This is an exciting time for the group, with energetic new initiatives
launched on two fronts: our participation in Amnesty International's
year-long campaign against human-rights abuses in the U.S., and our efforts
to free our prisoner of conscience, Tibetan monk Ngawang Pekar.
Emily Brodsky and Lucas Kamp, our group's USA campaign coordinators,
unveiled an ambitious three-pronged strategy in February's monthly meeting.
Each month, the group will undertake activities for three purposes within
the context of the campaign: to educate ourselves, to educate the public,
and to influence policy. To see how this works, in February we educated
ourselves by inviting Mary Weaver of the Pasadena chapter of Friends
Outside to the monthly meeting to tell the group about conditions in local
prisons and jails. We educated the public and (potentially) influenced
policy by composing and sending a letter on the campaign to the Star-News -
thanks to Emily, Lucas and Diane Prozeller for working on this (and putting
up with my kibbutzing).
This month, we educated the public by tabling at the Pasadena Farmers'
Market. Thanks to Emily, Diane, Matt Reese and Lucas (and me, for that
matter) for a very productive tabling, generating great interest and lots
of signatures on petitions to our senators urging them to support the
Convention on the Rights of the Child. As discussed in the January
newsletter, every member of the United Nations has ratified this convention
except for two: the US and Somalia! Sending the petition to Boxer and
Feinstein is our work on influencing policy. To educate ourselves, Lucas
will lead a discussion on juvenile justice in this month's meeting
(Thursday evening, March 25) - I hope everyone can attend!
Also at the meeting, we will finalize plans for our Month of Action
Ngawang Pekar. Every day in April, a fax or a letter will be dispatched to
the Chinese (or American) authorities on behalf of Ngawang Pekar - they
won't know what hit them! Day after day, week after week, they'll be
receiving letters and copies of full petitions (which we've collected over
the years) urging that Ngawang Pekar be released. Please make a point of
volunteering just a few minutes every week in April, to take action for our
prisoner of conscience. If you can't make it to the monthly meeting, you
can contact us to coordinate your action and get copies of petitions to
To close, I'd like to share a little inspirational tidbit with you.
of you on e-mail have already seen this...) Early this month, I had the
chance to talk with David Omozuafoh, an activist in Nigeria, who was very
positive about the effects of Amnesty International's letter writing
campaigns. He was aware of a number of specific cases of sentences which
were dismissed or mitigated (including several commuted death sentences!)
as a direct result of Amnesty letters. It was also interesting to hear that
the newspapers in Nigeria printed a steady trickle of Amnesty letters from
outside the country - I'm certainly going to start paying more attention to
those addresses when they appear in an urgent action! And I sincerely hope
that each of us will take heart and keep up the flow of letters - of course
it can get a bit tedious sometimes, but it really does make a difference,
for very real human beings!
Group Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, March 25, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting at 1052 E. Del Mar (between
Catalina & Wilson) -- top floor. Highlights: USA Campaign update and Tibet
Month of Action planning.
Tuesday, April 13, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting in the Athenaeum
basement. Corner of California & Hill.
Executing Juveniles: The Case of Sean Sellers
On Thursday, February 4, Sean Sellers, was executed through lethal
injection by the state of Oklahoma for crimes he committed at the age of
16. This was the first time in 40 years that the United States executed a
16-year-old offender and the event was considered an outrage in the
international community. International human rights treaties specifically
ban the death penalty for anyone who was a minor at the time of the crime.
The US has side-stepped international law by holding reservations to its
ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR). When the Senate ratified the treaty in 1992, they specified the
right to ignore Article 6(5) which outlaws the execution of juvenile
offenders. The other signers of the treaty have ruled that the United
States' caveat runs counter to the spirit of the treaty and therefore is
not valid. Still, the United States persists in asserting its right to
sentence juveniles to death.
Sean Sellers, who was 29 at the time of his death, was 16 at the time
the crimes and 17 at his trial. He was arrested for the murder of his
mother, step-father and a convenience store clerk. At the time of the
crimes, he lived in a violent home and was deeply involved with drugs and
Satanism. During his imprisonment, he reformed and confessed to the murder
of his parents. His case illustates the two primary reasons international
law exempts juveniles from the death penalty. (1) Children are not fully
mature and responsible for their actions. (2) The potential for
rehabilitation is much greater for children than adults. More information
on Sean Sellers' case is available at:
The execution of Sean Sellers sets a dangerous precedent. It demonstates
the willingness of the United States to break with international human
rights standards in applying the death penalty. It is a major goal of the
USA campaign to bring such flagrant violations of international law to the
attention of both policy-makers and the public. We should remind government
officials that the issue of juvenile executions did not die with Sean
Sellers. Please take the time to write a polite letter or email to the
Governor of Oklahoma to express your disappointment with the execution.
Governor Frank Keating
212 State Capitol,
Oklahoma City, OK 73105, USA
Salutation: Dear Governor
International Women's Day Message
from DitaSari in Women's Prison, Jakarta
[Dita Sari is an Indonesian labor rights activist who was one of the
Rights Defenders" we wrote on behalf of for the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights 50th Anniversary Campaign.]
This is the third time I write down to you from the prison cell where
remain now. Three years have suddenly passed, and surely many changes have
taken place. Even though the form and method of our struggle will also
change, but I'm completely sure we still keep the same high spirit alive in
our heart. And, in this historical event, I would like to share with all my
sisters around the world, who will always in search of freedom and justice
for the oppressed groups in their society. My country, as you may know, is
going through a hard and deep crisis. The distressed economy has affected,
not only families in the city, but also millions of children, women and men
in the rural area. Millions of workers lost their jobs. Almost twenty
percent of Indonesian children have dropped out of school. To make it less
comfortable, the prices of basic commodities have increased day by day.
I read and listened about all the suffers behind the prison wall. I
about riots, killings and criminal actions. I read also about the political
dynamic which is getting intensified; to see hundreds of political parties
announced every week as well as their statements, press release and
meetings in the newspapers.
Now, in this kind situation, how is the women's position and what role
can play in responding this age in motion in my country? For years we have
tried to open the door that leads to a more democratic state. For years we
fight for better wages and respect for the political rights of the working
people. For years also we've lived in terror, fear and under the traumatic
shadow of violence. And now the door is finally open; this is not just a
gift from heaven, this is the gift of one long struggle and sacrifice.
In my cell, I often think about the women workers of my union. I finally
realize that this is the time for Indonesian women to take up every space
and opportunity that comes out during the democratic process. Every chance
that is produced by our historical fight, must be fulfilled by women. We
need lots of strength and power to overcome the crisis and I believe women
should be the main part of this strength, play a decisive roles in
political field and start to take the leadership in every sector they are
involved in. Democracy without the equal treatment between both sexes only
means democracy in appearance. And this equal treatment is also a gift of a
continuous and uninterrupted fight against all kinds of discrimination
around us. Now, the women will have to chose, whether to become a victim or
Sisters, three years in the prison has made me learn my lesson well.
middle of various political issues, women's prison seems to be a silent
community. It is not isolated from the world but it's also not completely
being a part of her surroundings. But still, messages of solidarity that
have been sent to me from many parts of the world, reach my cell. It feels
like every time a letter of solidarity arrives, the rose in my cell
blossoms. This is a very warm feeling. That is why I would like to share it
with you, through this letter.
I wish I could be there, like I was four years ago. I miss you all.
being in the rally with sisters in Perth and Sydney. Thank you for all the
solidarity you have given to me. Hope to see you in the next better time.
PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk
There is still no news about Ngawang Pekar, who was arrested almost
years ago and is reputedly being held in Prison Number 1 (Drapchi). For
more details about his case please check our web site
Julia Taft, the Special Coordinator for Tibet Issues. We have
a reply yet but we'll keep you posted. Please feel free to excercise your
freedom of speech and write again to Ms Taft to raise awareness for our
concerns about Ngawang Pekar.
As Larry mentioned in his column we are planning a month of action in
to increase the profile of Nwagang Pekar. We will be organising the "duty
roster" at the next meeting and are keen to have help from anyone who can
spare a few minutes. We have a huge box of petitions that have been
collected and we shall be sending one a day for the entire month to the
Chinese (and hopefully copies to the American - if we can afford it)
authorities. So what we need is a volunteer for each day to send a fax.
Please let us know which day you can send a fax and we'll supply you with
the materials you need. Thanks. Saskia (626-449-8121,
email@example.com) & Robert (626-441-2338, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Julia Vadala Taft
Special Coordinator for Tibet Issues
Department of State
2201 C St., NW
Washington, DC 20520
February 25, 1999
Dear Mrs. Taft,
Firstly allow us to congratulate you on your recent appointment to the
position of Special Coordinator for Tibet Issues. We know, by looking at
your past accomplishments that you will do a terrific job for the US
government and for the interest of the Tibetan people inside Tibet and in
Secondly, we would like to introduce ourselves. We are members of an
Amnesty International local group, Group 22 pased in Pasadena CA. We have
190 members on our mailing list and about 15 members who attend our regular
We are writing to you to bring to your attention our deep concern for
Nwagang Pekar, a prisoner being held by Chinese authorities in Tibet
Autonomous Region Prison No. 1. Ngawang Pekar, a Tibetan monk, was arrested
in 1989 for participating in a peaceful demonstration and sentenced to
eight years in prison. Subsequently, in December 1995, his sentence was
increased by six more years - after which he was put in an isolation cell
for three months - because he was found with a list of other prisoners
being held in Prison No. 1. We are 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. We are 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.
We have not heard anything about Nwagang Pekar for over a year and are
worried about his condition and treatment, particularly following the riots
in Drapchi (Prison No. 1) on May 1 and 4, 1998. Please could you try to
find out about his condition, or relay this information to those who can,
and relay any information to us, it would be greatly appreciated.
Finally, Nwagang Pekar is a Prisoners of Conscience, imprisoned solely
the peaceful expression of his beliefs and we 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.
Thank you for your interest in this case. Please do not hesitate to
us if you require any further information or have more specific questions.
We look forward to hearing of any actions you chose to take.
Amnesty International, Group 22.
Government Action Network
Human Rights Nightmare in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is in the midst of a human rights nightmare. Since 1991
Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has been waging an insurgency that has
perpetuated unprecedented human rights abuses. It has received logistical
and financial backing from some military factions in neighboring Liberia.
Hundreds of thousands have been displaced and are either homeless in the
capital Freetown or have fled to neighboring countries. Thousands have been
killed, tortured or mutilated. Women have been systematically raped and
girls, as young as 10 forced into to sexual slavery. It is estimated that
there are at least 4,000 child soldiers in Sierra Leone, 2,500 of them in
the rebel forces and the others in the civilian militias.
The Nigerian-led West African peacekeeping force known as ECOMOG is
opposing the RUF. ECOMOG and local militias are also guilty of abuses:
fighters are reported to have committed summary executions of captured
rebels or non-combatants suspected of supporting rebels. However the
majority of the abuses have been committed by the RUF who continue to
destabilize the country despite being driven out of Freetown after their
latest offensive in December.
In addition to the fighting and horrific human rights abuses, there
deepening humanitarian crisis. Relief organizations are being hindered by
attacks from the RUF while facing restrictions from ECOMOG. Refugees from
Sierra Leone risk being sent back by surrounding countries that do not have
the resources to handle them. Further, the UN Security Council is
considering cutting back the size of the human rights monitoring component
of its peacekeeping mission.
The international community led by the United States can and must make
difference. Congress must demand real leadership from the Clinton
Administration and it must also provide resources to meet the human rights
and humanitarian crisis. Failure to do so not only dooms Sierra Leone; it
risks instability throughout West Africa.
Please write to Your Representative in the House and urge them to
co-sponsor the resolution on Sierra Leone introduced by Congressmen Payne
Capitol Switchboard: (202) 225-3121
The Hon. James Rogan
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
MARTHA'S WEB TIPS FOR MARCH
Facing History and Ourselves
Facing History and Ourselves is a national educational and professional
development organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse
backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in
order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry.
By studying the historical development and lessons of the Holocaust, and
other examples of genocide, students make the essential connection between
history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives.
With national headquarters in Brookline, Massachusetts, and regional
offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Memphis, and New York City,
Facing History provides teachers with staff development in the form of
workshops, institutes and seminars. It also offers participating teachers
access to an assortment of books, periodicals, speakers and videotapes for
classroom use. Ongoing research in twentieth-century history and adolescent
development has resulted in a number of Facing History publications.
The Los Angeles office is actually located right here in Pasadena!
the website for information about local workshops and events. They will be
sponsoring a theatrical performance at All Saints Church on May 14.
URGENT ACTION: PERU
Jose Mercedes SANCHEZ TORRES - deputy mayor
Dulio Florian PACHAS
Prisoner of conscience / Arbritary Detention / Torture
Jose Mercedes Sanchez Torres, deputy mayor (teniente alcalde) for the
district of Imperial, in the province of Canete, Lima department, is in the
custody of the DINCOTE, Peru's anti-terrorism police. He was detained on 10
February 1999 in the town of Imperial and has been accused of terrorism.
Amnesty International believes the accusation to be false and that he is
therefore arbitrarily detained. The organization has declared him to be a
prisoner of conscience and is requesting his immediate and unconditional
Jose Sanchez has been an active community leader since 1980. For many
he was a member of the legally registered political party United Left,
Izquierda Unida, which has publicly condemned the use of political violence
by Peru's armed opposition groups (grupos alzado en armas). Between 1990
and 1992 he was an alderman (regidor) for his district and in 1994 and 1997
stood as a candidate for mayor (alcalde). Despite receiving numerous death
threats from Shining Path, Sendero Luminoso, Peru's main armed opposition
group, throughout his political career Jose Sanchez has actively condemned
the violent methods of Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary
Party, Partido Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (MRTA), another Peruvian armed
Dulio Florian Pachas, who knows Jose Sanchez, is also in the custody
DINCOTE accused of terrorism-related crimes. Amnesty International has not
got sufficient information to determine whether or not the accusations
against him are false. However, the organization is concerned about
allegations made to his lawyer that he was tortured by members of the
DINCOTE in order to extract a statement from him accusing Jose Sanchez of
being a Shining Path leader.
In the first half of the 1980s Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru
Revolutionary Party, Partido Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (MRTA), another
armed opposition group, initiated campaigns of armed attacks. In 1992 the
Government of Peru implemented a new set of anti-terrorism laws to combat
Shining Path and the MRTA. Since then the authorities have imprisoned at
least 5,000 persons accused of terrorism-related crimes, many of whom have
been allegedly tortured.
However, according to Peruvian non-governmental human rights organization,
at least 1,500 of these were falsely accused of such crimes. Although many
of these have been released as a result of a presidential pardon (indulto
presidencial) or because they were acquitted (absueltos) by the courts,
hundreds still languish in jail.
FURTHER RECOMMENDED ACTION:
Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters:
- expressing concern that Jose Mercedes Sanchez Torres, detained on
February 1999 by members of the DINCOTE, Peru's police, has been falsely
accused of terrorism; calling for his immediate and unconditional release;
- expressing concern at allegations that Dulio Florian Pachas was tortured
by members of the DINCOTE in order to force a statement from him accusing
Jose Sanchez of being a leader of Shining Path;
- calling on the authorities to conduct a full and independent
investigation into the allegations, to make the findings public, and to
bring those responsible to justice.
Minister of the Interior
Jose Villanueva Ruesta
Ministro del Interior
Ministerio del Interior
Plaza 30 de Agosto s/n
PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:
Human rights organization
Jr. Pachacutec 980
Ambassador Ricardo V. Luna
Embassy of Peru
1700 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington DC 20036
HOLIDAY CARD ACTION UPDATE
In the 1998 Holiday Card Action, AIUSA members were asked to send cards
letters of encouragement to prisoners of conscience and other victims of
human rights violations. We are pleased to report some good news about two
cases highlighted in that action.
Bi-meng Zheng, a Chinese national who was detained at an Immigration
Naturalization Service facility in California, received 100 to 200 cards of
support per day from Amnesty members, for a total of more than 4,300 cards.
His lawyer reports that he was recently granted release on bond after
spending almost four years in detention. The attorney said all of the
letters from Amnesty helped to make the release possible. The staff of the
Refugee Office is continuing to work with Bi-meng Zheng and his lawyers,
but no further action by AIUSA members is needed at this time.
Salwa Dimassi of Tunisia has been released. When she was brought before
judge in December, Dimassi reported receiving many cards and letters in
detention, apparently from Amnesty members. At the end of January, the
Appeal Court in Tunis sentenced her to two years in prison and five years
of administrative surveillance. She was released that same day because she
had already served seven months longer than the sentence imposed. Thanks to
all Amnesty members who sent her cards and letters. Group 9 in New York
City will continue to monitor Dimassi's situation for the next year, but no
further action on the case is required at this time.
EDITOR'S LAST WORD:
Read us on line: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22/
Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 / email@example.com