have been involved in a number of seminal cases involving the issue of
"constitutional rights." And this is one reason why their position in the
case of Anwar Haddam is so troubling.
The suit that defies all logic
The Fall 1998 CCR Docket provides an overview of the case known as Doe
v. Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) and Anwar Haddam. The opening paragraph
reads: "A federal lawsuit filed in December 1996 on behalf of nine
individuals and the Rassemblement Algerien des Femmes Democrates (RAFD) -
the Algerian Assembly of Democratic Women - charges the Islamic Salvation
Front (FIS) and one of its top leaders, Anwar Haddam, with crimes against
humanity and war crimes against the civilian population. As part of its
armed conflict with the Algerian government, the suit charges, FIS also
committed a range of human rights violations such as assassination and
torture - including rape, sexual slavery in the form of 'forced temporary
marriage' and the enforcement of sexual apartheid.
The suit was filed by the aforementioned anonymous parties through the
International Women's Human Rights Clinic (IWHR), CCR, the New York law
firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, and the Washington, D.C. firm of
Maggio & Kattar. One of the lead attorneys in the case, Rhonda Copelon,
was listed as CCR Vice President and director of IWHR. The docket also
states that "the case is now in discovery." This is one case where the
attorneys for the plaintiffs (in particular CCR) should have conducted
discovery before they accepted to file this insultingly frivolous suit!
Had I been consulted for my views, I would have advised CCR to check
out any number of easily accessible sources before making a move to file
this suit. They could have begun their quest for the truth by researching
some of the international media reports on the crisis in Algeria. Reports
such as The [London] Observer series on Algeria, or reports filed by the
BBC; they could have spoken with the widely respected, Beirut based
British foreign correspondent Robert Fisk, on the investigative reports
that he did on Algeria (as I did); or consulted with the appropriate
office within the United Nations for an advisory opinion (as Haddam's
legal counsel did). Instead the CCR, et al., rushed forward with a civil
suit the same month that Anwar Haddam was detained by the INS - December
What went wrong?
It stands to reason that CCR and the law firms involved in this suit
are being well compensated for services rendered; but is money the
overriding factor here? Or has the proud tradition of CCR been co-opted by
the secularistic agenda of a philosophically twisted leadership? What do I
mean? The CCR has been involved on the right side of a number of secret
evidence cases; however, each of these cases involved individuals.
Haddam's case involves a political party (FIS) that was "democratically
elected" to lead a country (Algeria) on an Islamic mandate. Could it be
that this reality was a little too much for the otherwise constitutional
ly inclined sensibilities of the CCR? Surely Allah swt knows best.
The facts are that neither the Islamic Salvation Front nor Anwar
Haddam are responsible for the almost decade long carnage in Algeria,
which has claimed by most estimates over 100,000 lives. Numerous published
reports have appeared in Europe, describing in minute by minute detail
widespread massacres committed by members of Algeria's security forces;
massacres conveniently blamed on the "Islamic fundamentalists." (These
highly credible reports were supplied by former members of the security
apparatus themselves who fled Algeria and sought asylum abroad).
In addition to the aforementioned published reports, An Inquiry into
the Algerian Massacres, the first comprehensive and heavily documented
study on the subject was published last year. This 1473 page tome was
edited by Youcef Bedjaoui, Abbas Aroua, and Meziane Ait-Larbi, with
forewards by Professor Noam Chomsky and Lord Eric Avebury.
As one of the contributors, Maitre Abdennour Ali-Yahia (Pres.,
Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights) wrote: "Thirty
seven-years after Algeria's independence, the people are still waiting for
the dawn of human rights. The 11 January 1992 coup d'etat is the root
cause of the political violence which has bathed in blood and plunged into
mourning Algeria for the past seven years. Terror, massacres, torture,
extrajudicial executions, disappearance of people, population drift to the
cities because of insecurity, all within a political climate of mistrust,
intolerance, hatred and division, have only worsened the crisis and
furthered repeated, systematic and serious violations of human rights."
And it should be noted that Dr. Haddam and the FIS have consistently
called for an independent, unrestricted investigation into the Algerian
crisis, and punishment for all found to be responsible for crimes against
humanity; while the Algerian government has consistently opposed such an
In my conclusion, the Center for Constitutional Rights should be
ashamed of itself. For 3 1/2 years Dr. Anwar Haddam has been deprived of
his family; his children have been deprived of the actively engaged love
and guidance of their father; his wife, deprived of the companionship and
support of her husband; while the people of Algeria have been denied their
right to the active representation of a committed leader. This unwarranted
suit has helped to provide cover for those truly responsible for the
crisis in Algeria, and further, helped to deny support to an innocent man
who has been searching for a way to end a living nightmare in this land of
liberty and justice for all.
Those conscious and committed Muslims - and all other freedom and
justice loving people who have given financial support to this
organization over the years - should hold it accountable for what it has
done. The Center For Constitutional Rights should not receive any more
material support from the Muslim community (individuals or organizations)
until: (a) the civil suit against Anwar Haddam and FIS is dropped; or (b)
the CCR extricates itself from the suit, and makes a public apology to
Anwar Haddam, his family, and the people of Algeria.
El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan
9 Rabi' 1 1421 A.H. (June 12, 2000)
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