has also waged a long battle to acquire crucial documents withheld by
the government concerning key aspects of Mr. Peltier’s case. At
the trial, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) provided only
3,500 documents to the defense team and steadfastly claimed that
these were all that existed. Years later, through Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) actions, Mr. Peltier's legal team acquired
12,000 additional documents. These documents demonstrated that the
FBI withheld crucial evidence that had not been presented at trial so
as to wrongfully convict Leonard Peltier. Hiding behind the guise of
“national security interests,” the FBI continued to
withhold an additional 60,000 documents which our organization has
only recently succeeded in acquiring. The documents are currently
under review by our legal team. However, we have since discovered
that the government is still withholding approximately 100,000
documents concerning Leonard's case. After 28 years, there is no
legitimate reason for the FBI to continue to withhold these and other documents.
example of racial discrimination towards indigenous prisoners in the
United States is pointed out by a review by the Virginia-based
National Center on Institutions and Alternatives that showed how US
wardens overcounted the number of white inmates by more than 74,000
in 1997, giving the impression that whites represent 40.7 percent of
all prisoners. The ''overcount'' of white prisoners was most
pronounced in heavily Latino states such as New Mexico, Colorado, and
Arizona. New Mexico, for example, recorded its prison population as
being 83 percent white in 1997. But, once Latinos and Native
Americans were excluded, it was 29 percent white. Most Latinos are of
mixed-race heritage. The largest percentage of them are of Spanish
and indigenous or ''Indian'' descent.
Peltier Defense Committee welcomes the announcement made during the
last session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, by Mr.
Stavenhagen, the Special Rapporteur on the Violation of the Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, stating that a
focus would be made in his next report on the situation of indigenous
prisoners and on the disparity in the administration of criminal
justice towards indigenous peoples. It has also been a great
satisfaction to learn that by its resolution 2003/55, the United
Nations – Commission on Human Rights has decided to hold an
International Expert Seminar on Administration of Justice and
Indigenous Peoples, in Madrid next October. We hope that the plight
of Leonard Peltier will serve as a case study for this important workshop.
To conclude, we
would like to support Mr. Guissé ’s proposal to make
“Administration of Justice” a permanent point of the agenda
for the next sessions of the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples and
we respectfully suggest that it become the principal theme for 2004.
Since Mr. Peltier
is unfortunately not allowed to come here in person, he asked us to
renew his invitation to you Mister Chairperson, to the members of the
UN Working Group on Indigenous Peoples and to Special Rapporteur Mr.
Stavenhagen to come and pay him a visit in prison in order to discuss
his case, meet other indigenous prisoners at Leavenworth
Penitentiary, investigate the overall denial of justice for Native
Americans and Xicano people (including the case of Eddie Hatcher,
James Weddell, Ramsey Muniz, Luis V. Rodriguez,.....) and discuss
indigenous issues at a worldwide level, such as the follow-up which
should be developed after the end of the U.N. International Decade
for Indigenous Peoples.
Even if our
brother is still incarcerated, he remains a symbol for all of us who
are fighting for the respect of our indigenous rights. As we all
know, Mr. Peltier is a gifted advocate for the rights and sovereignty
of indigenous peoples and his voice shall not be silenced by the U.S.
Government. Truth, justice and reconciliation are needed between
Indigenous Peoples and Nation States around the world. Freedom for
Leonard Peltier, considered as the « indigenous peoples’
Nelson Mandela » would be an important step in this direction.
Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.
Submitted by Bobby
Castillo (Apache/Xicano Nations, International Spokesperson for the
Leonard Peltier Defense Committee)
International Office, PO Box 583, Lawrence, KS 66044, USA
Fax 785-842-5796, firstname.lastname@example.org