First of all, I am very grateful for all the good wishes for Baby Lucas and Mommy Alexi -- we're all doing well, at the one-month mark Lucas is cute and thriving (knock the proverbial wood), and we're gradually getting back to work, at least some important things like newsletter columns and writing actions. I'm looking forward to bringing him to his first Amnesty meeting, hopefully in the near future. Thanks to Martha Ter Maat for the wonderful column last month celebrating Lucas's birth (on June 19) and also reminding us of the work still needed in this country to ratify the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. I hope everyone can take the time to send a little note on behalf of little Lucas, if you didn't get around to it last month (like me, I confess); you can still visit the AIUSA website Children’s Human Rights page
to learn more and take action on the Children’s Convention as well as AI’s other concerns about the human rights of children.
Martha's membership in All Saints Church in Pasadena has led to very productive collaboration with several groups in the church, which is known for its progressive approach to promoting social justice. Last month, All Saints hosted Cosette Thompson, Amnesty's director for the western region of the USA, who spoke on human rights and sexual identity, giving an overview of responses to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) individuals around the world. Unfortunately, while some societies actively work to promote tolerance and acceptance, there are all too many examples of (officially or unofficially sanctioned) intolerance, persecution, torture and murder. Within the context of its yearlong campaign against torture, Amnesty International recently released a report on the worldwide use of torture against LGBT individuals.
The following week at All Saints, social justice and the collaboration with Amnesty International were featured in the service, and our group was again invited to staff a table there. We can look forward to more opportunities to collaborate in the future, and strengthening our ties with groups in the church which are also actively working on the human-rights issues we focus on.
This month, we have a very special guest at our monthly meeting on Thursday evening, July 26: Tseten Phanuchuras, who will give a first-hand account of Tibet and discuss the human-rights situation there (see the calendar for details). Please join us at the special location (a block from the usual place) for delicious Indian refreshments and a touching and informative evening with the speaker.
Thanks to group member Joyce Wolf for organizing this event; along with Robert Adams, Joyce coordinates our group's work on behalf of imprisoned Tibetan monk Ngawang Pekar. And thanks to our multi-talented Lucas "the big one, not the baby" Kamp, simultaneously our Letter-Writing Coordinator as well as our Electronic Media Coordinator, for graciously opening his home to us for this event.
Hope to see you there!
Larry Romans, Coordinator
GOVERNMENT ACTION NETWORK
No Excuses Left for Failing to Arrest
All Remaining War Crimes Suspects
It has been nine years since the outbreak of war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a war which produced a series of gross human rights violations. The United Nations Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, to bring to justice those who committed human rights violations anywhere in the formerYugoslavia. According to Security Council Resolutions and the UN Charter, all member governments are responsible for cooperating with the Tribunal, including by arresting suspects. However, the Tribunal has depended largely upon the NATO-led peacekeeping force (SFOR) stationed in Bosnia-Herzegovina to arrest those who have been indicted.
While SFOR troops have made some arrests in Bosnia, there are still more than 25 indictees at large, many of them known to be living in Bosnia. The very slow pace of these arrests has several harmful effects, including:
More decisive action by SFOR in pursuing every single indicted suspect would send a powerful message of deterrence to would-be perpetrators of future war crimes and crimes against humanity. A strong message that these crimes will not be tolerated by the international community cannot help but contribute to long-term stability in the Balkans and elsewhere.
Write to Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld and tell them no more excuses! Sample letter below:
Honorable Colin Powell
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20520
Honorable Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
Washington, DC 20301
Dear Secretary [Powell] [Rumsfeld]:
The Bush Administration deserves credit and thanks for persistently seeking the transfer of Slobodan Milosevic to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. However, it is long past time for our government to fulfill its own obligation to cooperate with the Hague Tribunal.
About 25 publicly indicted war crimes suspects remain at large. The Tribunal also has issued other indictments that have not been made public. Many indicted suspects are known to be in Bosnia, where thousands of international peacekeeping troops are deployed. Yet SFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia, has made only one arrest in the last year.
U.S. credibility is at stake. Pressured by the US and other governments, reformers in Belgrade risked their political futures by sending Milosevic to The Hague. But the US Government has been very reluctant to use its troops in Bosnia to arrest other indicted suspects whose continuing presence and influence in the country undermine efforts to heal the deep wounds of "ethnic cleansing."
The apprehension of all alleged war criminals in Bosnia is vital to justice and lasting stability in theBalkans. The sooner SFOR carries out its responsibility to make arrests, the sooner our troops can come home for good. I urge you to make every effort to ensure that SFOR promptly arrests all remaining indictees. Please let me know how the Administration plans to address this issue.
OUTFRONT for HUMAN RIGHTS!
Ecuador: Death Threats to Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgender Human Rights Defenders
Orlando Montoya, Director of Equidad, a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) organization based in Quito, Ecuador, and members of this organization received several anonymous death threats during the end of March and throughout April 2001. E-mails addressed to him accused him of being an "ideologist of human scum" and promised that he would "be the first" (Orlando Montoya mentalizador de la escoria humana seras el primero). Orlando Montoya is a well know human rights defender and was a co-founder of the first LGBT organisation in Ecuador, Sociedad Gay, Gay Society. He has been advocating LGBT people's rights, in particular he has been campaigning on eradicating human rights violations against LGBT people, including torture and ill-treatment, since 1985.
Neptali Arias Zambrano, Director of Friends for Life Foundation, Fundación Amigos por la Vida, an LGBT human rights organisation and Cristhian Landeta, Coordinator of Rainbow Youth, Juventud Arco Iris, an AIDS prevention group, based in Guayaquil, received an e-mail whose subject box read: Exterminio de Sodoma y Gomorra, "The Extermination of Sodom and Gomorrah" on 3 April 2001. The message compared Ecuador's two main cities, Quito and Guayaquil, with Sodom and Gomorrah, promising to clean both cities of queers. Amigos por la Vida, Friends for Life, has received at least five new telephone threats in the last two weeks of April. A anonymous male caller said "we are keeping an eye on you" (los estamos vigilando).
Death threats have been received by other members of the LGBT community since March 2001. On 30 April 2001, a number of Ecuadorean human rights organizations from Quito and Guayaquil presented a letter to the authorities informing them of the death threats that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people and defenders of their rights have been receiving since March. They expressed concern that the threats could be a sign of a wider homophobic movement similar to the one that took hold of the country in 1993 and 1994. At that time, more than 20 LGBT people were killed in individual attacks. They also asked the Attorney General to take action to find those responsible for the threats and bring them to justice.
These threats comes at a time when police officers have allegedly tortured and threatened to kill LGBT people. According to reports from human rights NGOs, at least 60 have been arbitrarily arrested in the last six months in Guayaquil alone. LGBT organizations such as those named above have reported many cases of ill-treatment and torture and other allegations to the authorities, but little progress has been made. Amnesty International is monitoring these reports of police abuses.
Please appeal to the President and the Attorney General of Ecuador to request that an immediate, exhaustive and independent investigation is carried out into the threats and intimidation against gay rights groups and that those responsible are brought to justice.
Please also remind the President and the Attorney General of the importance of adhering to the principles of the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which states in Article 1 that "Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels".
Dr. Gustavo Noboa Bejarano
Presidente Constitucional de la República del Ecuador
Palacio de Carondelet
García Moreno 1043
Salutation: Sr. Presidente/Mr. President
Dra. Mariana Yépez de Velazco
Ministra Fiscal General de Estado
Robles 731 y Av. Amazonas
Fiscal General/ Dear Attorney General
Rabida N 26-32 y Santa María
Fundación Amigos por la Vida
Pedro Carbo 1106 y Colón, 10º piso
Borders Books & Music
475 South Lake Avenue, Pasadena
The Tattooed Soldier
by Héctor Tobar
Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Hector Tobar's debut novel is a tragic tale of destiny and consequence set in downtown Los Angeles on the eve of the 1992 riots. Antonio Bernal is a Guatemalan refugee
haunted by memories of his wife and child murdered at the hands of a man marked with a yellow tattoo. Not far from Antonio's apartment, Guillermo Longoria extends his arm and reveals a tattoo--yellow pelt, black spots, red mouth. It is the mark of the death squad, the Jaguar Battalion of the Guatemalan army. A chance encounter ignites a psychological showdown between these two men who discover that the war in Central America has followed them to the quemazones, the "great burning" of the Los Angeles riots.
Finalist for a 1999 PEN Center USA West Award
In his fiction debut, Hector Tobar writes with a journalist's eye and a novelist's heart. He brings the urban landscape to gritty life on the page, and reveals the inner landscape of his characters with stunning immediacy and precision.
PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk
Group 22 continues to seek the release of prisoner of conscience (POC) Ngawang Pekar (naw-wan pee-kar), a 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.
By all reports, the oppression of Tibetans by the Chinese authorities appears to be continuing unabated. For example, in Lhasa there were renewed restrictions on the age-old traditional celebration of Trunglha Yarsol (the Dalai Lama's birthday), including the distribution of circulars "illegalizing" the holiday and the arbitrary arrest and brief detention of hundreds of Tibetans just two days prior to the anticipated 6 July celebration. Also, in May of 2001, a Tibetan woman, and communist party member, "Migmar," was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for watching a video of the Dalai Lama in her home, and in March of 2001, following her release from Drapchi prison in February, a twenty-five-year- old nun, "Sangmo," became blind as a result of torture and ill-treatment during her six-year imprisonment.
Per the suggestion of former Tibetan POC Jampel Monlam, we request that you write a respectful letter to the Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Government as our action on behalf of Ngawang Pekar this month. Below is a sample letter that you can either copy verbatim or, preferably, use as a guide in composing your own letter:
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 (layname: Paljor).
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.
I 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:
Xizang Zizhiqu Renmin Zhengfu
Lasashi 850000, Xizang Zizhiqu
People's Republic of China
Remember to include your name and mailing address to enable a reply and that overseas postage for a normal letter is now 80 cents. Please notify the Group 22 Coordinator if you receive a reply.
JUST EARTH NETWORK
Indigenous leaders in Colombia threatened
For the last three years, Amnesty International has been closely following the case of environmental defender Grigory Pasko, who was initially arrested by Federal Security Service (FSB) officers in November 1997 and accused of espionage and revealing state secrets. Pasko, a journalist and former captain in the Far Eastern Fleet, was arrested because he filmed and reported on the human and environmental threats stemming from the illegal dumping of nuclear waste by the Russian Navy into the Sea of Japan. The treatment of Pasko reflects a trend in Russia where environmental activists are persecuted for speaking out on behalf of the environment, as evidenced by other cases such as that of Aleksander Nikitin. The real irony of the situation lies in the fact that under the Russian Criminal Code it is a crime to withhold information about the condition of the environment or on incidents or catastrophes, which endanger human life -- precisely the kind of information Pasko revealed.
Pasko was declared an Amnesty Prisoner of Conscience after his initial arrest and during his 20-month pretrial detention. He was subjected to a military trial, and at the time Amnesty raised concerns about the fairness of the trial and the impartiality and independence of the court. The trial lasted from February until July 1999 at which time Pasko was sentenced to three years imprisonment because of "abuse of office." However, he was immediately released from detention under the terms of a nationwide amnesty. The charges of treason and espionage were dismissed by the court.
Military prosecutors appealed against the dismissal of the treason charges and called for the case to be tried anew. The Russian Supreme Court's Military Collegium decided in November 2000 that the July 1999 decision did not correspond to the materials and the facts of the case, and agreed to send the case back for a retrial. The trial was scheduled to begin on June 4th, but has been delayed until June 20th and Grigory Pasko faces up to 20 years' imprisonment for doing nothing more than exercising his fundamental right to freedom of expression.
Write to the Russian authorities!
o urge them to fully and unconditionally acquit Pasko once and for all.
o Ask that all charges against him be dropped, as there is no evidence that he committed any crime under Russian laws.
o Emphasize that the information Pasko released was already public and did not constitute a threat to national security.
o Remind the authorities that the government of Russia has committed itself to upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
Send letters to:
Military Court of the Pacific Fleet
General-Mayoru S. Volkov
690600 Primorsky Krai
ul. Stetlanskaya 55
Voennomu Sudu Tihookeanskogo
Military Procurator of the Pacific Fleet,
General-Major Valery Suchkov
Voennaya prokuratura Tihookeanskogo Flota
General-Mayoru SUCHKOVU V.
Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Ecology,
103009 g. Moskva 103009
Okhotny ryad 1
Gosudarstvennaya Duma Rossiyskoy
Komitet po Ekology
Grachevy, V. A.
You can send your letters to the individuals above care of:
His Excellency Yuri Ushakov
Embassy of the Russian Federation
2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Read us on line: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22
Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Check “Up-coming Events” for
details. Meeting dates may
vary due to holidays!
Check “Up-coming Events” for details. Meeting dates may vary due to holidays!
From the 210 exit on Lake Avenue, head south, turn left on Del Mar
From the 110 continue on Arroyo Parkway north, turn right on California
Street parking is generally available.
Amnesty International Group 22
P.O. Box 50193
Pasadena, CA 91115-0193