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
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
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
"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
"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.
THURSDAY, August 28, 7:30 PM, Caltech Y Lounge, Winnett Center, Monthly
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
TUESDAY, September 9, 7:30 PM, Athenaeum Basement, Letter-writing
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
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
- 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,
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
As of August 1, 1997
North Carolina 163
South Carolina 68
US Government 14
New Jersey 14
US Military 8
New Mexico 4
South Dakota 2
PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE - China/Tibet
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.
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
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.
Address it to:
Minister Ai Zhisheng
Ministry of Radio, Film and Television
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
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
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
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.
Commissioner Duncan Wachira (Dear Commissioner)
Commissioner of Police, Police HQ
PO Box 30083
Mr Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka (Dear Minister)
Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation
PO Box 30551
Mr Amos Wako (Dear Attorney General)
PO Box 40112
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
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
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.
AUGUST WEB TIPS
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
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