Seeking A New Ally to Curb Domestic Violence


Jessica Gonzales called the
police in Castle Rock, Colorado, seven times on the night in June 1999,
when her estranged husband abducted her three daughters, ages 7, 8 and
10. For seven hours after he took them, she pleaded with the police
to go after him, to enforce the restraining order she had against him. 

They ignored her appeals. 
Then, at 3:20 a.m., her husband drove up to the police station
in his pickup truck and began shooting. The police shot back, killing
him. They found the bodies of the three girls in the back of the truck,
slain by their father’s semi-automatic. 

On Wednesday, Jessica Gonzales
(now Jessica Lenahan) saw the United States called to account
for its inaction when her case came before the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights. The hearing will determine whether the government’s
failure to enforce the restraining order violated Ms. Gonzales’ rights
under international human rights law. In turning to this body, she is
trying to help domestic violence survivors across the country, and indeed
throughout the hemisphere.

The commission, part of the
Organization of American States, has taken up the subject of domestic
violence before and ruled against Brazil in a similar case. But this
is the first time it has taken a case from the United States. A ruling
against the United States will place into sharp focus gaps in the protection
it offers its citizens.  

If the Inter-American Commission
finds for Ms. Gonzales, it can order damages from the U.S. government, or
recommend structural recommendations to avoid similar situations arising the in
the future.  The Commission also generally engages in regular follow-up
conversations with the government in question–here the U.S. government–to make
sure its recommendations are duly considered and implemented.  In
addition, while the Commission’s decisions perhaps are not enforceable in the
way we are used to think of enforceability–with police orders or ultimately
jail–they carry significant moral weight.

Although the US has always
considered itself a human rights leader, it has been reluctant to take
part in some of the worldwide mechanisms promoting human rights. It
is not a party to a number of important international human rights
treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination against Women, the American Convention on Human Rights,
and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.    

But this case serves as a
reminder that the need for the US to engage  with human rights
is not an academic exercise.
The human rights framework offers hope to women in this country, and
indeed to everyone, that they have someplace to turn if
they are denied help in their own country and that they can send a message
to the government that it needs to do much more to protect basic human
rights.  

Ms. Gonzales first brought
her case in US courts, but the system did not offer a remedy for the
grievous harm she had suffered. Her case wound its way up to the Supreme
Court, which ruled in June 2005 that Ms. Gonzales did not have a constitutional
right to the enforcement of the restraining order against her husband.  

In contrast, under international
human rights law, governments have a responsibility to protect against
and provide a remedy for violence against women, as outlined in a friend-of-the-court
brief in this case filed by Human Rights Watch and numerous women’s
rights organizations. In finding this case admissible, the Inter-American
Commission effectively acknowledged that it is the duty of the government
to protect its citizens against domestic violence. Human Rights Watch
has urged the Commission to find that the United States
failed to fulfill that obligation when the police ignored Ms. Gonzales’
pleas for enforcement of the restraining order. 

Beyond the realm of domestic
violence, human rights law offers remedies and standards currently unavailable
under domestic law. For example, international human right law recognizes
a right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes
access to good quality health care. While polls indicate most Americans
believe the government should guarantee health insurance, our legal
system does not recognize such a right and millions of uninsured Americans
go without care.  

Opponents of US involvement
in the international human rights mechanisms contend that the
advanced legal system in the US precludes the need for involvement in
international human rights treaties. They say that we should protect
our sovereignty and not let other nations dictate our laws.  

However, the failure of the
legal system to provide a remedy to Ms. Gonzales points clearly to
gaps in the US system, gaps that imperil women and indeed all of us.
Engaging with the international system on these issues neither denigrates
our system nor sacrifices our democratic process. On the contrary, 
when we withdraw from the international human rights framework and
decline to participate in the international conversation on these issues,
we are ceding opportunity to provide leadership and to assert our values.  

As a start, the United States
needs to ratify the international treaties it has thus far neglected
and take an active role in international deliberations on human rights. 
But the United States also has a responsibility at home to make certain
that our citizens have the basic rights and protections they need to
enjoy our freedoms.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

  • invalid-0

    At this moment as we watch news and skimming in the newspapers about the things that happens in our surroundings, domestic abuse or violence is always in the list. Making an absolute solution to help prevent this kind of predicament is well needed for us to protect the rights of the people and to control the fastest growing demand of this crime. Payday loans and payday loan lenders have been getting bad press for a long time, but sometimes there are positive reasons to get payday loans and a lot of positive stories about responsible people who have used them before. This testimonial is about a woman who married a man who turned out not to be who she thought he was, at all. She was trapped in a bad situation as a result of this tumultuous union, and needed an out that she wouldn’t be able to achieve without emergency funds. She had the help and support of her friends, and with fast payday loans, she was able to get her life moving again. Click here to read the full story or learn about payday loans.

  • http://www.win365bingo.com invalid-0

    I would like to start this by saying that this story is heart wrenching to me. I’m a mother of two daughters and a son that are the world to me. I would die before I would let anything happen to them. In saying that I understand that some times its easier said then done. I think that’s where anyone that will listen to your story can help them and get them out fast.
    My husband and I lived on base ten years ago and we had a couple that was our friends. She went into the marriage with two beautiful daughters and the were so cute. Well a month into the marriage her husband took the phone and all outside privileges away mind you this is his wife. Come to find out when I would sneak to see her he was being abusive to her daughters and allowing the rottweiler to bit them and laughing the hole time cause they weren’t his and he didn’t care.
    After I had found all this info out I went to my husbands first Sargent and told him I had a very disturbing matter to discuss with him. Do you know that he helped me by doing some research. Come to find out his first wife did up and leave him because he was abusing her and they were never divorced so my friend wasn’t even married. The ex was pregnant and had not wanted the baby to be around her husband at all. I do have to say that we raised the money to get her back to her family and try and keep her safe. He is at this time still in military prison not for abuse but for lying to the government. When he is done with that he will go back for the abuse on federal property.
    I do think that we need to look into helping out these women that can’t help themselves. I think that women with children should be the first priority. If we don’t save our kids who do we save?

  • invalid-0

    It’s such a sad story that these tragedies happen. The police should have acted much quicker than they did being there was already probable cause for the restraining order to be in place to begin with. Jessica Simpson shoes is my site if you want to check it out. I know men usually commit 95% of domestic violence but being a father of three I’d die if anything like this happened to my babies.

  • http://metroductcleaning.com invalid-0

    It is amazing that someone can be pleading and end up with such a tragedy. It is as if the police are numb to things and then it blows up in their face. It is also a problem that she is not able to settle with the supreme court.

  • invalid-0

    I don’t get why an abduction was not taken seriously by the police. That is a big issue in itself…not based on the system but moreso on the actual officers involved in terms of their attitudes. Do they not have families of their own??? Are they not supposed to protect innocent lives that come in harms or potential harms way? Although the ruling in her favour would be good…attitudes still need to change about this matter…which is more than what a ruling could simply do.

    Christopher

    =============================

    Atlanta Home Mortgage Loan

  • http://www.tropicalfish.be invalid-0

    This is a big tragedy and for me the question come up: WHY?! Why did Jessica Gonzales husband this, why didn´t the police act immediately and why does law take so long?!This big catastrophe started with the police officers when they ignored her appeals. It is incomprehensible their action or we should say inactivity! 3 small girls had to pay for it!

  • http://www.tropicalfish.be invalid-0

    This is a big tragedy and for me the question come up: WHY?! Why did Jessica Gonzales husband this, why didn´t the police act immediately and why does law take so long?!This big catastrophe started with the police officers when they ignored her appeals. It is incomprehensible their action or we should say inactivity! 3 small girls had to pay for it!

  • ceejay2005

    I do think that we need to look into helping out these women that can’t help themselves. I think that women with children should be the first priority. If we don’t save our kids who do we save? Instant Payday Loans

     
  • http://www.dietpillsreviews.co.uk invalid-0

    Why ? To people asking why, I would say : why was this person in possession of a gun ? Did he really need it ? If he wasn’t with a gun, who know what would have happened…

    Don’t we realize there are tons of guns in circulation in US. This is a real risk. In my country, all people in possession of a rifle had to return in back to police. Now they’re all destroyed.

    For people reading French :

    http://www.just.fgov.be/fr_htm/ordre_judiciaire/loi_sur_les_armes/index.html

    H.

  • http://www.dp-db.com/pc-tattletale invalid-0

    This is a great tragedy. Indeed it is, and I feel sorry for all involved. However, I have to disagree with some of the comments here. It seems that everybody things that the police should have intervened right away and that by so doing this tragedy could be averted.
    And yes, maybe it could. But the thing that most people don’t understand is that the police have their own regulation that they have to follow. And that these regulations are there for a reason. If you would want to make it possible for the police to follow up on every such claim, possibly with all the necessary resources, then you would need to have at least 10 times as many officers as there are. Hell, maybe 100 times as many.
    So because their numbers are limited, the police officers must choose which cases to pursue. They have to make difficult decisions every day. Do they mobilize all of their forces every time that a high school kid calls in a bomb threat (most likely to avoid a test)? What to do when a mother calls saying that her son has disappeared because she missed the curfew for a couple of hours? What to do when a women claims that her husband has updated her (and his too) kids?
    So yes, I agree with all of you that the police should act in this case. But I can understand why they didn’t.

  • http://www.timpenny.com invalid-0

    Just another example of the authorities not taking domestic violence serious. Come on, she had a restraining order for a reason! What is going to take make the folks who’s jobs are to serve and protect to take these things serious in order to prevent tradegy?

  • http://www.talkinghomloans.com invalid-0

    It was a very sad feeling to read this real life story of a father killing his own children. How can some people do this? Those children must have been the same ones who that father must have felt proud of when they were born. Jessica’s husband was no less than a terrorist, who have no mercy on people of any age. My sympathies are with Jessica and I hope she gets a fair deal from the human rights law enforcements.

    P.S.

    For regular information on home loans and car loans visit my blog by clicking the links.

  • http://generalclick.blogspot.com/2009/01/fix-pc-errors.html invalid-0

    nice post and great information thank you very much.

  • http://www.consumerdietreview.com invalid-0

    Thanks for your post and great information. You are right on point. The failure of the legal system to provide a remedy to Ms. Gonzales points clearly to gaps in the US system, gaps that imperil women…Thanks.