FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 10, 2011
In November 2010, before the United Nations Working Group for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, U.S. State Department representatives spoke specifically of the U.S. Constitution and the protections afforded to individuals accused of committing crimes in America.
The U.S. State Department today, in response to the Working Group’s recommendation for the release of Leonard Peltier, stated only that such an idea does not “enjoy our support.”
Yet, previously, the government claimed, “We are committed to continued vigilance in our effort to enforce the law in a manner consistent with the Constitution and with the rights and dignity of all citizens.”
The U.S. government has failed to address the staggering number of constitutional violations in Leonard Peltier’s case or the indignities to which he has been subjected, including but not limited to substandard medical care and physical abuse while in U.S. custody.
Native American activist Leonard Peltier was wrongfully convicted in connection with the deaths of two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Despite the courts’ acknowledgment of FBI and prosecutorial misconduct in the case, Peltier has been imprisoned since 1976, currently at the U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
The evidence shows that the FBI was the aggressor in the firefight that occurred on June 26, 1975. From 1973 to 1976, Indigenous People on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota were victims of beatings, drive-by shootings, and stabbings carried out by local vigilantes who collaborated with the FBI. Peltier and other Indigenous activists were forced into a defensive posture to protect not only their lives, but the lives of others who were present—elders, women, and children. Indeed, Mr. Peltier’s co-defendants, tried separately, were acquitted on grounds of self-defense.
The evidence clearly shows that the U.S. government’s goal was to orchestrate Mr. Peltier’s conviction by any means—including falsifying extradition documents and intentionally committing fraud on a Canadian court, as well as suppressing evidence of Mr. Peltier’s innocence during his trial. By the government’s own admission, the critical part of the prosecution’s case against Mr. Peltier was the ballistics testimony which, years after his conviction, was discovered to be false.
“Simply, the jury verdict in Mr. Peltier’s case was obtained illegally,” a Peltier supporter said today.
The absence of fairness in every stage of Peltier’s case troubles many people around the world and compels foreign governments and international human rights organizations to question Peltier’s continuing imprisonment.
“Obama once said that freedom and justice for all must begin with freedom and justice in the lives of individual human beings. Why not Leonard Peltier? How can the U.S. hold itself up as a beacon of freedom and justice when it ignores the Constitution and doesn’t comply with its human rights obligations?”