My good friend and mentor, Michael Ratner, has died at age 72. A lawyer who worked with the Center for Constitutional Rights for more than 40 years, he was one of the great human rights advocates of our time. He brought the first habeas corpus case on behalf of Guantánamo detainees, Rasul v. Bush, when few others would have dared. He won that case against all odds, opening up Guantánamo to legal scrutiny, and prompting the release of most of the detainees there. A decade earlier, working with Harold Koh and a fantastic team of Yale law students, he managed to free another set of Guantánamo detainees — HIV-positive Haitian refugees held in limbo there by President Bill Clinton. And he was one of the pioneers of Alien Tort Statute litigation, holding human rights abusers accountable from around the world.
He is also the reason I became a lawyer. He took me under his wing at CCR when I was a law student pretty sure I never wanted to practice law, and showed me that it could be done with grace, passion, creativity, and courage.
I wrote this about him for The Nation.