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JUST EARTH NETWORK
Keep up the pressure for Rodolfo and Teodoro!
Amnesty International has officially declared Rodolfo Montiel Flores and Teodoro Cabrera Garcia prisoners of conscience. This month we keep up the pressure by writing to the Mexican ambassador. On December 1, 2000 the newly elected administration of President Vicente Fox took power. This provides an opportunity for President Fox to fulfill his commitment to make human rights and the environment a priority of his administration. Amnesty International continues to be very concerned for the health and safety of environmental activists Rodolfo Montiel Flores and Teodoro Cabrera Garcia. The two men were detained by soldiers on May 2nd, 1999. Both have reportedly been beaten by soldiers to force them to confess to trumped up drug and weapons charges by the military.
Call on the Mexican government to immediately and unconditionally release Montiel and Cabrera. Call on the Mexican government to immediately and impartially investigate the torture allegations. Urge that confessions extracted under torture not be used as evidence against the men. Request of the Mexican government that those responsible for these violations be promptly brought to justice. Call on the Mexican government to adopt recommendations made by the International Court of Human Rights to combat torture, including an end to the impunity enjoyed by torturers.
Patterns of human rights abuses in Mexico have created a hostile climate for environmental activists. International pressure on the Mexican government is one of the keys to assuring that the rights of environmental activists are respected. Because of its trading status with the US and other nations, Mexico cannot afford to have a spotty human rights record.
Call on the Mexican government to adhere to its commitment to the resolution on Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, adopted by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) on 7 June 1999, which states in point 2:"To urge member states to persist in their efforts to provide Human Rights Defenders with the necessary guarantees and facilities to continue freely carrying out their work of promoting and protecting human rights, at the national and/or regional levels, in accordance with internationally recognized principles and agreements."
Ambassador Jesus Reyes-Heroles
Embassy of Mexico
1911 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20006
PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk
Our group remains committed to working for the release of prisoner of conscience (POC) Ngawang Pekar (naw-wan pee-kar), a Tibetan Buddhist monk. 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.
About the only news directly related to Tibet this month comes from the US State Department. Secretary of State Colin Powell, while eliminating 23 out of 55 special envoys, representatives, and advisor positions in a move to downsize the department, has fortunately decided to retain the position of Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, a post last held by Julia Taft. As of yet, it is not known who will be serving as the new Special Coordinator.
In more general news, on March 27 China formally notified the UN that it had ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, though it does not consider itself bound by the clause specifying that workers have the right to form independent trade unions. Meanwhile, on April 11 China executed at least 89 convicted criminals, an action publicly condemned by Amnesty International.
Everyone is familiar with the outcry raised over the detention of the crew in the recent spy plane incident. However, what has received little attention is the fact that a number of other US permanent residents or citizens have recently been detained in China. US permanent residents Gao Zhan, a sociologist, and her husband, along with their 5-year-old son (a US citizen), were detained at the Beijing airport on February 11 while returning to the US after visiting relatives. The three were held incommunicado and separately for 26 days until Gao's husband and son were released on March 8 and allowed to fly home. Since that time, Gao has reportedly "confessed" to spying and is thus likely to receive a lengthy prison sentence. Also in February, Hua Di, a Stanford University researcher, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of "leaking state secrets," and since February 25 Li Shaomin, a US citizen and scholar based in Hong Kong, has been held on unspecified charges after crossing the border into mainland China. In December 2000, Teng Chunyan, a permanent resident of the US and member of Falun Gong, returned to China and was sentenced to three years imprisonment on a charge of "providing secret information to foreigners and people across the border."
As stated last month, we received the go ahead to try writing directly to Ngawang Pekar, so this month we request that you send a brief letter or postcard to Pekar wishing him well. Please keep your message on a personal level and don't mention politics, your feelings about the charges he was convicted on, anything about Amnesty, etc. Though it may be doubtful he'll be allowed to receive our letters, one never knows - we can only hope that, as he apparently speaks English, he can also read it! Even if he never receives the letters, with luck he'll at least hear about them and gain a boost to his morale. Please send your letters/postcards to:
Ngawang Pekar (layname: Paljor)
Xizang Zizhiqu Di Yi Jianyu
People's Republic of China
At a later date we'll be providing a translation of the above address into Chinese characters on our website which you'll then be able to print out and attach to future mailings. Remember to include your name and mailing address to enable a reply and that overseas postage for a normal letter is now 80 cents and a postcard is 70 cents. PLEASE notify the Group 22 Coordinator if you receive a reply.
CAMPAIGN AGAINST TORTURE
Rape behind a wall of impunity in the Phillipines
Two Manila police officers arrested an 18-year-old woman late at night on suspicion of vagrancy. Instead of taking her to the police station the officers reportedly forced her into a jeep parked near the station and, together with a third man, raped her. They were discovered by the owner of the jeep, also a police officer.
A 17-year-old detainee in a provincial jail accused the warden and 11 guards of raping her and threatening her with guns. Her attempts to complain were ignored until she was admitted to a clinic, suffering from a sexually transmitted disease. Three officers from a drugs unit arrested a 24-year-old woman in Manila. The officers released her without charge, reportedly after forcing her to perform oral sex inside a police car, threatening her and robbing her of a large amount of cash, which they ordered her to withdraw from her bank account. The police officers, who were reassigned to new jobs after the incident, were reported to be still at liberty several weeks later despite facing charges of rape and robbery.
These disturbing stories of rape and sexual abuse by law enforcement officials are just a few of the many cases reported in the Philippine press. In June 2000 a former senator stated that 12 police officers had been accused of rape in the previous 10 months. Lack of systematic monitoring makes it difficult to estimate just how widespread the problem is, but women lawyers and non-governmental organizations working for women's rights in the Philippines agree that there is an urgent need for action to protect women in custody. Women detained by the police have also reported being subjected to other forms of torture or ill-treatment, including threats, slaps, punches and kicks. Those particularly at risk are the most marginalized members of society: suspected prostitutes, street children (many of whom flee home to escape abuse in the family), drug users and the poor. In many cases, police use the anti-vagrancy law - legislation that discriminates against the poor and women in particular - to extort money and sexually abuse women. Sexual harassment and violence, including rape, also occurs in jails.
If a woman is raped by a police officer, or indeed any man in a position of power, she faces huge obstacles to lodging a complaint. The fear of reprisals prevents many women from speaking out, and victims are known to have been pressured into withdrawing complaints. Many people in the Philippines are fearful of a police force notorious for involvement in criminal activities, corruption and the torture of criminal suspects, and do not expect complaints against the police to be taken seriously. Cases which do go to court can take many years to be concluded and judges sometimes dismiss cases partly on the basis that the victim was sexually experienced. A leading newspaper reported in1999 that a male judge had acquitted a police officer charged with raping a 13-year-old girl detained for theft. In his ruling the judge reportedly called the girl "a woman in a minor child's body, old in the ways of the world beyond her years... admittedly she is no longer a virgin... it is possible that she concocted this lurid tale of lust and rape".
In 1997 three police officers were sentenced to death for raping a pregnant woman and several others are reported to be facing prosecution. Yet death sentences and executions have had little or no impact on the reported incidence of rape by law enforcement officials or within the broader community. Many women's organizations in the Philippines believe that the use of the death penalty - which is in itself a violation of fundamental human rights - actually hinders rather than encourages successful prosecutions.
Recommended Action. Please write, expressing concern at reports that women have been subjected to rape and other sexual violence in custody and urging the authorities to: send a clear and public message to the police and all other law enforcement officials emphasizing that rape and sexual violence in custody always constitutes torture or ill-treatment, and that the perpetrators of such offences will be brought to justice and face appropriate penalties; ensure that female security personnel are present during the interrogation of women detainees, and that all male staff who supervise women detainees are accompanied by female staff; introduce an independent complaints mechanism for women detainees who report rape and sexual violence or harassment, and take effective steps to protect them from retaliation; provide compensation and appropriate medical care to women detainees who have been raped, sexually assaulted or ill-treated.
Secretary of Interior and Local Government,
Department of the Interior and Local Government,
EDSA cnr. Mapagmahal St, Barangay, Pinyahan,
Quezon City, Philippines
Director General, Philippine National Police,
National Headquarters, Camp Crame,
EDSA, cor. Santolan Road,
Quezon City, Philippines
Action for a moratorium on federal executions
A 38-year de facto moratorium on federal executions in the USA is due to come to an end with the execution of Timothy McVeigh on 16 May 2001, unless President George W. Bush imposes an official moratorium.
The USA has executed more than 700 men and women since it resumed judicial killing in 1977. All were convicted of murder under the laws of individual states. No federal prisoner has been executed since Victor Feguer was hanged in 1963 for a kidnapping. There are around 25 men on federal death row in Terre Haute. The US Government can seek the death penalty in cases where there is a substantial federal interest, such as the killing of a federal official, or murders which take place on federal property.
Timothy McVeigh is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in the US Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on 16 May. He was convicted in federal court in 1997 of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on 19 April 1995, in which 168 people were killed and more than 500 injured. He has dropped his legal appeals against his death sentence and is not seeking clemency from President Bush.
In September 2000, the US Justice Department released the findings of a review into the federal capital justice system which revealed widespread racial and geographic disparities in the application of the federal death penalty (see Memorandum to President Clinton: An appeal for human rights leadership as the first federal execution looms, AMR 51/158/00, November 2000). These Justice Department findings led President Clinton to issue a six-month stay of execution for Juan Raul Garza, a Hispanic man scheduled to be lethally injected on 12 December 2000 while the Justice Department conducted further analysis of its review (see EXTRA 85/00, AMR 51/174/00, 14 November 2000 and update). As one of his last acts in office, President Clinton also commuted the death sentence of a federal prisoner, David Ronald Chandler, whose guilt was in serious doubt (see EXTRA 03/01, AMR 51/008,2001, 12 January 2001 and update).
The unreliable, arbitrary and apparently discriminatory nature of the federal capital justice system echoes its state-level counterpart, a lethal lottery riddled with arbitrariness, discrimination and error. Since the Governor of Illinois imposed a moratorium on executions in his state because of its record of wrongful convictions in capital cases, domestic concern about the US death penalty has reached unprecedented levels.
More than 60 countries have abolished the death penalty since 1977. Today, as the first US federal execution in almost four decades approaches, more than 100 countries have abandoned executions in law or practice. A measure of the global progress towards abolition can also be found in the mandate of the International Criminal Court. Set up to try the world's worst crimes - genocide, torture, mass killing - the most severe penalty that the Court will be able to impose is life imprisonment, subject to review after 25 years.
Amnesty International opposes executions in all cases, without reservation, regardless of the heinousness of the crime. The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it. By imitating and taking to refined, calculated heights what it seeks to condemn - the deliberate taking of human life - the state is allowing those who kill to set society's moral tone. The death penalty offers no answers to the many questions that arise from violent crime, and diverts energy and resources away from humane, constructive alternatives to confronting this pressing social problem. It encourages feelings of vengeance, division, intolerance, and hatred. It is an entirely destructive exercise with no measurable societal benefit.
Executions carry the official message that killing is an appropriate response to killing. That is the same reasoning said to lie behind the carnage in Oklahoma City on 19 April 1995. The jurors at Timothy McVeigh's trial agreed among other things that he believed the federal government was responsible for the deaths of over 70 people at the Branch Davidian religious sect in Waco, Texas, in 1993 following a siege by federal agents, and that federal agents murdered Sammy and Vicki Weaver during a siege near Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 (see USA: Rights for All, AMR 51/35/98, October 1998, page 25).
The USA's increasingly isolated resort to this cruel, brutalizing and irrevocable punishment is a matter which cries out for leadership at the highest level. Because of the scale of the crime of which Timothy McVeigh was convicted, national and international attention to his impending execution will be enormous, in contrast to the scant coverage given to the majority of executions since 1977. As such, the case provides President Bush with a singular opportunity to announce to the widest possible audience that he will no longer allow those who kill to set the moral tone, and that he will not allow federal executions to resume at a time when more than half the countries of the world have stopped executions and when domestic concern about the death penalty is at unprecedented levels.
President Bush can declare a moratorium on federal executions under Article II, Section 2, Clause 1, of the US Constitution which gives him the 'Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States'.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters, in your own words, drawing from the above and other arguments as you see fit. While expressing sympathy for the victims of violent crime, urge President Bush not to allow federal executions to resume after 38 years without them and to impose an immediate moratorium with a view to leading his country away from the death penalty.
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Fax: 1 202 456 2461
Torture in Burundi/Disappearance in Guatemala
Here are two letters on behalf of women in Burundi and Guatemala. Send them today!
Major Pierre Buyoya
Président de la République
Dear Mr. President:
I am concerned to learn about the detention without trial of six women, all of whom were reportedly tortured by authorities shortly after their arrest. The six women - Valérie Bukuru, Eliane Bukuru, Constance Singirankabo, Fitina Barumbanzi, Sabine Ndayisimbiye and Jeanette Ndayisenga - were arrested between 1997 and 1999 and have been detained without trial in Rumonge and Bururi prisons. They are accused of collaborating with Hutu-dominated armed opposition groups - mainly by allegedly providing food to them. Amnesty International believes these women may be prisoners of conscience, arbitrarily detained because their Hutu ethnic identity makes them suspect.
Valérie Bukuru, a farmer, was reportedly beaten and stabbed in the legs by gendarmes. Fitina Barumbanzi, a street vendor, was allegedly beaten repeatedly with electrical cable by gendarmes, police and communal officials, leaving her unable to walk for two months after her ordeal. Jeanette Ndayisenga was arrested and accused of giving food to members of an armed opposition group, apparently because she was carrying food when stopped at a roadblock. The Bururi State Prosecutor has said that there are currently no resources to pursue investigations into detainees' cases in the Bururi and Rumonge areas.
I urge you to review these cases and to bring about the immediate and unconditional release of these women if no substantive evidence exists to support a recognizable criminal offense. I feel sure you will agree that these allegations of torture require prompt and impartial investigations. I urge you to ensure that those found responsible for torturing these women are brought to justice.
I thank you in advance for your assistance with this serious matter.
Sr. Byron Barrientos
Minister of Interior
Ministro de Gobernación
Ministerio de Gobernación
6a Avenida 4-64
Zona 4, Ciudad de Guatemala
Mayra Angelina Gutiérrez Hernández, a university lecturer and women's rights activist, has not been seen since she left her daughter at a bus stop on April 7, 2000. Amnesty International believes that Ms Gutiérrez's "disappearance" was politically motivated. I am extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of Mayra Gutiérrez.
Mayra Gutiérrez helped prepare a report on illegal adoptions three years ago, and was reportedly a major source of information for the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The subsequent report, issued in January 2000, was officially presented to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights shortly before Ms. Gutiérrez went missing. It is now known that Ms. Gutiérrez was listed on a military intelligence database apparently compiled during the 1980s and made public in May 2000, a fact which strengthens fears that her "disappearance" was politically motivated.
It is my understanding that the Guatemalan Human Rights Procurator, Julio Arango, was given a special mandate by the Supreme Court to investigate Mayra Gutiérrez's "disappearance," which enables him to enter into civilian and military installations in order to try and determine her whereabouts. I urge your government to extend this special mandate as long as is necessary to determine the fate of Mayra Gutiérrez. I further urge you to ensure that military officials and other relevant personnel cooperate fully with the Procurator. I thank you in advance for your assistance with this serious matter.
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Amnesty International Group 22
P.O. Box 50193
Pasadena, CA 91115-0193