US can’t freeze a charity’s assets without a warrant; access to classified evidence required before shutting NGOs down
NEW YORK, May 12, 2010 (IPS) – In a major decision overturning a George W. Bush-era policy that has been continued by the administration of President Barack Obama, a federal court ruled that the U.S. Treasury Department cannot freeze a charity’s assets without a warrant, and must also give access to any classified evidence before effectively shutting the group down.
That’s what happened in 2006 to an Ohio-based charity called KindHearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development, Inc. The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) froze KindHearts’ assets without a warrant, notice or a hearing, based simply on the assertion that OFAC was investigating whether the charity should be designated as a “specially designated global terrorist” (SDGT).
Federal District Judge James G. Carr ruled Monday that in the future the administration must obtain a warrant based on probable cause before seizing an organisation’s assets. In KindHearts’ case, the court held that the government must remedy its failure to get a warrant by demonstrating that it had probable cause at the time it froze KindHearts’ assets.
Judge Carr also ruled that OFAC violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment guarantee of due process by failing to notify KindHearts of the charges against it or offer a meaningful opportunity to respond.
Short URL: http://tinyurl.com/26le4ru