Case Study: Engaging the Inter-American system to address violence against women Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States The case of Jessica Lenahan, now Gonzales, a domestic violence victim whose three daughters were killed after police in Colorado failed to enforce restricting order against her husband. Lenahan repeatedly called the police after her husband, who was subject to a domestic violence restraining order, kidnapped their three daughters. Police in Castle Rock, Colorado, failed to respond to her calls and 10 hours later, he drove his pick-up truck to the local police station and opened fire. The police returned fire, killing him. The bodies of Lenahan’s daughters were found dead in the back of the truck. To this day, it is unknown who killed the children. In 2005 the court held that there is no constitutional protection due process interest in having the police enforce a domestic violence restricting order. After losing the ability to bring the case in a US court, Lenahan filed a petition with the Inter American Commission alleging human rights violations under the American Declaration. In 2011 the decision of the Commission stated that the US government is violating the right to life and special protection for children, the right to access judicial remedies and the right to equality and non-discrimination for its failure to prevent violence against women. The Commission issue recommendations for changes to US law and policy regarding domestic violence. This ruling means that even if violations are committed in the private sphere by private actors, governments still bear the responsibility of a due diligence investigation. Even though the US recognized the necessity to protect the petitioner and her daughters from domestic violence, it failed to meet this duty with due diligence. The restriction orders are important part in cases of domestic violence, however, they can be effective only if they are diligently enforced. Additionally, the failure to offer an effective response to protect Jessica Lenahan and her daughters, the US has committed an act of discrimination, and a violation of the right to life and special protection of children under the American Declaration. Finally, the US failed to investigate the circumstances of the death of the three girls. After 11 years of the death of the girls, the cause, time and place of their death was not clarified. With this type of attitude towards violence against girl-children and women in general, the US sends a message that this events would be tolerated and that must be changed. The failure to effectively address domestic violence, in part is because domestic violence is perceived as a family – and therefore “private” – matter. This mindset can affect law enforcement officers when they need to provide protection of domestic violence. In this view, the failure to protect a victim of domestic violence is seen as an “unfortunate tragedy,” rather than a failure of the state to protect a victim. In contrast, put simply, laws and policies regarding domestic violence should be guided by a different understanding – that it is the justice system’s duty to prevent abuse perpetrated by private actors. The Commission recommended that the government conduct an investigation into the cause, time and place of the girls’ deaths and the systemic failures of the Castle Rock police department to enforce the domestic violence restraining order. It also recommended that the government provide compensation to Lenahan and her family and adopt reforms at the federal and state levels to ensure protection from domestic violence. The US considers this recommendations not binding and there is no mechanism to enforce them. They can only be used for naming and shaming which is common in the international community, however it is not clear of how will help on a domestic level to bring actual changes when there is no accountability The first reading after explaining the case briefly, criticizes the need for international bodies to bring decisions for matters that according to the editor should be addressed and decided in the US courts. This undermines the US sovereignty The failure to effectively address domestic violence, in part is because domestic violence is perceived as a family – and therefore “private” – matter. This mindset can affect law enforcement officers when they need to provide protection of domestic violence. In this view, the failure to protect a victim of domestic violence is seen as an “unfortunate tragedy,” rather than a failure of the state to protect a victim. In contrast, put simply, laws and policies regarding domestic violence should be guided by a different understanding – that it is the justice system’s duty to prevent abuse perpetrated by private actors. Effort to incorporate IACHR decision at the local level Between 2011 and 2014, many states passed local resolutions that recognize freedom from domestic violence as a human right. The resolution of Miami Dade Board of County Commissioners cites to international human rights law and to the landmark case of Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States. The resolution reframed domestic violence as a human rights issue. The resolution serve as a declaration to assure citizens “that state and local governments bear a moral responsibility to secure this human right on behalf of their residents.” This resolution goes a step further, in that they direct local officials to incorporate the principles contained in the resolutions into governmental policies and practices. By using the language of the resolution, Miami-Dade County (FL) Commission amended its antidiscrimination ordinance in July 2014, adding victims of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking to the list of protected classes regarding discrimination in employment, family leave, and housing accommodations. This resolutions can be a powerful tool to bring changes. By pointing out that local government agencies need to incorporate the principles of the resolution in their policies and practices, emphasizes the role that the local government including police officials can have in protecting against domestic violence. Law enforcement plays a crucial role in addressing and decreasing incidences of domestic and intimate partner violence. Problems arise when allegations are made that police do not take domestic violence seriously, because it consider it as a family problem and, therefore, inappropriate for police action. Laws and policies regarding domestic violence should be guided by a different understanding – that it is the justice system’s duty to prevent abuse perpetrated by private actors. What do you think about the resolution emphasizing the role of local government agencies in protecting against domestic violence? Amicus brief filed in the appeal to the New York Court of Appeals Case: Carmen Valdez et al. Valdez v. City of New York Carmen Valdez sued the City of New York for breaching its duty to protect her after she notified a domestic violence detective that her former boyfriend, against whom she had order of protection, had threatened to kill her. Dispute the assurance for the officer that the police would arrest the former boyfriend for violating the order for protection, the police took no action and the next day he shot Carmen Valdez causing her permanent injuries. A jury found in favor of Valdez and awarded her for the damage. However, an appellate court overturned the verdict on ground that Valdez was not justified in relying on the police. An amicus brief was filled in the appeal to the New York Court of Appeals. The amicus brief relays on international and regional treaties that acknowledge the due diligence obligations of states to adopt measures to prevent domestic violence to happen in the first place, to investigate it when it does, and punish the perpetrator. Additionally, the state needs to provide compensation and redress for the victims. The amicus brief uses the Lenahan case in addressing the need for a national courts to provide remedies to victims. The arguments in the brief could have been made stronger by using the Lenahan case to advocate for higher law enforcement accountability especially in cases when police inaction increases the survivor’s risk of violence. The ineffective law enforcement response could be seen as a police misconduct. Additionally, the Lenahan case can be used to emphasize the importance of protection order enforcement in the fight against domestic violence. Is there any other ways that the Lenahan case could have been used to straighten the arguments of this amicus brief?