Congress passes Tribal Law and Order Act provisions in H.R. 725!

HUGE thanks and a heartfelt congratulations to everyone who has been involved in Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Women work, and in particular, the work to end sexual violence and rape against Native American and Alaska Native women in the U.S.

The House just passed H.R. 725, to which the Tribal Law and Order Act was attached as an amendment, by a vote of 326 yays to 92 nays. This historic and long-overdue legislation will now go to President Obama to be signed into law!!

This will be the major solution for the long-overdue problem of disturbing rates of sexual violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women.

In 2007, Amnesty International published a report titled Maze of Injustice: The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA that exposed the disproportionately high levels of rape and sexual violence that Native American and Alaska Native women suffer in this country. Additionally, it detailed the complex maze of tribal, state and federal jurisdictions that often allows perpetrators, 86 percent of them non-Native men, to rape with impunity. This maze currently dictates that authorities need to establish whether the crime took place on tribal lands and whether the perpetrator was Native or non-Native before prosecuting, meaning that critical time is lost. This leads to inadequate investigations or a failure to respond.

The provisons of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 will remedy this maze as it will enhance the criminal justice system by improving coordination and communication between federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies as well provide beginning steps to empower tribal governments to take more direct action in cases of violent crime. In time it will decrease the high levels of rape and finally provide Native women with effective recourse if they are sexually assaulted. This is a major victory for Native women as it is a critical step toward ensuring that Native women’s human rights are recognized.

Our deepest respect, appreciation and congratulations to all of our members and activists, tribal leaders and Native advocates, friends, family and colleagues – without you this incredible victory would not have been possible.

Congress Moves on the 2009 Tribal Law and Order Act

On Thursday, December 10th, the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing to discuss the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009, for which AIUSA was invited to submit written testimony. The bill, a close approximation of the early Senate draft of the bill, would make crucial and desperately needed reforms in tribal justice systems, helping to address the epidemic of sexual violence against Native American and Alaska Native women and girls.

Over the last few years, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) has worked to document the disconcerting realities of law enforcement in Indian Country, especially as they impact the capacity and ability to prevent and respond to sexual violence against women and girls. Our research found that Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the United States in general. In recent months, as both the House and Senate have made headway in pushing their respective bills through committee, it seems that Congressional leaders are finally realizing the true urgency of reforming tribal law enforcement.

Both bills would make crucial steps in ensuring justice in Indian Country. These bills mandate and create structures for improving communication, transparency, and data sharing between tribal, state, and Federal agencies, increase tribal prosecutorial authorities, expand and emphasize the importance of data collection and analysis, and call for the US Attorney General’s Office to document cases it refuses to prosecute. The bills also require training for law enforcement personnel on how to respond to domestic and sexual violent crimes and require Indian Health Services to improve services for victims of sexual assault.