Amnesty International says it never sided with Anna Mae Aquash’s killer

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Amnesty International is denying that it supported a man convicted of killing Indigenous activist Anna Mae Aquash.

The human rights group responded to testimony heard by Aquash’s daughter, Denise Pictou-Maloney, at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls last month.

Pictou-Maloney accused Amnesty International of siding with John Graham, a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) convicted of killing Aquash in 1975.

Arlo Looking Cloud and Theda Clarke, two other AIM members, were also convicted in her murder.

Amnesty International highlighted Anna Mae Aquash’s murder in its 2004 stolen sister’s report.

But in 2003, they issued a public statement about Graham.

“It was like a punch in the face,” said Pictou-Maloney. “After I had worked eight months with them to profile my mother as one of the top 100 cases in for missing and murdered Indigenous women.”

Inquiry Commissioner Michèle Audette tearfully responded:

“I learned something today, I was supporting something without knowing that didn’t respect your mom. And she does matter, even still today. And I will not support the organization until they make a statement publicly.”

Amnesty’s letter is still on John Graham’s defense committee’s website.

It partly reads: “Justice is long overdue in the December 1975 killing of Mi’kmak activist Anna Mae Pictou Aquash.

“Not only must those responsible be identified and brought to trial, there must also be scrupulous respect for due process and fair trial proceedings.
“Amnesty takes no position on his guilt or innocence.”

Alex Neve, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said that letter was not a statement of support for John Graham. All Amnesty wanted was due process.

“We did speak out about John Graham’s case back in 2003, which is when he was arrested out in Vancouver and the U.S. authority were seeking his extradition to the U.S.” he said. “Our only concern at the time was procedural.”

Neve is concerned that Audette is withdrawing her public support for Amnesty International.

“It certainly did concern me to hear commissioner Audette speak out in that way, given that, I hope the record is clear that we have never at all be anything other than supportive for the need for there to be full justice and accountability for Anna Mae Aquash’s murder.”

Neve says he has not reached out to Pictou-Maloney, but would welcome a chance to speak with her.

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2 thoughts on “Amnesty International says it never sided with Anna Mae Aquash’s killer

  1. As a long time friend of John Graham and co-founder of the John Graham Defense Committee, and as someone who grieves for the murder of John’s dear friend, Anna Mae, I do still attest that John is innocent.

    I understand the relief family must feel to believe their mother’s killer has been brought to justice. But the evidence against John as presented by a homeless addict who barely knew John thirty years prior, and presenting that evidence under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol as Arlo Looking Cloud stated in his video testimony after being in prolonged custody of authorities (causing one to wonder how he could be under the influence when authorities finally video-taped his testimony), sounds more like justice gone astray than justice delivered.

    (For the record, the John Graham Defense Committee called for support for Arlo even though he was claiming harmful testimony against John, out of concern for his own fair treatment, and that he was coerced.)

    There are powerful forces that wish for an Indian man to be convicted of Anna Mae’s murder, after much suspicion had long been directed at regional FBI agents. But accusation does not equal truth, and John’s extradition and subsequent trial are fraught with flaws.

    I thank Amnesty International for their concern that legal processes concerning indigenous people be scrutinized. Calling Amnesty’s integrity into question because they did not rush to judgement with others at the time, is just one more drop in a trail (and a trial) of tears.

  2. As a long time friend of John Graham and co-founder of the John Graham Defense Committee, and as someone who grieves for the murder of John’s dear friend, Anna Mae, I do still attest that John is innocent.

    I understand the relief family must feel to believe their mother’s killer has been brought to justice. But the evidence against John as presented by a homeless addict who barely knew John thirty years prior, and presenting that evidence under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol as Arlo Looking Cloud stated in his video testimony after being in prolonged custody of authorities (causing one to wonder how he could be under the influence when authorities finally video-taped his testimony), sounds more like justice gone astray than justice delivered.

    (For the record, the John Graham Defense Committee called for support for Arlo even though he was claiming harmful testimony against John, out of concern for his own fair treatment, and that he was coerced.)

    There are powerful forces that wish for an Indian man to be convicted of Anna Mae’s murder, after much suspicion had long been directed at regional FBI agents. But accusation does not equal truth, and John’s extradition and subsequent trial are fraught with flaws.

    I thank Amnesty International for their concern that legal processes concerning indigenous people be scrutinized. Calling Amnesty’s integrity into question because they did not rush to judgement with others at the time, is just one more drop in a trail (and a trial) of tears.

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