Volume VIII Number 3, March 2000
In This Issue
Prisoner of Conscience: Ngawang Pekar
Just Earth Network
Human Rights Book Discussion Group
Tuesday, March 14, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting in the Athenaeum basement. Corner of California & Hill. Caravan to vigil (below) afterwards!
Tuesday, March 14, 8:00-10:00 PM (Program at 9:00) Execution Vigil for Darrell Young Elk Rich. All Saints Church, 132 N. Euclid Avenue.
Thursday, March 23, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting at 1052 E. Del Mar (between Catalina & Wilson) -- top floor. Special Guest: Laura Weavers, witness to an execution in Texas.
Sunday, April 2, 7:30 PM. Human Rights Book Discussion Group at Borders Books on S. Lake Avenue. Join us for a discussion of Kevin Bales' Disposable People. Details about the book inside.
Tuesday, April 11, 7:30 PM.
Letter-writing Meeting in
the Athenaeum basement. Corner of California & Hill.
The death penalty is wrong in so
many ways -- the fundamental inhumanity, the inevitable innocent victims,
the strongly racist implementation, on and on... and there are signs (if
one looks for them) that the American public is slowly but steadily becoming
more aware of many of its problematic aspects. Amid these scattered glimmers
of hope, we have the sad prospect of an execution vigil this month, for
Darrell "Young Elk" Rich (March 14; see the calendar for details). Please
support this vigil, and Amnesty's commitment to abolish the ultimate human-rights
abuse. We will be raising the issue of innocent victims by publicizing
the Innocence Protection Act, encouraging people to ask our senators to
co-sponsor this important new bill, which would remove barriers to DNA
testing and provide for better legal representation for death row inmates.
Please join us in our Monthly Meeting (March 23), where Laura Weavers,
a remarkable young Quaker, will discuss her experience witnessing an execution
in Texas. Thanks to Martha Ter Maat for arranging this, and taking the
initiative with so much of the important death penalty work!
Our group is taking a very active role in the program to defend environmental
activists (conducted jointly by Amnesty International and the Sierra Club).
Last month, Emily Brodsky arranged a great lunchtime talk and discussion
with Louisa Craig, a Burmese activist who discussed the interlinked human
and environmental crises in her native country. This month, Veronica Raymond
arranged our participation in the local Environmental Education Fair, and
early in April, Martha will speak at the monthly meeting of the local Sierra
Finally, please join us for the book discussion group on April 2, when we will discuss "Disposable People: New Slavery In the Global Economy" by Kevin Bales, and I'll grab the opportunity to discuss my work with a local coalition addressing trafficking of persons.
Larry Romans 626-683-4977
Group Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk
Group 22 continues to strive for
the release of prisoner of conscience (POC) Ngawang Pekar (naw-wan pee-kar),
an approximately 36-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 Ngawang Pekar has been imprisoned solely for peacefully voicing his
conscience and that, during his incarceration, he has been subjected to
According to a recent report issued by the Tibetan Information Network
(TIN) on Drapchi Prison (Tibet Autonomous Region Prison No. 1), where Pekar
is being held, although the number of political prisoners currently being
held there has decreased since a peak in 1995 and 1996, the rate of abuse
and deaths under incarceration has increased. After detailing the cases
of six deceased prisoners who would have been released in 1999, the report
states that, overall, the chances that a female political prisoner will
die as a result of abuse currently stand at 1 in 22, while for men the
outlook is currently no better than 1 in 37. The report further states
that "Drapchi has emerged as Tibet's most dangerous place of incarceration,
. . ." and that, for political prisoners who were due to be released in
1998 and 1999, the incidence of death for them has been about 1 in 24.
On the political front, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson
traveled to China to meet with Chinese authorities during a two-day visit
ending on 2 March. Robinson ended her visit by stating that she was "disappointed"
that the human rights situation in China was getting worse, and her visit
came just days after the release of a highly critical report by the U.S.
State Department on the current human rights situation in China. Chinese
authorities reacted angrily to the State Department report, and the state
media quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao as saying "China is
strongly displeased with and firmly opposed to the United States' action
of distorting other countries' human rights situation." Zhu was further
quoted as stating that "The human rights and basic freedom enjoyed by the
Chinese people have been upgraded to an unprecedented historical level,"
a position expounded at some length in a "White Paper" released by China
the previous week which boasted that China's 1.2 billion people enjoyed
"unprecedented democracy and freedom."
At the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting beginning
20 March in Geneva, Washington will introduce a resolution condemning China
for its human rights record. "Over the past year, the government of China
intensified it's crackdown on political dissent, initiated a campaign to
suppress the Falun Gong, and intensified controls on unregistered churches
and on the political and religious expression of ethnic minority groups,
especially Tibetans," the State Department's James Rubin explained. "We
have long been deeply disturbed about the human rights situation in Tibet,
and particularly the tight restriction on Tibetan Buddhism," he continued.
While similar resolutions have failed to pass in previous years, at the
least it sends a message to the Chinese authorities and keeps the issue
open for discussion. Unfortunately, the message is rather mixed, as it
comes at a time when the U.S. Administration is aggressively pursuing positive
trade relations with China, an issue which is obviously of great importance
to China. Unless there exists a link between trade relations and human
rights, condemnations of human rights abuses remain rather hollow, a point
strongly made by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) (who visited Tibet unofficially
in 1997) in an address to the House of Representatives on 29 February.
This month, we request that you send letters on behalf of Ngawang Pekar
to the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, TANG Jiaxuan. Please write
a respectful letter to Minister TANG informing him of Pekar's case, urging
him to do whatever is in his power to obtain Pekar's release in a timely
manner, and reminding him that cases such as Pekar's are one reason the
U.S. is sponsoring the resolution in Geneva. By implication, Minister TANG
should realize that concern by U.S. citizens about human rights abuses
can have an effect on their elected officials' decisions regarding trade
relations. To back up this point, it is recommended that you cc copies
of the letter to your Members of Congress. Below is a sample letter that
you can either copy verbatim or, preferably, use as a guide in composing
your own letter:
As a firm believer in the principles delineated in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights, 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
Ngawang Pekar, a Tibetan monk, was arrested in 1989 for participating
in a peaceful demonstration in the city of Lasashi and sentenced to 8 years
in prison. Subsequently, his sentence was increased by an additional 6
years. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience
and I am concerned that he has been imprisoned solely for the peaceful
exercise of his universally recognized right to freedom of expression.
I am further deeply concerned about reports that he has been beaten and
denied access to medical care since his arrest and that the 6-year increase
in his sentence, following 3 months in an iron isolation cell, was an extremely
harsh punishment for keeping a list of his fellow prisoners.
As you are no doubt aware, the U.S. will be sponsoring a resolution
condemning China's human rights record at the upcoming U.N. Human Rights
Commission meeting in Geneva, and cases such as Ngawang Pekar's are one
of the reasons for this resolution. I therefore respectfully urge you to
request that Pekar's case be reviewed and that he be immediately and unconditionally
released in accordance with the international laws to which China is signatory.
I further request that he be allowed access to independent non-governmental
agencies so that his current state of well-being may be determined and
I thank you for your attention to this important matter and would greatly
appreciate any further information that your office may be able to provide.
cc: Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Dianne Feinstein
Representative . . . .
Address your letter to:
People's Republic of China
For postage, 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 if a reply is received.
Just Earth Network
HONDURAS Fear for Safety / Death Threats
Coronado Avila ] Leaders of the Coordinating
Lombardo Lacayo] Body of Popular Organizations
Horacio Martinez ] of Aguan (COPA)
Amnesty International is very concerned for the safety of the three
grassroots leaders named above who are being threatened with death, allegedly
by armed groups with links to the authorities.
Lombardo Lacayo has received death threats in the past and there have
been a number of attempts to kill him. In April 1999 he was shot at three
times in his pick-up truck and in September he escaped another shooting
and his house was set on fire.
The three men all belong to the Coordinadora de Organizaciones Populares
del Aguan (COPA), Coordinating Body of Popular Organisations of Aguan,
which is involved in defending the land rights of peasant farmers, protecting
the environment and promoting participation in elections.
The above is part of a pattern of human rights abuses against grassroots
activists, including indigenous people, involved in defending their land
rights. The armed groups responsible, sometimes referred to as 'death squads',
are also often reported to have links to local landowners. Amnesty International
takes no position on disputes over land, but it campaigns against human
rights violations within its mandate that occur in such contexts.
These abuses, and the failure of the authorities to take action, has
been of great concern to Amnesty International: (see Honduras: Justice
fails indigenous people, September 1999). According to reports, at least
25 indigenous leaders have been killed in the last ten years. Impunity
prevails in all cases.
Five COPA leaders have been killed in the last three years: Carlos Escaleras, Victor Manuel Gomez, Oscar David Reyes, Ramon
Bejarano and Jairo Ayala. The authorities have failed to investigate
any of these murders or bring those responsible to justice. Amnesty International
is concerned that the impunity enjoyed by those responsible encourages
them to continue to commit human rights abuses in the knowledge that no
action will be taken.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send
- expressing concern for the safety of Coronado Avila, Lombardo Lacayo and Horacio Martinez, from the Coordinadora de Organizaciones Populares del Aguan (COPA), who have been attacked and threatened with death;
- urging the authorities to take all necessary measures, in consultation with those at risk, to guarantee their safety;
- calling on the authorities to ensure that thorough and independent
investigations are carried out into the killings of COPA leaders Carlos
Escaleras, Victor Manuel Gomez, Oscar David Reyes, Ramon Bejarano and Jairo
Ayala, that the results be made public, and that those responsible be brought
Dr. Roy Edmundo Medina
Fiscal General de la Republica
Fiscalia General, Ministerio Publico
Edificio Castillo Poujol, 4 Avd,
Colonia Palmira, Boulevard Morazan
Salutation: Sr. Fiscal General / Dear Attorney General
Special Prosecutor for Human Rights:
Licda. Sandra Ponce
Fiscal Especial de Derechos Humanos
Fiscalia de los Derechos Humanos
Boulevard Suyapa, Col Florencia Sur
Edificio Discua Estrada
2a Calle, casa #3801
Salutation: Sra. Fiscal / Dear Special Prosecutor
Minister of Defense and Public Security:
Elizabeth Chiuz Sierra
Ministra de Defensa Nacional y Seguridad Publica
Ministerio de Defensa Nacional y Seguridad Publica
Palacio de los Ministerios, 20 piso
Salutation: Sra. Ministra / Dear Minister
Rights Book Discussion Group
Borders Books & Music
475 South Lake Avenue
Sunday, April 2, 7:30 PM
People : New Slavery in the Global Economy
by Kevin Bales
Convincing, emotionally wrenching,
and freighted with appropriate moral indignation, Kevin Bales' startling
presentation shows us that while the general public is convinced slavery
is a historical phenomenon of the ancient past . . . it is in actuality
a widespread tragedy found worldwide and on a large scale. This book innovatively
and usefully describes the permutations of an ancient tradition as it exists
in this modern day and age. -- Richard Pierre Claude, editor of Human
"We can do something about it!"
"This book is a well researched, scholarly and deeply disturbing expose
of modern slavery with well thought out strategies for what to do to combat
this scourge. None of us is allowed the luxury of imagined impotence. We
can do something about it." -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Kevin Bales is a Principal Lecturer
at the Roehampton Institute, University of Surrey, England, and the world's
leading expert on contemporary slavery.
STOP the Use of CHILD SOLDIERS!
Support the International Week
of Student Action
Amnesty student groups around the
world will be campaigning against the use of child soldiers in April. You
can help by writing on this action from Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone has been in crisis
since 1991, when Foday Sankoh formed the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)
with backing and arms from Charles Taylor in neighboring Liberia. Foday
launched the insurgency that has devastated the country. In 1997 a faction
of the Sierra Leone army, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC),
staged a coup removing Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, who had been democratically
elected president in1996. The AFRC formed a joint government with the RUF
before being driven out of Freetown by a West African Peacekeeping Force
known as ECOMOG. The RUF/AFRC rebels launched a bloody offensive in December
1998, briefly retaking the capital before being driven out again by ECOMOG.
On July 7th 1999, President Kabbah and Foday Sankoh signed a cease-fire
agreement in Lome, Togo ending the conflict.
The civil war is marked by unprecedented
human rights abuses by the RUF/AFRC, and by the Sierra Leone armed forces
and its militias (called the karmarjors and ECOMOG). The rebels targeted
civilians, deliberately mutilating people by cutting off their lips, ears,
hands, arms and feet. Women were systematically raped and thousands of
young girls and boys were abducted and forcibly recruited into the RUF.
According to UNICEF, there were at least 4,000 child soldiers in Sierra
Leone, with over 2,500 in the RUF/AFRC forces and the others in civilian
militias. In addition to forcibly recruiting minors, there have been reports
that the RUF abducted hundreds and possibly thousands of minors to use
as human shields or bargaining chips.
As part of the of the cease-fire
agreement, a blanket amnesty was granted to RUF/AFRC members and a government
of national unity was created, with the RUF given key cabinet positions.
In addition, both sides agreed to demobilize their forces, including all
child soldiers, and form a new army. The RUF was also to release all prisoners
of war and people being held in its custody. To date, the RUF has released
only a small number of the people it kidnapped, and the demobilization,
disarmament and rehabilitation process has been slow at best.
Goals. The RUF must release all
of the people it kidnapped during its campaign, including all children.
The RUF must uphold it commitments to the Lome Peace Accords and demobilize
and disarm all children within its forces. The international community,
led by the United States, must undertake to ensure that all parties, including
the RUF, abide by and implement the Lome Peace Accords and demobilize all
child combatants. All possible resources and funding should be allocated
to make sure that thedemobilization, disarmament and rehabilitation process
for former child combatants is adequately funded and vigorously implemented.
Please write to Foday Sankoh expressing
concerns about the above:
Chairman, Revolutionary United Front / Revolutionary United Front Party
c/o The Embassy of Sierra Leone
1701 19th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Please write to your representatives
Burma Event a Success!
Louisa Craig, co-founder of Burma
Forum and a veteran Burmese activist, discussed the human and environmental
crises in Burma (Myanmar) at Caltech on Tuesday, February 29. Caltech Environmental
Task Force joined with AI Group 22 in inviting Ms. Craig to highlight the
interrelationship between destructive environmental practices and human
rights abuses. The case of Burma is a particularly stark example. As documented
by Amnesty International's recent report, forced labor is being used to
build an oil pipeline through the rainforest.
Louisa Craig is a Burmese national
who has been an activist both in and on behalf of her native country. She
fled Burma in 1962 after her husband, headman of the Karen ethnic group,
was assassinated during peace talks with the newly emplaced military regime.
Since that time, the situation has only worsened in Burma and now the once-wealthy
nation is among the world's 10 most impoverished countries. In 1986, Ms.
Craig co-founded the Burma Forum, an advocacy group based in LA. Among
the group's successes is a selective contract campaign that has convinced
municipalities like the city of Los Angeles to refuse contracts to companies
that do business in Burma. Ms. Craig also discussed her personal role in
leading discussions with the United Nations human rights commission. This
personal experience with both the human rights catastrophe and the effort
to improve the situation provided the basis for a stimulating discussion
on both the personal and global effects of an autocratic regime.
The discussion motivated members
of both the environmental and human rights groups to discuss ways in which
we can make a difference. Burma Forum recommends that organizations and
municipalities practice selective contracting. No one should business with
any business that is currently active in Burma. This strategy of applying
economic pressure helped reform South Africa and it is hoped that it will
have a similar effect in Burma. Unocal and Total are among the corporations
targeted by the boycott. Among the companies that have recently withdrawn
from Burma are ARCO and Texaco. While Amnesty takes no position on boycotting,
our actions do ask corporate CEOs to use their influence on the Burmese
government to end human rights violations.
In the immediate future, we are
planning a table at the Caltech Earth Day fair focussing on the pipeling
in Burma. Feel free to stop by the CETF meetings on the first Friday of
the month at noon in Chandler to discuss these plans or just come to our
regular AI monthly meeting on March 23 at 7:30 PM.
AMNESTY on PINOCHET
Crimes against humanity will not go unpunished
(WASHINGTON, DC) -Though former
dictator Augusto Pinochet was allowed today to return home to Chile, the
extradition proceedings against him will leave a powerful legacy that people
accused of crimes against humanity can be prosecuted anywhere in the world,
Amnesty International said today.
"The Pinochet case has established
the precedent that people accused of crimes such as torture can be prosecuted
anywhere in the world, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) Executive Director
William F. Schulz said today. "It also has firmly established that former
heads of state are not immune from prosecution for such crimes. This achievement
stands despite the decision by the British Home Secretary not to extradite
General Pinochet to Spain."
Recent developments clearly point
in this direction. A judicial investigation has begun in Senegal against
the former President of Chad, Hissein Habré, for alleged crimes
under international law, including torture, committed during his 1982-1990
rule. Slobodan Milosevic, President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,
remains under an international indictment for crimes committed in the former
As the struggle against impunity
for crimes against humanity committee under General Pinochet's rule now
shifts back to Chile, Amnesty International urged the Chilean Parliament
to reject proposed constitutional changes that would provide permanent
impunity to former heads of state.
The Chilean authorities also must
remove the legal obstacles that have made justice impossible within Chile
and that have denied justice to the victims of human rights violations
and their relatives. Such measures include annulling the 1978 amnesty law;
excluding from the jurisdiction of military courts cases of human rights
violations and guaranteeing the independence of the civilian justice system,
and adopting measures to lift parliamentary immunity protecting alleged
perpetrators of human rights violations.
"The international wall of impunity
that had sheltered former and current heads of state accused of gross human
rights violations started to crumble on the night of October 16, 1998,
when General Pinochet was arrested," Dr. Schulz said. "Chilean authorities
must now rebuild respect for human rights in their country by seeing that
justice is done."
AMNESTY on AMADOU DIALLO
AI urges Safir to conduct thorough review
of actions in Diallo shooting
(New York) In a letter sent to New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir today, Amnesty International urged the commissioner to conduct a thorough administrative review of the officers? actions in the Amadou Diallo shooting. The world?s largest human rights organization said such a review should lead to appropriate action in the cases of the individual officers while also including a broader examination of police tactics and training to ensure that such
incidents do not occur again.
Amnesty International believes
that the New York Police Department must provide the strongest assurances
to the community that police will treat all people with respect for their
fundamental rights and human dignity -- regardless of their race or background,
said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International
USA (AIUSA). Despite the outcome of the Diallo criminal trial, the facts
still indicate that he was gunned down in the doorway of his home for no
other reason than that the officers believed he was acting suspiciously.
In the letter, which was also sent
to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Amnesty
International explained that while it is not commenting on the fairness
of the verdict, it remains deeply concerned by the circumstances of the
shooting. As you know, Amnesty International has repeatedly raised concerns
about police shootings of unarmed minorities in New York City over the
past decade, the letter said. While the number of police shootings may
have fallen overall [there are] more than a dozen incidents in the past
five years in which unarmed black, Hispanic or other minorities have been
shot by the police in highly questionable and disputed circumstances.
The organization stated further that it recognizes that the police often have to make judgments in difficult circumstances. However, some police shootings, including in the Diallo case, appear to have been inconsistent with international standards set out under the United Nations Basic Principles for the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
Amnesty International has met with the bereaved relatives of many minorities who have been shot and, rightly or wrongly, they are convinced that the officers would not have responded in the way they did had the victims been white, said Schulz. The perception remains that officers are able to act with impunity in such cases. We hope that the City, with a thorough review of police tactics, will change this perception in the minds of many New Yorkers.
Editor's Last Word:
Read us on line: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22
Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 /