Amnesty International Group 22 Newsletter - January 1998


Happy New Year!  Welcome back!  Last year was a banner year for Group 22
and local human rights work, and we're going into the new year with some
great momentum and energy* to harness!

The group's grand debut in the Doo Dah parade (Nov. 22) was a smashing
success!  The crowds thronging Pasadena's Colorado Boulevard, as well as a
Los Angeles area TV audience, were treated to the spectacle of Group 22
members and friends in our own handmade papier mache animal masks (and
tails!), enacting street theater on the theme of "Animals for the Ethical
Treatment of People."  This was a major coup in raising the profile of
Amnesty International and human rights,  in a fun and accessible way.
Special thanks to group members Saskia Feast for making the lovely UDHR
bookmarks we passed out,  Lucas Kamp for arranging for the T-shirts,
Martha Ter Maat for overall direction and artistic inspiration,  her mom
for the hilarious and fashionable tails, and to the whole crew for
participating in the mask-making sessions and the parade itself.  This was
an experience that none of us is likely to forget for a long time!  Check
out the web page, , illustrated
with quality photographs by our special guest photographer Samer Rabadi.

December was the 50th anniversary of a truly great document of our time,
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- and the culmination of a
year-long AI campaign to raise public awareness of human rights by
publicizing the UDHR.  Our own Martha came up with the "50 for 50"
campaign, to shoot for 50 LA-area UDHR events within the year.  "They
called her crazy, but who's laughing now?"  When the dust settled, the
tally was a whopping 102, truly cause for celebration!  This ain't just
bean counting, folks, but just think,  each event represents an advance
(possibly big, possibly small)  in awareness of human rights.  Check out
the UDHR50 web page for the list,

Through all the festivity, we need to maintain focus on the point of all
this work -- human beings such as our own adopted prisoner of conscience,
Ngawang Pekar, a Tibetan monk imprisoned by Chinese authorities in Drapchi
prison for free expression of his beliefs.  As yet there is no specific
news of how he weathered the tragic events at Drapchi last May and June
(the violently suppressed demonstrations, the nuns dying under suspicious
circumstances in solitary confinement).  We must keep up the letters so the
Chinese authorities never forget that the world is watching. Group members
Robert Adams and Saskia Feast are continuing to coordinate our strategy.
They have a lot of great ideas, and in the year to come the group will
devote renewed energy to the case.  Stay tuned!

The current AI campaign on human rights violations here in the United
States is starting to really get off the ground, and our group is playing
an active role, coordinated by members Emily Brodsky and Lucas Kamp.
Please try to make it to this month's meeting (Jan. 28),  where our special
guest, Mario Tafur from the AI regional office,  will give an overview of
the campaign and discuss ideas with the group.

And please take part in our ongoing action on the ultimate human rights
abuse here at home, the death penalty.  Tragically, after a last-minute
stay last month, the state is forging ahead with the Siripongs case.  We
have a new governor, and there's no time to waste in letting him know what
we think about this!


Larry Romans            626-683-4977
Group Coordinator

* maintaining Lorentz covariance, of course


Thursday, January  28, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting at 1052 E. Del Mar (between
Catalina & Wilson) -- top floor.  Highlights: Area USA Campaign coordinator
Mario Tafur to speak.

Monday, February 8, 8:00-10:00 PM. Interfaith Execution Vigil.  All Saints
Church, 132 N. Euclid, Pasadena.  Short program begins at 9:00 PM.  For
more information call Martha Ter Maat at 626-281-4039. This is a meditation
vigil and the public is invited to go and come at any time. If a stay of
execution occurs prior to the vigil date, the vigil will be cancelled.  If
the stay occurs on the day of the vigil we will go forward due to the high
likelihood that a last minute stay will be overturned by a higher court.
See article inside for details regarding the Siripongs case.

Tuesday, February 9, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting in the Athenaeum
basement.  Corner of California & Hill.

Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk

Group 22 continues to work for the release of prisoner of conscience (POC)
Ngawang Pekar (naw-wan pee-kar), an approximately 38-year-old Tibetan
Buddhist monk from Drepung Monastery. In 1989, he was arrested by Chinese
authorities and sentenced to 8 years in prison for participating in a
peaceful demonstration in the city of Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, in
support of Tibetan independence. Shortly before he was due to be released,
he was sentenced to an additional 6 years in March of 1996 for allegedly
trying to smuggle out a list of other prisoners to international human
rights organizations. Amnesty International is concerned that, like many
others in Tibet, Ngawang Pekar has been imprisoned solely as a result of
peacefully exercising his right to voice his conscience and that, during
his incarceration, he has been subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment
including being beaten, denied medical treatment, and being confined to an
iron isolation cell for 3 months.

Although there is no new information directly concerning Ngawang Pekar to
report this month, in a related bit of news it has been confirmed that one
of Pekar's fellow prisoners, Gyaltsen Choephel, was released from Drapchi
prison (otherwise known as Tibet Autonomous Region Prison No. 1) in
December of 1998. Following the violent suppression of demonstrations
inside Drapchi prison on 1 May, 1998, Gyaltsen Choephel, a 33-year-old
layman from Lhasa, was so viciously beaten by the authorities that it was
originally reported that he may have died. Fortunately, this was not the
case, and while the conditions of his release and his current state of
health are unknown, we should be encouraged by the news of his release.
With the help of our continued effort, the release of Ngawang Pekar
(hopefully minus the prior extreme physical abuse) may soon follow!

In other, less encouraging, news, the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and
Democracy, based in Dharamsala, India, recently released a report that the
use of torture against political prisoners in Tibet is still widespread
despite the fact that China ratified the United Nations Convention Against
Torture and Other Cruel and Degrading Treatment or Punishment in October of
1988. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao stated at a news
briefing that he had no knowledge of the report, "But I can say that China
has implemented in a very strict manner the convention on torture. In
addition, we have a prison law and all activities are conducted in
accordance with the law."

U.S. and Chinese officials conducted meetings on 11 and 12 January
exclusively devoted to human rights issues,  the first such talks since
1995. Unfortunately, despite the fact that China has been engaged in a
harsh and widespread crackdown on pro-democracy activists since President
Clinton's visit to China in June of 1998, little appears to have been
accomplished by the talks. One U.S. official stated that "There was never
any question that the Chinese government would tolerate the formation of an
opposition party," and that "faced with opposition, they have to move
swiftly and firmly before any momentum develops." Another administration
official said that however infuriating U.S. officials find repression of
political dissent, they also value Beijing's cooperation on such issues as
North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, the arms race in south Asia and
containing the Asian financial crisis.

Considering the current harsh political climate in China, and the fact that
a dialogue, however weak, has been resumed between the U.S. and China on
human rights issues, we ask that you write this month to U.S. Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright on behalf of Ngawang Pekar. Although Pekar is only
one man, his case is representative of the human rights abuses being
perpetrated by the Chinese authorities and his release could serve as a
show of "good faith" on the part of the Chinese government. Please write to
Secretary Albright to inform her of Pekar's case and urge her to press for
his release in future negotiations. Below is a sample letter that you may
either copy or use as a rough guide in composing your own letter:

Dear Secretary Albright:
As a supporter of human rights and a member of Amnesty International, I am
writing to bring to your attention a prisoner being held by Chinese
authorities in Tibet Autonomous Region Prison No. 1. The prisoner's name is

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 realize that the current political situation in China is somewhat
"touchy," to say the least, and that the Chinese Communist Party feels
particularly vulnerable at present. However, there are no circumstances
which excuse the violation of basic human rights, and the violation of
those rights is doomed in the long run to only further promote the
"instability and chaos" which the Chinese authorities so dread. Chinese
Ambassador Li is quoted as stating that "In China, we practice the rule of
law," and yet China blatantly violates international laws to which they are
a signatory. With the recent resumption of dialogue between the U.S. and
China on human rights issues, the U.S. must fully utilize its available
options to ensure that China abides by international law in a manner
beneficial to all parties, especially the common citizens of China.

Although Ngawang Pekar is only one man, his release could serve as a show
of "good faith" that the Chinese government is serious in its efforts to
begin to comply with international standards of human rights. The question
of the legitimacy of Chinese rule over Tibet is not at issue here. I
therefore respectfully urge you to bring up Pekar's case in your future
dealings with the Chinese authorities and request that he be immediately
and unconditionally released in accordance with the international laws to
which China subscribes.

I thank you for your time and attention to this important matter and would
greatly appreciate any further information that you may be able to provide.


Address your letter to:
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520

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
which may be of interest.


PBS Frontline

Once again we return to the Frontline site for two web pages associated
with up-coming documentaries in that series.  The program specific pages
won't go up until the programs air, but mark you calendars to watch
Frontline on January 26 at 9:00 or January 31 at 11:00 for a repeat of the
Rwanda program and check your TV schedules in early February for
particulars on the death penalty program.

FRONTLINE examines Rwandan genocide. Eight hundred thousand Tutsis were
slaughtered by the Hutu majority in Rwanda while the West turned a blind
eye. The film examines the role of Britain, France, the U.S., and the U.N.
as they ignored the warnings and evidence of impending massacre. This
report also looks at how two detectives called in to investigate the
Rwandan genocide came to fear that the U.N. itself didn't want them to

In February, FRONTLINE explores capital punishment through the story of
Clifford Boggess, a 30-year-old who spent almost a decade on death row in
Texas. It is there that Boggess--a pianist, artist, class valedictorian and
murderer--awaited the execution chamber. And while he prayed, the tormented
families of his two victims--brutally murdered in convenience store
robberies--impatiently awaited his death in June 1998. The film follows the
killer, his judges, his executioners, and the families of his victims.

Bring Pinochet to Justice!

 According to the Chilean government's own truth commissions, more than
3,000 people were extrajudicially            executed, "disappeared," or
tortured to death during General Pinochet's reign of terror.  Countless
more were tortured and exiled.  While he awaits his fate in London, US
officials continue to debate whether or not to support his extradition to
Spain.  So far the nays have it.  Jittery Administration officials who fear
that US officials could be subjected to frivolous suits and apprehension
abroad have carried the day and the US continues to have a public position
of neutrality on his extradition.

On November 24, Amnesty International USA wrote to Attorney General Janet
Reno and asked that the US consider extraditing Pinochet to the United
States for crimes against Americans including the 1976 car bombing in
Washington, DC which killed a young American and a former Chilean Foreign
Minister.  We also wrote to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on
December 1 asking her to publicly support holding Pinochet accountable. So
far she has not replied.

Despite the US position of official neutrality, officials such as Secretary
Albright have made remarks insinuating that this whole matter should be
left to the Chileans, i.e. the Chilean government.  The Chilean government
has maintained that Pinochet should be returned to Chile, but a trial in
Chile would be a near impossibility.  Before surrendering power,  Pinochet
passed a series of measures shielding himself from prosecution, including
appointing himself to be Senator-for-Life.

Another key issue concerns the declassification of US documents on Chile.
The US government maintained close relations with Pinochet's military
government that assumed power after a violent coup d' etat in 1973.  It is
believed that the US has important information, some of which has been
formally requested by Spanish judges investigating crimes committed by the
Pinochet regime.  Publicly, the State Department has stated that it is
contemplating declassifying information relating to Chile.  We strongly
support declassification and have asked the            State Department to
release as much information as possible about human rights violations and
other violent acts committed by the Pinochet government.

Please write a polite but firm letter to the Secretary of State asking that

- reply to Amnesty International USA's December 1 letter on Pinochet;

- confirm that the US will declassify as much information as possible
concerning human rights violations committed during the Pinochet
government; and

- publicly support the extradition of General Pinochet to Spain and the
principle that he be held accountable for crimes committed by his

Address your letter to:
	The Honorable Madeleine Albright
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C.  20520

Juvenile Justice Concerns

A major goal of the USA Campaign is to highlight abuses in the juvenile
justice system that are in conflict with international law. Among the most
striking examples is the application of the death penalty to individuals
who were juveniles at the time of the crime. International law specifically
excludes children from the death penalty based on two rationales: (1)
Children are not fully mature and responsible for their actions. (2) The
potential for rehabilitation is much greater for children than adults. The
US Supreme Court has acknowledged both of these issues in its decisions. In
Thompson v. Oklahoma in 1988, the Court wrote: "Youth is more than a
chronological fact. It is a time and condition of life when a person may be
most susceptible to influence and to psychological damage."  In 1993, the
court wrote "the signature qualties of youth are transient; as individuals
mature, the impetuousness and recklessness that may dominate in younger
years can subside."  Still, states continue to execute juvenile offenders.

The United States has maintained its right to use the death sentence
against juvenile offenders when the issue was raised by two major
international treaties. The US ratified the International Convent on Civil
and Political Rights (ICCPR), but held a reservation on Article 6(5) which
prohibits capital punishment for individuals under 18 at the time of the
crime.  The US has failed to ratify the Convention of the Rights of the
Child which also includes protection from the death sentence for children.
Although the US would like to consider itself a leader in the field of
human rights, it is one of only a handful of countries opposed to
guaranteeing this fundamental right of children. The only other member of
the United Nations that has failed to sign the Convention of the Rights of
the Child is Somalia. None of the 192 ratifiers of the Convention held any
reservations about declaring 18 the minimum age for capital defendants.

Please contact your Senators and ask them to (1) withdraw the reservation
to Article 6(5) of the ICCPR and (2) ratify the Convention on the Rights of
the Child. Our California Senators' addresses are:

Senator Barbara Boxer
112 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
phone:(202) 224-3553

Senator Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
phone: (202) 224-3841

Much of the information above is drawn from the AI report on juvenile
justice "Betraying the Young" which is available on the web:

California to Execute Siripongs- Write Gov. Davis!

Jaturun Siripongs is scheduled to be executed in California on 9 February
1998. He was sentenced to death in 1983 for a double murder committed
during a robbery at Pantai market in Garden Grove, Orange County,
California, in December 1981, 18 months after he arrived in the USA from

After his arrest, Jaturun Siripongs should have been informed of his right
to contact and seek assistance from the Thai Consulate, as provided by
Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, ratified by the
USA in 1969. However, like most of the more than 60 other foreign nationals
currently on death row in the USA, he was not informed of this right.
Amnesty International believes that, in a capital justice system prone to
race and class-based bias, in which sentencing can depend more on a
defendant's lawyer than on their crime, access to consular resources and
legal expertise can make the difference between life and death.

Jaturun Siripongs' lawyer called no witnesses during the trial, choosing to
exclude evidence that an accomplice might have been involved in the
killings.  At the sentencing phase of the trial he called no character
witnesses to provide mitigating evidence, including the facts of Jaturun
Siripongs's childhood, which was marked by extreme poverty and physical,
emotional and sexual abuse.

Since he has been in prison, Jaturun Siripongs is reported to have been a
model prisoner, studying Buddhism and becoming an accomplished artist.
Surachai Wattanaporn, the widower of one of the two people killed in the
1981 crime, is reported to have written to former Governor Wilson appealing
for clemency: "As a Buddhist, I do not seek revenge for my wife's death,
and ask you to consider exercising mercy in this case."  The widow of the
second murder victim is also said to be opposed to the execution.

The Royal Thai government is reported to have requested that the governor
commute Jaturun Siripongs' death sentence.

Please send letters to our new governor!

- expressing deep concern that Jaturun Siripongs is scheduled to be
executed on 9 February, and urging that his death sentence be commuted to a
more humane alternative; -  expressing sympathy for the victims of violent
crime and their families, but noting that an increasing number of families
of murder victims in the USA are speaking out against the death penalty,
saying that it does not help them in their loss and only compounds the

- noting that Jaturun Siripongs' rights under Article 36 of the Vienna
Convention on Consular Relations were violated after arrest, and that, at
the very least, the execution should be stayed to assess the impact of this
violation on the outcome of his trial.


State Governor
The Honorable Pete Wilson
State Capitol, 1st Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814, USA


Mons. Juan Jose Gerardi Conadera

Olman Alexis Viera Rodriguez, who may have had information about the murder
of Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi, was shot dead in his home on 4 January 1999.
According to a new theory advanced by a former judge conducting a private
investigation of the killing, Olman Alexis Viera Rodriguez and the criminal
gang he belonged to were involved in the bishop's murder.

According to the former judge, the Valle del Sol (Valley of the Sun)  gang
operates with the cooperation of prominent members of the church curia. He
claims that gang members murdered Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi after he learned
that they had been stealing valuable artefacts from Guatemalan churches.
They then killed Olman Alexis Viera Rodriguez because he had told
prosecutors the names of the gang's leaders and the way it operates.
Prosecutors investigating the bishop's murder had named Olman Alexis Viera
Rodriguez in an indictment as a possible witness.

Bishop Gerardi was murdered as he returned home two days after presiding
over the presentation to the Guatemalan people of the church's report into
the atrocities committed over more than three decades of civil conflict in
Guatemala. Based on a three year study of over 55,000 reported human rights
violations, the report concluded that some 79% had been carried out by the
security forces. Bishop Gerardi had been a moving force behind the project.

The government promised a full inquiry into the murder, but after nine
months of investigation the crime remains unsolved. The authorities have
insisted that Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi was the victim of a common crime or
a crime of passion, and have ignored calls from local NGOs and from the
former Attorney General of Guatemala,  Acisclo Valladares, to pursue leads
which suggest the murder was politically motivated. Acisclo Valladares was
commissioned by the Guatemalan Catholic church to examine the investigation
by the authorities into the murder of Bishop Gerardi. He concluded that
Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi's murder was probably an extrajudicial execution.

Amnesty International remains deeply concerned at the apparent shortcomings
and bias of the official investigation of Bishop Juan Gerardi's murder and
at the failure to protect possible witnesses. It fears that the explanation
advanced by the former judge is intended to distract attention from the
fact that the killing was politically motivated and may have involved
serving or former military personnel, including two of the former judge's

mails/telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/ airmail letters:

- urging the authorities to fully investigate the murder of Olman Alexis
Viera Rodriguez and bring those responsible to justice;

- urging the authorities to protect possible witness who could help solve
the crime;

- -urging the authorities to widen their investigation into the murder of
Bishop Gerardi, taking account of the report of Acisclo Valladares, which
found that the bishop was probably extrajudicially executed, possibly with
the involvement of serving or former military personnel;

- -urging the authorities to bring to justice anyone found to have been
involved in the Bishop Juan Gerardi's murder regardless of their position;

- -reminding the government of Guatemala of its commitment to the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, in particular Article 3, 'Everyone has the
right to life, liberty and security of person.'


President of the Republic of Guatemala:
S.E. Alvaro Arzu Irigoyen
Presidente de la Republica de Guatemala
Palacio Nacional
6a Calle y 7a Avenida,  Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala , GUATEMALA

E-mail: /

Minister of Foreign Relations:
Lic. Eduardo Stein
Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores
Palacio Nacional
6a Calle y 7a Avenida, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala , GUATEMALA



Read us on line:
Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 /

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.