Leonard Peltier Advocates Seeking United Nations' Help

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May 27, 2024

Image: Free Leonard Peltier banner at Occupy May Day 2015, NYC, Wikimedia Commons

Advocates say federal prison officials are failing to address the 80-year-old Anishinaabe man’s declining health

by Amelia Schafer, ICT + Rapid City Journal

Leonard Peltier has spent over half his life in prison. Now, at nearly 80 years old, his health has taken a downward turn leading advocates to call for his release.

Peltier is currently serving two life sentences at the Coleman Maximum Security prison in Florida in connection to the deaths of two FBI agents in 1975 on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians citizen is considered by many to be a political prisoner.

Peltier’s declining health has gone untreated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, said advocates from the Leonard Peltier Ad Hoc Committee.

“Leonard is in serious physical trouble,” said Dawn Lawson, secretary of the Leonard Peltier Ad Hoc Committee, to ICT and the Rapid City Journal. “His diabetes has progressed to the point where he could slip into a diabetic coma. He hasn’t seen a dentist in over ten years. He’s in excruciating pain all of the time.”

On April 12, Jenipher Jones, a lead attorney for Peltier’s post-conviction legal efforts, filed a Request for Communications with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and the United Nations Special Procedures group. The request asked for communication between the UN and United States regarding a denial of medical care to Peltier and a need for investigation of human rights violations in United States prisons.

Peltier has a heart condition, kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, degenerative joint disease, injuries to his jaw and is experiencing vision loss. Advocates said each condition requires ongoing medical care, which the Bureau of Prisons has not been providing.

Advocates said if Peltier goes any longer without medical attention he may die in prison.

“The denial of medical care to prisoners not only violates the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the domestic disability provisions but also the Convention Against Torture and the Mandela Rules on the treatment of prisoners,” Jones said in an April 16 press release.


This story is co-published by the Rapid City Journal and ICT, a news partnership that covers Indigenous communities in the South Dakota area.