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The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has announced a significant step forward in the pursuit of justice for the families of victims killed by U.S. Border Patrol Agents along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In September 2020, the families filed a Petition with the Inter-American Commission, a principal branch of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mission is to promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere.

The Petition, filed by Austin-based law firm Hilliard Shadowen LLP, alleges that the U.S. Border Patrol’s “Rocking Policy”—which allowed agents to use lethal force even in the absence of an imminent threat—violated international human rights standards. The Petition alleges that “The Border Patrol’s paramilitary culture and Rocking Policy resulted in a staggering body count. The deaths of alleged rock-throwers included people shot in the back; shot by rifle from more than 50 yards away; shot while across the border in Mexico; shot 10 times; and shot from patrol boats that could easily have maneuvered away.”

This week, the Commission announced it has relayed the Petition to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken for comment. Under the IACHR’s Rules of Procedure, the United States will have up to four months to provide an official response to the claims.

Until then, the IACHR notes that it is “at the disposal of the petitioners and the State to reach a friendly settlement on the basis of respect for the human rights recognized in the American Convention, the American Declaration, or other applicable instruments.”

Attorney for the Petitioners, Nicholas Shadowen, states that “the Commission’s decision underscores the critical role of international mechanisms in holding nations accountable for human rights violations” and that “we will use all proceedings and channels to ensure that the principles of due process and the right to life are upheld.”

The Petition can be accessed here:

Hilliard Shadowen LLP specializes in complex cases involving economic and social justice. The firm’s team of experienced attorneys has steered some of the decade’s landmark litigation, including leading pharmaceutical antitrust cases, transnational gun trafficking litigation, and border-shooting litigation.

Elisabeth Tabor
Hilliard Shadowen