Luis Kutner

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Luis Kutner
Born(1908-06-09)June 9, 1908
DiedMarch 1, 1993(1993-03-01) (aged 84)
Alma materUniversity of Chicago Law School, 1927
OccupationLawyer, Author
Known forDevelopment of the living will and advocacy of world habeas corpus
External image Luis Kutner with petition for United Nations writ of habeas corpus to be filed with the UN Commission on Human Rights on behalf of William N. Oatis, 1952. Corbis Images.

Luis Kutner (June 9, 1908 – March 1, 1993), was a US human rights activist and lawyer who co-founded Amnesty International with Peter Benenson in 1961, and created the concept of a living will.[1] He was also notable for his advocacy of "world habeas corpus", the development of an international writ of habeas corpus to protect individual human rights.[2][3] He was a founder of World Habeas Corpus,[4] an organization created to fight for international policies which would protect individuals against unwarranted imprisonment.[5] Kutner's papers are at the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University.[6]

Kutner gained national recognition[7] in 1949, when he obtained freedom for a black mechanic from Waukegan, Illinois, who had served 26 years of a life term sentence for raping an itinerant. A Federal judge described as "a sham" the defendant's 1924 trial in which a vengeful prosecutor withheld vital evidence. He also helped free Hungarian Cardinal József Mindszenty, American expatriate poet Ezra Pound, former Congo President Moise Tshombe and represented the Dalai Lama and Tibet. Kutner is widely known as one of the most prominent human-rights attorneys of the twentieth century.[8]

In 1969, he reported Fred Hampton to the FBI.[9]

Biographical Chronology[edit]

1927 J.D., University of Chicago Law School
1930 Admitted to Bar, State of Illinois
1944 Author, The Admiral (biography of George Dewey) (with Laurin Healy)[10]
1948 Author, Fights and Cascades, Moon Splashed, Red Wine and Shadows (poems)
1953 Author, Live in Twelve Minutes (novel) (with W. T. Brannon)
1957 Author, The International Court of Habeas Corpus and the United Nations Writ of Habeas Corpus
1958 Author, World Habeas Corpus: A Proposal for International Court of Habeas Corpus and the United Nations Writ of Habeas Corpus
1961 Co-founded Amnesty International (with Peter Benenson)
1962 Author, World Habeas Corpus
1966 Author, I, the Lawyer
1967 Wrote the first living will
1970 Author, Legal Aspects of Charitable Trusts and Foundations: A Guide for Philanthropoids, The Intelligent Women's Guide to Future Security, also published as How to Be a Wise Widow
1970 Editor, The Human Right to Individual Freedom: A Symposium on World Habeas to Corpus
1972 U.S. congressional nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize
1974 Author, Due Process of Rebellion, How to Be a Wise Widow, and The Trialle of William Shakespeare (three-act play)

Garry Davis case[edit]

When the French government indicted World Citizen Garry Davis on June 8, 1971 for issuing the World Passport from his home in Hesinque, Haut-Rhin, he engaged Dr. Luis Kutner as counsel during the trial at Mulhouse, H.R.

Following the trial, on June 10, 1971, Davis called a General Assembly of delegates of the World Government of World Citizens at Novetal, Sausheim, H.R. to declare the founding of the World Court of Human Rights, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, articles 6 to 11. He appointed Luis Kutner as "Chief Justice." (See Kutner's acceptance speech below).

Kutner's Commission subsequently wrote the Statute for the Court for Due Process of International Law.

A test of the new court's efficacy was demonstrated in the case of Dennis Cecil Hills, the British Author, residing in Uganda during Idi Amin's presidency, who was scheduled to die by firing squad on June 26, 1975, for having written of the president as a "village tyrant" and therefore subsequently condemned as an "enemy of the state."


Chief Justice Kutner forwarded the following cable to His Excellency Idi Amin at Kampala, Uganda:

At the request of World Government of world citizens in Basel, Switzerland, and the commission for international due process of law and the world court of human rights, I am invoking your excellency to accept the herein telegraphed writ of world habeas corpus in behalf of your detainee Cecil Hill, consistent with Uganda's sovereign status as a member of the United Nations voluntarily assuming the human rights obligations of the charter, universal declaration of human rights, and other protocols and conventions guaranteeing the sanctity and integrity of human beings in global society of civilized nations dedicated to human dignity and standards of due process of law, respectfully,

Luis Kutner
world chairman
commission international
due process of law

world court of human rights


Mr. Sam Msubuga, legal advisor of the Chargé d'Affaires of the Uganda Embassy in Washington informed Kutner on Monday, June 26, of the reception of the telegraphed writ, was willing to comply and wished to "negotiate" Dennis Hill's release. Kutner informed the legal advisor the matter was strictly judicial not diplomatic and that, "If the defendant was not released forthwith, this Court will issue a Show Cause Order to which the President will have thirty days to reply."

At 5 p.m., Uganda time, Cecil Hill was released from detention.

On July 27, 2011, The World Court of Human Rights was declared de juris by World Citizen Garry Davis from the War Memorial Opera House from where the United Nations was declared over 66 years prior.

Dr. Luis Kutner's acceptance speech as the Chief Justice of the World Court of Human Rights:

I am indeed honored by this appointment which I accept in all humility. The international community has come to realize that human rights are not an issue to be left solely to the national jurisdiction of individual states. These rights obviously need protection at a higher level within the framework of international law. If the principal aim of society is to protect individuals in the enjoyment of what Blackstone termed "absolute rights," then it follows that the aim of human laws should serve to promote and guard these rights, As the World Coordinator rightly pointed out, this morning's trial dramatically exposed the dilemma faced by the sovereign state. While advocating human rights and even proclaiming them as a "common standard of achievement," as does the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of human Rights, it prosecutes blindly – as the spokesman for the French Government so vividly revealed – a stateless person who, to provide a legitimate framework for his own rights, was obliged to found his own government. I wholly support this action as a logical corollary of 'the U.N.'s proclamation of' the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If we accept the legitimacy of individual choice in political matters-which is, after all, the essence of democracy-then the legitimacy of a world government chosen by millions of ordinary citizens cannot be in doubt. What began as a declaration of intent on December 10, 1948 has been slowly evolving into a global compact, a set of rules that proscribe and prescribe the behavior of governments toward their citizens. There exists today a codified body of international human rights laws that include conventions and covenants on genocide, civil and political, economic and social rights, refugees' and women's rights and racial discrimination. The inter-national community is currently working on instruments to prevent torture, to protect the rights of children and to assure the freedom of religion. While these instruments are not self-enforcing, they do provide means for holding governments accountable. They lead inevitably to this assembly today, We are the citizens concerned, We are the ultimate arbiters of human rights as they are innate and inalienable . Our action today in founding a new court to which the single world citizen can appeal falls within the historical evolution of law itself as an evolving institution. After all, the standards and norms enumerated and outlined in international human rights instruments have not been imposed on any of the nations that are party to then. They are, instead, obligations that governments, having assumed freely and voluntarily, cannot afford to abrogate or disregard under any pretext. The World Court of Human Rights, while not operating under any written world constitution, nonetheless can embody a "world bill of rights" which defines guarantees relating to deprivation of life, inhumane treatment, slavery and forced labor, personal liberty, determination of rights, including procedural safeguards in criminal cases, freedom of conscience, expression, peaceable assembly and movement, freedom from discrimination and prohibition against compulsory acquisition of property without adequate compensation. Indeed the very enunciation and acceptance of these basic human rights implies due process to insure their implementation and punishment to their violators. Such was the premise of the Nuremberg Court. No written world constitution sanctioned the Nuremberg Principles. Yet they were effectively used by the Allies to charge, convict and condemn those accused of the international crimes of war planning, war-making and genocide.

Before this assembly, I pledge my best and most devoted endeavors as Chief Justice of the World Court of Human Rights in the service of the oppressed, the persecuted and the downtrodden. It has been said that the guarantees of personal liberty and impartial justice are the first casualties of a so-called national emergency. Civil courts are too often replaced by military tribunals and the writ of habeas corpus is usually suspended. Inevitably the despicable use of preventive detention replaces the constitutional guarantees of personal liberty. The citizenry then is made to live in a perpetual state of emergency. When that happens, the state becomes an end in itself, a mere summation of the individuals within it. The World Government of World Citizens that you here represent, is the only effective counter- balance to national citizenry becoming national servitude due to suppression of civil liberties in the name of national security and public order. Now the newly declared World Court of Human Rights will take its place as a needful addition to provide a legal refuge. a global asylum, as it were, to our fellow citizens everywhere. I profoundly believe this day's work has the blessings of the Almighty. Thank you.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Kutner, L. "Due Process Of Euthanasia: The Living Will, a proposal". Indiana Law Journal. 1969; 44(4): 539–554.
  2. ^ Luis Kutner, World Habeas Corpus, Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana, 1962.
  3. ^ Vicki C. Jackson, "World Habeas Corpus," 91 Cornell Law Review 303, 309 (January 2006)
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Inventory of the Luis Kutner papers, 1930–1993
  7. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (March 4, 1993). "Luis Kutner, Lawyer Who Fought For Human Rights, Is Dead at 84". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  8. ^ Heise, Kenan. "HUMAN-RIGHTS LEADER LUIS KUTNER, 84". Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  9. ^ Luis Kutner 12/4/69
  10. ^ "Kutner, Luis". Luis Kutner Papers (1916–1981). Chicago Historical Society Library. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  11. ^ Capitalization added for readability.