Cladoosby Calls Out John Kerry: Indigenous Prisoners’ Rights Inquiry


National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby has put the United States Department of State Secretary John Kerry on notice.

Cladoosby on April 18, implored Kerry to respond to a June 5, 2013 inquiry from the Honorable James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The inquiry stated “increasing number of state-level regulations that restrict the religious freedoms of Native American prisoners, including their participation in religious ceremonies and possession of religious items.”

Cladoosby’s letter to Kerry stated the Rapporteurs’ “inquiry was submitted to the State Department by Special Rapporteur Anaya and the Honorable Heiner Bielefeldt, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and respectfully requested your agency’s response within 60 days,” but the United States has failed to respond in any way.

President Cladoosby continued: “We hereby urge the United States’ earliest possible response to the Special Rapporteurs. We also request that the State Department consult with us pursuant to Executive Order 13175, regarding what appears to be a trend of increased federal, state and local government restriction upon incarcerated American Indigenous Peoples’ inherent rights to believe, express, and exercise their traditional religions and practices. This topic is of such concern to Native America that it gave rise to recent NCAI Resolution #REN-13-005, which is titled “Ensuring the Protection of Native Prisoners’ Inherent Rights to Practice their Traditional Religions.”

Cladoosby went on to state that religious rights are guaranteed to incarcerated American Indigenous Peoples by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, but also by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (see Articles 10, 18(1), 18(3) and 27) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (see Articles 1 and 12).

The NCAI president continued to say that NCAI has joined several non-governmental organizations under a banner of domestic and international human rights guarantees – Native American Rights Fund, the ACLU, and Huy – “to bring forth our concerns about domestic violations of American Indigenous Peoples’ religious freedoms, to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.”

A joint submission has cited nine breaches of alleged religious rights violations by states: California, Hawaii, Arizona, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Missouri, Texas, and Alabama.

“Hopefully the United States will now answer to somebody,” Cladoosby said in the NCAI press release in reference to domestic governmental violation of the human rights and religious freedoms of American indigenous prisoners.

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