Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights
Monday, August 23, 2010
Native American testimony at 'Listening Conferences,' ignored in final report of US Periodic Review to UN
By Brenda Norrell
Photo: Church Rock NM uranium spill, poisoning Navajoland and the region since 1979.
The United States has sent its report card for itself on human rights to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The US Periodic Review on Human Rights released Monday shows the Obama Administration giving itself a glossy, positive review on the issue of Native Americans and human rights.
However, it appears that no one was actually listening at the US State Department's Listening Conferences, held to gather testimony for the report from Native Americans.
In the US sanitized report, the US report fails to describe the ongoing environmental genocide, where corporations in collusion with the US government target Indian country with power plants, coal mines, oil and gas wells and experimental technology.
The United States does not address the specific issues of the uranium mining that now threatens water supplies of Navajos or Lakotas, nor of the proposed Desert Rock power plant that threatens the health of Navajos.
There is no mention of the so-called Navajo Hopi land dispute that resulted in the relocation of 14,000 Navajos on Black Mesa. It was manufactured by attorneys, Congressmen and Peabody Coal to make way for Peabody Coal mining. The report does does not mention the Forgotten Navajos of the Bennett Freeze zone, where development was frozen by federal legislation.
The US report does not address the poisoned groundwater of the Tohono O'odham from mining, nor the conditions on South Dakota Indian lands. It does not address the violations of the rights of the Western Shoshone as gold mining targets sacred Mount Tenabo. There is no mention of how the use of recycled sewage water on sacred San Francisco Peaks will affect American Indian Nations.
The final report ignores the testimony revealing the legacy of cancer and death from uranium mining on Acoma and Laguna Pueblos. It fails to state the need to protect Zuni Pueblo sacred places.
There is no mention of the remains of radioactive spills, radioactive tailings and scattered bombs strewn across Indian country from the Navajo Nation to the Badlands on Lakotas' Pine Ridge.
The US report fails to address the widespread abuses by the US Border Patrol of Indigenous Peoples traveling in their own territories, or the violations of NAGPRA and other federal laws during construction of the US/Mexico border wall. This included Boeing digging up the ancestors of the O'odham.
There is no mention of the abuse of Haudenosaunee and others on the northern border by border agents. The US fails to describe the racial profiling that has become acceptable for police and border agents in the US.
The US does not address the violations of fishing and hunting rights of Native Americans in violations of Treaties.
The report fails to describe the targeting of American Indians by police during traffic stops, the longer prison sentences issued by courts for American Indians or the ongoing hate crimes in Indian country bordertowns. It fails to reveal the extent of the denial of rights for American Indian religious freedom in US prisons.
While giving a sweeping rosy report of the United States in regards to Native Americans and human rights, the US says it is considering passage of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The US fails to point out that it is trailing all the other countries in the world in adoption of the Declaration.
While applauding freedom of expression in America, the US fails to point out that spying on private citizens is nearing the Cold War spying level. There is no mention of US war crimes.
The ACLU, in its review of the Periodic Report, stressed the US abuse of the rights of prisoners and migrants in its response to the report (see below.)
Although the Navajo Nation was one site of the testimony, there are no specifics of Navajo testimony in the final report.
Although written testimony was presented on behalf of Leonard Peltier, there is no mention of Peltier in the final report.
The glossy nature of the report brings to mind the description by Russell Means of the US hearings for testimony. Means called it a "Smokescreen."
It appears that most of the testimony given by Native Americans was ignored.
The report states, "Nearly a thousand people, representing a diversity of communities and viewpoints, and voicing a wide range of concerns, attended these gatherings in New Orleans, Louisiana; New York, New York; El Paso, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Window Rock, Arizona; the San Francisco Bay Area; Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Birmingham, Alabama; and Washington, D.C."
Here's the praise the US gave itself on the issue of human rights for Native Americans in the Periodic Review:
Report of the United States of America
Submitted to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
In Conjunction with the Universal Periodic Review
Fairness, equality, and Native Americans
38. The U.S. took the UPR process to “Indian Country”. One of our UPR consultations was hosted on tribal land in Arizona, the New Mexico consultation addressed American Indian and Alaska Native issues, and other consultations included tribal representatives. The United States has a unique legal relationship with federally recognized tribes. By virtue of their status as sovereigns that pre-date the federal Union, as well as subsequent treaties, statutes, executive orders, and judicial decisions, Indian tribes are recognized as political entities with inherent powers of self-government. The U.S. government therefore has a government-to-government relationship with 564 federally recognized Indian tribes and promotes tribal self-governance over a broad range of internal and local affairs. The United States also recognizes past wrongs and broken promises in the federal government’s relationship with American Indians and Alaska Natives, and recognizes the need for urgent change. Some reservations currently face unemployment rates of up to 80 percent; nearly a quarter of Native Americans live in poverty; American Indians and Alaska Natives face significant health care disparities; and some reservations have crime rates up to 10 times the national average. Today we are helping tribes address the many issues facing their communities.
39. In November of last year, President Obama hosted a historic summit with nearly 400 tribal leaders to develop a policy agenda for Native Americans where he emphasized his commitment to regular and meaningful consultation with tribal officials regarding federal policy decisions that have tribal implications. In March, the President signed into law important health provisions for American Indians and Alaska Natives. In addition, President Obama recognizes the importance of enhancing the role of tribes in Indian education and supports Native language immersion and Native language restoration programs.
40. Addressing crimes involving violence against women and children on tribal lands is a priority. After extensive consultations with tribal leaders, Attorney General Eric Holder announced significant reform to increase prosecution of crimes committed on tribal lands. He hired more Assistant U.S. Attorneys and more victim-witness specialists. He created a new position, the National Indian Country Training Coordinator, who will work with prosecutors and law enforcement officers in tribal communities. The Attorney General is establishing a Tribal Nations Leadership Council to provide ongoing advice on issues critical to tribal communities.
41. On July 29, 2010, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act, requiring the Justice Department to disclose data on cases in Indian Country that it declines to prosecute and
granting tribes greater authority to prosecute and punish criminals. The Act also expands support for Bureau of Indian Affairs and Tribal officers. It includes new provisions to prevent counterfeiting of Indian-produced crafts and new guidelines and training for domestic violence and sex crimes, and it strengthens tribal courts and police departments and enhances programs to combat drug and alcohol abuse and help at-risk youth. These are significant measures that will empower tribal governments and make a difference in people's lives.
42. In April 2010, at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice announced that the United States would undertake a review of its position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That multi-agency review is currently underway in consultation with tribal leaders and with outreach to other stakeholders.
Read full report at:
Russell Means: UN Listening Session is US Smokescreen
Statement by Russell Means, Republic of Lakotah
on the Occasion of the United States State Department “Listening Session” in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 16 March 2010
Once again, the occupation government of the United States of America has trotted out its dogs and ponies to provide a smokescreen and diversion from its continuing crimes against the indigenous peoples and nations of the Western Hemisphere. The reason for today’s media spectacle is supposedly for the US State Department to “listen” to input from indigenous peoples and nations for inclusion in the U.S.’s report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, universal periodic review process.
As we can see, many indigenous people have been duped to participate, yet again, in a lying and duplicitous process of the United States. The United States has absolutely no interest or intention of admitting to the world its human rights record that is neither justifiable nor defensible. In particular, the record of the United States with regard to historical, and ongoing, violations of over 370 treaties that were negotiated and signed with indigenous nations must be, but will not be, addressed by the United States. Instead, as is its ongoing practice, the United States will use this session, and the one tomorrow on the territory of the Diné (Navajo) Nation, as its justification that indigenous peoples were “consulted,” and “listened to,” while the U.S. simultaneously lies to the world about its disgraceful human rights record.
The Republic of Lakotah will not legitimize this embarrassing process. Instead, we will submit our report directly to the UN Human Rights Council, not to be filtered or sanitized by the State Department. Let us be clear, our report will be scathing. The United States continues, on a daily basis to violate the terms of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties with the Lakotah. Our report will indicate that the United States never intended to abide by the terms of the treaties, and has violated them consistently from the time of their signing to the present.
Our report will also cite the United States’ own language in acknowledging that “the treaties retain their full force and effect even today because they are the legal equivalent of treaties with foreign governments and have the force of federal law.” Periodic Report of the United States of America to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, April 23, 2007, paragraph 335. In light of the United States’ own admissions, in addition to reporting to the Human Rights Council on the egregious human rights record of the US towards indigenous peoples, the Republic of Lakotah will report to the Council and to the world, the exercise of its own rights under principles of international law. The United States has continually breached the treaties with the Lakotah, and international law allows the Lakotah to return to our status quo ante position prior to the signing of the treaties.
On March 30, 2010, the Republic of Lakotah will repeat its position to the United States, and will transmit its communication to the President of the United States and to the Secretary of State, demanding that the United States cease and desist it activities in Lakotah territory, and insisting that the United States withdraw its presence from our homeland.
The ACLU has listed the shortcomings of the US Periodic Review, stressing US abuses of prisoners and migrants, and made these recommendations:
In order to comply with international human rights obligations and commitments to guarantee access to
justice and effective remedy, the United States should take the following measures:
Habeas review in death penalty cases: Congress should amend the habeas-related provisions of the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) so that federal courts are more accessible
to prisoners asserting claims of constitutional violations.
Indigent defense for capital cases: Create and adequately fund state defender organizations that are
independent of the judiciary and that have sufficient resources to provide quality representation to indigent
capital defendants at the trial, appeal and post-conviction levels. Require states to ensure that capital
defense lawyers have adequate time, compensation and resources for their work.
Prisoners’ right to remedy: Congress should act immediately to ensure the Prison Abuse Remedies Act
of 2009, H.R. 4335 (PARA) becomes law, and the Obama Administration should support its passage, to
reinstate the ability of prisoners to challenge conditions of confinement that violate their rights by repealing
the “physical injury” requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA); exempting juveniles under
age 18 from the burdens created by the PLRA; and amending the “exhaustion requirement.”
State secrets: Congress should pass legislation that creates procedures to prevent the abuse of the state
secrets privilege and protect the rights of those seeking redress through our court system.
Remedies for domestic violence victims: Congress should amend the Violence Against Women Act to
ensure better oversight and training of police and provide effective remedies for victims of violence.
Diplomatic immunity for abuse of domestic workers: The Obama Administration should fully
implement the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to ensure that diplomat employers are held accountable
for abuse of domestic workers, including establishing a standard contract for domestic workers and a
mechanism for providing adequate compensation for domestic workers who are subject to abuse and
exploitation by diplomat employers.
Stipulated removal orders: The Department of Homeland Security should not issue stipulated removal orders without an in-person hearing before an immigration judge to determine that the non citizen’s waiver of the right to a removal hearing was knowing and voluntary.
Diplomatic assurances: The Obama Administration should prohibit the reliance on “diplomatic
assurances” to deport (pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 208.18(c)) or otherwise transfer persons from the United States. At a minimum, ensure that no such assurances are used without an opportunity for meaningful judicial review of whether they are sufficient to comply with U.S. obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.
Erosion of remedies for victims of racial discrimination: Congress should introduce and pass legislation
addressing the Sandoval decision by providing a private right of action against entities receiving federal
funding based on evidence of disparate impact under Title VI. In addition, Congress should pass
legislation101 to restore the historic construction of the rule governing motions to dismiss and the Judicial
Conference should adopt changes to the rule itself to help make that change permanent and protect it from
further judicial meddling.
Violations of undocumented workers’ employment rights: Congress should introduce and pass the
Civil Rights Act of 2009, which would address the Hoffman Plastics decision and ensure employment
protections for non-citizens regardless of their immigration status. State legislatures should strengthen
protections in state anti-discrimination and workers’ compensation laws for undocumented persons.
READ MORE FROM ACLU RESPONSE: