Cohen Milstein’s Human Rights Practice has been recognized as one of the best private international human rights practices in the world. We represent individuals who have been victims of torture, human trafficking, forced and slave labor, sexual violence, and other violations of international law.  Much of what we do is pro bono.

We are not afraid to take on the world’s most powerful global corporations or to challenge the government on hot button issues.  Our goal is to deliver justice.  In addition to obtaining significant recoveries for our clients, we often establish important legal precedent on behalf of the victims of human rights abuses and our work has frequently served to correct the historical record.

Our Practice

We represented, pro bono, Holocaust survivors suing the Swiss banks that collaborated with the Nazi regime during World War II. The lawsuit, which produced a $1.25 billion settlement, exposed the extent of business participation in the Holocaust and led historians to reexamine their assessment of Switzerland’s relationship with Nazi Germany. Our practice also successfully represented survivors of Nazi-era forced and slave labor against the German and Austrian companies that profited from their labor.  These cases were resolved by international negotiations that resulted in a $5.2 billion dollar settlement for 1.5 million survivors in more than 41 countries.

The Human Rights Group filed one of the first claims under the federal human trafficking statute and has continued to focus on representing victims of human trafficking and forced labor.  We have worked on cases of domestic servitude as well as for individuals trapped in supply chain forced labor.  We have represented men and women who were trafficked by diplomats, by military contractors, in the fishing industry and to work cleaning houses in Northern Virginia.  In one recent case, after we obtained a full recovery for our client, the Department of Justice followed our suit with criminal charges, resulting in a guilty plea by the perpetrator.

We represented, pro bono, victims of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, obtaining one of the highest awards for an injured survivor from the September 11th  Victim Compensation Fund. In addition, we represented, pro bono, two individuals detained by the United States government at Guantanamo Bay who were ultimately cleared for release without charge.

We have served as counsel for amici, including former federal judges, members of Congress, and prominent scholars, in a wide range of significant cases before the Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeals.

Cohen Milstein’s Human Rights practice group has been recognized repeatedly for its dedication to the public interest and for its success in litigation.  Among other honors, our lawyers have been awarded: the National Law Journal Po Bono Award; the Beacon of Justice Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association; the Frederick Douglass award from the Southern Center for Human Rights; the Friendship Award from the America Nepal Friendship Society for “outstanding contribution to the protection of the human rights and freedom of Nepali citizens,”; a Certificate of Appreciation from the United States Ambassador to Nepal, and the 2006 Fierce Sister Award from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.

Our People

Our attorneys bring a passion for justice in their representation of survivors and victims of human rights abuses. Members of the practice have spent much of their careers in public service, including as counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary and in the Peace Corps.

Our Cases

  • ExxonMobil-Villagers of Aceh Litigation: We represent eleven villagers in Aceh, Indonesia, who allege that ExxonMobil’s security personnel killed their relatives and committed other human rights abuses against them.  A Washington, D.C., judge recently ruled the case may proceed in U.S. courts—one of the first cases to satisfy a new Supreme Court standard for international human rights cases.
  • Nepali Human Trafficking Litigation: We represent the families of 12 Nepali workers killed in Iraq and five surviving workers in two separate actions against KBR, a U.S. military contractor. The suit asserts that the Nepali workers were lured to Jordan with the false promise of well-paying hotel jobs, and were then trafficked to Iraq to work for KBR.
  • U.S. Diplomats Human Trafficking Litigation: We represent, pro bono, a woman from West Africa who was trafficked by diplomats.