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Soon the U.S. will require that all children adopted by U.S. citizens have their DNA matched to the purported birth mother before they leave the country, to ensure that it is the same baby that was originally given up for adoption. This is welcome news for those of us who follow the child robbery crisis in Guatemala where the adoption process has historically had little oversight, which has resulted in child trafficking. Of course, this isn’t a solution, but it’s a step in the right direction.


In April, Amnesty USA issued a report on the denial of justice to Native American women who have been victims of sexual assault. Native American women suffer sexual assault at 2.5 times the rate of the general population, but due to the complex relationship between State, Federal and Tribal law a majority of sexual assaults cannot be or are not prosecuted. When sexual assaults occur on tribal lands, tribal authorities can only prosecute the offense if both the victim and perpetrator are members of that tribe. Tribal courts may not impose sentences longer than one year, significantly less than is usual for sex crimes convictions in other courts. However, 80% of victims describe their attackers as non-native. In those cases, crimes occurring on tribal land must be referred to federal authorities; a majority of such cases are never prosecuted. NPR’s All Things Considered reports several cases where Tribal law enforcement officers’ attempts to report such crimes to the US Attorneys were ignored by Federal authorities (the US Attorneys’ Offices declined to be interviewed for the report).


Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, recently stated “A good percentage of African-Americans are leery of our Justice Department. When there hasn’t been a real effort to deal with [unsolved civil rights slayings] how can we count on them to provide the support and protection we need today?”

For you users of the Inter-American system, my question is this: might it be a good strategy to file petitions before the Commission based upon individual murders in which there appears never to have been an investigation that meets international standards?