On October 18, Amnesty International launched its worldwide Campaign to Stop Torture.Despite the nearly universal accession to conventions against torture, at least two-thirds of the nations of the world still do it.Amnesty's new campaign is very important for a number of reasons.The campaign will also be an experiment in a new style of activism:responding to torture with "fast actions" creatively utilizing the internet, telephones, faxes and other electronic resources.Besides focusing on specific cases, we are also aiming for changes in procedures to make it harder to practice torture, and harder to get away with impunity afterwards.We are also working for more support for survivors of torture, and better awareness of the special issues they face.Please partake in the actions of this campaign, and if you have internet connectivity, please consider signing up to the FAST network(see details within).
For our book discussion group earlier this month, I finally got around to reading "Dead Man Walking" by Sister Helen Prejean.Wow, what a remarkable book, what a remarkable person.I can't recommend it more highly -- it's so powerful, well written and intelligent, so inspirational,without waffling at all on the really tough questions involved.(In case you haven't read it yet, the book deals with Sister Prejean's visiting and serving as spiritual advisor to death row inmates,and also her work as an advocate for families of murder victims.)Thanks to group member Martha Ter Maat for recommending the book, for organizing the book discussion group in the first place, and for coordinating our work on the death penalty.
This month, in our monthly meeting (on Thursday evening, Oct. 26; see the calendar for details) we'll continue our planning for this year's Doo Dah parade, where the Animals for the Ethical Treatment of People will take on persecution of environmentalists in Mexico.Be sure to mark your calendar for the parade (Sunday, Nov. 19) and also the special-edition November meeting the Thursday evening before (Nov. 16), which will replace our usual monthly meeting because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
On Friday evening, Oct. 27 (the evening after the monthly meeting),our group is co-sponsoring a talk at Caltech by Messaoud Ould Boulkheir,a leading antislavery activist in Mauritania and president of El Hor,the principal organization assisting escaped and freed slaves there.Our book discussion group selection for April this year, "Disposable People:New Slavery In the Global Economy," devoted a chapter to the dismaying persistence of old-style slavery in Mauritania, and also discussed how Boulkheir's organization offers hope.Join us for this very special opportunity to see a remarkable activist!
I look forward to seeing you in our meetings and other activities!
475 South Lake Avenue, Pasadena
Its varying voices, parables, proverbs and dreams depict a starving nation that sells its soul to superpowers to survive.Corpses, literal and figurative, lie by the roadside.... Brilliant, elliptical as ever, Farah shrouds Secrets in ambiguity. - Lisa Meyer, San Francisco Chronicle
"With Secrets, Nuruddin Farah solidifies his reputation as one of the world's great writers. He has the painter's perspective, and a knowledge of the natural world which he uses effectively in this novel about the beauty and the woes of modern Africa." -Ishmael Reed
"Nuruddin Farah is one of the real interpreters of experience on our troubled continent. His insight goes deep, beyond events, into the sorrows and joys, the frustrations and achievements of our lives. His prose finds the poetry that is there." -Nadine Gordimer
Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk
Group 22 maintains its firm commitment to work for the release of prisoner of conscience (POC) Ngawang Pekar (naw-wan pee-kar).He's a Tibetan monk who was arrested by Chinese authorities in 1989 for participating in a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa.His initial prison sentence of 8 years was increased by an additional 6 years, and he is reported to have been beaten and denied medical care.
Last month group member Robert Adams helped to arrange for the delivery to the Chinese Embassy of petitions on behalf of Ngawang Pekar containing nearly 5000 signatures. Currently Robert is participating in discussions with Senator Feinstein's staff in an effort to have her send a follow-up letter to the petitions, which would result in their receiving significantly more attention from the Chinese government.
While we wait to hear what action Senator Feinstein takes, we suggest that this month we target the regional level of the Chinese government and write letters to Legchog Zhuren, the chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Here is a sample letter to copy or use as a guide:
I am writing to you about 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. Later 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 especially concerned about reports that Ngawang Pekar has been beaten and denied access to medical care. I respectfully request that you do everything possible to see that Ngawang Pekar's case is considered with regard to the international laws to which China is signatory. I also ask that Ngawang Pekar be allowed access toindependent non-governmental organizations so that his state of health may be determined and made known.
Thank you very much for taking the time to consider this important matter.
Please address your letters to:
Xizang Zizhiqu Renmin Zhengfu
Lasashi 850000, Xizang Zizhiqu
People's Republic of China
Postage to China is 60 cents. As always, please notify the Group 22coordinator if you receive a reply.
JUST EARTH NETWORK
Ecuador: Pattern of Abuses
Concerns for the safety of environmental and indigenous activists in Ecuador's oil zones are well founded. Security forces have been cited for numerous cases of human rights abuses against the civilian population in Ecuador. In a 1998 report, Amnesty International detailed numerous cases of abuse, including:Torture and ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners in the custody of the National Police, the military and prison authorities.
Amnesty has urged that the necessary steps be taken to ensure those members of the security forces accused of human rights violations be brought to justice. These incidents point to the need for a preventive strategy to ensure that communities and activists who oppose the destructive practices of the oil industry are safe from abuse.
Big Oil's Amazon Legacy.From 1971 to 1992, New York-based Texaco oil company dumped more than 20 billions of gallons of toxic waste water and 16 million gallons of crude oil into the Amazon forest, contaminating the soil and groundwater. Cancer rates, spontaneous abortions and respiratory infections among indigenous populations living in the area have increased dramatically.
In 1993, a class action lawsuit against Texaco was filed in the state of New York by more than 30,000 Amazon residents seeking relief for the health and environmental damage allegedly caused by the company's Ecuadorian operations. The case is pending.
"Frankly, I don't see why environmentalists need to monitor the pipeline." - ARCO spokesperson Herb Vickers
Militarization of Oil Zones.Texaco's long history of environmental destruction in Ecuador left indigenous groups suspicious of multinational oil companies, and of the government which did little to protect them from the pollution. This distrust grew in 1988 when California-based Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) began cutting seismic lines(the first step in oil exploration) in Quichua land without consulting the local communities.
For thousands of years, the Quichua people of the Oriente region have relied on traditional fishing, hunting and farming methods to survive. But, like other indigenous groups in the Ecuadorian Amazon, their physical and spiritual connections to the land are now being threatened by the oil companies that have found large petroleum reserves in the area. With the help of environmental groups in Ecuador, the Quichua are committed to protecting approximately 20,000 square kilometers (7700 square miles) of tropical rain forest from the oil companies.
The Ecuadorian government has responded to protests by indigenous groups against oil development on and around traditional lands by increasing its military presence around the oil fields and the TransEcuadorian pipeline. The effect has been to cut off indigenous people from the land of their ancestors.
The military has posted soldiers along the entire length of the pipeline that links the oil reserves on Quichua land to the Pacific Coast. It has defended its actions by saying that spills could result in serious accidents.
Access to militarized areas is restricted to company employees and soldiers, effectively cutting the Quichua people off from a traditional hunting area.
Environmentalists and even journalists have also been denied access to the area. In July 1999, the Ecuadorian army detained several Quito-based environmentalists and a journalist as they were trying to investigate reports of a spill. They were detained for a day and no charges were filed.
Environmental Promises Fall Short.After pressure from indigenous and environmental groups, such as the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Pastaza (OPIP), ARCO agreed in 1994 to an independent assessment of the environmental and social consequences of such a project. Unfortunately, the environmental practices of the company fell short of original expectations.
Local people report that several small rivers around the area known as Block 10, a government concession to ARCO on traditional Quichua land, are so polluted that all the fish and other organisms have died.
A major leak in February 1998 caused a fire near Esmeralda, a town of immigrants, slave descendants and mestizos where one of the refineries is located. More than 8,000 barrels of crude oil were spilled, forming a toxic "river" more than 18 miles long. At least seven people died and more than 500 were injured by the fire.
In August 1999, Burlington Resources, a US-based oil company, took over ARCO's operations in Ecuador. This transfer presents a unique opportunity for both Burlington and the Ecuadorian government to commit to the prevention of further human rights violations occurring around the oil facilities.
Take Action Now!The government of Ecuador should take immediate steps to ensure that indigenous communities, as well as environmental and human rights organizations are included in an open dialogue with oil companies on the future of oil exploration in Ecuador. Furthermore, the government should commit to upholding international human rights standards when deploying security forces to protect oil facilities.
Urge the Ecuadorian government to create a climate for open dialogue on environmental protection by respecting peoples rights to freedom of association, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement as detailed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Ecuador has agreed to observe.
Call upon the Ecuadorian government to uphold the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials as well as other international human rights standards when deploying security forces to protect oil facilities.
Write to:Dr. Gustavo Noboa Bejarano
&nb sp; President of the Republic of Ecuador
&nb sp; c/o Ambassador Ivonne A-Baki
&nb sp; Embassy of Ecuador
&nb sp; 2535 15th Street, NW
&nb sp; Washington DC 20009
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Group 22 and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) will host Mauritanian political activist Messaoud Ould Boulkheir.Boulkheir will discuss his work to end slavery, to establish a culture of democracy and ethnic tolerance, and to promote economic justice in the west African country of Mauritania.He is visiting the US in an effort to influence U.S. policies toward the Mauritanian government, ultimately leading to the abolition of all forms of slavery.Although the Mauritanian government has abolished slavery three times, slavery continues to flourish. According to Amnesty International, in 1994 there were as many as 90,000 black Africans enslaved by Arab Berbers in Mauritania.Boulkheir, a former slave himself, is the president of El Hor-the oldest anti-slavery organization in Mauritania. He was born in Nema, in southern Mauritania, where he was able to attend primary school. After high school, he attended the National School for Administration and in 1979 earned his master's degree.
Be there: Friday October 27th , 7 PM at Winnett Center at Caltech (above the bookstore) Club Room 1, Upstairs. Co-sponsored with Caltech Y, the Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking and All Saints Church COLORS.
Support the Innocence Protection Act!
October 28-29 marks the third annual National Weekend of Faith in Action and we'll be making a push at All Saints Church for passage of the Innocence Protection Act, a bipartisan bill, (HR 4167, and S. 2690), that aims to reduce the number of innocent persons that are put to death. Please join us in this effort.The bill will:
§ensure that convicted offenders are afforded an opportunity to prove their innocence through DNA testing;
§help states provide competent legal services;
§inform jurors about sentencing options (for instance that they can ask for "life without the possibility of parole");
§provide other safeguards to address the deplorable use of the death penalty in the US.
After years of bills expanding the death penalty,this is the first bill receiving serious consideration that begins to turn the tide back towards abolition.
The implementation of the death penalty in the United States is particularly heinous. The poor,the ignorant and the underprivileged suffer.Several inmates on death row had the "benefit" of lawyers who slept through their trial, or who represented them while intoxicated. Advances in DNA technology are showing that numerous eyewitnesses who were sure that they identified the right man, were in fact mistaken. Police testimony and evidence provided by prison snitches have similarly been unreliable, thanks to definitive exculpatory DNA evidence. A large majority of death row inmates, however, will not benefit from the new advances because DNA evidence is only available in a fraction of cases.
Since 1970, 87 death row inmates have been found innocent--8 of those due to DNA evidence.Since 1977, innocence and wrongful convictions have required the release of one person for every seven executed. The releases due to exoneration are not an indication that the system is working: many of those released proved their innocence only thanks to unpaid lawyers or activists who investigated their case. Illinois recently instituted a moratorium on the death penalty after 13 death row inmates were able to show their innocence. One of those exonerated was found innocent only thanks to a college journalism class that investigated his case. He had come within two days of his execution.Strong evidence suggests that at least 23 people executed in this century were innocent.
We've written to Senator Feinstein on this before and the replies were noncommital.Let's see if after the election (no slight to Tom Campbell, but she has a 20 pt lead at press time) we can get her to take a stand.
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
Senator Boxer is already a co-sponsor of the Innocence Protection Act.Sens. Feingold (WI), Boxer (CA) and Wellstone (MN) have also introduced S. 3048, a bill which would immediately suspend federal executions in the U.S. while a commission reviews the administration of the federal death penalty. The moratorium would bar the execution of individuals sentenced under federal statutes. We'll have more on the federal death penalty in the next newsletter, meanwhile, let's send Barbara a note of thanks!
Senator Barbara Boxer
United States Senate
CAMPAIGN AGAINST TORTURE
What is Torture? And a 12 Point Plan to End It
What is the Purpose of Torture?Torture serves several purposes for the perpetrators. It may be used to obtain information, force a confession or destroy the will, personality and identity of the victim. Perpetrators use torture to create a climate of fear and tear apart families, communities and the social fabric of society. It is done to enforce a social, economic or political order that serves to benefit the perpetrators or the elite of society.
Who Uses Torture?Between 1997 and the spring of 2000, Amnesty International received reports of torture or ill treatment by state officials in more than 150 countries. In more than 70, they were widespread or persistent. In more than 80 countries, people reportedly died as a result.
Who Is Tortured?People may be tortured because they are activists for human rights, labor rights, or any other cause, because they are family members of these activists, or because of their identity(ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, etc). Quite often they are criminal suspects or prisoners. People may also be tortured at random if the state or an opposition group is trying to create a climate of terror in a population - even if the torturers do not consider this person "guilty" for any reason.Anyone can be tortured.
Methods of Torture.Torture can be physical and include various techniques including: beating, whipping, burning, rape, suspension upside down, submersion into water almost to the point of suffocation, and electric torture with shocks of high voltage on various parts of the body, very often on the genitals.
And torture can be psychological, including threats, deceit, humiliation, insults, sleep deprivation, blindfolding, isolation, mock executions, witnessing torture of others (including one's own family), being forced to torture or kill others, and the withholding of medication or personal items.
Specialized rehabilitation centers have been set up around the world to provide treatment to survivors. After receiving appropriate medical and psychological help, torture survivors can often resume leading healthy, involved lives.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Join the AIUSA FAST internet alert system. Spread the word and urge your friends and colleagues to sign up too. Visit the www.amnestyusa.org to learn more.
Support legislation aimed at torture prevention, the criminalization of torture, an end to impunity, and funding of torture treatment programs.
Learn how torture affects individuals and communities. You can start with the resources on this Web site. Offer support to organizations that work with helping survivors of torture.
12 POINT PLAN TO PREVENT TORTURE
1.Official condemnation of torture.The highest authorities of every country should demonstrate their total opposition to torture.They should make clear to all law-enforcement personnel that torture will not be toleratedunder any circumstances.
2.Limits on incommunicado detention.Torture often takes place while the victims are held incommunicado --unable to contact peopleoutside who could help them or find out what is happening to them. Governments shouldadopt safeguards to ensure that incommunicado detention does not become an opportunityfor torture. It is vital that all prisoners be brought before a judicial authority promptly afterbeing taken into custody and that relatives, lawyers and doctors have prompt and regularaccess to them.
3.No secret detention.In some countries torture takes place in secret centers, often after the victims are made to"disappear." Governments should ensure that prisoners are held in publicly recognizedplaces, and that accurate information about their whereabouts is made available to relatives andlawyers.
4.Safeguards during interrogation and custody.Governments should keep procedures for detention and interrogation under regular review.All prisoners should be promptly told of their rights, including the right to lodge complaintsabout their treatment. There should be regular independent visits of inspection to places ofdetention. An important safeguard against torture would be the separation of authoritiesresponsible for detention from those in charge of interrogation.
5.Independent investigation of reports of torture.Governments should ensure that all complaints and reports of torture are impartially andeffectively investigated. The methods and findings of such investigations should be madepublic. Complaints and witnesses should be protected from intimidation.
6.No use of statements extracted under torture.Governments should ensure that confessions or other evidence obtained through torture maynever be invoked in legal proceedings.
7.Prohibition of torture in law.Governments should ensure that acts of torture are punishable offences under the criminallaw. In accordance with international law, the prohibition of torture must not be suspendedunder any circumstance, including states of war or other public emergency.
8.Prosecution of alleged torturers.Those responsible for torture should be brought to justice. This principle should applywherever they happen to be, wherever the crime was committed and whatever the nationality ofthe perpetrators or victims. There should be no "safe haven" for torturers.
9.Training procedures.It should be made clear during the training of all officials involved in this custody,interrogation or treatment of prisoners that torture is a criminal act. They should be instructedthat they are obliged to refuse to obey any order to torture.
10.Compensation and rehabilitation.Victims of torture and their dependants should be entitled to obtain financial compensation.Victims should be provided with appropriate medical care and rehabilitation.
11.International response.Governments should use all available channels to intercede with governments accused oftorture. Intergovernmental mechanisms should be established and used to investigate reportsof torture urgently and to take effective action against it. Governments should ensure thatmilitary, security or police transfers or training do not facilitate the practice of torture.
12.Ratification of international instruments.All governments should ratify international instruments containing safeguards and remediesagainst torture, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocol which provides for individual complaints.
Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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