An indigenous man was charged with physical violence and threats against his ex-partner (a non-indigenous woman), a violation of the Organic Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence (the “statute”), which created special courts with exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases under the statute. The special court issued a restraining order in lieu of detention pending trial. Prosecutors appealed. While the appeal was pending, the man violated the restraining order. The court of appeals vacated the restraining order and ordered detention. On a constitutional appeal to the Supreme Court, the defendant argued that, because of his identity as an indigenous person, his community’s authorities had exclusive jurisdiction to hear the case. The Supreme Court acknowledged that (1) the Organic Law on Indigenous Peoples and Communities creates special jurisdiction authorizing indigenous communities to resolve controversies arising among their members within their lands, (2) this special jurisdiction allows the communities to apply their own laws, and (3) the national courts must recognize the decisions of the communities. But the Court also stressed that international conventions, the national constitution, and special laws (such as the statute) placed limitations on that jurisdiction. The Court cited, for example, Article 9 of the ILO Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which provides that “the methods customarily practiced by the peoples concerned for dealing with offenses committed by their members shall be respected,” but only “[t]o the extent compatible with the national legal system and internationally recognized human rights.” More precisely, the Court noted that the statute itself established that indigenous authorities could serve as agents for receiving complaints of violence against women, but only without prejudice to the victim’s right to seek remedy in the special courts. Based on that analysis, the Court held that the special courts have exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases under the statute, regardless of the defendant’s ethnic identify. Notably, the Court ordered that its holding be published as binding precedent.
Sentencia nº 1325 de Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (Número de Expediente: 11-0645)