(CN) – The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a federal law barring assistance to known foreign terrorist organizations, even when that help includes attempts to broker peace.
The 6-3 ruling rejects a free-speech challenge from humanitarian aid groups like the Humanitarian Law Project, which wanted to help the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, also known as the KKP, in Turkey. The aid group trained the KKP on how to bring human rights complaints before the United Nations, and assisted them in peace talks.
“A person of ordinary intelligence would understand that instruction on resolving disputes through international law falls within the statue’s definition of ‘training’ because it imparts a ‘specific skill,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority.
“Such support frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends,” Roberts wrote.
In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer rejected the court’s conclusion “that the Constitution permits the government to prosecute the plaintiffs criminally for engaging in coordinated teaching and advocacy furthering the designated organizations’ lawful political objectives.”
He continued: “In my view, the government has not met its burden of showing that an interpretation of the statute that would prohibit this speech-and-association related activity serves the government’s compelling interest in combating terrorism.”
The PKK was involved in a violent insurgency that killed 22,000, and was designated by the federal government as a terror organization in 1997.
Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito joined the majority. Breyer was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor in his dissent.