Volume VIII Number 6, June 2000
In This Issue
Prisoner of Conscience: Ngawang Pekar
Taiwan: A Success Story
Outfront: Rights for Gays and Lesbians
Thursday, June 22, 7:00 PM, Dabney Hall, Caltech campus. Afghani women share their experiences! Contact Larry for directions/map if you donít know where Dabney Hall is.
Thursday, June 22, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting Please note that due to the Afghani human rights event above, we will not have a formal meeting this month. Please join us at Dabney Hall at 7:00. If you have any questions or other business please contact Larry directly.
Saturday, June 24, Tibet Walk! See Robert's "Ngawang Pekar" column for details!
Wednesday, Jun 28, 7:30 PM. Video Night! View and discuss PBS "P.O.V." documentary "Well Founded Fear." Emily's place: 166 Mar Vista No. 3. Pasadena (626)585-1412. See below for related action!
Sunday, July 9, 10:15 AM. All Saints Church. Second chance to hear about women in Afghanistan or see "Web Tips" to access full calendar.
Tuesday, July 11, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting in the Athenaeum basement. Corner of California & Hill.
Sunday, July 16, 7:30 PM. Human Rights Book Discussion Group
at Borders Books on S. Lake Avenue. This month we discuss "Before Night
Falls" by Reinaldo Arenas. Details inside.
In last month's Corner, I described how Sonali Kolhatkar (from Caltech) visited our letter-writing meeting and proposed collaborating to help put together an appearance at Caltech by two Afghani women who are visiting the US this summer, raising awareness of the plight of women under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. At our last Monthly Meeting, we decided to co-sponsor the event, which will be combined with our Monthly Meeting for June (see the calendar for details). Please join us for this important opportunity!
I'm also looking forward to joining everyone the following Saturday (June 24) for the last leg of the Tibet walk (see the contribution by Robert Adams inside). We'll be carrying signs and circulating actions on behalf of our prisoner of conscience, Tibetan monk Ngawang Pekar. Stay tuned for information about carpools to the events downtown (give a call if you aren't on e-mail). And thanks to Joyce Wolf for agreeing to work with Robert to coordinate our group's future actions on this case.
In further news last month, group member Martha Ter Maat had a letter to the editor published by the Pasadena Star-News in response to the paperís coverage of Permanent Normal Trade Relations for China. The letter advocated adoption of a code of ethics for US companies doing business in China. You can learn more by visiting a special website we set up for readers of the letter to check out ( http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22/biz/) as well as stop by the Ngawang Pekar page to sign on to our new on-line petition. Thanks to Martha and Emily Brodsky for this effort!
Larry Romans 626-683-4977
Group Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk
Our group remains committed to working for the release of prisoner of conscience (POC) Ngawang Pekar (naw-wan pee-kar), an approximately 37-year-old Tibetan Buddhist monk. In 1989, he was arrested by Chinese authorities for participating in a peaceful demonstration in the city of Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, in support of Tibetan independence and has been imprisoned ever since.
On 5 June, a Canadian Cabinet member touring China, Raymond Chan, Secretary of State for Asia and the Pacific, was allowed to visit Drapchi Prison (Tibet Autonomous Prison No. 1), where Ngawang Pekar is being held. "My impression is it's a model prison I guess, it's well set up, clean, people seem happy," he said. However, Mr. Chan added that he was not allowed to talk to the prisoners, and that what he saw may not adequately reflect everything that goes on in Tibetan prisons. "They claim that about 5 percent of the prison population is what they call 'against the security of the country'", Chan told reporters. "You can translate that yourself."
In other Tibetan news, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) reports that between the end of March and mid April a group of Tibetan students were arrested at the Tibet-Nepal border by Chinese Border Security Police. The students were fresh graduates from Tibetan schools in India and were on their way to Tibet for their vacation to visit their parents and relatives. Approximately 50 students were reportedly brought in for questioning and have since been detained under suspicion of dissident political activities. Some of the students are awaiting trial while others have been transferred to a prison in Lhasa. These students are all below the age of 18 and hence below the age of criminal or political prosecution according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which China ratified in 1992.
As most of you are aware, legislation granting China permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with the US is well on its way to being enacted, having passed in the House on 24 May and requiring at this time only a favorable vote by the Senate to become law. Of note is that the sole vote against the bill in the Senate Finance Committee on 17 May was cast by Sen. Jim Jeffords, R-Vt, who said he was doing so primarily to protest the continued imprisonment in China of Tibetan musicologist Ngawang Choepel, who had attended a Vermont college. Although Amnesty International does not take a position on PNTR with China per se, William Schulz, Executive Director of AIUSA, has expressed regret that human rights have not been central to the debate.
This monthís action: join us for Tibet Walk! On 25 April,
a contingent departed from San Francisco to walk over 525 miles to Los
Angeles as part of the 5th annual March for Tibet's Independence.
On 29 May, a similar group left from San Diego, and on 20 June the two
groups will meet in Santa Monica. In lieu of a letter writing action on
behalf of Ngawang Pekar this month, we are requesting that people join
us in participating in the final day of the march on Saturday, 24 June,
to help take Pekar's case to the streets! The day's events are scheduled
to begin at 11:30 a.m. at the World Trade Center in downtown L.A. at Figueroa
& 4th Street (next to the Bonaventure Hotel). From there, the march
will depart at 1:00 p.m. for a 3 mile walk to its final destination at
the Chinese Consulate, located on Shatto Place near Wilshire & Vermont,
for a 2:00 p.m. rally. Please note that this is not an Amnesty sponsored
event - for more information, visit www.octibet.org. Due to parking, carpooling
is strongly recommended, so if you would like help in arranging that, or
have any other questions, please contact Robert Adams at email@example.com
or (626) 441-2338. Hope to see you there!
Increase in executions and amputations
Despite Saudi Arabia's initial positive responses, made to UN representatives and via international media, to Amnesty International's human rights concerns, recent statements emanating from within the kingdom have not been so encouraging. Also, as evidenced by the greatly abridged Urgent Action below, actions often speak louder than words.
Executions in Saudi Arabia are continuing at an alarming rate. So far this year Saudi Arabia has executed 53 people, 25 of them in the past month. It is impossible to know the names of all those on death row or how many face execution in the next few days and weeks.
The number of reported amputations as punishment has also increased significantly this year. To date Amnesty International has recorded 23 amputations, seven of which have been cross amputations - amputation of the right hand and left foot. The organization recorded two amputations in the whole
While Amnesty International does not know how many people are on death row or how many face amputation, the organization fears that there are many more people currently in Saudi Arabian prisons, whose names we do not know, who could lose their lives or limbs tomorrow, during the next week or at any time in the weeks and months to come. Most, if not all, will have been sentenced after grossly unfair trials in which even the most basic rights, such as the right to be defended by a lawyer and the right to an effective appeal, are denied. They may also have been convicted solely on the basis of confessions obtained under duress, torture or deception.
Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences which, in addition to violent crimes, include offences with no lethal consequences such as
sorcery and drug-related offences. Punishment by amputation is enforced in Saudi Arabia for offences mainly limited to cases of theft, for which the sentence is amputation of the right hand, and highway robbery, which is punished by cross amputation. Under international human rights standards the use of these punishments is contrary to the prohibition of torture and other cruel punishments.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send airmail letters: - expressing dismay at the continuing use of the death penalty and amputations in Saudi Arabia, and calling for an immediate halt to these punishments, and for all such outstanding sentences to be commuted;
- urging that international standards for capital trials are strictly observed.
King and Prime Minister
The Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines
His Majesty King Fahd bin 'Abdul 'Aziz Al-Saud
Office of H.M. The King
Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Salutation: Your Majesty
Please send appeals prior to July
JUST EARTH NETWORK
Nikitin set to travel/ Russian EPA scrapped!
After much wrangling, Aleksandr Nikitin, the Russian nuclear scientist accused and tried on the charges of espionage for co-authoring a Bellona Foundation report detailing environmental dangers associated with aging Russia's nuclear submarines was finally given an international passport for travel. Earlier in April, the Russian Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court's ruling which acquitted Nikitin of all the charges. Nikitin has indicated his desire to visit the US and thank all of you that have worked so hard on his case and discuss the current situation in Russia.
While it seems that Nikitin's current ordeal may be over, the political situation in Russia remains precarious for other environmentalists. Write to President Putin, urge him to repeal decrees used to suppress human rights and environmental NGOs. Urge President Putin to allow environmentalists to operate free of intimidation and harassment. Ask that the Russian government investigate charges of intimidation of environmentalists and scientists. Send you letters to:
President of the Russian Federation
c/o His Excellency Yuri Ushakov
Embassy of the Russian Federation
2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007
You can also write directly to Putin at:
President of the Russian Federation
Prezidentu Rossiyskoy Federatsii
WEB TIPS FOR JUNE
Revolutionary Association of the
Women of Afghanistan
Here is more info on the Afghani group we are co-hosting for a number
of speaking engagements this month. For a full listing of Southern California
events, check out this website:
Death Penalty Information Center
Having trouble keeping up with the unexpected "redhot" status of
the death penalty as an election year issue? One quick way to get the highlights
and pointers to other web resources is at the DPIC site. Check under "Whatís
New" for the latest.
Did you watch "Well Founded Fear" and wish that our asylum policies were more flexible? Hereís a chance to take action and if you missed the film join us on 6/28 for a group viewing (see Events).
The US is turning away refugees who are fleeing torture and state persecution because they fled without proper documents, or because the government that they are fleeing stripped them of their documents.
On November 17, 1999, Senators Leahy and Brownback introduced the "Refugee Protection Act" (S.1940). Senators Feingold, Kennedy, Kerry, Jeffords and Lautenberg joined them as cosponsors.
The bill is designed to roll back provisions of a 1996 immigration law that mandates immediate (expedited) removal of aliens arriving at US ports of entry without valid papers or with fraudulent papers unless the arriving alien demonstrates a fear of return to their home country. A low level immigration inspector makes the decision with no right of appeal to a judicial officer.
Because persons fleeing persecution are least likely to have proper papers from the very government that is oppressing them, they are vulnerable to expedited removal. Most vulnerable are victims of torture, including women who have been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted. Experience with such victims shows us that they are often afraid or even unable to talk about what has happened to them, especially to men in government uniforms. These people are most at risk of being wrongly turned away at our borders.
The Refugee Protection Act (S. 1940) ends the use of expedited removal except when there is an immigration emergency as declared by the Attorney General. Even in those circumstances the bill adds protections to minimize the chances that a true refugee will be turned away. The bill also makes clear that a person seeking asylum need not always be detained, but in certain circumstances can be freed from detention to pursue their asylum claims. It also establishes a "good cause" exception to the law that requires that an immigrant file a claim for asylum within one year of coming to the US.
Senators Leahy and Brownback have sent a letter to all their Senate colleagues asking them to join them as co-sponsors of the bill.
Take Action! Urge your Senators to cosponsor and support S. 1940--the Refugee Protection Act.
Senator Barbara Boxer
United States Senate
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
TAIWAN: A Success Story
Former POC becomes V.P./President embraces human rights at inaugural
Editors note: I lived in Taiwan at the time of the Kaoshiung Incident and followed the case of Annette Lu. It was an article in MS. magazine in which she thanked Amnesty for working towards her release that first brought me to support the organization. Hereís a success story on an individual and national level to inspire us in our work for Ngawang Pekar and human rights in the Peopleís Republic of ChinaÖ And wouldnít you love to hear Bush or Gore give an inaugural speech like Chenís? -- Martha
Excerpts from a Taipei Times article by Liu Shao-hua
Four members from Amnesty International USA who had campaigned for the release of Taiwan Vice President Annette Lu when she was jailed two decades ago, participated in her May 20 inauguration. The group came to congratulate Lu on becoming vice president, and to deliver a copy of AI's 2001 calendar as a gift. Lu is featured for the month of February.
"We cannot forget history," Lu said, in tears. "If it had not been for so many acquaintances and strangers around the world [at that time], I would not be here, elected as vice president."
Lu was apprehended following the "Kaohsiung Incident," an International Human Rights Day demonstration in 1979. Amnesty concluded that Lu and the seven other prominent figures arrested had been nonviolent dissidents, and assigned the case to Group 101, Albuquerque, New Mexico. The group campaigned for Lu by mailing petitions to people around the world for six years until 1986, the year she was released.They said they distributed 20,000 postcards during the six years.
Lu recalled in an emotional statement: "When I was in jail, the mail I received from all over the world touched me deeply because I knew there were so many people concerned about me.
"I appeal to the public not to forget history," Lu said, "These kinds of achievements are based on people's endeavors ... human rights campaigns are invaluable."
Looking back at her 1,993 days in jail, Lu said she knitted several sweaters to pass the time and also wrote two novels -- penned mainly on toilet paper.
In spite of China's recent broadsides against her
pro-independence stance, Lu said: "I have undergone all sorts of tough times since the Incident. Any storm from either within or without Taiwan that targets me over the next four years -- I will just dismiss them all with laughter," Lu said.
In his inaugural address, the new president, Chen Shui-bian (who was on the legal defense team at the Kaoshiung Incident trial) declared his support for human rights:
"We are also willing to promise a more active contribution in safeguarding international human rights. The Republic of China cannot and will not remain outside global human rights trends. We will abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention for Civil and Political Rights, and the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action. We will bring the Republic of China back into the international human rights system.
"The new government will request the Legislative Yuan to pass and ratify the International Bill of Rights as a domestic law of Taiwan, so that it will formally become the "Taiwan Bill of Rights." We hope to set up an independent national human rights commission in Taiwan, thereby realizing an action long advocated by the United Nations. We will also invite two outstanding non-governmental organizations, the International Commission of Jurists and Amnesty International, to assist us in our measures to protect human rights and make the Republic of China into a new indicator for human rights in the 21st Century.
"We firmly believe that in any
time or any corner of the world, the meaning and values of freedom, democracy
and human rights cannot be ignored or changed."
Human Rights Book Discussion Group
Borders Books & Music
475 South Lake Avenue, Pasadena
Sunday, July 6, 7:30 PM
by Reinaldo Arenas
This shocking personal and political memoir from one of the most visionary writers to emerge from Castro's Cuba recounts Arenas' stunning odyssey--from his poverty-stricken childhood and his adolescence as a rebel fighting for Castro, through his suppression as a writer and imprisonment as a homosexual to his flight from Cuba via the Mariel boatlift and subsequent life and death in New York. Arenas breaks through the code of secrecy and silence that protects the privileged in a state where homosexuality is a political crime. Recorded in simple, straightforward prose, this is the true story of a Kafkaesque life and world re-created in the author's acclaimed novels.
A New York Times Best Book of 1993.
Take action for Gay/Lesbian Rights!
Women and men around the world are subject to human rights abuse based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Everyday women and men around the world are beaten, imprisoned, tortured or killed solely on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation or their gender identity:
In Afghanistan, six men convicted by Taliban's Shari'a court were executed by having a stone wall toppled over them. In Brazil, a lesbian couple was tortured and sexually assaulted by civil police, and despite the existence of a medical report and eyewitness testimony, their case remains unprosecuted. In Zimbabwe, members of GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe), are the targets of continued threats and harassment, and have been brutally assaulted for advocating social and political rights. In Uganda, President Yoseri Museveni issued an edict to arrest all "homosexuals" where conviction carries the sentence of life-imprisonment.
In Colombia, gay men and transgendered people have been among those targeted by "death squads" under the campaign of "social cleansing."
As these cases demonstrate, state leaders are often responsible for fostering a climate of hostility in which people suspected of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are routinely subjected to harassment, discrimination and violence. Defenders of LGBT rights-regardless of their sexual orientation-become the targets and victims of threats and persecution. In many instances, the police and other agents of the state are the perpetrators of human rights abuses, such as extortion, entrapment and physical assaults. Such cases are rarely investigated, and fewer are prosecuted.
A new bill in Congress, House Concurrent Resolution 259, establishes the protection of LGBT people as irrefutably rooted in standards defined in international human rights covenants and treaties. The bill condemns violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity and calls on the US government to give lgbt human rights violations equal representation in reporting and policy formulation, and calls for such violations to be punished without discrimination. Passing H. Con. Res. 259 will strengthen the US commitment to human rights.
Ask your Representative to co-sponsor and support H. Con. Res. 259 today! (Substitute your repís name for Rogan below if you are not in Pasadena or visit http://www.amnesty-usa.org/raisetheroof/ and use their automated zip code-based system to send an e-mail message.
The Hon. James Rogan
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Editor: Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 / firstname.lastname@example.org