Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech
Volume VI Number 2, February 1998
"Where, after all, do universal rights begin? In small places, close to home
- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.
Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives
in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he
works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal
justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless
these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without
concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in
vain for progress in the large world..." - Eleanor Roosevelt
Congratulations to Martha Ter Maat for a successful kick-off to the UDHR50
campaign via her training session on February 1st at the Avery Center. It
was well attended by a good cross-section of AI members from around the
L.A. area and Orange County. A good chance for us all to get to know each
other better and to learn more about the UDHR. We had fun, too, making
Tibetan prayer flags with a UDHR theme.
Martha has used this same prayer flag project recently to educate children
on the fundamentals of the UDHR. This will be one of the topics discussed
at the next monthly meeting as we solidify our plans for the campaign and
set group goals. There are many different ways we can participate. For
example, new member Saskia Feast has gotten permission to put up a display
at the Pasadena children's library on the UDHR in May.
Thanks to Byron Philhour, new group member and RA for Dabney House at
Caltech, for hosting an evening with Matthew Jardine, journalist and
professor, on the genocide in East Timor. It was extremely informative and
timely with the current economic crisis and upcoming "election" putting
Indonesia in the news daily. He reminded us that this is a good time to
lobby the U.S. government for change in its policies re: Indonesia.
Thanks also to Larry Romans for his many recent activities in keeping our
website up to date, listing all UDHR50 events, and providing assistance to
other AI groups so that they can easily list info on their groups. I am
really amazed at how much he has done in this area - and so are others in
Amnesty. I just received a notice from Roberto Quezada of AIUSA that our
website will be featured in the monthly mailing that goes out student and
community groups nationwide!
Now, some upcoming events:
The United Nations Assn. (UNA), Amnesty International, and Human Rights
Watch, along with several local law schools and bar associations are
sponsoring a symposium on the International Criminal Court (ICC) on
Thursday, Feb. 26th from 4:30 to 7 PM at the Biltmore Hotel downtown. (If
this date rings a bell, it's because it is also the day of our next monthly
meeting.) I plan to attend - and be back to the EQL lab in time for the
meeting - so if anyone needs a ride, give me a call. The symposium features
David Scheffer, Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes and head of the U.S.
delegation to the ICC preparatory committee. The ICC is to be established
at the U.N. diplomatic conference in Rome this June. It will create, for
the first time, a permanent mechanism for enforcing international law in
the areas of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. Admission
is $25 ($10 for students) and tickets can be obtained from the UNA Pasadena
Don't forget about Amnesty's Annual General Meeting in San Francisco the
weekend of March 20-22. The AGM is often in places much less accessible to
us, so this is a great opportunity to attend. See an announcement about
the AGM elsewhere in this edition of the newsletter for more info.
I was very pleased and encouraged by the large turnout at our last monthly
meeting. Several new members have joined the group and are giving a real
shot of new energy to those of us who have been around awhile. Welcome to:
Beth Miller, Asst. Professor in the Dept. of Anthropology at Cal State
L.A.; Richard Jimenez, who works at a local branch of a
yet-to-be-determined Mexican bank; Saskia Feast, a research chemist
(biochemist?) who is here from England with her Austrian fiance who is
doing his postdoctoral work at Caltech; Farida Toubal, who is interested in
the situation in Algeria; and Byron Philhour, Caltech student and RA for
Dabney House. Welcome to all of you and special thanks to our "old timers"
who keep things running so smoothly. It is so easy and such a pleasure to
coordinate this committed, active group.
Note our new monthly meeting location!!
THURSDAY, February 26, 4:30 to 7:00 PM, International Criminal Court
Symposium at the Biltmore. See Coordinator's column for details.
THURSDAY, February 26, 7:30 PM, Monthly Meeting at the EQL lounge. Because
the Y has relocated we will meet at the EQL lab (environmental quality
lab), located on Lura St. off of Wilson Ave and just south of Del Mar. It's
a small 2-story house - the entrance is on the opposite side of the
building away from the parking lot.
SATURDAY, February 28, 7:30 PM, Beverly Hills Community Center, 471 North
Roxbury Dr. Forum on Sex Trafficking of Women & Children, sponsored by
Captive Daughters (see Web Tips for more info).
MONDAY, March 2, 7:00 PM. GLAD (cluster) meeting at the regional office
(9000 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City). Special Guest Sandra Hunnicutt
will tell us about child-trafficking and her organization, Captive
Daughters and Norma Edwards will relate the issue to CEDAW (Convention on
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women).
TUESDAY, March 10, 7:30 PM, Letter-writing Meeting in the Athenaeum basement.
SUNDAY, March 15, 10:15 AM, All Saints Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave, Pasadena.
Mark Costanzo, Chair of Social Psychology at Claremont McKenna College
talks about his book, Just Revenge: The Costs and Consequences of the
FRIDAY-SUNDAY, March 20-22. Annual General Meeting in San Francisco.
Register Now! Call 310-815-0450 for more info.
AGM Update: Pre-registration Deadline is 3/6
Just a reminder that AIUSA's 1998 Annual General Meeting is being held
earlier than previous AGMs. The meeting will take place March 20-22 at the
Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco. The pre-registration deadline is
See pages on the Web at http://amnesty-usa.maikon.net/events/agmcont.html
In conjunction with the AGM this year, a benefit performance will be
presented by actress Vanessa Redgrave at the Herbst Theater on Friday
evening, March 20. She will be performing Planet Without a Visa, a
one-woman show about asylum seekers.
The opening plenary on Saturday, March 21 also promises to be inspiring, as
author Alice Walker has graciously agreed to be the keynote speaker. In
addition, a significant amount of time has been set aside to discuss policy
issues at the plenary and other AGM panels and workshops. All members are
urged to participate.
Please contact AGM Coordinator Rohini Verma in the National Office at (212)
633-4289 or call the Western Regional Office at (415) 291-9233 for further
See you in San Francisco!
FIFTY for FIFTY Campaign Off to Great Start
Group 22 is participating in an effort to chart area progress on the UDHR50
campaign called "50 for 50: 50 ways to celebrate the UDHR50" All area
groups are reporting their activities and these are being recorded on the
Group 22 website. This month the UDHR projects have featured the advocacy
aspects of the campaign, promoting the International Criminal Court and the
Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women.
In a more "hands on" mode, area volunteers brought the UDHR to children at
the Villa Parke Community Center Arts Program here in Pasadena. Keep an
eye on the web site for more news:
50th ANNIVERSARY CAMPAIGN Q&A
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Can the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be enforced?
Yes. A founding principle of the United Nations is "to reaffirm faith in
fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person
[and] in the equal rights of men and women..." The Universal Declaration
recognizes respect for human rights as the "foundation of freedom, justice
and peace in the world." Accordingly, along with the UN Charter, the
Universal Declaration has provided the moral and legal basis for United
Nations action, including action by the Security Council, against violators
of human rights.
Actions undertaken by the United Nations have included the dispatch of UN
investigators, called Special Rapporteurs, to monitor and report on abuses,
the establishment of human rights field missions in trouble-spots where the
UN conducts peacekeeping operations, and the imposition of economic and
Of course the struggle to fully implement human rights is ongoing. In
recent years, the UN Security Council has created two international
tribunals to bring to justice those individuals responsible for acts of
genocide and other crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda and the
former Yugoslavia. The UN is currently working to establish a permanent
International Criminal Court that will hold individual human rights abusers
accountable and vigorously pursue justice for the individual victims of
genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
But enforcement of human rights principles goes beyond the UN system.
Countries have included the language and principles of the UDHR in their
national constitutions, and in their statutory laws and regulations.
Lawyers appeal to the principles of the Universal Declaration as they
litigate in defense of clients. Non-governmental organizations like Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch use the powerful principles and
language of the UDHR to advocate for the release of political prisoners and
the relief of those who suffer abuse. As these organizations and others
have demonstrated, public exposure and condemnation of rights violations
has proven to be a surprisingly effective remedy.
UDHR 50: AMERICANS SURVEYED
U.S. barely makes the grade on human rights
A survey conducted for Human Rights USA, a coalition that includes Amnesty
International USA, shows the U.S. public is generally disappointed in human
rights conditions at home. The coalition announced the results of the
survey in a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on
December 10, Human Rights Day.
"This survey shows that we have human rights problems right here in the
United States - in our neighborhoods, our schools, our workplaces," said
HRUSA Director Lyn Beth Neylon. "We can do better, and our hope is to
impact the way Americans think, speak and act about human rights."
Among the areas addressed by the survey, conducted by Peter D. Hart
Research Associates, Inc., were perceptions of the gravity of human rights
problems in this country; how the public believes the nation is measuring
up; and how to improve the status of human rights here.
The survey's "report card" gave the United States a "C" to "C-" overall in
the areas of education, equal pay for women in the workplace, providing
access to affordable health care, helping poor people and protecting the
Meanwhile, only 8 percent of adults and 4 percent of young people were
aware of the existence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, upon
which Amnesty bases its work. However, when made aware of the contents of
the UDHR, a large majority said the United States should do more to live up
to the principles in the document.
"The survey results validate the need and demand for Amnesty work here,"
stated Nancy Flowers, a member of AIUSA'S Human Rights Educators' Network
who also serves on the Steering Committee of HRUSA. "Those polled see
education about the Universal Declaration and human rights as essential for
creating a more just society."
HRUSA is a collaborative effort of four non-profit partner organizations:
Amnesty's Human Rights Educators' Network; the Center for Human Rights
Education; Partners in Human Rights Education; and Street Law, Inc. The
goal of the initiative is to develop comprehensive human rights education
programs in schools and communities.
MARTHA'S WEB TIPS FOR FEBRUARY
(Listing in Web Tips does not imply
endorsement of website contents by AIUSA)
Human Rights USA
Human Rights USA is yet another great resource for the UDHR50 campaign.
This site represents a coalition of organizations (including Amnesty's own
Human Rights Educators Network) which advocate for human rights education.
The focus is on providing resources and materials for teachers and
students. Another way to reach them is by toll free phone: 1-888-HREDUC8.
(See article about a poll they sponsored elsewhere in this issue).
Captive Daughters was founded by AI West L.A. group member, and L.A.
Friends of Tibet founder Sandra Hunnicutt to advocate for an end to
trafficking in women and girls worldwide. The organization and the site
are in a somewhat embryonic state but it's an exciting project with lots of
possibilities and lots of intersection with Amnesty's work on women's and
children's rights, refugees, indigenous peoples and more. You have two
opportunities to find out more about these issues in coming weeks. On
February 28 Captive Daughters is sponsoring an event in Beverly Hills.
Group 22's Martha Ter Maat will be speaking on children's rights along with
representatives from organizations who advocate for an end to trafficking
both at home and abroad. Then again at the March GLAD meeting, Sandra will
join us to share her enthusiasm and shed some light on a dark subject.
GOVERNMENT ACTION NETWORK
Demand an investigation into the Algerian massacres!
January 28, 1998 - Since late December 1997, unidentified groups have
conducted large-scale massacres in small towns in western Algeria. While
organizations such as Amnesty International have been denied access to the
country and access for journalists is tightly controlled by the government,
reports estimate that up to 1,000 men, women and children were slaughtered
in just two weeks of violence - many disemboweled or decapitated in brutal
massacres lasting over five hours.
We need your help to push the Clinton administration to demand an
international investigation to find out what happened and who is
responsible for these horrific acts.
These recent massacres have taken place against a background of six years
of violence, in which AI estimates over 80,000 civilians have been killed.
In more than one instance, these massacres reportedly took place within 200
meters of Algerian army barracks, without intervention from the soldiers
stationed there. The Algerian government restricts access to areas
affected by the violence, and claims that violence in the country is
"residual," underscoring the need for a prompt, independent investigation.
Since 1993, the Algerian government has agreed "in principle" to allow the
UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and Extra-judicial Executions to visit
but has never actually allowed a visit, stating each time that the dates
were "not convenient." This month, Algerian authorities agreed again "in
principle" to allow the two Special Rapporteurs to visit the country, but
they already are stalling the visit.
To date, the Clinton Administration has supported access for
non-governmental organizations and the visit of the Special Rapporteurs.
These steps are important but are not enough to stop the butchery in
Algeria and bring those responsible for the massacres to justice.
Please write or call your Representatives and Senators asking them to sign
the letter being circulated by Senator Patrick Leahy urging the
Administration to take prompt and effective action. Even a very short
phone call or letter can make a big difference. The Leahy letter calls for:
- An international investigation with the authority, independence and
resources to establish the facts and make recommendations, including ways
to bring perpetrators to justice;
- Access for international non-governmental organizations and journalists
to investigate abuses; and
- A serious effort to encourage the Algerian government to cooperate fully
with the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights and to expedite
the visit of the Special Rapporteurs on Torture and Extra-judicial
WRITE OR E-MAIL
Your Congressional Delegation:
The Hon. ______ The Hon _________
U.S. Senate U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515
PHONE: Capitol Switchboard (202) 225-3121
PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE - CHINA/TIBET
Our prisoner of conscience (POC) is named Ngawang Pekar (pronounced naw-wan
pee-kar). He is a Tibetan monk from the Drepung Loseling Monastery. He
was arrested in 1989 for participating in a peaceful demonstration and
putting up posters promoting independence for Tibet. He was sentenced by
the Chinese government to 8 years in prison. He was 29 years old at the
time of his arrest and was planning to flee to India as other monks did.
Recently, his sentence was increased by 6 years when he was caught with a
list of prisoners in the Tibet Autonomous Region Prison No.1, where he is
being held. In addition to our demand that he be immediately and
unconditionally released from prison, we should also express our concerns
over the conditions of his imprisonment, and his health.
Although there is no real news on this case in the past month, I want to
stress again just how important our letters are. Wei Jingsheng's recent
release from prison and his moving letter to Amnesty activists makes this
clear ... our letters DO make a difference. For those who missed Wei's
letter in last month's newsletter, here is an excerpt:
"Your work is of enormous value to those suffering from political
oppression. It is perhaps more successful than you yourselves have ever
realized. The message I would like to give to all of you is: please keep
This month I would like for us to write to the prison governor:
Jianyuzhang (prison governor)
Xizang Zizhiqu Di Yi Jianyu
(Tibet Autonomous Region Prison No. 1)
Lasashi 850003 (Lhasa 850003)
Xizang Zizhiqu (Tibet Autonomous Region)
People's Republic of China
If you can, make your letter go twice as far and send a copy to Gregory
Craig, our government's our new special coordinator for Tibet affairs (or
if you prefer, send a letter specifically to him):
Director, Policy Planning Staff
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
State the facts of the case and express your concern about our POC
(underline his name for emphasis) and that he was imprisoned solely for the
peaceful expression of his conscience and that he has been denied access to
medical care since his detention in 1989. Ask for information about him
and urge that he be released
Dear Governor Jianyuzhang:
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 Tibet Autonomous Region Prison No. 1 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.
(For postage, use a 60-cent airmail stamp.)
For more information see the web site:
What does Amnesty International do about political trials and imprisonment
In many countries, either under the ordinary law or states of emergency,
the authorities put people in prison without a trial. In some cases
imprisonment lasts for decades. A fair and public hearing within a
reasonable time is a basic human right as is the right to freedom from
arbitrary arrest and detention. To imprison people for a long period
without proving a case against them is a violation of these rights.
Amnesty International opposes the detention of any political prisoner
without a trial within a reasonable time. It has called on various
governments to end administrative internment and other procedures that
allow for prolonged political detention without trial.
Amnesty International also opposes trial procedures in political cases that
do not conform to internationally agreed standards. For example, secret
trials take place. Sometimes they are nominally public, but only those
selected by the authorities are allowed to attend. Prisoners are denied a
defence lawyer of their choice- or the defence is not allowed to call
witnesses or present evidence. Cases are heard by special tribunals and
military courts whose composition is incompatible with an impartial hearing
or whose procedures fall short of those in ordinary courts.
WRITE TO WEI JINGSHENG
Last month's newsletter contained the text of a letter from Wei Jingsheng
thanking all Amnesty activists for their work on his behalf. Here's your
chance to write to Wei and thank him for being such an inspiration for
human rights advocates around the world:
As he adjusts to his new life in the United States, we're asking AIUSA
members to send Wei a card or letter welcoming his release from prison and
his arrival in this country. A simple message of support is all you need to
write. The National Casework Office will collect the messages and pass them
along to Wei.
Send your cards to:
c/o Amnesty International USA
131 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Suite 220
Atlanta, Georgia 30308
EDITOR'S LAST WORD:
Submissions welcome. Deadline is generally the second Friday of the month,
check to be sure. Read us on line: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22/
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.
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