Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic filed an addendum brief with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) this week in the landmark case of a domestic violence survivor. The case of Jessica Lenahan (formerly Gonzales), whose three small girls were kidnapped and murdered by her estranged husband after local police refused to enforce a restraining order against him, marks the first time the tribunal had indicated that countries in the Americas, including the US, may be responsible for protecting victims from private acts of violence under the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, the human rights doctrine adopted in 1948. Kiani was still stoned to death on July 5, 2007. Ebrahimi’s death was stayed due to the public outcry, and last week the Iranian judiciary amnesty commission released her from prison.
Lenahan’s $30 million lawsuit against the Castle Rock police department in Colorado was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2005. The court ruled that Lenahan had no constitutional right to police enforcement of her restraining order, according to the ACLU. The IACHR agreed to hear the case in October 2007.
“Jessica Lenahan was forced to turn to an international body because the U.S. legal system failed to provide her with a bare modicum of justice,” said Araceli Martinez-Olguin, a lawyer with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, according to the Denver Post. “We hope that this action will ensure that other domestic-violence survivors in this country and all of the Americas have legal recourse when their human rights are violated by their governments.”