Amnesty Letter to NYTs Editor re: Indian Justice

From NYTs:

Re “Broken Justice in Indian Country” (Op-Ed, Aug. 11):

N. Bruce Duthu rightly points to the need to restore tribal authority over cases of rape and sexual assault committed against Native American and Alaska Native women and to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.

Senator Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota recently introduced legislation that would be a tremendous step in this direction. The bill should be strengthened in collaboration with tribal leaders and then passed.

It is also critical to ensure that all available forensic evidence is gathered promptly and correctly after these crimes are reported. Amnesty International researchers have found that often it is not.

Native women who report rape may not get a police response for hours or days, especially in rural areas. Many Indian Health Service hospitals lack personnel trained to provide emergency services to victims of sexual assault. If a rape kit is not administered or is administered improperly, the chances that the perpetrator will be brought to justice are greatly diminished.

Congress should help by increasing financing to ensure that there are enough police officers on tribal lands to respond to these crimes and that sexual assault nurse examiner programs are established in all Indian Health Service hospitals. Larry Cox

Executive Director

Amnesty International USA

New York, Aug. 12, 2008