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Greater Authority Sought for Tribal Courts

Posted Apr 25, 2007 2:37 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Amnesty International is asking Congress to give the American Indian tribes authority to prosecute cases against any offender on Indian land and to impose sentences commensurate with the crimes.

The call for action comes in a report detailing the problems of sexual violence against Native Americans. The document says more than one in three American Indian or Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetimes, almost double the national average.

"The majority of perpetrators go unpunished as many indigenous women never report the abuse committed against them, while those who do report it find other barriers to justice,” the group says. “The U.S. government has created a complex maze of federal, state and tribal authorities. As a consequence, indigenous women are being denied justice.”

Tribal courts have jurisdiction over Native Americans only and can impose punishments of up to a year in jail, according to a story in the New York Times.

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