Assemblymember Holden’s Bill to Ensure Victims of Human Rights Abuses Get Their Day in Court (AB 15)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sacramento - As we remember the horrors of the of the Armenian Genocide some 100 years ago and the Nazi Holocaust during World War II, Assemblymember Chris Holden has introduced legislation to extend the statute of limitations for the victims of human rights abuses.

AB 15 was approved today with unanimous, bi-partisan support in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The vote was 10 to 0. The bill now goes to the Assembly floor for consideration.

AB 15 will bring California law into line with federal regulations for filing civil lawsuits based on acts of genocide, torture, war crimes and human trafficking. In California, these human rights abuses are brought as assault, battery or wrongful death claims and carry a two-year statute of limitations. AB 15 extends the statute of limitations to ten years aligning the time limit for filing a human rights claim in California with current federal law.

"This reform is long overdue. Victims often suffer mental and physical problems that prevent them from filing quickly," pointed out Assemblymember Holden. "Because of that, many of these crimes are never prosecuted and the abuse continues. This bill would help the victims and their families find some measure of justice in the face of these horrific crimes."

"In 2001, I was trafficked from my village in Mexico and forced to work 18-hour days sewing dresses in a factory in Los Angeles," said Florencia Molina, one of the witnesses testifying in support of AB 15. "Once I was able to escape, I wanted to bring a claim against my trafficker. But no one knew much about trafficking back then, and I was not sure what I could do. If AB 15 had been around, I would have been able to get restitution for the abuses I suffered and the wages that were stolen from me. I want other survivors to know that justice is never too late"

This bill would also revive eligible claims finally allowing victims of the Holocaust, Armenian Genocide, and other historic incidences of human rights violations to seek a remedy for the abuse they suffered.

"Passing this measure would be a critical step towards re-balancing the scales in human rights cases where short filing deadlines currently favor abusers over victims," said Amanda Werner, Legal and Policy Fellow with International Corporate Accountability Roundtable. "Though the number of cases brought under AB 15 would be small in number, they would be significant in allowing a remedy for survivors, ensuring that perpetrators of the worst human rights abuse cannot find safe harbor within California's borders."

AB 15 is supported by a number of local, national and international human rights advocates including Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), American Jewish World Service, Amnesty International, Consumer Attorneys of America, EarthRights International, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable and Oxfam.