Friday, October 2, 2009

U.S. Faces Human Rights Charges Related to Minutemen Vigilantes

From the Border Action Network:

Inter-American Commission Takes on Human Rights Case

Against U.S. for Not Prosecuting Border Vigilante Groups

Residents of Douglas, Arizona recall Minutemen driving through their small downtown area randomly asking people walking down the street if they had "papers."  Since those early days of border vigilante groups patrolling the border and border towns, harassment and racial profiling has continued. Currently, a Minuteman member faces charges for murdering an Arivaca, Arizona man and his child this summer.

The Border Action Network, an Arizona-based human rights organization, believes that the U.S. government should be held to task for turning a blind eye to the groups. "Anti-immigrant vigilantism continues to plague Arizona and the border region," explains Jennifer Allen, Border Action's Executive Director.

"We tried everything possible to get local, state and federal officials to address rights violations and criminal behavior of these groups who act like they are above the rule of law. We found that no one had the courage or political will to prosecute them. In some cases, we found collusion between the government and vigilantes."

The group filed a petition with the Organization of American States (OAS) in April 2005.  Last week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS ruled that it will hear the case filed by the Border Action Network alleging human rights violations by the United States for allowing anti-immigrant vigilante groups to operate along the US/Mexico border. 

The decision, which allows the case to move forward to the merits stage, comes after four years of legal submissions and a hearing before the Commission in Washington, DC in March 2008.  The Border Action Network has also asked the Commission for an interim order to stop vigilante violence while the case is heard, in response to the recent murder of the family in Arivaca by members of the Minutemen American Defense.

"The Commission only processes about 10% of the petitions they receive.  This important milestone allows the case to move forward and the Commission to determine whether the U.S. government has a duty to prevent and sanction these vigilante groups," says Seánna Howard of the University of Arizona, attorney for the Border Action Network.

The ruling by the Commission coincides with the launch of a new border vigilante group, the Patriot Coalition, which was scheduled to patrol the border in Cochise County, Arizona from September 18th to October 15th. The Coalition's patrols were cut short when the group's leader, a previous colleague of Minuteman leader Chris Simcox, fell ill and was hospitalized.

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