Leonard Peltier/Photo by Gloria LaRiva
Statement to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
April 25, 2023
AIM-West Oral Intervention
Each year we are saddened to remind this forum that Mr. Leonard Peltier, Anishinabe and Dakota and an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, has been wrongfully incarcerated by the United States since 1976. Leonard Peltier was a leader of the American Indian Movement, a historic civil rights group founded to combat the oppression of Native Americans in the United States.
Mr. Peltier’s case has become infamous for the procedural violations committed by the government throughout his trial. After Mr. Peltier’s co-defendants were acquitted on self-defense, the government resorted to using illegal tactics to ensure his conviction – concealing exculpatory evidence from his lawyers, intimidating witnesses with violence, and committing perjury on the witness stand. Mr. Peltier’s jury was prevented from considering key evidence, including government misconduct in the preparation of its case and evidence of the violent conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation – all of which contributed significantly to the acquittal of Mr. Peltier’s co-defendants.
In its treatment of Mr. Peltier over the last 48 years, the U.S. has committed glaring violations of international human rights law and set a dangerous precedent for states seeking to silence indigenous dissent. On March 30, 2022, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted a legal opinion calling for Mr. Peltier’s immediate release, concluding that “Mr. Peltier continues to be detained because he is Native American, contrary to articles 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2 and 26 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” The Working Group also concluded that “the Parole Commission did not objectively and substantively consider whether parole should be granted to Mr. Peltier, in violation of article 9 of the Covenant.”
Mr. Peltier is 78 years old and he suffers from serious health conditions for which he is receiving inadequate care. Despite his condition, the U.S. has repeatedly denied a transfer to a lower security facility. Of the 48 years he has spent in prison, Mr. Peltier has spent 5 in solitary confinement. This treatment may constitute a violation of the Convention Against Torture and article 7 of the Covenant, which prohibits cruel, inhumane or degrading punishment. Mr. Peltier’s continued incarceration is a threat to indigenous human rights defenders everywhere. We must seek justice for Leonard Peltier to support indigenous dissent, promote accountability for the repression of indigenous leaders and to ensure that Mr. Peltier can one day return to his community.
We request that the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples exercise its authority under paragraph 2(c) of its revised mandate (A/HRC/RES/33/25) to initiate a dialogue with the United States, human rights organizations and indigenous peoples to seek relief for Mr. Peltier. Further, we invite UN Special Rapporteur On Indigenous Peoples, Francisco Cali, members of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and EMRIP to visit Leonard Peltier at U.S. Penitentiary, Coleman I, in Florida, and report back to this body on their assessment of Mr. Peltier’s condition. My delegation will be glad to work with you to accommodate such a visit.
Thank you, All My Relations.
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