Sunday, March 18, 2018

III. Admissibility

A. The Commission has the Jurisdiction and the Competence to Hear this Complaint

As a member of the Organization of American States ("OAS") and a signatory to the Charter of the OAS, the United States is subject to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ("IACHR" or "Commission"). Additionally, in accordance with Article 23 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure, Petitioner has standing to petition the Commission. As an individual U.S. citizen, Eric Garner (and his family in his stead) is owed the respect and surety of the U.S., as described in the OAS Charter and the American Declaration. Finally, the Commission has consistently affirmed its jurisdiction and competence to hear cases with the United States as a party when cases also allege violations of the American Declaration.

The Commission's competence is thus avowed through ratione loci and ratione temporis: this petition alleges human rights violations that occurred in the U.S. territory of New York in 2014. The United States ratified the OAS charter in 1951, many decades before the death of Eric Garner, thus affixing this petition in the proper time and place for consideration by this Commission. Therefore, by virtue of the United States' membership in the OAS and ratification of the American Declaration, the Commission has the jurisdiction and competence to admit the complaint of petitioner against his state of citizenship, the United States.

B. The Petitioners Have Exhausted Domestic Remedies

The Commission requires the pursuit and subsequent exhaustion of all available domestic legal remedies according to international law. The IACHR Rules of Procedure, however, explicitly provide for exceptions to this prerequisite where domestic law lacks due process, when unnecessary delays prevent a reasonable provision of remedies, or where the petitioner has been denied access to remedies, or otherwise prevented from exhausting them. Moreover, the Commission has long recognized that, in order for a domestic remedy to be subject to the exhaustion requirement, it must be an "available, appropriate, and effective [remedy] for solving the presumed *42 violation of human rights."

Additionally, the IACHR acknowledges that "in cases ... concerning alleged criminal acts by the public force, the appropriate recourse is usually investigation and criminal prosecution," not civil suits that provide only monetary damages. Criminal prosecution is the preferred recourse because the Commission has established that, while domestic legal systems may contain multiple routes to some remedies, not all remedies are effective and applicable when viewed in light of the particular facts of each case.

In the U.S. legal system, particularly in the state of New York where the alleged violations took place, all felony cases must be presented to a Grand Jury. A Grand Jury is empowered to hear evidence and possible charges presented only by the state prosecutor. Thus, all charges, witnesses, and evidence are submitted at the discretion of that prosecutor. If a Grand Jury fails to indict an alleged perpetrator, criminal prosecution is effectively impossible, as this decision cannot be appealed. The New York Grand Jury failed to indict in Mr. Garner's death, and the district attorney granted all other state actors involved in the death of Mr. Garner, including five other police officers, immunity to any criminal action. Petitioners are now estopped from obtaining any criminal remedy for the death of their father due to the New York Grand Jury's failure to green light the trial by jury that constitutes one of the most basic, traditional protections of due process in the United States.

The Garner family's civil claim against the police department that settled for 5.9 million dollars does not preclude petitioners from satisfying the exhaustion requirement. Although the claim was willingly settled pre-litigation, compensation is not an effective remedy in the context of systemic civil rights injustices. An appropriate remedy for such wrongs, committed through the inevitable power imbalance between citizens and the public force, requires criminal prosecution and broad rehabilitation, as suggested by petitioners and this Commission. Accordingly, petitioners have satisfied the Commission's exhaustion requirements by meeting at least two of the exceptions recognized by Article 31(2) of the Rules of Procedure: prevention of due process and *43 lack of an effective, appropriate remedy.

C. Submission of this Complaint is Within the Appropriate Timeframe

Although a submission to the IACHR is generally required within six months of final domestic adjudication, in those cases wherein exhaustion exceptions apply, the Commission is tasked with determining a reasonable timeframe as applicable to the circumstances of each case. Here, it has been less than three years since the violations of the American Declaration occurred. During the last three years, petitioners have continuously engaged in efforts to pursue additional, extraordinary remedies at the state level; this has included efforts to unseal the Grand Jury transcripts and to convince the District Attorney to resubmit Mr. Garner's case to that Grand Jury. The failure of these efforts is the impetus for the petitioners' submission of this complaint, which is timely and reasonable in light of the surrounding legal conditions.

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