Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News

Volume VIII Number 9, September 2000

In This Issue
Upcoming Events
Coordinator's Corner
Saudi Arabia
Rights Readers
Western Regional Conference
Video Night: The Burning Zone
Prisoner of Conscience
Web Tips
Just Earth
Banned Book Week


Thursday, September 28, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting 1052 E. Del Mar. Avenue, Top Floor. Help plan this year's Doo-Dah entry!

Thursday, October 5, 7:30 PM. Video Night. North Catalina Recreation Room, Caltech. The "Catalinas" are grad student housing located between Catalina and Wilson, behind our meeting place on Del Mar. There are three rec rooms in the center of this complex, we're in the one closest to Del Mar. Join us to view and discuss "The Burning Season: The Chico Mendes Story" Details inside.

Tuesday, October 10, 7:30 PM.Letter-writing Meeting at the Athenaeum. Corner of California & Hill in the basement recreation area. An informal meeting, a great place for first-timers to ask questions!

Sunday, October 15, 7:30 PM. Human Rights Book Discussion Group at Borders Books on S. Lake Avenue. This month we discuss "Dead Man Walking" by Sr. Helen Prejean. Details inside.

Friday-Sunday, October 19-21.Western Regional Conference in Las Vegas. Be there to launch our international campaign against torture! Details inside.

October 14-November 19. Candle of Hope Walk. Carry the torch for death penalty abolition with California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty! AI-Irvine group member Dick Carlburg and friends are walking from San Diego to San Francisco for the November "Committing to Conscience" national death penalty conference. Candle of Hope comes to L.A./Orange County October 17-24. Contact Martha to get involved:, 626-281-4039.


The last couple of months have been quite eventful for your fearless coordinator, and I ended up missing both the monthly meeting and my newsletter column in August. First of all, I got married on the day of the July meeting, and I was very glad that most of you who came to the meeting could also attend our little reception afterwards. My wife Alexi is very active in Amnesty, both with her local group in Santa Monica and in the Middle East Coordination Group.

I've moved in with Alexi in Santa Monica, but my heart is certainly still with the Pasadena group (as far as AI work is concerned, that is). Our group is one of the most dynamic and creative AI groups in the nation, and has become an example and inspiration for other groups. One of our most noteworthy activities is our annual participation

(two years so far) in the Doo-Dah parade, with the theme "Animals for the Ethical Treatment of People." This has been powered from the beginning by group member Martha Ter Maat's initiative and creative energy. This year's parade is coming up fast, and group member Emily Brodsky has come up with some great ideas for making street theater from this year's campaign to defend environmental activists. Be sure to come to the monthly meeting to help continue our planning! And meanwhile, please participate in the campaign by writing a letter on behalf of Montiel and Cabrera, and coming to our video night on October 5 (see inside for details).

Another very successful activity of our group is our lively book discussion every month at Borders in Pasadena, which also has Martha to thank for her initiative. I'm looking forward to a particularly stimulating open discussion of "Dead Man Walking" on October 15 (see inside for details), especially considering the amount of press coverage given to the death penalty recently. Bring a friend!

In other news, group member Robert Adams, who organized our group's petition drive on behalf of our prisoner of conscience, Tibetan monk Ngawang Pekar, has made contact with four other AI groups in California working to free prisoners of conscience in China or Tibet. They visited Senator Dianne Feinstein's office this month to enlist her support; we hope to hear back from her any day. Last year Robert organized our visit to Congressman Jim Rogan's office, which resulted in Rogan sending a letter to China on behalf of Ngawang Pekar. Every letter, postcard and petition, from anyone, big or small, helps to send China the message: the world is watching how treats Ngawang Pekar and the other prisoners of conscience!

In our monthly meeting, we'll also discuss plans to attend the AI Western Regional Conference, which is in Las Vegas on the weekend of October 21-22 this year, with a focus on the new Torture Campaign. This will be a great opportunity to learn about the range of AI's approaches to human rights work, make contacts with other activists, and enjoy the unique cultural attractions of Las Vegas.

Finally, please note that my telephone number, which is also the group's contact number, has changed with my move (see below). I'll look forward to seeing you!


Larry Romans 310-452-2089

Group Coordinator


Torture: Culture of Brutality

"I told my investigators... 'What crime do you have against me?'... Their answer was nothing else but beating me... They tied my hands behind my back, then they shackled my legs, then tied my hands to my feet. After, they pulled me flat on the ground and then they started beating me. This was their answer."

A political prisoner held in Saudi Arabia in 1996 spoke these words. He and many other former prisoners have revealed a culture of police brutality, torture and ill-treatment in many police stations, prisons and detention centers across the country. Beatings with sticks, electric shocks, cigarette burns and nail-pulling are some of the torture methods often described.

Saudi Arabia's criminal justice system facilitates torture. Lack of judicial supervision of arrest and detention, denial of prompt access to relatives and a doctor, and no access to lawyers all leave prisoners extremely vulnerable to abuse. Torture is used to extract confessions and to enforce discipline. Sometimes it is inflicted apparently without reason.

The judicial punishment of flogging, which amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, is regularly imposed. Offences related to alcohol, breaking strict moral codes and theft are punished by anything from 50 to several thousand lashes, carried out in prison or in public squares with a bamboo stick.

There appears to be no upper limit on the number of lashes judges can impose. The most lashes in a single case recorded by Amnesty International is 4,000, imposed on Muhammad 'Ali al-Sayyid, an Egyptian convicted of robbery in 1990. The sentence was reportedly carried out at a rate of 50 lashes every two weeks. After each session he was left with bruised and bleeding buttocks, unable to sleep or sit for three or four days afterwards.

A hand cut off or a foot and hand cut off - such irrevocable punishments that amount to torture are imposed in Saudi Arabia for theft and burglary after grossly unfair trials. Amnesty International knows of 90 cases of judicial amputations between 1981 and December 1999, but the true total may be far higher.

In acceding to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1997, Saudi Arabia voluntarily committed itself to prevent torture and is obliged not to impose any punishments that amount to torture or gross ill-treatment.

Please write to the Saudi Arabian authorities:

Send your letters to:

His Excellency Dr 'Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al-Sheikh

Minister of Justice

Ministry of Justice

University Street

Riyadh 11137

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Salutation: Your Excellency

Also, please "cc":

Ambassador Prince Bandar Bin Sultan

Embassy of Saudi Arabia

601 New Hampshire Ave. NW

Washington DC 20037


Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Borders Books & Music

475 South Lake Avenue, Pasadena

Sunday, October 15, 7:30 PM

Dead Man Walking

by Sister Helen Prejean

"This unblinking book about the deliberate killing of human beings refuses to turn a blind eye to the sins of the murderers--be they prisoners or prison officials. The author, Sister Helen Prejean, is a Roman Catholic nun who has lived and worked with poor black families in New Orleans. Walking explores her personal and spiritual evolution into both a death penalty opponent and victims advocate, an evolution that begins when she serves as the spiritual advisor to two condemned men.

"An immensely moving affirmation of the power of religious vocation...Stunning moral clarity...a profound argument against capital punishment. "

-- Washington Post Book World

"This arresting account should do for the debate over capital punishment what the film footage from Selma and Birmingham accomplished for the civil rights movement: turn abstractions into flesh and blood. Tough, fair, bravely alive--you will not come away from this book unshaken." --Bill McKibben

Amnesty International USA Western Regional Conference

October 21-22, 2000, Las Vegas, Nevada

Be there for the Campaign Against Torture launch!

"No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." - Article 5, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Torture is the most flagrant denial of humanity. It is the ultimate human corruption. For this reason, the world has prohibited it. This human achievement must be defended.

This Fall Amnesty International will embark on a two-year campaign to mobilize its worldwide membership to end torture. This year's Western Regional Conference will help A.I. members and groups prepare for this major campaign, and provide an important opportunity for education through speakers, workshops, and other activities.

Although this conference will focus on the subject of ending torture, we will also include workshops, discussion groups, and speakers about a variety of human rights issues.

We invite you to join other human rights activists in Las Vegas this October for a weekend of stimulating action, education, and rejuvenation.

Program Highlights


John Conroy, Author, Unspeakable Acts,

Ordinary People

Julianne Cartwright Traylor, Chair of the

Board, Amnesty International USA

Sowore Omoyele Stephen, Nigerian Human

Rights Activist

Janice Christensen, Campaign Director,

Amnesty International USA

Marj Byler, Deputy Director for Membership

Mobilization, Amnesty International USA

and others to be announced...

and more!!!

The main conference program will begin at 9:00 AM on Saturday, October 21, and will end at 3:30 PM on Sunday, October 22. The conference will be held at the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Registration fees are $15 General $10 Student/Senior prior to Oct 1 and $20 General, $15 Student/ Senior after Oct 1. The Embassy Suites (4315 Swenson Street, Las Vegas, NV 89119, 702-795-2800 or 800-362-2779) will be offering Amnesty International conference attendees a special group rate of $99 (plus tax) per room single or double-occupancy, with a $15 charge for each additional person above double-occupancy. Conference attendees must make their own reservations directly with the hotel at the phone numbers listed above. Be sure to mention Amnesty International USA to obtain the group rate. Space is limited, so please make your reservations as soon as possible! Reservations must be made by Wednesday, October 11, to take advantage of the special rate. For more information and to request a registration form for the conference, please call the Regional Office at (310) 815-0450 or e-mail

Thursday, October 5, 7:30 PM

N. Catalina Recreation Room at Caltech (see pg 1 for more info)

The Burning Season:

The Chico Mendes Story

Directed by John Frankenheimer

Starring Raul Juila


Please join us to view and discuss this film about the Brazilian labor and environmental rights activist Chico Mendes whose life and death drew international attendtion to the environmental and human rights crisis in the Amazon rainforest. A terrific introduction to Amnesty International's "Just Earth" campaign!

Raul Julia who portrays Mendes won Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actor's Guild awards for his performance. John Frankenheimer won an Emmy for direction and the film is the recipient of Golden Globe, Environmental Media and Humanitas Awards.


Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk

Group 22 continues to work for the release of prisoner of conscience (POC) Ngawang Pekar (naw-wan pee-kar), an approximately 37-year-old Tibetan Buddhist monk. He has been imprisoned since 1989 after being arrested by Chinese authorities for participating in a peaceful demonstration in the city of Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, in support of Tibetan independence.

In last month's newsletter, it was reported that Senators Tom Harkin and Frank Lautenberg would be travelling to China on behalf of a number of Amnesty's POCs. Unfortunately, as of yet there has been no further news regarding the outcome of their visit, or, indeed, whether their proposed visit even actually took place.

It now appears to be a near certainty that the final vote to grant China permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) will pass in the Senate by a rather large margin (possibly before you even read this). If that's the case, then the door will be opened for China to enter a new era in which business interests gain priority over politics. Given that context, what will be the place of human rights in China? Clearly, the Chinese authorities primarily view human rights as a pragmatic, rather than moral, issue (a view which is hardly unique to China), and their current harsh policies toward the least sign of dissent are intended to maintain "stability," both as a means of maintaining their own grip on power and to create a favorable business environment. However, as even their own history shows, the continued abuse of human rights only creates a powder keg waiting to blow, an environment which is hardly attractive to foreign economic interests. Thus, if the Chinese authorities truly wish to become equal partners in world affairs, they must be willing to allow changes that may not entirely be to their liking.

Given the recent delivery of just under 5,000 petition signatures calling for Ngawang Pekar's release to the Chinese Embassy and our current efforts to have Senator Feinstein send a follow-up letter to President Jiang Zemin (which Larry may have mentioned above), we request that you write to President Jiang on behalf of Pekar. Below is a sample letter that you can either copy verbatim or, preferably, use as a guide in composing your own letter:

Your Excellency:

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.

If the People's Republic of China truly wishes to engage fully in world economic affairs, it must demonstrate that it is willing to abide by internationally recognized principles, in particular those delineated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I therefore respectfully urge you to request that Ngawang 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.


Address your letter to:

JIANG Zemin Guojia Zhuxi


People's Republic of China


Please check out the new FAST "Fast Action Stops Torture" feature at AIUSA's web site. Stay tuned for more info on the up-coming Torture Campaign launch: /fastindex.htm

AIUSA's site also features cases for Banned Book Week. We have included the case of a Burmese journalist in the newsletter but visit the website to take action on additional cases: s


A Defeat for Montiel &Cabrera, Victory for Nikitin!

Mexican Prisoners of Conscience Convicted. On August 28, the Fifth District Judge of Iguala, Guerrero convicted and sentenced Mexican environmental activists Teodoro Cabrera García and Rodolfo Montiel Flores, leaders of the Organization of Peasant Environmentalists of the Mountains of Petatlán and Coyuca de Catalán. Teodoro Cabrera recieved a 10 year prison sentence for the crime of possession of weapons licensed exclusively for the army, and Rodolfo Montiel was sentenced to 6 years, 8 months for the crimes of marijuana cultivation, possession of weapons without a license, and possession of weapons licensed exclusively for the army.

Amnesty believes that the conviction is a severe blow to human rights in Mexico. The charges against the two men are not only fabricated but also based on statements extracted under torture. This case exposes severe deficiencies in the Mexican judicial system and the apparent collusion between the Mexican State and local economic interests threatened by the environmentalists' campaigning in Guerrero state. The Mexican authorities have disregarded the conclusive evidence of the innocence of these two men, thus failing to uphold the rule of law.

Now is the time to redouble our efforts to demand the immediate and unconditional release of the two peasant environmentalists.

If you haven't yet written to President-elect Vicente Fox, look up last month's newsletter and tell him of your concern about the conviction in this case. This month we write personal letters of encouragement to both Rodolfo and Teodoro in prison. This will send a clear message to prison authorities that both Rodolfo and Teodoro have activists who are working on their behalf and concerned about their prison conditions. More importantly, your letters will help lift the spirits of Rodolfo and Teodoro who are distressed by the prison sentences. In past visits to the prison, both men have mentioned how uplifting letters from activists around the world have been to them. Your letters of support mean a lot to these men. You can write to them at the following address:

Centro de Re-adaptacion Social de Iguala

Carretera de Iguala - Tuxpan,

Iguala, CP 40101



Niktin Triumphs Despite Putin Crackdown. The Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court dismissed an appeal of the acquittal of environmental activist Aleksandr Nikitin. Despite the happy outcome, the case has tarnished President Vladimir Putin and his claims that the country supports freedom of expression. In 1996, the Putin-led Federal Security Service (former KGB) had charged Mr. Nikitin with "acts of treason" for revealing nuclear safety hazards aboard aging Russian nuclear submarines.

Harassment of environmental activists by the Russian government has been common under President Putin. When he was head of the FSB, Putin made a number of prejudicial comments about the case, including the statement that "Nikitin is guilty." In July, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda quoted Putin as saying that "foreign secret services use not only diplomatic cover, but very actively use all sorts of ecological ... organizations."

"Putin's hostility toward those who would expose the environmental pollution caused by Russia's military industrial complex should not only concern those who want to avoid future Chernobyl-style nuclear accidents and other massive environmental catastrophes, it should concern anyone who values the future of a democratic Russia," said Carl Pope, Executive Director of Sierra Club.

Nikitin, a scientist and former Russian naval captain, was arrested in 1996 after documenting the risk of radioactive contamination from nuclear submarines in Russia's Northern Fleet for the Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian environmental group. Charged by the Federal Security Service with disclosing state secrets under Article 64 of the Russian Criminal Code, Nikitin has been subjected to four years of investigations and harassment, two trials and nine successive indictments. The St. Petersburg Court found Nikitin not guilty in December of 1999 due to "the absence of crime."

Aleksandr Nikitin was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in 1996, the first in post-Soviet Russia. In 1997 Nikitin was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for environmental heroism.


Sein Hla Oo -- Burmese Journalist

A 64-year-old award-winning journalist and editor, Sein Hla Oo, who had led a Journals & Magazines Group of demonstrators during the major anti-government protests of 1988, stood as a candidate for the National League for Democracy and was elected member of Parliament in May 1990. He was among more than 70 members-elect arrested in October of that year for attending meetings to discuss what action to take if the SLORC (State Law & Order Restoration Council, as the government was then known) continued to refuse to hand over power. He was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for "misprision" - knowledge of treason. After his early release in 1992, he continued to be critical of the government and to meet with other political activists.

In August 1994, he was arrested - along with an alleged "group" of four others, including writer Daw San San Nwe (Banned Books Week 1999) and her daughter, Ma Myat Mo Mo Tun - apparently for action "against or critical of the government": meeting with foreign reporters and sending information to the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.

As of July 2000, specific charges (if any) against him are not known, nor is his place of detention or whether he has been given access to a lawyer, his family or a doctor. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly, guaranteed by Articles 19 & 20 of the UDHR.

Please call politely for the immediate & unconditional release of Sein Hla Oo, Daw San San Nwe, and all other prisoners of conscience in Myanmar.

Senior General Than Shwe

State Peace & Development Council

Signal Pagoda Road


Union of Myanmar (Burma)

His Excellency

Ambassador Tin Winn

Embassy of the Union of Myanmar

2300 S Street, NW

Washington, DC 20008

Editor's Last Word:

Read us on line:

Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 /