Who we are & where we came from
The NLG International Committee (IC) supports legal work around the world “to the end that human rights and the rights of ecosystems shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests.” As lawyers, law students, and legal activists, we seek to change U.S. foreign policy that threatens, rather than engages, or is based on a model of domination rather than respect. The Guild provides assistance and solidarity to movements in the United States and abroad that work for social justice in this increasingly interconnected world.
The NLG IC plays an active role in international conferences, delegations and on-going projects that examine and seek to remedy conditions caused by illegal U.S. or corporate practices. By bringing an alternative perspective to multinational institutions, schools, community centers and congressional hearings, the IC and its members actively educate, litigate, and truth-seek toward the end of social justice.
Get involved with us today and be part of building a more peaceful and just world.
A brief history
From its founding in 1937, the National Lawyers Guild has maintained an internationalist perspective, and international work has been a critical focus for the National Lawyers Guild and its members.
The Guild was active in the fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War and in World War II. Guild lawyers participated in the creation of the United Nations, and in the prosecution of IG Farben, the German chemical corporation which played an active role in the Holocaust.
The Guild opposed the hysteria of the Cold War, and many Guild lawyers used their skills to defend immigrants, labor activists, and others accused of “subversion.” Later Guild work has been centered on support for national liberation movements (such as those in Vietnam and South Africa), the eradication of nuclear weapons, and the support of international legal principles and institutions which further “… the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property rights.”
Presently, subcommittees or on-going projects exist for Cuba, Gaza, Task Force for the Americas, Korea, Africa, the Philippines, Haiti and the United Nations. The International Committee has also joined with the Guild’s Labor and Employment Committee to form the International Labor Justice Working Group. Working Groups take on current issues such as Torture, the Afghanistan War, Justice for Vietnamese Agent Orange Victims and preserving Japans Peace Constitution Article 9. Numerous white papers and legal materials are prepared each year.
Since the turn of the 21st century, the International Committee has organized delegations to Haiti, Philippines, El Salvador, Palestine, Venezuela, Lebanon, North and South Korea, Cuba, and Mexico; and International Committee members participated in the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa in 2001 and its follow up meeting in 2009.
Guild members have taken a leading role in the International Association of Democratic Lawyers; sending hundreds of lawyers, legal workers and students to the IADL’s Congresses in Cape Town in 1996, in Havana October 2000, Paris in June 2005 and Hanoi 2009. Not a bad travel schedule! NLG IC member Jeanne Mirer was just elected the President of IADL.
We have organized seminars for our own members on how to incorporate international law principles into everyday law practice and have materials to assist practitioners in utilizing many international forums.
Guild lawyers have worked with labor unions to develop a strategy for developing alliances with progressive unions in Mexico. We have challenged labor rights abuses and opposed the devastating proposals for labor law “reform” in that country, by working through the administrative process established under NAFTA.
The International Committee vigorously opposed the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and worked to incorporate international legal principles into critiques of U.S. aggression. Fact-Sheets and White papers have been developed for use by other human rights groups. We helped organize legal delegations to Haiti which documented gross human rights violations in the aftermath of the U.S.-supported coup against democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The Guild participated in a delegation that met with President Aristide in Jamaica in April of 2004, less than two months after the coup.
In the immediate aftermath of the Israeli invasion the Guild sent a delegation to Gaza in February 2009 and has produced talks, videos and a White Paper on the Illegal invasion.
The Guild has a long history of fighting for the right of US nationals to visit and associate with progressive movements worldwide; today, we continue to organize lawyers to provide counseling and representation for U.S. travelers to Cuba, in the face of increased restrictions on travel. In addition to struggling against the unjust foreign policies of the superpower in which we live, the International Committee has sought to assist movements in the United States and around the globe which promote peace, justice, health, equality, openness, and the possibilities of another world.