Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena / Caltech News Volume V Number 9, October 1997

Coordinator's Musings

Lots of activities for the group this month - it must be fall. Renewed enthusiasm abounds. Last month's meeting was a great success with several potential new members in attendance. We hope to see them all at the next meeting! Martha Ter Maat aided our understanding of our prisoner case with a terrific presentation on Tibet. She gave us a wonderful timeline detailing the events leading up to and including those surrounding the arrest of our prisoner, Ngawang Pekar, in 1989 (See Web Tips to follow-up on this presentation). Many thanks to those who tabled at the Economic Justice conference at Throop Unitarian on the 4th - Olga, Marco, Tricia, and Martha. Jennifer Harbury's presentation was reportedly the highlight of the day. By the time you read this, our rummage sale and holiday card making party will have occurred. Many thanks to those who pitched in to help. And special thanks to Martha for purchasing all of the supplies for the cards, Jim Smith for bringing over a large haul of items from a Cal Tech colleague who moved to Japan, Larry Romans for picking up the tables, and to Mark Roulston for smoothly handling getting new keys to the Y (they locked us out again!) and arranging to get the tables. A must-see event is coming up at the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) bookstore this Friday, Oct. 17th. Wei Jingsheng's new book, The Courage to Stand Alone: Letters From Prison and Other Writings, will be discusssed with a presentation by our own Martha Ter Maat and Ann Lau, co-chair of the Visual Artists Guild. Ann will discuss Wei's case and present a video interview with Wei Jingsheng and Martha will present background information on the political and human rights situation in China. October's monthly meeting will give us a chance to provide input to those attending the Western Regional Conference in Tucson on Oct. 23 & 24th. So far, Martha and I from Group 22 plan to attend. I'll provide a full report in the next newsletter. As well as looking forward to the conference itself, I am anxious to see how well our holiday cards sell and whether this will be a lucrative undertaking for the group. As you have probably read in the paper this week, the Senate and House passed a modification of last year's immigration law that will allow many Nicaraguan, Guatemalan and Salvadoran refugees and other immigrants to remain in the U.S. As usual, the Congress seems to be doing something right (or at least partially right), but for the wrong reasons. It will be interesting to see at the regional conference what the reaction to this legislation is within the Amnesty community. Finally, stay tuned for more information about an AI demonstration on Saturday, November 1st when Chinese President Jiang Zemin visits Los Angeles. Thanks to everyone for their participation and interest in the many events this fall. And I will see all of you at the monthly meeting on the 23rd. --Revae Moran 818-249-1419 Group Coordinator

Upcoming Events

THURSDAY, October 23, 7:30 PM Monthly Meeting Caltech Y Lounge, Winnett Center 2nd Floor. FRIDAY-SUNDAY, October 24-26 "Human Rights Have No Borders", AIUSA Western Regional Conference, Tucson Arizona. It's not too late to sign up for a terrific program! Contact the regional office for registration and program information: 310-815-0450. TUESDAY, November 11, 7:30 PM Athenaeum Basement (Corner of California and Hill), Letter-writing meeting. Too many actions for this newsletter! Come help us write! Note date changes for up-coming meetings: The November-December Meeting will be a Tibetan holiday party held on Friday, December 5 at the home of Martha Ter Maat. Watch for details in the next newsletter We also plan to hold letter-writing in December on International Human Rights Day, Wednesday, December 10 which will be the kick-off for our year long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Location for this special meeting TBA. Stay tuned!


Group 22 is now selling attractive handmade greeting cards as our fall fund-raiser. The cards are a simple design, consisting of layered decorative papers and the message "Peace" on the front and blank inside. We have bundled them at 10 cards for $15. While we plan to sell as many sets as possible at the Regional Conference, there will surely be many left over. Use them yourself or give a set to a friend. Contact Revae to place an order. Many thanks to all who helped with assembly!


What does Amnesty International do in cases where politically motivated prisoners have used or advocated violence? Amnesty International takes no position on the question of violence. It does not identify itself with any of the parties to any conflict, violent or non-violent, nor does it presume to judge in any situation whether recourse to violence is justified or not. It deliberately restricts itself to working for the protection of the human rights that fall within its mandate and does not comment or act on issues that fall outside those terms of reference. It opposes the torture and execution of ALL prisoners and advocates fair and prompt trials for ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS, regardless of whether they are accused of using or advocating violence. However, Amnesty International seeks the immediate and unconditional release only of individuals imprisoned for the exercise of their human rights, whose imprisonment cannot be reasonably attributed to the use or advocacy of violence. In these cases, the detention violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The human rights violations against which Amnesty International works sometimes take place in a context of violence. This may take various forms: confrontation between government and opposition groups which engage in terrorist acts, civil war, international war. Amnesty International's mandate applies in these circumstances as in any other. A context of violence does not justify taking prisoners of conscience or the practice of torture or execution of prisoners. This is an important standard. The existence of a context of violence is often taken as justification for a more permissible attitude towards human rights violations- the arrest of people on account of their beliefs or origins, the torture of prisoners or the use of the death penalty. Indeed, in times of violence prisoners are particularly vulnerable to such violations, and international standards and protection work become especially important at such times. Governments often falsely accuse people of having been involved inviolence when in fact they are imprisoned solely on account of their non-violent exercise of their human rights. Indeed, the accusation that dissenters have been involved in violence is one of the arguments most frequently used by governments in response to expressions of concern about prisoners of conscience. On the basis of its careful research Amnesty International makes its own assessment of the facts in each case. It is not bound to accept the assertion of a government, the interpretation of a court, or the claim of a prisoner, as to whether an individual has used or advocate violence. The fact that a prisoner has been convicted of breaking the law or belongs to an organization whose aims call for the use of violence, does not in itself preclude an individual from being considered a prisoner of conscience. Amnesty International takes up each case on its own merits.

October WEB TIPS

(Listing in Web Tips does not imply endorsement of website contents by AIUSA) American Friends Service Committee Friends Committee on National Legislation Friends Committee to Abolish the Death Penalty This month we are happy to co-sponsor an event with the American Friends Service Committee Bookstore in Pasadena. If you are not already familiar with AFSC, a trip to this site will give you a great overview of the wide variety of peace and justice projects AFSC sponsors worldwide. The areas which overlap most significantly with AI's mandate are refugee and death penalty work. Two auxiliary sites worth noting are the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) site, an excellent source for information regarding human-rights related legislation and the Friends Committee to Abolish the Death Penalty (FCADP) with a variety of abolitionist resources including a well-stocked on-line bookstore. Asian Arts: Kora Project Walk in the footsteps of Ngawang Pekar! At our September meeting we learned how Tibetan demonstrators in 1987-89 transformed the act of kora (or khorra), a Buddhist ritual involving circumambulation of the Johkang Temple in Lhasa while reciting prayers, into a form of political protest. You can "virtually" walk the path around the temple at this web site, where a photographer has sought to document, for purposes of historical preservation, the buildings on this circuit. You'll have to picture large groups of monks and nuns chanting political slogans and displaying Tibetan flags for yourself (not to mention the security police attacking and dispersing the demonstrators), but once again, the magic of the internet brings you there!

Refugee Campaign: TUNISIA

Call for release of Rachida Ben Salem Rachida Ben Salem, a Tunisian woman whose husband is a political refugee in Holland, was sentenced to two years and three months' imprisonment on September 9 following an August 28 trial. Her lawyers will now lodge an appeal. Amnesty has adopted Rachida as a prisoner of conscience. We believe that her case reflects an increasingly widespread problem: namely, the arrest, detention, torture or ill-treatment, and systematic harassment of relatives -- especially wives -- of imprisoned and exiled political opponents of the Tunisian Government. Rachida was arrested on May 18 of this year with her two daughters, ages 5 and 7. She was held in incommunicado detention at the Ministry of the Interior in Tunis, where she was reportedly abused and insulted. She was transferred to prison on May 31. Following her trial, Rachida received a two-year prison sentence on a charge of membership in an unauthorized association (the Islamist group al-Nahda, of which her husband is a supporter). The prosecution did not produce any convincing evidence to support this charge, which she denies. Rachida also received a three-month sentence on a charge related to border-crossing. At the time of her arrest, however, she was in Tunisia, quite some distance from the Libyan border. She was apparently convicted on the basis of her intention to leave the country and join her husband, who she and her children have not seen for several years. Prior to her arrest, Rachida had been subjected to harassment and ill-treatment for a long time. She does not have a passport and has not been able to leave her country, a right guaranteed by Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Please write letters expressing concern at the sentencing of Rachida Ben Salem and her alleged ill-treatment in police custody; calling for her immediate and unconditional release; and urging that the case against her be quashed by the Court of Appeal. Send your appeals to: Salutation: M. Abdallah Kallel Your Excellency Ministre de la Justice Ministere de la Justice Boulevard Bab Benat Tunis, Tunisia

Refugee Thanks Amnesty for Support

We are pleased to report that Maryam Azimi, a refugee from Afghanistan whose case was featured in the first mailing of the Refugee Campaign, has received official permission to remain in Norway. She had fled there with her children to escape human rights abuses in her homeland. This summer, Maryam sent a letter thanking all of the Amnesty members who worked on her case and sent appeals on her behalf. "I am very pleased to let you know that my refugee problems came to an end this week and we are now allowed to take residence in Norway," she wrote. "This could not have been possible without continued support from Amnesty International."

Vanessa Redgrave Working with AIUSA

Readers of L.A. Weekly may have noticed the article about the INS detention center near Bakersfield written by actress and activist Vanessa Redgrave. Redgrave has been working closely with Amnesty on refugee issues and the conditions facing asylum seekers in the United States. A founding member of International Artists Against Racism, Redgrave recently met with L.A. area activists engaged in monitoring Immigration and Naturalization Service detention centers including our own Larry Romans. Redgrave has been performing her new show, Planet Without a Visa, throughout Europe. The production, which is for and about asylum seekers, includes poems and songs from the writings of Maya Angelou, Bertolt Brecht and Pablo Neruda. Redgrave has agreed to perform at the Annual General Meeting to be held in San Francisco next March. Another reason to plan to attend the 1998 AGM!

Arrest Now! Campaign

Amnesty International strongly supports arresting and bringing to trial suspects indicted for war crimes by the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia), as a matter of the utmost priority for the international community. The U.S. and other governments have an unequivocal legal obligation under U.N. Security Council Resolution 827 (which established the ICTY) to make arrests. However, with few exceptions - most notably, the NATO-led action in July 1997 in which one suspect was apprehended and one killed - the SFOR (the NATO-led Stabilization Force in Bosnia) has tended to avoid possible confrontations, resulting in effective impunity for many of those indicted for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. On August 26, 1997, journalists on assignment for CBS television in Foca, Bosnia-Herzegovina, surreptitiously taped two SFOR soldiers drinking coffee at an outdoor cafe as an indicted war crimes suspect sat nearby. This suspect was indicted by the ICTY for gang rape, systematic rape, sexual assault, and the torture and enslavement of Bosnian women and girls in Foca in 1992. When the journalists later asked a French SFOR captain on active duty in the area why SFOR had not arrested the man, he responded: "We must have good relations with the community and not shock them." The story of this encounter in Foca is scheduled to air on the CBS program "Public Eye" on October 15, 1997. Meanwhile, CBS journalists made contact with AI researchers in London and cooperated in the preparation of a document for the "Arrest Now!" campaign incorporating the story, entitled "How Can They Sleep at Night?" Suggested actions: 1. Write, phone or send e-mail to Senator Dianne Feinstein 331 Hart Senate Building Washington, DC 20510 (202) 224-3834 Senator Barbara Boxer 112 Hart Senate Building Washington, DC 20510 (202) 224-3553 You may also write your Congressional Representative. --expressing dismay at the incident documented in the CBS story and encouraging her to continue to actively support the arrest of ICTY suspects. Senator Feinstein is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and has a record of vocally supporting such arrests (in particular, the July action). It would be appropriate to thank her for this support in the past. 2. Write to the French Ambassador to the United States: Ambassador Claude Fay Embassy of France 4101 Reservoir Road NW Washington, DC 20007 --expressing dismay at the incident and the hope that in the future, French SFOR troops will fulfill their mandate to arrest indicted war criminals when they encounter them. The French Army has command control of the area of Bosnia which includes Foca. For further information and material, consult the web page or contact L. Romans (, 626-683-4977).

"STICK UP" for Kim Seong Man: and Update

A few months back, several Group 22 members participated in the "Stick Up for Kim Seong-man" by sending sticks of gum to this prisoner of conscience in South Korea, thereby showing him and his jailers the support he has from AIUSA. In July, Kim sent a letter to Drake Zimmerman of Group 202 in Normal, Illinois. He wrote: "I received several tens of letters from [the] USA thanks to the Stick Up Campaign. They gave me consolation and encouragement. They made me forget my loneliness and helped me not to lose self-esteem. They let me feel the burden of the prison life lighter. I know that you suggested the campaign; I thank you from the bottom of my heart." And thanks to all who participated in this action.

MEXICO: Defend the Defenders of the Sacred Land

Local indigenous leaders and environmentalists in the Mexican state of Morelos are fighting a government-sponsored project to build a multi-million dollar golf course and luxury resort on land considered sacred by the community. Their cases illustrate the need to defend the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Leticia Moctezuma Vargas, a teacher and activist, has been peacefully campaigning with other members of the Tepoztlán community to stop the project, which could seriously damage the local environment. Her right to do this work is protected under Article 20 of the UDHR, which guarantees freedom of association. As a result of her participation in the protest, however, Leticia and her young daughters have been beaten and have received death threats. The resort project is backed by a major development company and the state government. Lined up in opposition to it are the indigenous people of Tepoztlán, human rights activists and grassroots organizations working on behalf of the poor. As stated in Article 22 of the UDHR, everyone is entitled to economic, cultural and social rights. In April 1996, Leticia and her daughters joined a rally that was violently broken up by police, who reportedly seized elderly women by the hair and beat Leticia and her children. Such actions violate Article 5 of the UDHR, which forbids torture and ill-treatment. At the rally, Leticia saw three officers drag Marcos Olmedo Gutierrez, an elderly member of the community, wounded but alive, into a police vehicle. He was later found dead. He had been killed by a bullet in the back of the head, in breach of Article 3 of the UDHR, which sets forth the right to life. On July 1, 1996, Leticia received two threatening telephone calls. "Stop interfering in politics," a man warned her. "You should take it easy with your politics or we will kill you." The following day, another threatening call came to the nursery where Leticia works. The anonymous caller, this time female, said: "Take it easy or things will go bad for you. Take it easy or we will kill you." Such threats violate Article 3 of the UDHR, which says that everyone has the right to live in safety, and Article 12, which protects the privacy of the family. Today, Leticia fears for her life because of her environmental campaigning. She has been denied rights that the world has said should never be violated. Please send letters urging a prompt and thorough investigation into the attacks and threats against Leticia Moctezuma Vargas and others in her community; asking for those responsible to be brought to justice; and requesting that the authorities take immediate measures to protect Leticia and her family. Send your appeals to: Lic. Emilio Chuayffet Chemor Secretario de la Gobernacion Secretaria de la Gobernacion Bucareli 99, 1er piso, Col. Juárez 06699 Mexico DF, Mexico Salutation: Dear Minister


Tell Bill about Ngawang Pekar! "Welcome" Jiang Zemin to Los Angeles! The POC our group remains focused on is Ngawang Pekar, a 37-year-old Tibetan Buddhist monk from Drepung Monastery in the city of Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region (as Tibet is now called). As you may be aware, later this month Jiang Zemin, President of the People's Republic of China, will visiting the U.S., and meeting with our President Clinton. We ask that you write, phone or e-mail President Clinton urging him to request of Jiang Zemin that Ngawang Pekar's case be reviewed and that he be released, or at least have his sentence reduced. A sample letter follows. Human rights activists in the Los Angeles area are preparing a demonstration to "welcome" President Jiang Zemin to Los Angeles on Saturday, November 1. Date and time are currently to be announced, but we will let you know via our e-mail network when details are available or if you are not on-line, give Revae a call closer to the date. His visit in Los Angeles focuses on an aerospace deal, but we don't want to miss the opportunity to raise the visibility of Chinese human rights issues with the general public. Dear Mr. President: As a supporter of human rights and a member of Amnesty International, I am writing to you out of concern for a prisoner being held in Drapchi prison in the Tibet Autonomous Region. The prisoner's name is Ngawang Pekar. Ngawang Pekar, a Tibetan monk, was arrested in 1989 for participating in a peaceful demonstration and sentenced to 8 years in prison. Recently, his sentence was increased by 6 more years. I am concerned that he has been imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and about reports that he has been beaten and denied access to medical care since his arrest. I am also concerned that the 6-year increase in his sentence was an extremely harsh punishment for keeping a list of prisoners in Drapchi prison and that he was subsequently held in an iron cell for 3 months after the list was found. In your upcoming meeting with President Jiang Zemin of the People's Republic of China, I respectfully urge you to request that Ngawang Pekar's case be reviewed and that he be immediately and unconditionally released in accordance with international law. If that is not deemed possible, then I would hope that his sentence can at least be reduced as a demonstration of the regard which the People's Republic of China has for human rights. I thank you for your assistance in this important matter. Sincerely, Address your letter to: President Bill Clinton The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20500 Phone: (202) 456-1414 Fax: (202) 456-2883 For more information see the web site:
Editor's Last Word: Submissions welcome. Deadline is generally the second Friday of the month, check to be sure. Read us on line: Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039
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