This is our current newsletter, except that Urgent Actions have been removed since they are not public domain. If you would like a copy of our newsletter (either electronically or via snail-mail) please contact us.
** Coordinator's Corner * Elections and Resolutions
Global human rights concerns are constantly evolving and so too must international rights movement adjust it's mission and methods to meet new challenges. How does Amnesty International, the world's largest grassroots human rights organization, accomplish this task? Prior to AIUSA's Annual General Meeting (AGM) each year we try to take time out to talk about AI, the organization. This gives us a chance to ask any questions about how we do our work which don't get answered at other meetings due to our packed agenda. One reason to pause for this conversation prior to the AGM is to stress the importance of grassroots input into the national and international movement. Readers of this newsletter who are national members of AI should have received a ballot for the annual elections to the AIUSA Board of Directors. Your vote in this election gives you a voice in the direction of the national organization. One board candidate this year is South African poet and former prisoner of consicence, Dennis Brutus. At our May meeting I will share some of his poetry. This is not meant as an endorsement (or any negative reflection on non-poet candidates!), but I hope it draws your attention to the varied talents of those listed on your ballot. (If you are not a national member but would like to be, you are in luck! We are in the midst of a national recruitment drive and have a special application brochure for you! Please call or e-mail your address and I will send you one.) Another manner in which members influence the national and international movement is via the resolutions process. While at first glance, AGM resolutions may look a bit dry, in fact they are at the heart of what we do. This year's resolutions pose some of the most central questions to the human rights movement: Should AI use economic sector strategies (trade sanctions, boycotts, etc.)? Should we take on the cases of individuals whose livelihood is threatened by a government (through extortion, crop destruction, etc.)? What is genocide and what can a grassroots movement do about it? What priority and resources should be given to it? These questions should make for a lively discussion at our May meeting and should be helpful to newcomers and old-timers alike in clarifying what AI's mission is. As your representative at the AGM I have the authority to cast a vote on behalf of the group. I hope you will join me in formulating a group consensus on these and other important issues. Please join us!
Martha Ter Maat Group Coordinator 818-281-4039 firstname.lastname@example.org ** Upcoming Events THURSDAY, May 22, 7:30 PM Caltech Y Lounge, Winnett Center Monthly Meeting: AI Basics MONDAY, June 9, 7:00 PM AIUSA West, Culver City Office Greater Los Angeles Area Development Quarterly Training and Support Meeting This meeting will be a follow-up to the refugee workshop in April and will include an update on the refugee campaign's concerns, both domestic and international, from the Annual General Meeting in New Orleans as well as the latest on the refugee monitor team's activities. (Contact Martha for location and/or carpool information) TUESDAY, June 10, 7:30 PM Athenaeum Rec Room, Caltech Letter-writing Meeting THURSDAY, June 19, 7:30 PM Catalina Rec Room 1 Video/Discussion Night: "Calling the Ghosts" ** The Web-tips of the month. May AIUSA Virtual Postcards www.igc.apc.org/amnesty/postcard/pickcard.html You can send beautiful "postcard" to your friends and family informing them of all your Amnesty activities or just as a refreshing suprise. The photographs are from AI calendars and special Tibetan and Mayan photo exhibits. The photographs will be changed periodically. Great idea for a Father's Day card for those with dads on-line! Be sure to log-in as a member of Group 22 and earn points towards free concert tickets and CD-ROMs for the group! One World Guide: Refugees http://oneworld.org/overviews/refugees/ stalkermigration.html Here's an excellent non-Amnesty introduction to refugee issues. One World Special Report: Rwanda www.oneworld.org/chrwanda/chrwandsptop.html >From the same site here's is great background on Rwanda. FRONTLINE: Valentina's Nightmare www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/rwanda/ In April, the PBS documentary series "Frontline" aired "Valentina's Nightmare," which details the story of a child survivor of the Rwandan genocide. The accompanying website gives further background to the crisis. Note particularly the background information given by Gerard Prunier who is interviewed in the film. Immigration and Naturalization Service www.ins.usdoj.gov/index.html Check out the INS spin on the new immigration law! You can download the whole thing from this site, but if that's a bit much you can still check out their summaries, press releases and statistics. ** Turkey Campaign * Summary of the Campaign The Turkey campaign offically ended last month and this is an unofficial summary of the official AIUSA summary of the campaign. The issue of US military transfers to Turkey reached the headlines at the end of last year when Turkey cancelled its plans to purchase 10 helicopter gunships from the US. Turkey apparently withdrew its order after the deal became bogged down in Congress after human rights groups claimed that the aircraft might be used against Kurdish separatists. Amnesty's goal of end-use monitoring for all military hardware exported to Turkey appears likely to happen with the Department of State due to submit a report to Congress. Although Amnesty hoped that some members of Congress would "adopt" human rights organizations in Turkey this did not happen. However, some members were willing to write letters on behalf of human rights defenders in Turkey. Amnesty's aim of getting the American Medical Association to support the Turkish Human Rights Foundation and condemn the persecution of doctors trying to expose torture in Turkey was passed by the Colorado State Medical Association in March. It must now go to the AMA's annual general meeting where hopefully it will be passed at the national level. There has been a reduction in the number of journalists and writers being detained in Turkey but Amnesty is not offically taking credit for this (it never does in such circumstances). There has not been too much progress on Amnesty's desire for monitoring teams in the Southeast of Turkey. Amnesty wishes that this region be accessible to the UN or to the International Red Cross. Work on this goal will continue. Five police officers are being tried in connection with the torture of Gulderen Baran, one of the cases featured in the campaign. Furthermore, according to Associated Press, Turkey's Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister, Tansu Ciller, has admitted that torture is a problem in Turkey. In the past Turkey's official line was that torture was not a major problem although there were isolated incidents. Ciller announced a campaign to rid Turkey of torture. Although she did not elaborate on the details of the campaign she said, "Torture will be wiped out from our nation." Her comments followed statements by European Christian Democrat leaders who have cited Turkey's human rights abuses as an obstacle to Turkey being granted membership of the European Union. Tansu Ciller also promised more press freedom and a push for an accounting of more than 800 people whose relatives claim were abducted by security forces. ** News Release * Source: Physics Today
The American Physical Society has awarded its 1996 Nicholson Medal to Chinese Physicist Fang Li-Zhi for "his courageous struggle for democracy and human rights in China over the past four decades; for his continued commitment to teaching and his outstanding leadership in physics research despite difficult circumstances; and for his continuing support and dedication to students, colleagues, and those fighting for human rights." ** SURAN Update The SURAN coordinator, Larry Romans (818-683-4977, email@example.com) may be contacted for additional information and material concerning these issues (including copies of relevant petitions). * Nikitin update. As part of the Earth Day (April 25) celebration at Caltech, the festive Amnesty International table provided an excellent opportunity for publicity. The case of Russian environmental activist Aleksandr Nikitin was again featured there, with fact sheets and petitions prepared for the occasion. At the time of writing, there does not seem to be any change in his status; he remains confined to St. Petersburg, facing espionage charges. Meanwhile, the Sierra Club has decided to adopt the case as one of their major campaigns for 1997, and sent a strongly worded letter to Yeltsin on May 8 urging a review of the charges against Nikitin. The letter cited the AI report on the case for the crucial issue of Nikitin's use of publicly avaiable sources. * New report on torture in Russia. Another petition prepared for Earth Day at Caltech was based on the recent AI report "Torture in Russia" (mentioned in the previous newsletter). Here is the text of that petition, which is also suitable for sending as a letter: We are extremely concerned about persistent reports of systematic and widespread torture by government personnel within Russia. The Constitution of the Russian Federation, together with international agreements to which Russia is a party, provides an excellent framework for safeguarding human rights, in principle. However, it is clear that extra measures are urgently needed in Russia to effectively prevent torture and ill-treatment in practice. We join with Amnesty International and the United Nations Committee Against Torture (cf. their reports released in April 1997 and November 1996, respectively) in urging the Russian Federation to adopt a comprehensive action plan to eliminate torture within its detention and prison system. In particular, we urge: criminalization of torture as a distinct crime training of personnel to include prohibition of torture (as specified by law) informing detainees and the public of their rights effective monitoring of conditions of criminal investigations effective investigation of complaints and punishment of offenders radical improvement of conditions in prisons abolishing extra-judicial long-term detainment (more than 48 hours) independent investigation of torture allegations in the Chechnya conflict We earnestly hope that you will consider the recommendations from these sources, and do everything in your power to address this serious human-rights problem. (addressed to:) Boris Yeltsin, President of the Russian Federation Rossiyskaya Federatsiya g. Moskva, Kreml Prezidentu Rossiyskoy Federatsii YELTSINU B.N. RUSSIA * Failure to Protect Asylum Seekers Another very recent AI report, "Russian Federation: Failure to Protect Asylum Seekers" (April 1997) is also relevant to the Refugee Campaign. Here is the summary of the report: Amnesty International is concerned that the Russian Federation is failing in its duty to protect asylum seekers fleeing human rights violations. This report shows that asylum seekers wishing to seek protection in the Russian Federation are routinely denied access to the asylum procedures. Left in a legal limbo, often for years, these people are unable to obtain any protective identity documents from the Russian authorities and are often harassed and ill-treated by law enforcement officers. Asylum seekers in the Russian Federation are at constant risk of being detained. A section of this report focuses on specific cases of refoulement, in particular from the transit zone of Sheremetevo-II airport in Moscow: where asynum seekers have been forcibly deported from the airport without even the most cursory examination of their asylum requests, back to their countries of origin where they may face persecution, torture or threats to their lives. AI puts forward this report, and makes recommendations, not only to the Government of the Russian Federation, but also to the international community at large. AI is aware of numerous cases where asylum seekers have been sent from European countries back to Russia on the basis of "safe third country" practice. AI urges European governments to recognize the reality of inadequate refugee protection in the Russian Federation -- that Russia is for many asylum seekers anything but "safe." * Russian death penalty update. Ukraine. (Source: RFE/RL Newsline) May 6: Ukraine has signed the Council of Europe's protocol abolishing the death penalty. It also signed the organization's convention for the prevention of torture and inhumane treatment. The signature of those two documents means that a committee of independent experts will now be able to visit Ukrainian prisons, police stations, and detention centers. Four months ago, Ukraine's government proposed a draft law on abolishing the death penalty but the parliament has yet to pass the legislation. May 15: Leni Fischer, the president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, told reporters in Kyiv yesterday that the suspension of Ukraine "is not on the [council's] agenda," despite what she called Kyiv's inconsistent progress toward abolishing the death penalty. The Parliamentary Assembly warned Ukraine in January that it might suspend Kyiv if it failed to keep its promise, made when it joined the council two years ago, to end the death penalty. The Justice Ministry says executions ceased that month. Kyiv reportedly put 169 criminals to death last year. ** Editor's last words. Write for the newsletter! Commentaries, suggestions are always welcomed. You can also read the newsletter on line at: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/ aigp22/home.html Check out the web-tips links. Roberto (818)796-0876 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.cco.caltech.edu/ rzenit/rzenit.html ** Amnesty International works impartially to free prisoners of conscience-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.