Working Group on Indigenous Peoples

18th  Session - 24 -  28, July 2000


SubCommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities
l8th session 24 -28 July 2000

Item 5

Review of recent developments pertaining to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, General statements, including land issues, education and health 

Madame Chairperson,

        We would like to begin by thanking the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and all of the NGOs and concerned individuals who helped us win the bttle to gain proper medical treatment for political prisoner, Leonard Peltier. Mr. Peltier endured a disabling and excruciating jaw condition for four years, while prison officials denied him proper medical treatment. However, he was finally transferred to the Mayo Clinic last March where he was treated by a specialist who was able to relieve his pain and substantially improve his condition.

        Mr. Peltier has now been imprisoned for over 24 years. His petition for Executive Clemency continues to pend with President Clinton, whose last days in office rapidly approach, making this year a critical time in the effort to gain his long overdue freedom. One of his options for freedom, parole, has already been denied this year, leaving clemency his last chance for a near future release.

        On June 12 Mr. Peltier underwent a Parole Review Hearing in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, where he was once again denied his right to due process under the law. The Parole Examiner who held the hearing refused to consider substantial grounds for release presented by Mr. Peltier's attorneys. Such evidence included a doctor's report, which outlined health problems that put Mr. Peltier at risk for blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, and stroke. It also included reports from his case manager documenting Mr. Peltier's good conduct in prison. Also  ignored were eight housing and work release plans presented by Native Nations and Indigenous organizations. He quickly dismissed pleas that representatives from Amnesty International, the National Council of Churches, the National Congress of American Indians, the Assembly of First Nations, and survivors of the Pine Ridge reign of terror made in person. Also rejected were 10,000 letters from citizens, human rights NGOs, and luminaries.

        According to Parole Commission guidelines, Mr. Peltier should have been released over nine years ago. Yet, the examiner arbitrarily recommended that parole be denied to Mr. Peltier for the sole reason that he has not admitted to a crime that he in fact did not commit. Even the Parole Commission themselves have acknowledged the lack of proof that Mr. Peltier participated in the death of the agents, and yet he has been denied parole.

        As a result of the Parole Commission's denial, we are now in an emergency state in the effort to free Leonard Peltier. Should President Clinton not grant clemency before he leaves office, Mr. Peltier's
options for a near future release will be dismal. The battle that liesahead of us in the next months will not be easy.

    The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, spurred by the growing movement to free Mr. Peltier, have undertaken a political campaign to block any chances of his freedom becoming a reality.

    They have taken out dramatic ads in newspapers and on radios presenting undocumented and false information about the case to the public.

    They have constructed web sites and written letters to newspapers across the country in an attempt to do the same. More importantly, they have sent materials containing false and undocumented claims to the Parole Commission, all members of Congress, the Justice Department and the White House in an effort to block Mr. Peltier from receiving parole or clemency. We already know they were successful in blocking parole, and we cannot allow them to be successful again.

        Rigoberta Menchu Tum has declared the effort to gain Mr. Peltier's immediate release from prison a top priority in the International Decade for Indigenous Peoples agenda. Should Mr. Peltier become disabled or die in prison, his plight will forever weigh heavily in the hearts of all lndigenous Peoples as a major defeat for us all. We therefore request  the help of the entire International Community in baring the FBI's effort to once again obstruct justice for Leonard Peltier, and help us secure freedom for this innocent man once and for all.

Thank you,
Bobby Castillo

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