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Newly-introduced Massachusetts bill will extend the time for human rights survivors to file lawsuits from 3 years to 10 years.

Over the past couple years, we’ve seen the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts around the country cut back on some of the few judicial avenues that were available to survivors of egregious human rights abuse to seek justice for the harms they’ve endured. But providing remedies for human rights abuse was never the sole province of federal courts. Indeed, state courts have not only the right, but the duty, to ensure that they do not provide safe harbor to the world’s worst abusers.

Massachusetts has set an important example for the rest of the country by proving it takes that responsibility seriously. State Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) announced this week that he has introduced a bill to help ensure victims of grave human rights abuses get their day in court. SD 1710, An Act Extending the Statute of Limitations for Certain Actions Involving International Human Rights Abuses, would extend the time limits for filing lawsuits based on certain human rights abuses such as torture, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Short filing deadlines are an enormous obstacle in human rights cases, which are complex and involve plaintiffs who are often traumatized and unaware of their legal options.  The legislation is actually quite narrow, but what it can do for victims and survivors of horrific abuse is critical. The bill creates no new causes of action; it simply extends the time period for filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit from 3 to 10 years in cases where the victim can show an abuse of their fundamental rights.”

EarthRights International (ERI) and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) have been working with law students at the International Human Rights Clinic at Western New England University School of Law and the Center for International Law and Policy at New England Law School on access to remedy at the state level, with a particular focus on getting this legislation introduced and passed in Massachusetts. We are extremely proud of this partnership and the students who have worked so hard to make sure that avenues remain open for victims of human rights abuse to find some measure of relief. We look forward to continuing to support this effort, and hope other states will choose to follow Massachusetts’s example and ensure survivors have the opportunity to have their voices heard.