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Published May 11, 2007

Interview with Dianne Post, J.D.

Dianne Post, J.D., author of the petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, is a 1980 graduate of the University of Wisconsin law school, and has worked on issues of gender based violence since 1976.

Post has worked in over 14 countries to design and implement fundamental legal, policy and programmatic reform on issues related to gender equality. Post is a gender specialist who works with vulnerable populations, especially women and children, in developing, transitional and developed countries to achieve their human rights and freedom from violence.   

Post is a gender expert in gender based violence against women and children including domestic violence, sex-trafficking, prostitution and pornography. In addition to gender issues, Post has worked intensely on issues of discrimination related to African-Americans and the Roma in Europe. She works with governments, foreign aid agencies, and other partners to create, reform or implement laws, train actors in the government and criminal justice sectors and empower vulnerable populations.

Post’s publications include articles in academic, law, and policy journals as well as editorials in the press and creation of policy and implementation manuals.  She has been published by Yale and Columbia law schools, German Technical Assistance, the Kennan Institute and the Journal of Gender Studies in the United States, South Africa, Cambodia, the Netherlands, Malaysia, France, Lima, Peru, Sudan, and Russia.
In June 2003, while working as director of public policy at the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Post authored the
Arizona Battered Mother’s Testimony Project: a human rights approach to domestic violence and child custody.

Post also consults on international cases having filed cases and had oral argument in the European Court of Human Rights, with United Nations bodies and with the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights

For more information, see her website at http://www.diannepost.net/


What do you hope to accomplish by filing this petition?

The petition has many aims.  One aim is awareness of the depth and breadth of the problem across the U.S.  Most importantly is the need for accountability in the state and federal courts for decisions that violate the black letter law, violate due process and violate the human rights of both protective parents and victimized children.  We seek the safety of children and a change in the system that permits these violations to continue.

Why are there so few cases, and how were they chosen?

The procedures of the Commission do not provide for a class action law suit as known in the U.S.  Therefore, a sample of cases was chosen to illustrate the depth and breadth of the problem.  A multitude of academic and experiental studies have proven that these cases are typical of thousands across the U.S. Not all those who asked to be included were.  First, it would have been duplicative and very time consuming.  Second, cases were chosen by how well they illustrated the myriad of problems addressed in the petition.  They include physical violence, sexual abuse, violation of due process and other issues specifically in violation of the provisions of the Declaration. 

What authority does the IACHR have over the US courts?

The IACHR is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS). Its mandate is found in the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights  . The Commission provides recourse to individuals who have suffered violations of their rights and works with States to help strengthen the laws and institutions that provide human rights protections.

The IACHR has no authority over U.S. courts, per se.  However, the U.S. federal government is a member of the Organization of American States.  And the U.S. federal government is responsible for seeing that the federal government and all subsidiary and lower organs of government comply with the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man

The IACHR has authority as the implementer of the Declaration of the Rights and Responsibilities of Man.  Unfortunately, the U.S. has often ignored the rulings of the IACHR.  However, according to the U. S. Constitution, international law has priority and can be applied in domestic courts.  While it is not a common practice in the U.S. it is growing.

What is involved in the process and how long will it take?

The procedure at the IACHR is a two-step process - admissibility and merits.  First the IACHR determines that the petition as filed meets the minimum requirements and if so, forwards to the U.S. for a response.  After their response and a reply from the petitioners, they will make a decision on admissibility.  Secondly, they will focus on merits and allow the U.S. to respond to the substantive claims made.  Likewise, the petitioners will have an ability to reply.  The possibility of settlement will be offered.  If not, the Commission will make the merits decision and recommendations for resolving the violations of human rights that they find after evaluation of all the submissions.  The process can take upwards of four years. 

Why did you pick the IACHR to file the complaint with? 

The U.S. has not signed many international instruments related to human rights.  Most importantly, it has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women or acceded to the International Criminal Court.  Likewise, it has not signed the InterAmerican Convention on Human Rights nor the InterAmerican instrument on violence against women.  Thus the possible remedies are limited in the international arena.  However, since it is a member of the Organization of American States, it is obligated to abide by the Declaration of the Rights and Responsibilities of Man enforced by the Inter American Commission.  The Declaration has specific provisions focusing on discrimination, due process and protection of children.  The Commission has a positive record on cases of gender based violence. 

Are there other  International bodies that we can also file complaints with? 

We cannot file the same complaint in another international venue at the same time. There are few international venues we can bring a complaint against the U.S. due to its refusal to sign conventions.  No other international convention or regional convention that the U.S. has signed gives us as direct a method with specific mention of women and children and family. We could have  filed a 1503 complaint with the new Human Rights Committee at the U.N. but I didn't think it was as good a remedy as this one. 
 

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