Trail of Tears    Prison Art by Leonard Peltier


57th session Agenda Item 11(a) Torture and Detention; and (d) Independence of the Judiciary, Administration of Justice, Impunity


1. Our organization would like to bring the case of arbitrary detention and violation of civil and political rights of world recognized Human Rights and Indigenous Rights Defender, Leonard Peltier to your attention.

2. Mr. Peltier, a Lakota-Anishinabe and life long advocate of traditional, cultural, civil, and human rights for Native Peoples, is currently incarcerated at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in the United States for a crime he did not commit. He has become a world-known symbol of injustice toward Indigenous Peoples. His personal testimony of the case is recorded on the Commission's document (E/CN.4/1997/NGO/80).

3. Mr. Peltier has been unjustly held in U.S. federal prisons for twenty-five years. His illegal extradition, unfair trial, and failing appeals, parole hearings, and Executive Clemency processes have all shown that Mr. Peltier is not, and has never been in prison to pay restitution for a crime. Rather, he has been held in prison for vindictive and political reasons. All domestic remedies to bring justice to Mr. Peltier have been obstructed by the U.S. Prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

4. The United States should be held accountable for Mr. Peltier's unlawful extradition from Canada in 1976. Documents released pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit proved that the U.S. Prosecutors and the FBI, in collusion with the Canadian prosecutor, prepared and submitted falsified affidavits to Canadian officials to obtain the extradition. Several court judges have recognized and condemned the shameful manner in which the extradition was obtained, yet Mr. Peltier's extradition was never reversed. This alone violates treaty protocol, extradition, and international law, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocol.

5. Mr. Peltier stood trial in the United States where he was denied due process in violation of the US Constitution and International Human Rights Standards. The trial judge made rulings, which made a proper defense impossible. Furthermore, this judge has consistently refused to hear new evidence supporting Mr. Peltier's innocence, thus skewing his avenues for redress in a severely unfair manner.

6. Moreover, the US Prosecutors have collaborated and conspired with the FBI to obtain Mr. Peltier's unjust conviction and imprisonment by intentionally utilizing false testimonies, coercing and intimidating witnesses, and concealing a critical ballistics test reflecting his innocence, amongst other improper and unlawful acts.

7. We also note that for the last 15 years, the US government has consistently conceded that they cannot prove who is guilty of the crime Mr. Peltier was originally convicted of (see Peltier v. Henman, 997 F.2 at 469). Moreover, the appellate court has found that Mr. Peltier might have been acquitted had the FBI not improperly withheld evidence. Yet, a new trial was never granted and the FBI and prosecutors have continuously obstructed all other avenues for redress and release.

8. For example, they have continued to conceal information and to make false and/or deceptive statements to investigating officials, court and parole officers, White House officials and even the public in an effort to prevent the detection and correction of their own abuses and evade liability. Such conduct violates Mr. Peltier's civil, political and constitutional rights. Moreover, the United States system of checks and balances has failed to hold the responsible officials accountable, thus allowing Mr. Peltier to languish unjustly in prison for a quarter of a century. We believe the magnitude of these improprieties warrant an investigation by the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

9. Mr. Peltier is also long overdue for parole. He has been held ten years in excess of the US Parole Commission's own guidelines for release. The US Parole Commission set Mr. Peltier's next parole hearing for the year 2008, 17 years in excess of the Parole Commission's release guidelines and six years after the date set by Congress for the total abolition of the Parole Commission itself. The justification the Parole Commission has articulated for denying parole has been arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory, and in violation of his civil and human rights. Such practice can be considered a clear form of arbitrary detention in violation of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (article 9).

10. In 1993, Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who serves as Mr. Peltier's attorney, filed a petition for executive clemency, requesting that President Clinton commute Mr. Peltier's sentence to time served. An intensive campaign supported by Human Rights advocates from around the world was waged, escalating into a national issue during the last year of Mr. Clinton's presidency. Just months before the president would leave office, the White House announced that Mr. Peltier's request was being seriously considered. In response, the FBI launched an intensified disinformation campaign both in the media and among key officials. On December 15, 2000 over 500 FBI Agents marched in front of the White House to pressure the U.S. President to deny clemency. On January 20, 2001, Mr. Peltier's name was not included on Mr. Clinton's list of clemencies. No explanation was given.

11. Leonard Peltier has asked us to forward his deep appreciation to High Commissioner Mary Robinson, Mr. Miguel Alfonso Martinez (Chairperson of the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples), Mr. Kenneth Deer (Chairperson of the UN Workshop on Indigenous Media) and Sra. Rigoberta Menchu Tum (UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and promoter of the U.N. International Decade for the World's Indigenous Peoples) for their support during the clemency campaign.

12. Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, former US Ambassador at the United Nations Bill Richardson, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Chairman of the Select Committee on Indian Affairs), Congressman John Conyers (US House of Judiciary Committee), and the European Parliament have called for an investigation into the judicial improprieties involved in Mr. Peltier's conviction.

13. In response to significant evidence that civil and political rights leaders were being denied due process in the courts, Amnesty International called for an inquiry into the effect of domestic intelligence activities on trials in the United States. (Amnesty International considers Leonard Peltier to be a political prisoner who should be immediately and unconditionally released.)

14. As stated in December 10, 1998 - White House Executive Order, all US Governmental Agencies and employees are bound to implement International Human Rights treaties signed by the United States and to respect their obligations pursuant to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.


15. In light of this executive order, our organization calls upon the Commission to appoint the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to carry out a visit to the United States to examine the racial discrimination in the administration of justice in this country and to investigate the case of Leonard Peltier, a recognized Indigenous Human Rights Defender, as well as the cases of other political prisoners and to make a report to the next Commission session.

16. Additionally, we are asking the Commission to recommend that the US Government release the 6000 documents pertaining to the Peltier case withheld by the FBI. We also encourage the Commission to join several U.S. officials and the European Parliament in calling for an investigation into the judicial improprieties involved in the gaining of Mr. Peltier's conviction.

Statement submitted by Bobby Castillo (International Spokesperson of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee) for the Consejo Indio de Sud America (CISA), NGO with ECOSOC status.

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