Jessica Gonzales v. The United States of America (amicus) Historic Case

At a Glance

Date Filed: 

October 1, 2008

Current Status 

The IACHR found in favor of the Ms. Lenahan

Case Description 

In 2005, the Supreme Court rule 7-2 that Jessica Gonzales, now Jessica Lenahan, could not sue the town of Castle Rock or its police department for failing to enforce a restraining order, which led to the murder of her three daughters by her estranged husband who had abducted the children. Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005). Ms. Lenahan continued her search for justice at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).  She filed a petition in December 2005, which asserts that domestic violence victims have the right to be protected by the state from the violent acts of their abusers. Following Ms. Lenahan's testimony before the IACHR in March 2007, her petition was deemed admission.

CCR submitted an amicus brief, with CUNY's International Women's Human Rights Clinic, in support of Ms. Lenahan to the IACHR. Establishing that domestic violence is a form of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under international law, we assert that the United States breached its obligations under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and international law in failing to prevent and redress violence against women. Specifically, CCR and IWHR assert that the "failure to exercise due diligence here thus includes failure to prevent such violence, protect the victims, investigate the deaths of [Jessica (Gonzales) Lenahan's] daughters and the police failure to intervene, and provide reparations in accordance with applicable regional and international law...By making clear that state acquiescence in severe domestic violence constitutes a jus cogens norm, this Commission will provide justice to the Petitioner as well as enhance the possibility of effective State response to end impunity of perpetrators and the complicity States as well as providing Ms. Gonzales [Lenahan] with reparations and potential healing that justice for torture requires."

On October 22, the IACHR heard Ms. Lenahan's claims on the merits.