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Summary Of A Recent Decision Granting CAT Relief To A Victim Of Domestic Violence
by Denise Visconti

In the Matter of Diebo Kuna, Respondent.

On August 1, 2000, after more than 28 months at the INS Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, NJ, Ms. Diebo Kuna, 51, of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), was granted withholding of removal pursuant to the Convention Against Torture ("CAT").

Kuna, a victim of atrocious persecution and torture at the hands of her husband, had been previously denied asylum and statutory withholding of removal by both the Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals ("Board"). In fact, in February, Ms. Kuna was hours away from being returned to her native Congo after the Board denied her a stay of removal pending determination of her Motion to Reopen and Remand to apply for relief under the Torture Convention. Fortunately, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit stepped in and issued an emergency stay of removal, which prevented the INS from removing Ms. Kuna while her asylum appeal was pending. The Board subsequently reopened and remanded Ms. Kuna's case back to the Immigration Judge for consideration of her Torture Convention claim.

Upon remand, the Immigration Judge ("IJ") found that the "brutal and deplorable acts of domestic violence against her," constituted torture and thereby rendered her eligible for withholding of removal under the CAT. Additionally, in finding that Congolese "police [were] aware of the chronic instances of domestic abuse, and despite their legal responsibility to intervene, fail[ed] to act in a preventative or protective manner," the IJ determined that Congolese authorities gave "the respondent's husband an implicit license to torture her with impunity." Thus, according to the IJ, "the respondent is exactly the type of individual the Torture Convention was designed to protect."

Though CAT relief is not perfect, as it will not permit Ms. Kuna to bring her four children whom she so desperately misses to the U.S., it nevertheless has saved Ms. Kuna from return to Congo and certain death at the hands of her husband. At this point, Ms. Kuna is just happy to finally be free.

Since her release, Ms. Kuna has been trying to contact friends with whom she was detained in Elizabeth to share the news of her release. Ms. Kuna is beginning English classes this week at Jewish Family Services in Newark, NJ, and, once she obtains authorization from the INS to accept employment, she hopes to get a job and begin to make a new life for herself in the U.S. In the meantime, she is relying on friends and the kindness of strangers for a place to stay and financial assistance. And, her ultimate goal, at least for the moment, is to see the Statue of Liberty and revel in the freedom for which it stands.

For more information about Ms. Kuna's case, please contact her attorneys: Denise Visconti or Lori Nessel, Immigration Law Clinic, Seton Hall University School of Law, Center for Social Justice, 833 McCarter Highway, Newark, NJ 07102 (973)-642-8700