Agnieszka Fryszman, chair of the Human Rights practice at Cohen Milstein, has been recognized as leading one of the best private international human rights practices in the world.
She represents individuals who have been victims of torture, human trafficking, forced and slave labor and other violations of international law. A recognized expert and leader in the field of human rights law, Ms. Fryszman regularly litigates cases against corporate giants and foreign powers.
Notable areas where Ms. Fryszman’s work has made an impact:
- Holocaust-era atrocities: Ms. Fryszman was a member of the legal team that successfully represented survivors of Nazi-era forced and slave labor against the German and Austrian companies that allegedly profited from their labor. These cases were resolved by international negotiations that resulted in multi-billion-dollar settlements.
- Human Trafficking and Forced Labor: Ms. Fryszman filed one of the first claims under the federal human trafficking statute (the TVPRA) and has continued to focus on representing survivors of human trafficking and forced labor. She has been recognized as Advocate of the Year by the Human Trafficking Legal Center and awarded the National Law Journal Pro Bono Award for her efforts. She has represented workers trapped in supply chain forced labor as well as men and women trafficked by military contractors, in the fishing industry, and to work cleaning houses in Northern Virginia.
- Military contractors: Ms. Fryszman earned the National Law Journal Pro Bono Award for efforts on behalf of Nepali laborers killed at U.S. military bases in Iraq. She represented the families of twelve Nepali men and five additional surviving Nepali men who were lured to Jordan with the false promise of well-paying hotel jobs, but instead their passports were confiscated, they were imprisoned and then taken against their will a U.S. military base in Iraq, where they were put to work for U.S. military subcontractors during the Iraq war. Twelve of the men were killed by insurgents. The claims were ultimately resolved, including under innovative proceedings pursuant to the Defense Base Act. Cohen Milstein’s work received international attention and is the focus of the book, The Girl from Kathmandu | Twelve Dead Men and a Woman's Quest for Justice, by Cam Simpson (HarperCollins, 2018).
- Deep Sea Fishing Industry: Ms. Fryszman filed and settled the first successfully resolved case of fishing boat slavery in the world. She represented two Indonesian men who escaped from a fishing boat when it docked in California. The settlement included provisions intended to protect future seamen, including a code of conduct for ship captains and a hand-out for seamen informing them of their rights and who to call for help.
- Comfort Women: Ms. Fryszman’s work on behalf of former “comfort women,” women and girls trafficked into sexual slavery by the government of Japan during World War II, was recognized with the “Fierce Sister” award from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.
- Victims of 9/11: Ms. Fryszman represented, pro bono, victims of the September 11 attack on the Pentagon and obtained one of the highest awards for an injured survivor from the Victim’s Compensation Fund.
- Guantanamo Bay Detention: Ms. Fryszman represented, pro bono, two individuals detained by the United States at Guantanamo Bay who were ultimately cleared without charge.
Some of Ms. Fryszman’s Current high-profile cases include:
- ExxonMobil -Villagers of Aceh Litigation (D.D.C.): Ms. Fryszman represents eleven villagers from Aceh, Indonesia, who allege that they or their relatives were victims of torture, extrajudicial killing, and other abuses committed by security guards working for Exxon Mobil. The case is being heard in a United States court but involves claims under Indonesian law. The case has been hotly litigated for 20 years, including two trips to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (both successfully argued by Ms. Fryszman). Ms. Fryszman pioneered the use of remote deposition technology to take over 20 depositions of eyewitnesses located in rural Aceh. The parties are currently awaiting a trial date.
- Kurd v. The Republic of Turkey (D.D.C.): Ms. Fryszman represents represent fifteen people, including a seven-year-old girl with her father, a mother pushing a four-year-old in a stroller, students, and local small business owners, who had gathered at Sheridan Circle in Washington, D.C., to peacefully protest the Erdogan regime’s treatment of its Kurdish community. They were brutally attacked by President Erdogan’s security detail, who pushed past a line of law enforcement officers to kick, stomp and bludgeon the demonstrators. The attack was captured on video, resulted in criminal indictments, and was condemned by the United States Congress. The Republic of Turkey claimed it was immune from suit, but the district court disagreed. Ms. Fryszman successfully argued the case at the Court of Appeals, obtaining a unanimous opinion upholding the district court.
- Ratha v. Phatthana Seafood (C.D. Cal.): Ms. Fryszman represents Cambodian villagers who allege that they were trafficked into Thailand and subjected to forced labor at seafood processing factories that were owned by and did business with U.S. business entities.
- Paul Rusesabagina Kidnapping (D.D.C.): Ms. Fryszman represented U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Paul Rusesabagina and his family against the Republic of Rwanda, the President of Rwanda and other members of the government for allegedly kidnapping Paul and taking him back to Rwanda, where he was imprisoned, tortured and subjected to a sham trial. Mr. Rusesabagina is perhaps best known for saving thousands of lives during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, a story that inspired the Academy-Award-nominated film, Hotel Rwanda. On March 16, 2023, the court held that three Rwandan officials must face Plaintiffs' claims. A week later, after negotiations with the White House, Rwanda commuted Rusesabagina’s sentence. After two-and-a-half years in captivity, he returned home to the United States.
Ms. Fryszman has received some of the legal profession’s highest honors including The Human Trafficking Legal Center’s Human Trafficking Advocate of the Year Award (2020), and being named a "Lawdragon Legend" in 2019, an award highlighting 30 of the “nation’s elite lawyers.” She is regularly included in the Lawdragon 500 and Lawdragon also named Ms. Fryszman to its inaugural “Global Litigation 500.” The National Law Journal has named Ms. Fryszman to the list of “Elite Women of the Plaintiffs Bar” and Benchmark Plaintiff has named her a Leading Star Plaintiffs’ Litigator and one of the Top 150 Women in Litigation. For her pro bono work, in addition to the National Law Journal Pro Bono Award, she has been awarded the Beacon of Justice Award by the National Legal Aid and Defender and the Frederick Douglass Human Rights Award from the Southern Center for Human Rights. She was also a finalist for the Public Justice Foundation's Trial Lawyer of the Year Award for her work on Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Shell. Ms. Fryszman joined the legal team in that case to prepare it for trial, resulting in a multi-million-dollar settlement on the morning of jury selection.
Prior to joining Cohen Milstein, Ms. Fryszman served as counsel to the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, and as counsel to Representative Henry Waxman, Ranking Member on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Earlier in her career, she was legislative director to U.S. Representative, now Senator, Jack Reed.
Ms. Fryszman graduated from Brown University with an A.B. in International Relations, and earned her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, graduating magna cum laude, Order of the Coif. In law school, she was a Public Interest Law Scholar.
- Counsel, Representative Henry Waxman, Ranking Member, House Government Reform & Oversight Committee, 1997-1998
- Counsel, Subcommittee on Commericial & Administrative Law, U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on the Judiciary, 1995-1997
- Legislative Director, U.S. Representative (now Senator) Jack Reed, 1991-1995