Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News

Volume VIII Number 3, March 2000

In This Issue

Upcoming Events
Coordinator's Corner
Prisoner of Conscience: Ngawang Pekar
Just Earth Network
Human Rights Book Discussion Group
Child Soldiers
Caltech News
Amadou Diallo


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.

Coordinator's Corner

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 Club chapter.

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


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 gross mistreatment.

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:

Your Excellency:

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 PEKAR.

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 made known.

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:

TANG Jiaxuan


225 Chaoyangmenneidajie

Beijingshi 100701

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.


telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters:

- 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 to justice.


Attorney General:

Dr. Roy Edmundo Medina

Fiscal General de la Republica

Fiscalia General, Ministerio Publico

Edificio Castillo Poujol, 4 Avd,

Colonia Palmira, Boulevard Morazan

Tegucigalpa, HONDURAS

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

Tegucigalpa, HONDURAS

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

Tegucigalpa, HONDURAS

Salutation: Sra. Ministra / Dear Minister
Amnesty International Group 22 Caltech / Pasadena presents:

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Borders Books & Music

475 South Lake Avenue

Pasadena, California


Sunday, April 2, 7:30 PM
Disposable 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 Rights Quarterly

"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.


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:

Foday Sankoh

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 and:



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.


Pinochet Legacy:
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 Yugoslavia.

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."


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:

Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 / mtermaat@hsc.usc