AIUSA Group 22 Newsletter - April 1999

COORDINATOR'S CORNER

I know the crisis in Kosovo is on many of our minds, and it seems
appropriate to devote a few words to Amnesty International's approach to
the situation.  First of all, it is important to stress that AI takes no
stance on political matters, such as the appropriateness of independence
for Kosovo or NATO's response to the crisis.  AI's direct concerns are with
human rights issues in the area, both now and in the period leading up to
the present crisis.

I encourage those of you with web access to visit and bookmark AIUSA's
"Human Rights in the Balkans" page, (see Martha's Web Tips for this month),
which is Amnesty's basic resource for the crisis.

Over the last decade, AI has produced a series of increasingly disturbing
reports and press releases documenting the progressive deterioration of the
human-rights environment in Kosovo. This body of research, along with
related work by other independent non-governmental organizations and
international agencies, testifies to a wide range of abuses (including
arbitrary arrests, unfair trials, torture and deaths in custody)
systematically committed by Serbian (or formally Yugoslav) authorities
against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. While all sides have had legitimate
security concerns, there has never been any reasonable doubt as to the
basic structure of the situation. Some of you may have participated in
Amnesty actions appealing (not especially successfully, as it turned out)
to Serbian authorities in connection with specific cases or general police
conduct in Kosovo.

Many of AI's reports on Kosovo, especially the more recent ones, are
available on-line at the AI Library, <http://www.amnesty.org/ailib> (under
"Yugoslavia" for each year).

In the present hostilities, AI is of course extremely concerned about the
persistent allegations of massacres.  AI researchers in the Balkans are
actively pursuing evidence for possible war crimes prosecutions. For
example, very recently they collected testimonials from refugees which
indicate a possible massacre last month in the Kacanik area of southern
Kosovo.

The refugee situation is clearly of enormous scale, and AI is monitoring
the handling of refugees by the various host countries, including the
United States, where AI is concerned that the refugees should have access
to asylum procedures, if called for.  Closer to the field of action, AI is
concerned with upholding international standards for accepting and handling
refugees, for example that borders should never be closed to refugees, and
they should never be involuntarily relocated to third countries. Please
write on the enclosed Urgent Action concerning Macedonia's handling of
refugees.

Finally, I'll pass on a referral to humanitarian organizations working in
Kosovo.  In the Amnesty Balkans page, under "What You Can Do Now" there is
a link to InterAction, which is a coalition of a large number of
humaniratian aid organizations which agree to abide certain standards of
accountability, etc.  The InterAction Kosovo page, at
<http://www.interaction.org/kosovo/index.html>, provides contact
information for member organizations working in Kosovo.  If you're in the
market for a reasonable charity to work with to help the refugees,  it
would probably make sense to browse through this list!

Cheers,

Larry Romans            626-683-4977
Group Coordinator       ljr@ljr.net

UPCOMING EVENTS

Thursday, April 22, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting at 1052 E. Del Mar (between
Catalina & Wilson) -- top floor.  Highlights: Tibet Month of Action update.

Tuesday, April 27, 7:30 PM.  Movie Night! Tentative film: The Glass Shield
, a drama about police corruption.  Call Emily Brodsky for details
(626)395-6971.

Monday, May 3, 8:00-10:00 PM. (Program at 9:00) Death Penalty Vigil for
Manuel Babbitt.  All Saints Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave. See inside for more
info.

Tuesday, May 11, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting in the Athenaeum basement.
Corner of California & Hill.

Friday, May 7, 12:00 - 1:00 PM.  Hall of Administration, Downtown LA.
Special Mother's Day action for "Women in Prison, Children in Crisis" Call
Emily Brodsky for details (626)395-6971.

GOVERNMENT ACTION NETWORK
No Arms for Torturers:  Support The Leahy Law

Here we go again.  It's time to gear up to help pass the Leahy Law once
more.  The Leahy Law prohibits most forms of US foreign aid from going to
security force units known to be committing gross human rights violations.
Because it is part of the annual foreign aid bill, it has to be adopted
every year.

TALKING POINTS:

- None of our tax dollars should go to foreign military or police units if
the Secretary of State has "credible evidence" that they are committing
human rights violations.
- This is a commonsense provision.  The US should never arm torturers.
- The Leahy Law is very narrow.  It cuts off aid to specific units, not
countries.
Please call or write your Senators and Representative to tell them that you
strongly support the Leahy Law and want it adopted as a provision of the
Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.

WRITE:

The Honorable James Rogan
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Barbara Boxer / Dianne Feinstein
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Why the Leahy Law?  We believe that the Leahy Law is historic legislation
and an extremely powerful human rights tool.  Whenever human rights
researchers or victims can identify the *unit* involved in an atrocity -
the batallion, the police precinct, --that *entire unit is prohibited by
law* from receiving this US assistance.  There is no "waiver" provision
that lets the Administration get around this prohibition.  Only when
"effective measures" are taken to bring the perpetrators to justice does
the unit become eligible for aid.

The Leahy Law Works. Unlike some other human rights provisions that are
rarely invoked, the Leahy Law requires US embassies to monitor US aid and
scrutinize foreign units.  Because of the Leahy Law there are now only two
units of the Colombian military approved to receive US aid.  Before the
law, at least 13 Colombian units implicated in gross human rights
violations were receiving lethal US assistance.  Last year, as you know,
Secretary Albright refused to permit US government financing for armored
personnel carriers to Turkish police units in 11 provinces because of the
law.  US human rights officials have repeatedly described it as an
"incredibly useful tool."

That's Why It's Going to Be Attacked.  Last year US arms exporters fought
vigorously over the armored personnel carrier sale to Turkey -- and lost.
That fight publicized the Leahy Law around Washington and there is a very
good chance that they will strongly oppose it this year.  That's why we
need your help to make sure it is re-adopted.

Please use the talking points above to write a short (it can even be two to
three sentences) letter to your Representative and Senators in support of
the Leahy Law.

LAST MONTH'S ACTION.  Last month we asked you to write or call members of
the House of Representatives to encourage them to co-sponsor a resolution
on the conflict in Sierra Leone.  The resolution has now been introduced --
it's House Resolution 62 -- and it now has 14 co-sponsors, including
Representatives including Edward R. Royce (R-CA), Tom Campbell (R-CA),
Barbara Lee  (D-CA), Howard L. Berman  (D-CA), Tom Lantos (D-CA), George P.
Randanovich  (R-CA), and Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA).

A companion resolution has been introduced in the Senate (S.Res.54) by Sen.
Russ Feingold (D-WI) and by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), among others.  Please
send Senator Feinstein  a thank you note.

Execution Vigil for Manny Babbitt

I had a brother at Khe Sanh
Fightin' off the Vietcong
They're still there
He's all gone

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the fires of the refinery
Been ten years burnin' down the road
I got nowhere to run, nowhere to go

I recently had the opportunity to hear Bruce Springsteen's stunning solo
blues performance of "Born in the USA", his ode to the Vietnam vet, on a
broadcast of the Paris concert for the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights.  The song could have been written for Manuel Babbitt, who was
awarded the purple heart for his service at Khe Sanh and who returned from
Vietnam with no direction and deep psychological scars.  A decade after his
war experience his life hit bottom with the murder of Leah Schendel.
Manuel Babbitt will also be the first African-American executed since
reinstatement of the death penalty in California.  Please write to Governor
Davis (see action below) and plan to join us for a vigil on May 3 that will
include readings from South Africa, Martin Luther King on Vietnam and a
veteran's perspective.  Here is an opportunity to reflect on the
brutalizing effects of war (from Vietnam to Kosovo), racism and the death
penalty on both the individual and society. -Martha Ter Maat

Monday, May 3, 8:00-10:00 PM, Program at 9:00
All Saints Church, 132 N. Euclid Avenue, Pasadena
In the event of a stay of execution prior to May 3, the vigil will be
cancelled.  If a stay occurs on the 3rd we will still hold the vigil.
Please call 626/281-4039 for more info.

Death Penalty - USA CAMPAIGN
Stop the Execution of Manuel Babbitt!

Manny Babbitt, a black former US Marine, is scheduled to be executed in
California on 4 May 1999 - the day after his 50th birthday.  He was
sentenced to death in 1982 for the murder of Leah Schendel.  Babbitt has
completed the appeals process; his only hope of avoiding execution is
clemency from Governor Davis (also a Vietnam veteran).  A clemency hearing
is scheduled for 26 April.

Babbitt's childhood was traumatic and impoverished. At an early age he was
sent out to do back-breaking work. He left school at 17 unable to read. His
alcoholic father beat and brutalized both him and his mentally ill mother.
Babbitt and his other siblings were ridiculed daily with racist taunts from
members of their community. Babbitt's father died a slow death from cancer,
forcing  extra responsibility on Babbitt,  who became a surrogate parent to
his siblings. Psychiatric and neurological disorders ran rampant in the
family.

In June 1967, Babbitt joined the US Marines. He initially failed the
screening exam, but with 'help' from the recruiter he passed on the second
attempt. Upon arriving in Vietnam in December 1967 he went straight into
active service in the siege of Khe Sanh, the longest and bloodiest battle
of the war. On 17 March 1968 Babbitt was wounded in action but returned to
his unit almost immediately because the policy at the time was to keep
returning men to the field until they had been wounded three times.
Promoted to Corporal, Babbitt was awarded the Cross of Gallantry, the
Purple Heart and other decorations. He returned to the USA in August 1969,
remained in the Marines but had severe difficulties adjusting to life
outside combat.  After taking unauthorized leave he was finally discharged
after being deemed 'unsuitable'.

Babbitt has a severe, chronic case of combat-induced Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder ('PTSD'). A leading expert on Vietnam combat related PTSD
concluded 'to a reasonable medical certainty that [Babbitt] was suffering
from severe chronic post-traumatic stress disorder,  aggravated by alcohol
and drug abuse, resulting in his experiencing...  a dissociative state at
the time of the offense.' PTSD, a now- recognized debilitating disorder,
was neither understood nor officially recognized until the end of the
1970s. The symptoms of PTSD include dissociative states during which the
individual relives the original traumatic event. For those trained in
combat, re-experiencing the event may cause unpredictable explosions of
aggressive behaviour. From 1974 Manny Babbitt suffered from increasing
periods of mental instability, spending eight months in a mental hospital
and attempting suicide. A psychiatrist diagnosed Babbitt as suffering from
'schizophrenic reaction, paranoid type, who shows tendencies toward
self-destruction'. A federal magistrate described the conditions in the
mental hospital that treated Babbitt as 'shocking' and 'unconstitutional'
one month after Babbitt was released from it.

Before he was sent to Vietnam, Babbitt had no history of serious criminal
or violent behaviour, but from 1973 onwards he was increasingly involved in
crime. His declining mental health was diagnosed but never treated. After
taking hallucinogenic drugs,  Babbitt is said to have experienced a
combat-related flashback which lasted for two days and resulted in amnesia.
During that time he killed Leah Schendel and tried to rape another woman,
Mavis Wilson. The body of Schendel was hidden and tagged as soldiers hid
and tagged their fallen comrades in Vietnam.

The crimes were unsolved until Babbitt's brother, Bill Babbitt, discovered
his involvement in the crime and told the police, in the hope that Manny
would finally get the mental health treatment he needed. Bill Babbitt is
now campaigning to save his brother's life.

Although a compelling PTSD case could have been presented in mitigation to
persuade the jury to spare his life, Babbitt's lawyer appears to have
performed incompetently. The jury never heard evidence necessary to a
successful PTSD defence, either because the witnesses who were prepared to
relate it were not contacted or because counsel was unable to elicit such
testimony at trial. Babbitt's attorney has admitted that he had no coherent
theory of Babbitt's mental state, that he had not 'adequately planned or
researched or...  investigated', and that his approach in presenting
evidence of Babbitt's mental illness was simply to 'throw mud' and 'hope
some of it would stick'. An appeal court found that the attorney's failure
to present evidence constituted 'classical tactical decisions'. Amnesty
International fails to understand how neglecting to present evidence that
the defendant had been severely damaged in 'the service of his country'
could be presented as a tactic.

In a comment to the press, the prosecuting authorities showed no
understanding or sympathy for suffers of PTSD. A deputy district attorney
was recently quoted as stating: 'It's spin that's put on the case to take
advantage of the national sense of guilt over Vietnam.  The event [the
murder] occurred 12 years after Khe Sanh and 10 years after he was
discharged.'

Many Vietnam veterans are campaigning against the execution,  including one
ex-Marine, now a retired police officer, who has identified Babbitt as the
solder who saved his life at the siege of Khe Sanh.

In California, the Governor has sole authority to grant clemency. To date,
clemency has not been granted to any prisoner since the reintroduction of
the death penalty.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send letters:

expressing concern that Manny Babbitt is scheduled to be executed on 4
May 1999;
expressing sorrow at the murder of Leah Schendel and sympathy for her
family and friends;
stating that, while you do not believe that Post Traumatic Shock Disorder
can excuse the crime for which Manny Babbitt was sentenced, it should be
taken into consideration when determining the granting of clemency;
stating that, had the jury fully understood Babbitt's PTSD, they may well
have chosen to spare his life;
urging Governor Gray Davis to grant clemency to Manny Babbitt by
commuting his death sentence.

Note: Please do not mention Amnesty International or your opposition to the
death penalty in your appeals.

APPEALS TO:

The Honorable Gray Davis
Governor of California,
State Capital, 1st Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Telephone: 1 916 445 2841
Fax  1 916 445 4633

COPIES TO:
The Letters Editor
Los Angeles Times
Times Mirror Sq
Los Angeles CA 90053
Fax:  1 213 237 7190

Ernie Spencer [Vietnam veteran campaigning on behalf of Manny Babbitt] c/o
2140 Irvin Way, Sacramento, CA 95822

PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk

At present, we remain rather "in the dark" as to Pekar's current status and
condition as we have received no direct information about him for over one
year. However, with any luck our "Month of Action" (see below) will get the
attention of the Chinese authorities and generate a response concerning his
case. Also, our group is now prepared to approach the office of our local
Congressman, Representative James Rogan, in the very near future in an
attempt to have him "adopt" Ngawang Pekar and take actions aimed at
securing his release in the manner that other members of Congress have done
with other Chinese and Tibetan POCs. Previous contact with Rogan's office
on this issue was quite encouraging and they simply requested a bit more
information, which we have now acquired. Past experience has shown that
having a member of the U.S. Congress write on behalf of a POC can sometimes
have a fairly dramatic effect.

In general, news regarding Tibet remains somewhat grim. It has been
reported that since the May, 1998 disturbances at Drapchi Prison (Tibet
Autonomous Region Prison No. 1), where Pekar is presumed to still be
imprisoned, brutal military-style drills and exercises for the prisoners
have been stepped up. Further, officials have reportedly pledged to
intensify a "patriotic education" campaign at Buddhist monasteries in Tibet
"to curb pro-separatist sentiment," and the Dalai Lama recently stated that
secret talks he had been having with China broke down late last year
"without obvious reason." Amidst the growing social and political unrest
which has followed in the wake of economic reform, the Chinese leadership
has responded by harshly repressing any groups or individuals which they
feel may pose a threat to social stability and "the rule of law," and this
attitude obviously extends to Tibet also.

As reported in last month's newsletter, Group 22 has designated April as a
"Month of Action" on behalf of our POC. Each day this month, at least one
member of the group has agreed to fax (or mail if faxing is not possible)
copies of several signed petitions urging Ngawang Pekar's release to the
Chinese Ambassador to the United States. In addition, each day copies of
petitions are being mailed to the President of China, Jiang Zemin, and/or
the Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Government. It is
also recommended that a brief cover letter outlining Pekar's case and
requesting his release accompany the petitions. Although every day of the
month of April now has at least one individual who will be performing the
above actions, obviously the more people involved each day, the greater the
impact will be. Therefore, if you wish to participate on at least one day
during the remainder of the month, please contact Saskia Feast ((626)
449-8121, abrait@cco.caltech.edu) or Robert Adams ((626) 441-2338,
robadams@compuserve.com) to obtain copies of petitions to send (we still
have plenty left!) and get further information. If it does not appear
feasible to obtain copies of petitions, you can still contribute by simply
faxing or mailing a letter on behalf of Ngawang Pekar to the Chinese
Ambassador and/or one or both of the Chinese officials we've targeted at
the following addresses:

        Ambassador Li Zhaoxing
        Embassy of the People's Republic of China
        2300 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
        Washington, D.C. 20008
        Fax: (202) 588-0032
        Salutation: Your Excellency

        JIANG Zemin Guojia Zhuxi
        Beijingshi
        People's Republic of China
        Salutation: Your Excellency

        Legchog Zhuren
        Xizang Zizhiqu Renmin Zhengfu
        1 Kang'angdonglu
        Lasashi 850000, Xizang Zizhiqu
        People's Republic of China
        Salutation: Dear Chairman

Below is a sample letter to the Ambassador which you are free to copy
verbatim or alter as you see fit. A similar letter may also be sent to the
other officials above. Please remember to keep the tone of your letter
courteous and to limit its topic to that of the plight of POCs; Amnesty
International does not take a position on the legitimacy of China's rule
over Tibet.

Your Excellency:

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 Tibet Autonomous
Region Prison No. 1. 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. Subsequently,
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 his
fellow prisoners and that he was subsequently held in an iron cell for 3
months after the list was found.

I respectfully urge you to utilize your position to request that Ngawang
Pekar's case be reviewed and that he be immediately and unconditionally
released in accordance with the international laws to which China
subscribes. If that is not deemed possible, then I would hope that his
sentence could 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 and would greatly
appreciate any further information that you may be able to provide.

Sincerely,

Use a 60-cent airmail stamp. Include your name and mailing address at the
top of the letter to enable a reply, and please notify the Group 22
coordinator of any replies received.

MARTHA'S WEB TIPS FOR APRIL

Balkans Country Coordination Group
http://www.amnesty-usa.org/group/balkans

Want to know what Amnesty has to say about Kosovo?  Here's the place to
start for the latest press releases, links to background reports and other
organizations.  Look for letter-actions you can take here too.

URGENT ACTION:  MACEDONIA
Protection of Ethnic Albanian Refugees

Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of ethnic Albanian
refugees trying to flee from Kosovo to Macedonia, after reports that the
Macedonian authorities are turning back some refugees at the border, and
sending others to third countries against their will.

Huge numbers of ethnic Albanian refugees expelled from their homes or
fleeing in fear are waiting at Blace on the Macedonian side of the border
with Kosovo, in appalling conditions, short of food, water, and sanitation.
Several have died. NATO forces stationed in Macedonia have erected three
transit camps, and people are now being transferred to them from Blace, but
the situation for those who remain, and those waiting to cross from Kosovo,
is still desperate. There have been several reports that the Macedonian
government has refused or restricted access to international humanitarian
organizations seeking to assist those gathered at Blace.

Although there are already more than 120,000 refugees in Macedonia, with an
estimated 70,000 at the border waiting to enter, the Macedonian government
has said that it can only take 20,000 Kosovar refugees. After briefly
closing the border on 3 April, the Macedonian government reopened it but
stated that it was prepared to accept further refugees only if they could
be sent on to other countries. Although several countries have agreed to
accept limited numbers of refugees, among them Canada, Romania, the United
States, Turkey and several member states of the European Union, the places
so far offered are only a fraction of the total required.

On 5 April the Macedonian authorities began flying refugees to countries
that have offered to accept them. However, some of the refugees transferred
in this way were apparently put on the flights against their will by
Macedonian police. Any transfers should be voluntary, with every effort
made to keep families together, giving priority to vulnerable people or
those with special needs. There are also credible reports that those
attempting to cross the border at points other than designated border
crossings have been refused entry by Macedonian soldiers.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION. Since the beginning of NATO air attacks on the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on 24 March, Yugoslav security forces have
intensified their efforts to forcibly expel ethnic Albanians from their
homes. On 5 April the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
estimated that 390,000 Kosovars had fled to neighbouring states, while
hundreds of thousands more have been internally displaced and are seeking
to leave.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send letters:
- welcoming the measures already taken by the Macedonia government to
assist refugees, but asking them to let the asylum-seekers waiting at the
border into the country;
- urging the Macedonian government not to transfer refugees to third
countries against their will;
- reminding the Macedonian government of their international obligations
not to forcibly return those seeking asylum at their borders, including
asylum seekers seeking to enter at points that are not officially
designated border crossings;
- asking the government to cooperate with, and provide access to,
international humanitarian organisations.

Minister of Foreign Affairs:
Aleksandar Dimitrov
Ministerstvo za odnosi so stranstvo
Dame Gruev 4
91000 Skopje,
FYR Macedonia

Minister of Internal Affairs
Pavle Trajanov
Ministerstvo za vnatresni raboti
ul. Dim'e Mir'ev bb
91000 Skopje
FYR Macedonia

EDITOR'S LAST WORD:
Read us on line: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22/
Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 / mtermaat@hsc.usc
 

Amnesty International works impartially to free-individuals jailed solely
for their beliefs, ethnic origin, language, gender 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.