Michael Ratner

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Michael Ratner

Michael Ratner was an Attorney and Professor at Columbia Law School. He was president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a non-profit organization that litigates civil and human rights cases. He has worked or been affiliated with the advocacy group since graduating from law school. He was also an attorney, lectures on international human rights litigation at Columbia Law School, and he was a lecturer and the Skelly Wright Fellow at Yale Law School.

Michael Ratner was also a past president of the National Lawyers Guild.[1]

Ratner passed away on May 11, 2016 in New York City reportedly from "complications from cancer"[2]. He is survived by his wife Karen Ranucci and two children.

"Also, this obituary said absolutely nothing about Ratner's many decades-long communist associations and activities. It is doubtful that the Washington Post (WP) writer actually knew who Ratner really was, probably relying on favorable materials supplied by his family and/or friends from the Communist Left. A summary of how a typically favorable obituary of the hardcore Left is slanted to cover up their Marxist/communist identity will be found in a separate section below because Ratner was known by communists and anti-communists investigators /researchers (including Prof. J. Michael Waller, Max P. Friedman, John Rees of Information Digest), to be one of the most hardcore communists/Marxists in the American legal profession. He was literally a "Red Diaper Baby" of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) legal fronts nursery of the congressionally cited CPUSA "legal bulwark", the National Lawyers Guild, its creation the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and of their Nation Emergency Civil Liberties Committee (NECLC), another congressionally cited CP front. Ratner was president of both the NLG and then later the CCR."

Bertha Foundation

Michael Ratner was a "close friend" of Tony Tabatznik, the social justice philanthropist and founder of the Bertha foundation, which has been a major donor of the Center for Constitutional Rights.[3]

"We mourn the loss of Michael Ratner.
"Michael wasn’t only a close friend, he was a personal confidant. He was an inspiration to Bertha Foundation and our legal team.
"From the beginning, it was Michael who gave shape to our legal strategy.
"It was through Michael that we met Jen Robinson, who, for four years, has helped build our legal program, the Bertha Justice Initiative.
"It was Michael who introduced us to Wolfgang Kaleck & the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) who, in turn, helped build out Bertha’s international network connecting the world’s best human rights law firms.
"And it was Michael who introduced us to the concept of “movement lawyering.”
"Beyond that, and most importantly for Bertha, it was through Michael, and then Vince Warren, and then Bill Quigley, at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), that Bertha adopted as its central mission, that social change is affected by activists, storytellers, and lawyers working together.
"Michael went way beyond the law in his struggles for social change. He was an activist and was proud to be called a “radical lawyer.” He was proud to be a Jewish anti-Zionist who passionately supported the rights of Palestinians. And he led by example. He always knew what was right and what was wrong."

Contributed to the Center for Economic Research and Social Change

Michael Ratner with Tony Tabatznik at FiSahara, May 2015

The Center for Economic Research and Social Change (CERSC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose leadership "consists entirely of International Socialist Organization members"[4] The Center for Economic Research and Social Change is supported in part by the Cultures of Resistance Network.[5]

According to their IRS 990 form for the year ending 2013,[6] contributors included:


Michael Ratner is the author of numerous books and articles, including the books Against War with Iraq and Guantanamo: What the World Should Know, a textbook on international human rights, and a leading book on Pinochet.[7]


Michael Ratner was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1943 and is the brother of radio talk show host and Fox News contributor Ellen Ratner. He has said he still found delight in all battles, big and small. He pushes his two children to demonstrations and proudly explained that his daughter petitioned the Parks Department to change the swings in the local park from baby swings to children's swings. He just read "The Count of Monte Cristo," "a man who was jailed for no reason and went out and got revenge," to his son.

His wife of 16 years, Karen Ranucci, runs a nonprofit group that distributes Latin American videos to universities and educational institutions and works for Democracy Now, a syndicated radio and television program. They live in Greenwich Village. When he is not , he is fly-fishing in streams in upstate New York or exploring the foundations of old houses in the woods. As a boy growing up in Cleveland, he dreamed of being an archaeologist.[8]

Student activism

As a law student at Columbia University, Ratner was pushed to the ground and beaten by the police in 1968 as he and other students blocked the entrance to a building occupied by protesters. This would turn out to be one of those defining moments. Mr. Ratner, who would graduate second in his class, got up, looked at his bloodied fellow protesters and decided to become a rebel. "That night was crucial," he recently told a journalist. "An event like this created the activists of the next generation. I never looked back. I decided I was going to spend my life on the side of justice and nonviolence." [9]


Michael Ratner in Cuba, May 2015 (Photo courtesy of Shira White)

Michael Ratner went to Cuba in '73 the first time. By that time--it was interesting. I forgot this, but I was already representing Venceremos Brigade. The Venceremos Brigade would send progressive Americans to Cuba to do work--sugarcane work or construction work--as a way of breaking the blockade of Cuba. And so my first trip was in '73. Before then, for two years I'd probably been representing the Brigade. They probably weren't that much--in existence that much longer, five years or something. And eventually I went on a brigade. That was in '76. I did construction for six weeks. A fascinating time, obviously.

But my first trip was '73, and, of course, many stories about it, but the main one that comes to me now about it--I mean, first of all, we thought it was going to be a workers socialist paradise, and in part it felt that way. I mean, this was--look it, Che was only killed in '68, so he was killed, you know, five years before. So you still are with the comrades of Che. You go to Cuba in '73, the Vietnam War is still going on. You go into, like, the bar in Havana Libre, and it's filled with Black Panthers and Vietnamese, revolutionaries from Central America. It was a heady, I mean, incredible feeling. And, of course, you went out to the schools, and the fact that all the school kids had to do work in the farms for six weeks, and, you know, then the rent is 5 percent of your income, you know, etc., there was at least a very positive feeling. I'm not saying there weren't negative things, but certainly for young people like us coming out of, you know, the United States and out of what had been a revolutionary time, even for us, you know, it was a really heady atmosphere in 1973 in Cuba.[10]

Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights Bicentennial Celebration

On November 10, 1991 Michael Ratner was listed as a member of the 1991 Tribute Committee for the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights Bicentennial Celebration.[11]

Peace for Cuba Appeal

In 1994 Michael Ratner was an initiator of the International Peace for Cuba Appeal, an affiliate of the Workers World Party created International Action Center.

Other prominent initiators included Cuban Intelligence agent Philip Agee, academic Noam Chomsky, Congressman John Conyers and Charles Rangel[12].

Rosenberg Fund for Children

In 2003 Michael Ratner was on the Advisory Board of the Rosenberg Fund for Children[13].

Michael Ratner serves[14]on the Advisory Board of the Rosenberg Fund for Children.


Ratner was co-counsel in representing the Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States Supreme Court, where his clients won a major victory in June, 2004 that gave them theright to test the legality of their detentions.

In January, 2006, Ratner served as an expert witness at a 'tribunal' staged by the Bush Crimes Commission at Columbia University. He owns a baseball cap with the words "Guantanamo Bay Bar Association.”[15]

International activism

Michael Ratner has litigated numerous cases opposing US initiated wars from Central America to Iraq. He is assisting with the criminal complaint in the courts of Germany against U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other US officials seeking the initiation of criminal prosecutions against them for the abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib prison.

Michael Ratner served as a special counsel to Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide,assisting in the prosecution of human rights crimes. Ratner sued the George H. W. Bush administration to stop the Gulf War, the Bill Clinton administration to stop the bombing of Kosovo, and he successfully sued on behalf of victims of the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, for war crimes.[16]

International Activism - Nicaragua

Ratner was a key legal advisor and propagandist for the Marxist Sandinista guerrillas and then government who ousted the Somoza administration in 1979. One of the few detailed written items about Ratner and the Sandinistas appeared in "The Revolution Lobby" book written by veteran internal security researchers Allan C. Brownfeld and J. Michael Waller, published in 1985 by the Council for Inter-American Security (CIS) and the Inter-American Security Educational Institute (IASEI), specifically pages 106 (the start of the subsection on the the MISURA and MISKITOS Indians and the Sumubila affair, with key pages being 107-110. It also detailed how Ratner used a key foreign policy advisor of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass), to promote pro-Sandinista propaganda in the U.S. Congress, pages 107-114, for the years 1982-1984.

Senator Kennedy had a very interesting relationship with Soviet and Communist Party USA fronts and operations, including the Congressional Conference on Cuba, the MISKITOS-Sumubila affair (1982-1984), and his secret contacts with the Soviet leadership/KGB in an attempt to undermine Pres. Reagan's strategic defense initiatives and strategies that eventually brought down the Soviet Union. The best published book on the Soviet secret contacts is "Dupes How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century", Prof. Paul Kengor, ISI Books Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2010.


In 2006 Ratner received the Lennon Ono Peace Grant from Yoko Ono on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights; the Letelier-Moffit award from the Institute for Policy Studies on behalf of the Center for Constiutional Rights and the NYC Jobs with Justice award.

He also won the Hans-Litten-Prize is awarded every two years by the VDJ, the German Association of Democratic Lawyers.

Ratner was chosen as the Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Trial lawyers for Public Justice. Other awards include The Columbia Law School Public Interest Law Foundation Award, the Columbia Law School Medal of Honor (January 21, 2005), the North Star Community Frederick Douglass Award and Honorary Fellow University of Pennsylvania Law School (May 16, 2005).

In 2006 the National Law Journal named Michael Ratner as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the United States. He also received the Brandeis University Alumni achievement award in 2006.[17]

Center for Constitutional Rights

Ratner serves as the President of the Board of Directors of the Center for Constitutional Rights.[18]

Congressional Testimonies

Ratner submitted a prepared statement, in his role as the director of the marxist Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), in the hearings entitled "Break-Ins at Sanctuary Churches and Organizations Opposed to Administration Policy in Central America", House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights, House Judiciary Committee, February 19 and 20, 1987, Serial No. 42.

Left Forum Advisory Board

In 2009 the Left Forum Advisory Board included Gilbert Achcar, Tariq Ali, Ashanti Alston, Anthony Arnove, Robin Blackburn, Barbara Bowen, Jack Bratich, Rose Brewer, Renate Bridenthal, Michael Brie, Stephen Brier, Stephen Eric Bronner, Paul Buhle, Joseph Buttigieg, Luciana Castellina, Angela Dillard, Stephen Duncombe, Hester Eisenstein, Barbara Epstein, Deepa Fernandes, Hector Figueroa, Harriet Fraad, Josh Freeman, Barbara Garson, Heather Gautney, Marvin Gettleman, Arun Gupta, Jack Hammond, David Harvey, Gerald Horne, Boris Kagarlitsky, Robin D. G. Kelley, Christine A. Kelly, Peter Kwong, Joanne Landy, Jesse Lemisch, Michael Lowy, Nivedita Majumdar, Manning Marable, Randy Martin, Liz Mestres, Susan O'Malley, Cathy Mulder, Leo Panitch, Christian Parenti, Thomas Ponniah, Barbara Ransby, Michael Ratner, Jan Rehmann, Gerardo Renique, Rainer Rilling, Colin Robinson, Nan Rubin, Roger Salerno, Stephen R. Shalom, Neil Smith, Richard Smith, Meredith Tax, Eleni Varikas, Victor Wallis, Joseph Wilson.[19]

Amy Goodman interview

In July 2015, Amy Goodman interviewed several commentators on the resumption of US-Cuba diplomatic relations.

Hundreds of dignitaries from Cuba and the United States gathered in Washington on Monday to mark the reopening of the Cuban Embassy after being closed for more than five decades. We speak to Congressmembers Raúl Grijalva and Barbara Lee; actor Danny Glover; former U.S. diplomat Wayne Smith; attorneys Michael Smith and Michael Ratner, who co-authored "Who Killed Che?: How the CIA Got Away with Murder"; Phyllis Bennis and James Early of the Institute for Policy Studies; and others.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Smith and Michael Ratner, they, in addition to being illustrious attorneys, are the co-authors of the book, Who Killed Che? And what’s the subtitle?

MICHAEL SMITH: How the CIA Got Away with Murder.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about your feelings on this day.

MICHAEL SMITH: I can’t tell you how happy I am. I’ve been dreaming of this ever since I became a socialist in college 50 years ago. The United States was defeated here. They thought they could isolate Cuba for 50 years. They tried. They not only assassinated Che, but they tried to assassinate Fidel. They isolated Cuba from the rest of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The tables were turned on them. Last year, the Panamanians, which is not a left-wing government, told the United States, "Unless you allow Cuba to come to the Summit of Americas, you don’t have to come. We want Cuba." And the United States started thinking, "We’ve got to switch tactics." It’s not like they’re still not trying to restore Cuba to the capitalist empire, but they’re not doing it in the old ways.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Ratner, your thoughts today?

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, Amy, let’s just say, other than the birth of my children, this is perhaps one of the most exciting days of my life. I mean, I’ve been working on Cuba since the early ’70s, if not before. I worked on the Venceremos Brigade. I went on brigades. I did construction. And to see that this can actually happen in a country that decided early on that, unlike most countries in the world, it was going to level the playing field for everyone—no more rich, no more poor, everyone the same, education for everyone, schooling for everyone, housing if they could—and to see the relentless United States go against it, from the Bay of Pigs to utter subversion on and on, and to see Cuba emerge victorious—and when I say that, this is not a defeated country. This is a country—if you heard the foreign minister today, what he spoke of was the history of U.S. imperialism against Cuba, from the intervention in the Spanish-American War to the Platt Amendment, which made U.S. a permanent part of the Cuban government, to the taking of Guantánamo, to the failure to recognize it in 1959, to the cutting off of relations in 1961. This is a major, major victory for the Cuban people, and that should be understood. We are standing at a moment that I never expected to see in our history.

AMY GOODMAN: Bruno Rodríguez, the foreign minister of Cuba, gave a rousing speech inside the embassy. Talk about what he said still needs to be accomplished. He wasn’t exactly celebrating a total victory today.

MICHAEL SMITH: No, because things still aren’t normal.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Smith.

MICHAEL SMITH: The United States is still spending $30 million a year trying to subvert the Cuban government. They still illegally are holding Guantánamo. And they still have—and this is the most important thing, because it’s costing Cuban people $1.1 trillion in funds to develop their country—they still have the blockade. So, unless those three things are changed, you’re not going to have a normal situation.

MICHAEL RATNER: Let me tell you, as someone said to me here, if Obama wants to solve Guantánamo and the prisoners at Guantánamo, give it back to Cuba. There will be no prisoners left in Guantánamo. Easy way to do it, satisfy the Cubans, satisfy Guantánamo. Let it happen now.

Think about Cuba’s place in history, when we think about it for young people, not just for the fact that it leveled a society economically, gave people all the social network that we don’t have in the United States, but think about its international role. You think about apartheid in South Africa, and the key single event took place in Angola when 25,000 Cuban troops repulsed the South African military and gave it its first defeat, which was the beginning of the end of apartheid. It had an internationalism that’s just unbelievable. And I remember standing in front of—in the 100,000 people in front of a square in Havana in 1976. I was on a Venceremos Brigade. And Fidel gave a speech, and he said, "There is black blood in every Cuban vein, and we are going into Angola." I’m telling you, I still cry over it.[20]


  1. H a n s - L i t t e n – P r i z e A w a r d i n g 2 0 0 6 , B e r l i nT o M i c h a e l R a t n e r , N e w Y o r k
  2. Washington Post, Obituaries section, Friday, May 13, 2016, P. B5, Emily Langer
  3. TRIBUTE TO MICHAEL RATNER, accessed December 12 2017
  4. Questions and concerns about the ISO and CERSC, accessed June 24 2017
  5. Center for Economic Research and Social Change (CERSC), accessed July 2 2017
  7. H a n s - L i t t e n – P r i z e A w a r d i n g 2 0 0 6 , B e r l i nT o M i c h a e l R a t n e r , N e w Y o r k
  8. H a n s - L i t t e n – P r i z e A w a r d i n g 2 0 0 6 , B e r l i nT o M i c h a e l R a t n e r , N e w Y o r k
  9. H a n s - L i t t e n – P r i z e A w a r d i n g 2 0 0 6 , B e r l i nT o M i c h a e l R a t n e r , N e w Y o r k
  10. Real News, Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)March 11, 2014
  11. Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights Bicentennial Celebration Program, Nov. 10, 1991
  12. International Peace for Cuba Appeal - letterhead, Nov. 14, 1994
  13. Rosenberg Fund for Children Letterhead June 19 2003
  14. http://www.rfc.org/staffandboards
  15. H a n s - L i t t e n – P r i z e A w a r d i n g 2 0 0 6 , B e r l i nT o M i c h a e l R a t n e r , N e w Y o r k
  16. H a n s - L i t t e n – P r i z e A w a r d i n g 2 0 0 6 , B e r l i nT o M i c h a e l R a t n e r , N e w Y o r k
  17. H a n s - L i t t e n – P r i z e A w a r d i n g 2 0 0 6 , B e r l i nT o M i c h a e l R a t n e r , N e w Y o r k
  18. Board of Directors
  19. [1]
  20. Democracy Now!, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, Is the Era of U.S.-Backed Anti-Castro Terrorism Over? Reflections on Restored Ties Between Nations