FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
05 November 2010
Today, the United States submitted to a review by the United Nations Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), an assessment of a government’s compliance with human rights obligations. The Council reviews each member nation every four years. This was the United States’ first review. Representatives from the U.S. presented its report and answered questions from the Council and UN member nations.
Native Americans have eagerly awaited a sign that the U.S. has listened to their concerns about the Peltier case, but were disappointed to see no mention of it in the U.S. report.
“A good place for the U.S. to have started was to simply acknowledge that politically motivated prosecutions are a reality in the U.S.,” said a spokesperson for the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee, one of 300 human rights organizations that contributed to a stakeholders report submitted to the Council.
An innocent man, Native American activist Leonard Peltier was wrongfully convicted in connection with the 1975 shooting deaths of two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Tried separately, his co-defendants were found not guilty by reason of self-defense.
“With no evidence whatsoever, the FBI decided to ‘lock Peltier into the case’. Government officials presented false statements to a Canadian court to extradite Peltier to the U.S. where prosecutors went judge shopping and venue hopping to secure a conviction. In a racially charged courtroom, prosecutors lied to the judge, ignored court orders, and made inappropriate statements to the jury. They intentionally hid evidence of Peltier’s innocence and instead manufactured a ‘murder weapon’. As the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has noted, ‘these facts are not disputed’.”
Peltier has been designated a political prisoner by Amnesty International. Various governments and dignitaries—including Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, as well as the late Mother Theresa— have called for his release.
In addition to working to win Peltier’s freedom, the LPDOC advocates for Indigenous rights, overall criminal justice reform, and the abolishment of the death penalty.
“Frankly, we consider the long-term imprisonment of Leonard Peltier in the harshest of conditions, and repeated denials of parole despite his having met all eligibility requirements, a de facto death sentence.”
Imprisoned for nearly 35 years, Peltier was denied parole in 2009.
“The guarantee of a fair trial is recognized as fundamental—not only in the U.S., but also by the signatory nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This case exemplifies how the U.S. government is willing to use its judicial system as an instrument of revenge and a tool of political repression against those who dare to criticize the domestic and foreign policies of the United States.”
Demonstrations in support of Leonard Peltier and other political prisoners occurred today at U.S. court houses and U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide.
The LPDOC pledges to continue its work to hold the U.S. government accountable and see that UPR recommendations are fully implemented.