AI Group 22: August 1997 newsletter

Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News

Volume V Number 7, August 1997

Greetings from the new Group Coordinator

It is with great pleasure and appreciation that I take over the reins of Group 22, hailed as one of the most active and dynamic groups in the Western Region. Group 22 is a great group! I take my new responsibilities very seriously and am honored to take over the leadership of the group. I especially want to do a good job in continuing the legacy of the group's founder, Jim Smith, and Martha Ter Maat, the outgoing coordinator. They will be hard acts to follow; they are both very active Amnesty members and all-around activists with impressive knowledge of international human rights issues. Plus, they're very nice people. I know Martha and Jim will continue to be very involved with the group and I thank them in advance for their support. I also want to extend my thanks to the group for stepping up their efforts to work on our action file. In particular, I want to thank Mark Roulston and Roberto Zenit having the new flyers and postcards printed as well as to Jim Smith for writing newsletters articles about our Prisoner of Conscience (POC). We have used the materials on our POC extensively in recent weeks in our tabling efforts at Caltech and around Pasadena. I'm also excited about the many new members who are joining our efforts and volunteering for positions in the group. It is essential that we continue to attract new members as well as retaining those already active in the group. Many thanks to Robert Adams for volunteering to become Co-Coordinator, along with Jim of our POC Action File and to newly returned Matt Reese who volunteered at the July meeting to become Death Penalty Coordinator. Larry Romans, both the new Treasurer and Coordinator of the Regional Action Network for the countries of the former Soviet Union, also deserves special mention for his work and for taking over the web site in Athina's absence. Welcome back to Athina and congratulations on purchasing a new home! We've all been invited over for a house-warming party sometime soon. Finally, Mark deserves more special recognition for hosting the letter meetings and for becoming the keeper of the keys for the Caltech Y meeting site. I hope the construction around the Y is at least sufficiently cleared to allow access to the building from the north side of the campus for the August meeting. For those not at the July meeting, it was necessary to approach the building from the south side as routes were blocked by a high chain-link fence surrounding a construction zone. Mark tells us its another Caltech beautification project. I say the campus is already beautiful and needs a really ugly but functional parking lot right next to the some of the beauty to provide us with more accessible parking. (Can't tell I'm not a student, can you?) So, I look forward to working with all of you and continuing our efforts to publicize the POC case, participate in Urgent Actions, work on all of the AI campaigns such as the upcoming campaign on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), crusade against the increasing use of the death penalty in the U.S. and internationally generally increase public awareness of human rights issues. Lets all continue lighting those candles!! --Revae Moran Group Coordinator 818-249-1419

"Human Rights Have No Borders" AIUSA Western Regional Conference October 24-26, Tucson Arizona The 1997 Western Regional Conference to be held in Tucson will have as its major focus refugee issues. Other program highlights include a writers and poets in exile panel, and speakers including Bill Schulz, Executive Director of AIUSA, Magdaleno Rose-Avila (former Western Regional Director and Pasadena resident), Hafsat Abiola, daughter of democratically elected and imprisoned prime minister of Nigeria, and Fang Li Zhi, physicist and Chinese democracy activist. Workshops topics include refugees, death penalty, legislative action, country updates, women's human rights concerns and the up-coming Universal Declaration of Human Rights campaign. Registration fees are $15 general $10 student/senior prior to Sept. 24 and $20/$15 thereafter. Discounted hotel and dormitory rates are available. "Borderlinks" tours are available on October 24 or October 27-29. Both programs include meetings with refugees, community members, social service providers, human rights advocates and Border Patrol officials. The three day tour will include a visit to Nogales, Mexico and an overnight stay with a Mexican family. The programs cost $60/day including food and lodging. For more information / registration forms contact Martha or Revae or call the Regional Office at 310-815-0450.

Upcoming Events

THURSDAY, August 28, 7:30 PM, Caltech Y Lounge, Winnett Center, Monthly Meeting. TUESDAY, September 2, 7:00 PM, Western Regional Office, Greater Los Angeles Area Development Meeting. 9000 W. Washington Boulevard, Culver City. Paul Hoffman, AIUSA Board Member and human rights attorney talks about a lawsuit directed at Unocal's activities in Burma. All are welcome. TUESDAY, September 9, 7:30 PM, Athenaeum Basement, Letter-writing meeting.

Government Action Network

Cambodia: Take Action During the 1970s and 80s, Cambodia was wracked by political conflict, civil war, and genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. At least a million people were killed. The 1991 Paris Peace Accords set the stage for a UN sponsored election which took place in 1993. First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh's party won the election, but accommodated Hun Sen's party by giving him the post of Second Prime Minister. Last month, Cambodia suffered the overthrow of the popularly elected government of Prince Ranariddh by Hun Sen. Many officials and soldiers associated with First Prime Minister Ranariddh were executed and hundreds were arrested and tortured. When the attack started, forces loyal to Hun Sen hunted down political opponents. Several people, including Members of Parliament, journalists, and human rights workers fled in terror seeking protection at foreign embassies. Some requested protection from the United States' Embassy. The US has been criticized for its 'lukewarm' response, and it took days for the administration to come up with a reasonably strong statement against the violence. The recent development was the climax of a series of events which started with a grenade attack on a peaceful rally on Easter Sunday. As many as 19 people were killed and more than 100 injured, including an American citizen. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sent a team to investigate the incident. So far the report of this investigation has not been made public. Please write to Assistant Secretary Stanley Roth and urge the administration to: - Explain what steps the US Embassy in Phnom Penh took to protect people who were targeted by Hun Sen's forces, and why the US did not immediately and unequivocally condemn the violence. - Release the report by the FBI concerning the Easter Sunday grenade attack in Phnom Penh. - Demand a full and impartial investigation into all abuses which have occurred since July 4, 1997 and allow international human rights monitors to visit detention centers. WRITE Stanley Roth, Asst. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Rm 6205, State Dept., 2201 C St., NW, Wash., DC 20520, FAX 202-647-7350.

Death Penalty Update

Thompson Execution Narrowly Averted In a 7-4 decision a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel blocked the execution of Thomas Thompson scheduled for August 4. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to lift this stay and agreed to hear arguments on the case in October. Gov. Pete Wilson, who had earlier rejected Thompson's clemency petition expressed outrage at the Ninth Circuit's decision. The New York Times in an August 6 lead editorial denounced Wilson stating, "the real outrage was his portrayal of the 7 to 4 ruling as the irresponsible act of a 'coterie of liberal judges.' It was instead a principled decision to avoid injustice and to preserve the integrity of the judicial process." The Times further urged the Supreme Court to "rethink its casual approach to unconstitutional execution that promises to make this a record year for capital punishment." Many thanks to the two dozen people who showed up for the execution vigil. It's great to know that in the event we really do need to come together we can really count on the community support. You can check up on events surrounding future executions by calling the Death Penalty Action Team Hotline at 213-673-3693. Death Row Inmates By State As of August 1, 1997 California 476 Texas 444 Florida 380 Pennsylvania 210 Ohio 173 North Carolina 163 Illinois 159 Alabama 152 Oklahoma 147 Arizona 114 Georgia 108 Tennessee 96 Missouri 94 Nevada 82 South Carolina 68 Louisiana 62 Mississippi 56 Virginia 47 Indiana 45 Arkansas 40 Kentucky 30 Oregon 22 Idaho 19 Maryland 16 Washington 15 US Government 14 Delaware 14 New Jersey 14 Nebraska 11 Utah 11 US Military 8 Montana 6 Connecticut 5 Colorado 5 New Mexico 4 South Dakota 2 ------------------------------ TOTAL: 3,312


Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk Our group's POC case is that of Ngawang Pekar, a Tibetan monk sentenced to 8 years in prison in August 1989 for participating in a peaceful demonstration in support of independence for Tibet. We hoped to celebrate his release this year at the end of his sentence. Sadly, we found his sentence was extended by 6 years. Officials at Drapchi prison in Tibet found Ngawang had a list of prisoners held in the prison. He allegedly was planning to smuggle this list out to international human rights organizations. After this discovery,, Ngawang was put in an iron isolation cell for 3 months and his sentence was extended by 6 years to the year 2005. We have the unique opportunity this month to write to Ai Zhisheng, Minister of Radio, Film, and Television. (It's amazing that AI gets all of these addresses!) Ask him to look into this case and try to obtain the release of our POC or, at the least, have his additional harsh sentence reduced. A sample letter appears below along with the address. Per AI, please refer to Tibet the first time in your letters as the Tibet Autonomous Region or Xizang Zizhiqu. Dear Minister: I am writing in regard to the case of Ngawang Pekar, a monk who was arrested in August 1989 and sentenced to 8 years in prison for his participation in a demonstration and whose sentence was recently increased by 6 years. I am concerned that he was arrested for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and about reports that he has been denied access to medical care since his arrest. I am also concerned that he was given an extremely harsh increase of 6 years in his sentence for keeping a list of prisoners in Drapchi prison and was held in an iron cell for 3 months after the list was found. If Ngawang Pekar has been imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of his conscience, I ask that he be immediately and unconditionally released in accordance with the international laws to which China subscribes. If he is not released, I ask that the extension of his sentence be reduced. Sincerely, Address it to: Minister Ai Zhisheng Ministry of Radio, Film and Television Beijing People's Republic of China Thank you for your support. Your letters do matter very much. Keep lighting those candles!!

Refugee Campaign - Kenya

Arbitrary arrest / Fear of ill-treatment / Fear of refoulement More than 600 foreign nationals living in Kenya, including many Rwandese and Burundian nationals, have been arrested since 18 July 1997. Many have since been released. However, reports that many have been told to leave Kenya within a week have heightened concern for their safety as Rwandese, Burundian, and possibly other concern for their safety as Rwandese, Burundian, and possibly other foreign nationals would be at serious risk of human rights violations if returned to their home countries. The motive for the arrests remain unclear. The authorities have stated publicly that it is to enable officials to check the status of the foreign nationals, and that those with valid papers will be released. Many of those arrested claim to have presented valid documents authorizing them to live in Kenya; some have protection letters from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). However, Amnesty International is concerned at reports that scores of Burundian and Rwandese nationals who have been released have been told by immigration officials that they have seven days to leave the country. Many are in possession of valid visas. Some who were released were reportedly rearrested soon afterwards. Of the Burundian nationals named in the previous UA update, Cyprien Manirakiza, Daphrose Manitakiza, Louise Ndizigiye, her sister and five children are reported to have been released. Those without valid documentation have also reportedly been given a week to leave the country. Approximately 150 refugees, including Stephanie Mbanzendore (named in previous update), have been released from detention in Nairobi and transferred by the UNHCR to Kakuma camp, northern Kenya. Since the arrests, two sets of transfers to Kakuma camp have taken place; one on or around 30 July and one on 8 August. Some of those transferred have been separated from their families. Those transferred are believed to be primarily of Rwandese, Burundian and Somalian nationality, although Ethiopian and Congolese (DRC) refugees were also transferred. Others have refused to go, some because of the harsh conditions in Kakuma, and have been allowed by the Kenyan authorities to remain in Nairobi. No new arrests have been reported to Amnesty International since 29 July when a number of arrests took place, including that of Dominique Nyandwi, a Burundian national, who was arrested on 29 July as he transited through Nairobi en route to Belgium for medical treatment. He was due to spend three days in Nairobi and was in possession of a visa for his onward travel. He was subsequently released on 5 August. Those in detention have been allowed access to their families. UNHCR officials have also visited the detention centres. Amnesty International has not received confirmed reports of ill-treatment or torture during detention, although conditions are very harsh and overcrowded. Amnesty International has received the names of more than 140 people arrested, including those named in the previous update, and has written to President Moi asking for information on these cases. Please send express/airmail letters: - welcoming the release from detention of hundreds of foreign nationals arrested since 18 July 1997 but expressing concern that scores of Burundian and Rwandese nationals, and other foreign nationals have been told to leave the country; - seeking immediate assurances that they will not be forcibly returned to Rwanda or Burundi or other countries where they would be at risk of serious human rights violations; - asking for information on the situation of those released and on the identity of Burundian, Rwandese and other foreign nationals who remain in detention, their current whereabouts and whether there are any charges against them; - calling for the immediate release of foreign nationals in detention unless they are promptly charged with recognizably criminal offences and seeking assurances that they are not being ill-treated and have and seeking assurances that they are not being ill-treated and have access to medical care, lawyers and visits from their families. APPEALS TO: Commissioner Duncan Wachira (Dear Commissioner) Commissioner of Police, Police HQ PO Box 30083 Nairobi, Kenya Mr Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka (Dear Minister) Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation Harambee Avenue PO Box 30551 Nairobi, Kenya Mr Amos Wako (Dear Attorney General) Attorney General PO Box 40112 Nairobi, Kenya

What's Ahead for Group 22

To help Revae get off to a good start as group coordinator we will be dedicating our August meeting to planning for the up-coming months. Please join us and share your ideas. Some items up for discussion: 1997-98 campaigns. Campaigns coming up this year celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and will launch an international campaign focusing on human rights in the United States. The group will need to make a commitment to support these campaigns with appropriate activities and to find volunteer leaders who will guide us. Meanwhile, the refugee campaign continues, and as we put vacation time behind us, we will want to renew our dedication to this important campaign. Calendar and Special Events. Plans for a joint event with the American Friends Service Committee Bookstore drawing attention to the book of prison writings by imprisoned Chinese democracy activist Wei Jingsheng "The Courage to Stand Alone," are already in the works. We also expect to find ways to use the release of two feature films about Tibet and the Dalai Lama to our advantage. Regretfully, there will be more California executions, and more vigils to plan. In addition, we need to plan what speakers or discussions members would like to see at our regular meetings. Please let us know what your interests are! Fund-raising. Several great ideas for fund-raisers are being researched by the group, from rummage sales to greeting cards to a renewed effort to collect group dues. Implementing any of these ideas is a team effort requiring your input!


What is a prisoner of conscience? (This new Q&A column will serve as "basic training" for new members, and review for old-timers) In many countries people are detained for trying to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly, or movement. Some are imprisoned because they or their families are involved in political or religious activities. Some are arrested because of their connection with political parties or national minority movements that oppose government policies. Trade Union activity or participation in strikes or demonstrations is a common cause of imprisonment. Often people are imprisoned simply because they questioned their government or tried to publicize human rights violations in their own countries. Some may be held for refusing to do military service on grounds of conscience. Others are jailed on the pretext that they committed a crime, but it is in fact because they criticized the government. People who are imprisoned, detained or otherwise physically restricted because of their political, religious or other conscientiously-held beliefs or because of their ethnic origin, sex, colour, or language and who have not used or advocated violence are considered by Amnesty International to be prisoners of conscience. Prisoners of conscience are held by governments in all regions of the world; in countries with diverse political and social systems. Some prisoners of conscience are held for actions undertaken as individuals; others are part of a group or movement. Some have spoken in direct opposition to the government in power or the established system or government; others have taken care to work within their countries political system but have been imprisoned for their beliefs or peaceful activities nonetheless. What does Amnesty International do for such prisoners? The detention of any prisoner of conscience violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty International works for the immediate and unconditional release of ALL prisoners of conscience. When the facts show that individuals are prisoners of conscience, the cases are usually allocated to one or more of the movement's groups around the world. The groups- comprising local Amnesty International members- study the background to the cases and then begin writing to the responsible authorities, appealing for the prisoners' immediate and unconditional release. Letter after letter goes out to cabinet ministers and prison officials. The members try to get publicity in the local press about the prisoner they are working to free. They go to the foreign embassy or trade delegation in their country. They get prominent people to sign appeals. If they can contact the prisoner's family, they may send relief parcels and correspond with the prisoner. For every prisoner of conscience whose case becomes known, there are many more who are unknown; and even those who gain wide publicity tend to be forgotten over time. Amnesty International aims to give attention to all the forgotten prisoners, to ensure that they remain a public concern and that they are cared for individually, while the efforts to free them are underway.


Amnesty International 1997 Annual Report Amnesty International has just released its 1997 Annual Report covering human rights abuses in 151 countries and territories during 1996. The bulk of the report describing human rights conditions in individual countries is also available on the World-Wide Web at Group 22 will obtain a copy of the report for reference of members. Individuals wishing to receive a personal copy may contact the regional office at 310-815-0450. Cost is $20 per copy. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Not as slick as the UN Refugee site, this page still has a large amount of documentation regarding international legal documents, and conference proceedings and publications of the commission.

Editor's Last Word Thanks Roberto! That's right, I've stepped down as coordinator and have taken over the newsletter so you haven't heard the last of me. Many thanks to Roberto for his dedication to the job over the last few years. We are all looking forward to the celebrations which are sure to accompany his graduation in the very near future. I will be experimenting with the newsletter format in the next few months and welcome feedback. Submissions are also welcome. Deadline is generally the second Friday of the month, but check to be sure (in months where the monthly meeting falls in the third week, the deadline may be earlier). Read the newsletter on line at: Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039

Amnesty International works impartially to free individuals jailed solely for their beliefs, ethnic origin, language, or sexual orientation, provided they have not used or advocated violence, to ensure fair trials for all political prisoners, and to abolish torture and executions worldwide. It is funded by members and supporters around the world.