Awardee: Ralph Johns Award
Jamil Dakwar is the Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program (HRP). He was hired in 2004 to help the ACLU develop and institutionalize the use of international law and forums to hold the United States accountable for universally recognized human rights norms and principles. His leadership work inside and outside the ACLU has helped turn the organization into an influential human rights player shaping many civil rights and civil liberties issues as human rights struggles and advocating for domestic incorporation of international human rights. During his tenure, the ACLU Human Rights Program co-represented and won important victories on behalf victims of U.S. torture from the Bush era, along with labor trafficking and domestic violence survivors. Mr. Dakwar helped integrate human rights fact-finding, research and documentation into the ACLU’s advocacy and oversaw the publication of groundbreaking reports on national security, immigration, and criminal justice issues.
Mr. Dakwar was one of the ACLU’s first observers to the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and currently serves as the ACLU’s Main Representative to the United Nations. He played a critical role in developing national strategies and structures for effective participation of U.S. civil society organizations in United Nations human rights reviews as well as advocating for adoption of the UN Nelson Mandela Rules on treatment of prisoners. He has testified on behalf of the ACLU before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, United Nations human rights bodies, and the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) about civil and human rights violations in the U.S. He has published numerous articles and commentary in national and international media outlets.
In addition to his work with the ACLU, from 2004 – 2007 he served as a pro-bono outside legal advisor to the Center for Constitutional Rights on several cases seeking to hold former foreign government officials and corporations accountable for torture, extrajudicial killings, and war crimes committed in South Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories. He also provided pro bono legal advice to the family of Rachel Corrie, the American human rights defender who was killed in 2003 by an Israeli Caterpillar D9 bulldozer while protesting against home demolitions in Rafah, Gaza.
Prior to joining the ACLU, Mr. Dakwar worked at Human Rights Watch, where he conducted research, advocated, and published reports on issues of torture and detention in Egypt, Morocco, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories. Before coming to the United States, he was a senior attorney with Adalah, a leading human rights group in Israel, where he filed, argued and won important human rights cases before Israeli courts and advocated before international forums. He is a graduate of Tel Aviv University and New York University School of Law. He is adjunct lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY).