In the wake of the September 11 attacks, Amnesty International has made it a priority to respond to the crisis. Killing is the ultimate human-rights violation, and it is essential to seek justice in the name of the victims and to minimize the possibility of future attacks. This needs to be done with respect for human rights standards, to avoid further compounding the tragedy (and ultimately decreasing everyone's security).
AI has been in contact with the Bush administration and other governments to discuss a number of specific concerns, including the protection of refugee rights, safeguarding civil liberties, and the possible scapegoating of ethnic communities. Please contribute your voice to these actions!
In a very timely development, we are once again co-sponsoring a visit from RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (www.rawa.org), to discuss their "revolutionary" work advancing women's rights, and human rights in general, in Afghanistan and Afghan refugee camps. With the recent developments, RAWA has received a lot of positive publicity for its extremely courageous and enlightened work, and we are expecting them to have the opportunity to reach a large audience in their talk (on Nov. 15; see the calendar for details). As with their very successful visit last year, this visit is being organized by our good friend and collaborator Sonali Kolhatkar, who has been working tirelessly on behalf of Afghani women for several years. Group member Lucas Kamp is again coordinating our participation in the visit (thanks!).
We have decided to cancel our participation in the Doo-Dah parade this year. The main issue was, naturally, the difficulty in devising a suitably silly theme with a human-rights spin, which we felt would work in the prevailing mood. Look forward to the return of the Animals for the Ethical Treatment of People, next year!
In general, we can expect there be extra challenges in advancing a human-rights agenda in the present atmosphere. However, in such disorienting times the perspective of Amnesty International is even more important, for providing a uniquely powerful and credible voice for human rights in the world.
Larry Romans 818-354-5809
Group Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
Call for Location: 626-281-4039
Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk
By Palden Gyatso
If you've ever wondered what it's like to walk in the shoes of a Tibetan monk, you're in for a shocker. Palden Gyatso followed his heart into the
monastery at the age of 10 to study under his uncle, also a monk. By his mid-20s, when he should have been preparing for a higher degree, he instead found himself behind the bars of a Chinese communist prison. For the next 30 years, he would endure interrogations, deprivation, starvation, beatings, and psychological torture. When he was finally released in 1992, he fled the country, managing to smuggle out not only the names of his fellow prisoners but Chinese instruments of torture to show the world.
PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk
One thing at least has not changed since September 11, and that is Group 22's commitment to work for Ngawang Pekar, the prisoner of conscience that we have adopted. (He is a Tibetan monk who has been imprisoned since his 1989 arrest for participating in a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa.)
Congress is somewhat preoccupied these days, and the Tibetan Policy Act of 2001, which was introduced last May, still languishes in the House and Senate committees. The Bush administration is seeking China's support for the anti-terrorism campaign, and consequently the issue of human rights in Tibet may be de-emphasized.
Amnesty International issued an October 11 press release (http://www.aiusa.org/news/2001/ china10112001.html) in response to a Chinese government statement calling for international support in its crackdown on domestic "terrorism", apparently aimed at Uighur Muslim groups. AI said, "The Chinese authorities do not distinguish between 'terrorism' and 'separatism'... Separatism in fact covers a broad range of activities most of which amount to no more that peaceful opposition or dissent." AI's press release concluded with "concern that the [Chinese] statement may also lead to renewed government action against suspected 'separatists' in Tibet."
So let's make sure that the Chinese authorities know that we have not forgotten about Ngawang Pekar, that we'll keep writing letters, whatever happens, as long as it takes. Palden Gyatso, former prisoner of conscience, said, "After 33 years of imprisonment, I would not have been released, if not for a letter writing campaign. Make your voice heard... You can make a change." (Note: the Rights Readers November book selection is Gyatso's Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk.)
This month we suggest writing to the Director of the Bureau of Justice of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Here is a letter you can 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 further deeply concerned about reports that he 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 reviewed with consideration of the international laws to which China is signatory. I also ask that you make information about Pekar's current status available to an independent organization such as Amnesty International.
Thank you very much for taking the time to consider this important matter.
(YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS)
Please send to
Director of the Xizang Autonomous
Regional Bureau of Justice
ZHAXI Dunzhu Juzhang
Duodilu, Lhasa 850000
People's Republic of China
Postage is 80 cents for a letter, 70 cents for an aerogram. As always, if by any chance you should receive a reply, please notify Group 22.
Bringing the Message Home: Legislative Action is Human Rights Activism
The Western Regional Conference of Amnesty International USA is a unique opportunity for activists, scholars, communities, and students to come together to learn about, discuss, and act upon some of the most important human rights issues facing our world community today.
This year's conference will have a special focus on legislative action and the death penalty, as well as our ongoing Campaign Against Torture.
Join us as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Amnesty International, reflecting upon on our struggles and successes over the past four decades and preparing for the challenges of the future.
In the wake of last week events and in anticipation of future developments that may threaten the respect of universally-recognized human rights, the Western Region of AIUSA will dedicate portions of its regional conference to the discussion of the reaction and most appropriate contribution of the organization. AI has already expressed its deepest solidarity with the victims of the attacks on New York and Washington; in this spirit and context we will present and discuss some of our current objectives:
· How to press the international community to collaborate in bringing the perpetrators to justice in conformity with respect for human rights standards.
· How to prevent identity-based human rights violations in the context of a backlash against members of "suspected" ethnic groups or religious communities.
· How to monitor, report, and condemn related incidents and trends, including the introduction or enactment of legislation potentially leading to human rights violations.
During such moments of extreme crisis it is also our responsibility to make sure that all other severe human rights situations remain in the limelight and continue to be addressed by our worldwide membership. Therefore we implore you to join us and participate on November 3rd and 4th. Please help us put the word out!
Ken Wiwa: Nigerian writer, journalist, and activist, and author of the new book "In the Shadow of a Saint" will be the conference keynote speaker.
Raise the Roof!: Legislative Action for Human Rights
The World Conference Against Racism
Organizing Around Women's Human Rights Issues
The Death Penalty
Children's Human Rights
Working with the News Media
Building Coalitions in Your Community
Current Refugee Legislation
Human Rights Education
Torture in South Asia
Human Rights in Guatemala and Colombia
Centers for Survivors of Torture
Introduction to Amnesty International
The main conference program will begin at 9:00 AM on Saturday, November 3rd, and will end at 3:30 PM on Sunday, November 4th. Participants who can arrive earlier are encouraged to participate in the special program below.
Friday, November 2nd:
Taking Action for a California Moratorium on Executions
On Friday, November 2nd, prior to the Western Regional Conference, Amnesty International, in conjunction with Death Penalty Focus and Californians for a Moratorium on Executions, will host an all-day event at the Radisson Hotel Sacramento to educate and mobilize California activists in support of a statewide moratorium on executions. A morning campaign planning session will be held by Californians for a Moratorium on Executions. Afternoon workshops will include information about working with city councils, the California media, and communities of faith, as well as a general informational session about the history of the death penalty in California.
To participate in this day of action, or for more information, please contact Michele Williams, Deputy Regional Director, at (310) 815-0450, ext. 233, or email@example.com.
CONFERENCE SITE & ACCOMMODATIONS
Radisson Hotel Sacramento
500 Leisure Lane
Sacramento, CA 95815
916-922-2020 or 800-333-3333
Conference attendees must make their own reservations directly with the hotel at the phone numbers listed above.
For more information, please call the Regional Office at (310) 815-0450 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Write to Rumsfeld concerning the plight of refugees
Here is a sample letter you can use to write to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons in Afghanistan. There is also a sample letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell available at the Amnesty website: http://www.amnesty-usa.org/usacrisis. We encourage you to visit the site and take in all the crisis related news and actions.
The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
Washington, DC 20301
Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:
I appreciate that this is a very difficult and challenging time.
As a member of Amnesty International, I write to support U.S. efforts to date both to recognize and to alleviate the suffering of the people of Afghanistan. I also write to ask your help to ensure that innocent Afghanis are not victimized yet again.
I urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that the United States and its allies implement the following measures to help the people of Afghanistan:
Ensure that governments of nations bordering Afghanistan -- particularly those in the U.S.-led coalition -- keep their borders open to Afghan refugees and uphold their responsibilities under international law not to turn back or forcibly return refugees to Afghanistan, where they would be at risk of serious human rights abuses.
Ensure that protection of Afghan refugees is effective and durable, and that there are measures in place to prevent violations of human rights from taking place in the refugee camps.
Implement measures, to the extent possible, to ensure respect for the rights of the displaced population in Afghanistan, particularly in areas controlled by the U.S.-allied Northern Alliance.
Make every effort to provide necessary assistance, including food and medicine, in an appropriate manner. Many relief agencies have expressed concern that air drops are not only insufficient but also needlessly endanger civilians by luring people off of main roads and into areas which may be mined.
Observe the highest standards of international human rights and humanitarian law.
Facilitate the ability of Afghans who so desire to apply for asylum in the United States and elsewhere.
Thank you for your attention to my concerns for the well-being of the Afghan people. I look forward to learning of your efforts.
YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS
Speak out for Egyptian Human Rights Advocate!
Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim has raised a strong voice for democracy, intellectual freedom, and peace in the Middle East for over three decades. A professor at American University in Cairo, he is also founder and director of an Egyptian organization promoting democracy. In summer 2000, Egyptian security officers raided the home of this widely respected scholar and arrested him. They also arrested other members of his organization, Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies.
Authorities charged Dr. Ibrahim with offenses largely related to a documentary film he was making about Egyptian election irregularities. A grant from the European Union helped to fund the film. Charges against him included receiving funding without authorization, dissemination of false information abroad, and appropriating money by fraudulent means. Amnesty International considers these charges to be politically motivated, constituting efforts to provide legal cover for the government's increasing attempts to muzzle civil society.
The Ibn Khaldun Center, which focuses on democracy and human rights, documents discrimination and threats against minority groups, including Egypt's Coptic Christian communities, and speaks out against both anti-democratic actions by some Islamic groups and government crackdowns on non-violent Islamic activists. It also monitors and criticizes irregularities in Egyptian elections.
The trial of Dr. Ibrahim and 27 others failed to meet international standards for fairness. Despite their earlier release on bail, defendants were held during court sessions in an iron cage within the courtroom. The trial lasted for seven months, but the verdict came less than two hours after the trial's conclusion in May 2001. All 28 defendants were convicted. Dr. Ibrahim, who is 61 years old, received a sentence of seven years' imprisonment.
To many in Egypt, the imprisonment of Dr. Ibrahim is an assault on a distinguished intellectual and political legacy. Upon his arrest last summer, according to a New York Times article published on June 17, 2001, Dr. Ibrahim was handed over to a police corporal. The officer, who had studied with Dr. Ibrahim 20 years earlier, asked as he led Dr. Ibrahim to prison, "What has happened to the world?"
Amnesty International considers Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim to be a prisoner of conscience and has appealed for his immediate and unconditional release.
Background. The Egyptian government began using its increasingly successful attacks on armed Islamic groups in the late 1990s as cover for harassment of non-violent groups. Individuals who publicly criticize government policies in Egypt today risk detention. Human rights defenders, journalists, political activists, and activists in nongovernmental organizations remain at risk for "offenses" that are merely peaceful attempts to exercise the rights of free expression and free association.
Charges similar to those against Dr. Ibrahim were brought against the general secretary of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights in December 1998. The charges against Hafez Abu Sa'ad were connected to a report on human rights violations in a predominantly Coptic Christian village. Hafez Abu Sa'ad was released on bail following widespread protests by human rights organizations in Egypt and abroad.
Please send letters urging that Saad Eddin Ibrahim be freed immediately and unconditionally. Write to:
His Excellency Muhammad Hosni
President of the Arab Republic of
Please visit www.amnestyusa.org to learn more about the use of torture in Egypt and take action on additional cases.
Protection of Religious Minorities and Women!
Since the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) won a large majority in the general election on 1 October, its supporters have allegedly been attacking Hindus and other religious minorities because of their perceived support for the rival Awami League party. Police have apparently taken no action.
Groups closely linked to the BNP have reportedly driven hundreds of people off their land, and burned their houses. The victims allegedly include women who have been gang-raped. The police have apparently done nothing to stop the attacks or protect the victims.
According to Bangladeshi news reports, the guard of a Hindu temple at Deobhogh has been kidnapped by armed men, who fired shots as they left. Several Hindu doctors from Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Mitford Hospital were also attacked.
Background. The BNP, formerly Bangladesh's main opposition party, formed an alliance with three other parties and won more than two thirds of the seats in the 1 October election. BNP leader Begum Khaleda Zia was sworn in as Prime Minister on 10 October. In the run-up to the elections there were violent clashes between supporters of Khaleda Zia and her main rival, Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina. About 150 people were killed and thousands were injured.
The population of Bangladesh is approximately 87 percent Muslim. The rest are predominantly Hindu.
Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English or your own language:
Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia
Office of the Prime Minister
Sher-e Bangla Nagar
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
Mr. Nurul Huda
Inspector-General of Police
Salutation: Dear Sir
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