Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News

Volume X Number 4, April 2002


Thursday, April 25, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting 414 S. Holliston, Caltech Y Lounge. Help us plan future actions for Earth Day, Tibet, the abolition of the death penalty and more.

Sunday, April 28, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers Human Rights Book Discussion Group. Vroman's Bookstore (695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena) This month we discuss Three Apples Fell From Heaven by Micheline Ahoranian Marcom. (See inside for more information about the book).

Tuesday, May 14, 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, May 19, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers Human Rights Book Discussion Group. Vroman's Bookstore (695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena) This month we discuss Calamities of Exile by Leonard Weschler. (See inside for more information about the book).


This issue we include two actions on the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, however we encourage you to visit the AIUSA website to learn more, read a brand new report 'The Heavy Price of Israeli Incursions', additional press releases, AI's official letter to the Bush administration and additional actions you can take addressed to Colin Powell, Prime Minister Sharon, President Arafat, and the leader of Hamas concerning this evolving crisis. Please visit:


Palestinians in Jenin Refugee Camp

The Israeli armed forces have reportedly killed scores of Palestinian civilians, and injured hundreds more, in a sustained assault on the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin on the West Bank. Many more will die unless the Israeli forces stop the attack and withdraw immediately.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have been attacking the Palestinian refugee camp since 3 April. Since yesterday they have been intensifying their attacks using tanks, F16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters armed with Hellfire missiles, in a clearly disproportionate use of lethal force. Many of those who died bled to death because ambulances were unable to reach them, because the IDF have closed off areas, imposed restrictions on movement and frequently shot at ambulances and medical workers. Dozens of houses have been destroyed either to allow wider passage for tanks through narrow streets or because armed Palestinians were allegedly sheltering in them. Eyewitnesses, including an Israeli journalist accompanying the IDF, have described occupants of houses being buried under the rubble.

Refugee camps, where Palestinian exiles have lived since 1948, are very densely populated. The use of tanks and missiles against Palestinians, armed and unarmed, in the camp, is creating very high casualties. The refugee camp has now been under siege for five days, and food and water are running out. This is already leading to a further humanitarian disaster.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:

Š             expressing concern that the IDF are clearly using excessive force in their attack on Jenin Refugee camp, and calling on the Israeli authorities to investigate the killings in the camps and bring those responsible for unlawful killings to justice;

Š             calling on the Israeli authorities to end and prevent unlawful killings by ensuring strict compliance with international standards on the use of force and firearms;

Š             expressing concern that collective punishment is being inflicted on Palestinians in Jenin refugee camp and throughout the West Bank, and calling on the Israeli government to abide by its obligations under international law;

Š             urging the Israeli authorities to agree to the introduction of international observers with a strong, public and transparent mandate to monitor respect for international humanitarian law and human rights.


Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

Office of the Prime Minister

3 Kaplan Street, PO Box 187

Kiryat Ben-Gurion

Jerusalem 91919, Israel

Fax:           011 972 2 651 2631

Salutation:    Dear Prime Minister


Lieutenant-General Shaul Mufaz

Chief of General Staff

c/o Ministry of Defence

7 'A' Street, Hakirya

Tel Aviv, Israel

Fax:           011 972 3 691 6940

Salutation:    Dear Lieutenant-General


Benjamin Ben-Eliezer

Minister of Defence

Ministry of Defence

Kaplan Street, Hakirya

Tel Aviv 67659, Israel

Fax:           011 972 3 691 6940

Salutation:    Dear Minister



Ambassador David Elekana Ivry

Embassy of Israel

3514 International Dr. NW

Washington DC 20008

Fax: 1 202 364 5610


Protest Death Penalty for 'Collaborators'

Muhammad Thabet Khalil al-Ra'i (m), aged 47

Sami Khadr Isma'il Hajji (m), aged 40

Mahmud Muhammad Abd-al-Salam al-Sharif, 52

Suhayl Shihdah Zaqqut (m), aged 33

Husam Zuhdi Muhammad al-Hissi (m), aged 22

The five Palestinian men named above have been sentenced to death by firing squad, after an unfair trial, for 'collaborating' with the Israeli intelligence services. The sentences must be ratified by President Yasser Arafat, after which the men may be executed at any time.

The public attitude towards collaborators is extremely hostile, and even if President Arafat does not ratify the sentences, the men are still in very real danger of being killed, either inside the prison or if they are released.

The men's trial, before the State Security Court in Gaza, took place in a single sitting on the evening of 6 April, during which they did have some access to lawyers. They are now held in Tel Al Hawa, the headquarters of the Palestinian Preventive Security Police, in Gaza city.

President Arafat is besieged in his offices in Ramallah, and at present there appears to be no way for the sentences to be presented to him for ratification.

The court commuted the death sentence passed on a sixth man, Abd-al-Halim Mas'ud Hamdan, to 15 years' hard labor.


Amnesty International has previously condemned trials by the State Security Court as being grossly unfair.  Trials are often summary, taking place before military judges, and there is no right of appeal.

Sentences are subject only to ratification by President Arafat and may be carried out within hours or days of the trial.

People convicted of 'collaboration' with Israel face extremely harsh treatment.  Two were executed in January 2001.  Amnesty International delegates who visited the Palestinian Authority Minister for the Cabinet in March were told that the Palestinian Authority had promised the European Union not to carry out any further executions. However, according to reports, at least 28 alleged 'collaborators' have been killed by armed Palestinians this year.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:

-               calling on President Arafat not to ratify the death sentences passed on the five men named above and expressing unconditional opposition to the death penalty;

-               expressing concern that this and other trials before the State Security Court are grossly unfair, failing to meet even minimum international standards for fair trial;

-               urging that no more executions be carried out and that the death penalty be abolished.


Since President Yasser Arafat is besieged in Ramallah please send appeals to the President's office in Gaza as follows:

President Yasser Arafat

The President's Office, Gaza

Palestinian Authority

Via Israel

Salutation: Dear President Arafat

Bush Administration Threatens to Pull Out

The United Nations hosted a special treaty event marking the 60th ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on April 11, 2002. The 60th ratification initiates the process of the treaty's entry into force. On July 1, 2002, the world's first permanent court for investigating and prosecuting individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity will come into existence.

Despite this development, the Bush Administration is considering the unprecedented and controversial step of "unsigning" the ICC treaty. Such an action would be in complete opposition to the overwhelming global support for the ICC – to date, 139 countries have signed the treaty and more than 60 have ratified it. More ratifications are anticipated in the upcoming weeks.

The Bush Administration claims that the ICC lacks the safeguards to avoid politically motivated prosecutions. These fears are unfounded. The ICC's prosecutor is accountable to the Court's governing body, the Assembly of States Parties, which is comprised by countries -- many of them allies of the United States -- that have demonstrated by ratifying the ICC treaty that they are willing to open up their human rights records not only to the scrutiny of the world, but also to the enforcement mechanisms of the ICC. The countries that have ratified the ICC treaty, including nearly the entire European Union, did so only after carrying out detailed examinations of the Statute and concluding that the fair trial guarantees and checks and balances in the Statute would prevent politically motivated prosecutions.

"Unsigning" will not slow down the process of the ICC being established. It will, however, antagonize U.S. allies and open the door for other countries to use this precedent to justify abandoning their international commitments.

Please make your concerns known to:

President George W. Bush

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500


Vice-President Richard Cheney

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500


Honorable Colin Powell

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

Washington, DC 20520


Dr. Condoleezza Rice

Assistant to the President

National Security Affairs

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500


Honorable Donald Rumsfeld

Secretary of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301-1000


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. Pekar 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 an encouraging sign, China released another high-profile Tibetan POC this month. In the wake of the release on January 20 of POC Ngawang Choephel, on March 31 POC Jigme Sangpo was released from Drapchi Prison (Tibet Autonomous Region Prison No. 1) on medical parole nine years ahead of his scheduled 2011 release date. Jigme Sangpo, age 76 and a former elementary school teacher, was Tibet's longest serving political prisoner whose latest period of detention began in 1983 when he was given a 15-year sentence for "spreading counter-revolutionary propaganda" after he put up a wall-poster calling for Tibetan independence. His sentence was extended by five years in 1988 after he shouted "reactionary slogans," and by a further eight years in 1991 after he shouted "Free Tibet" during a visit to Drapchi by the Swiss ambassador to China.

Jigme Sangpo was one of the prisoners whose plight was singled out by US ambassador to Beijing Clark Randt ahead of President Bush's visit to China in February. John Kamm, president of the San Francisco-based Duihua Foundation, stated that the release was likely made "in order to improve relations with the United States." Kamm further said he had been told that Chinese authorities began approaching Jigme Sangpo soon after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US and that "They made the decision that they wanted to take advantage of the situation to improve relations, specifically with the United States but more generally as well." While Amnesty International welcomed the release of Jigme Sangpo and noted that it was "highly unusual," they urged the Chinese authorities to continue with further prisoner releases.

Clearly, the Chinese authorities are utilizing POCs as political pawns, and, as the highest profile prisoners stand the best chance of being released, we need to continue writing on behalf of Ngawang Pekar in an attempt to raise his notoriety. This month, we ask that you write to the relatively newly appointed Director of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Bureau of Justice, MENG Deli. Below is a sample letter:

Dear Director,

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:

MENG Deli Juzhang


Duodilu, Lasashi 850000

Xizang Zizhiqu

People's Republic of China

Overseas postage for a normal letter is 80 cents, 70 cents for an aerogram. Should you receive a reply, please notify Group 22. Also, stay tuned for details about the Memorial Day weekend event that will feature two Tibetan nuns speaking about their experiences as prisoners in Drapchi Prison!

New Report: USA Must Prosecute Torturers

In March 2000, retired Peruvian Army Major Tomas Ricardo Anderson Kohatsu traveled to the United States to testify before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Before he could leave the country, the Justice Department questioned him regarding allegations that he had tortured two intelligence officers in Peru. Anderson Kohatsu was, however, allowed to return to Peru after the State Department intervened to prevent his arrest. This incident is widely regarded as the U.S. Government's first attempt to initiate action pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2340A, which makes it a federal crime to commit torture outside the United States.


That an alleged torturer was identified in the United States is not surprising. Nongovernmental organizations tracking such cases have estimated that hundreds of perpetrators may be living in the United States, an assertion that is not disputed by the director of the federal unit responsible for investigating suspected human rights abusers. Nor is it surprising that U.S. officials failed to prosecute the suspect. In the almost eight years since Congress passed legislation authorizing criminal prosecution for acts of torture committed abroad, not a single torturer has been brought to justice.

As a party to the Convention against Torture, the U.S. is obliged to prosecute or extradite individuals suspected of torture. 18 U.S.C. § 2340A was enacted to implement this obligation. It appears, however, that inadequate resources and a lack of political will are allowing the United States to become a safe haven for some of the world's worst human rights criminals. No office within the federal government has been assigned an exclusive mandate to investigate and prosecute suspected human rights abusers. Nor have funds been appropriated for this task.

The U.S. Justice Department must make the investigation and prosecution of suspected torturers a priority.

The Honorable John Ashcroft

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Ashcroft:

The United States has long condemned torture and other human rights abuses committed abroad, however it has failed to prosecute torturers once they reach America's shores.

In 1994, Congress enacted legislation criminalizing acts of torture committed outside the United States.  Almost eight years later, not a single person accused of torture has been prosecuted pursuant to this legislation. 

As a party to the Convention against Torture, the U.S. is obliged to investigate and either prosecute or extradite for prosecution individuals suspected of torture.  Yet, nongovernmental organizations, and even the federal unit whose mandate includes investigating human rights abusers, estimate that hundreds of perpetrators are currently living in the United States.

I urge you to make the investigation and prosecution of suspected torturers a priority.  The United States must not be a safe haven for torturers who are considered hostis humani generis   enemies of all humanity.  Failure to hold these individuals accountable for their actions is an affront to justice and will only serve to perpetuate violence and other human rights violations.

Thank you for your attention to my concern.  I look forward to a response and to learn of the steps that you intend to take to address this issue.

Sincerely, (YOUR NAME and ADDRESS)




Prisoner of Conscience Ngawang Pekar            1

Israel/OT                                                                                    4

Zimbabwe Elections                                                           6

Government Action Network                                     6

Just Earth Network                                                             5

Death Penalty                                                                          1

Urgent Actions:                                                                      2


Total:                                                                                              25


Want to add your letters to the total?  Get in touch with

Digna Ochoa's Colleagues Receive Threats

On 18 March, Barbara Zamora, a leading human rights lawyer in Mexico city, received a threatening email. Amnesty International is seriously concerned for her safety as she has been threatened in the past and was a close colleague of Digna Ochoa, a prominent human rights lawyer found shot dead on 19 October 2001 in Mexico.

The email threat against Barbara Zamora stated "...choques, accidentes, abogados, urgencias...", "...crashes, accidents, lawyers, emergencies..." and is apparently similar in tone and style to ones received by Digna Ochoa in 1996. More threats were sent to Digna Ochoa between 1996 and 1999, but the authorities repeatedly failed to effectively investigate them.

Barbara Zamora reportedly received threatening telephone calls in 2001 including sounds of gunfire, shouts and requiem music. Those responsible however, have not been identified. She has reported the latest email threat to the Procuraduría General de Justicia del Distrito Federal, (PGJDF) Federal District Attorney General's Office and the authorities have reportedly offered to provide her with a bodyguard.

In October 2001, following Digna Ochoa's death, at the offices she shared with Barbara Zamora, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights called on the Mexican government to implement protection measures to ensure the safety of a number of human rights defenders at risk, including Barbara Zamora.

The official investigation into Digna Ochoa's death continues. Barbara Zamora and other prominent human rights defenders recently made strong public criticisms of the authorities, following leaked stories in the national media which appeared to indicate that the investigation would conclude that Digna Ochoa had committed suicide and had not been murdered.

Amnesty International is still concerned for the safety of Pilar Noriega, who worked with both Bárbara Zamora and Digna Ochoa on very high profile cases.

FURTHER RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Spanish or your own language:

-               expressing concern at the threatening email received on 18 March 2002 by human rights lawyer Bárbara Zamora, which is apparently similar in tone and style to those received by Digna Ochoa in 1996;

-               urging the authorities to ensure Barbara Zamora's and Pilar Noriega's safety by adopting protection measures in accordance her wishes;

-               calling for a prompt, full and impartial investigation into the threatening email, for the results to be made public and for those responsible to be brought to justice;

-               reminding the authorities that the UN Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Institutions to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders and their right to carry out their activities without any restrictions or fear of reprisals.


President of the Republic

Lic. Vicente Fox Quesada

Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos

Residencia Oficial de "Los Pinos"

Col. San Miguel Chapultepec

Mexico D.F., C.P. 11850


Salutation: SeĖor Presidente / Dear Mr President


Attorney General of the Federal District

Mtro. Bernardo Bátiz Vázquez

Procurador General del Distrito Federal

Gabriel Hernández #56, 5ľ piso,

col. Doctores,

México D.F. 06720


Salutation: Dear Attorney General


Attorney General of the Republic

General Rafael Marcial Macedo de la Concha

Procurador General de la República

Procuraduría General de la República

Reforma Norte esq.Violeta 75

Col. Guerrero

Delegación Cuauhtémoc

México D.F., C.P. 06300


Salutation: Dear Attorney General

Juvenile Scheduled for Execution in Missouri

Christopher Simmons (m), white, aged 25, is scheduled to be executed in Missouri on 1 May 2002, five days after his 26th birthday. He was sentenced to death in 1994 for a murder committed when he was 17 years old. International law prohibits the execution of people who were under 18 at the time of the crime.

Shirley Crook's body was found on 9 September 1993 in the Meramec River, near St Louis in eastern Missouri.  The 46-year-old woman had been tied with electric cable, leather straps and tape. The medical examiner determined the cause of death to be drowning, and found that she had sustained several fractured ribs and substantial bruising.

Christopher Simmons was arrested at school the next day. Despite his age, below-average IQ (88), and the fact that he might face capital charges, he was interrogated, at times aggressively, for two hours by three police officers without a lawyer or parent present.  At some point, a senior officer joined the interrogation. He told Christopher Simmons that he was facing the death penalty or life in prison and that it would be in his 'best interest' to tell the truth.  After this officer left, the three others repeated this.  Christopher Simmons eventually confessed to the murder. The state chose to seek his execution.

A jury convicted Christopher Simmons of first-degree murder on 16 June 1994. The entire sentencing phase took place the next day. The defence lawyers did not present evidence of the physical and emotional abuse to which their teenage client had been subjected by his alcoholic stepfather, who had also introduced his stepson to alcohol as a toddler. From a young age Christopher Simmons took to abusing alcohol and drugs.  The jury were left unaware of this, or his mental health problems.

Arguing for execution, the prosecutor urged the jury not to consider the defendant's age as a mitigating factor: 'Let's look at the mitigating circumstances... Think about age.  Seventeen years old.  Isn't that scary?  Doesn't that scare you?  Mitigating?  Quite the contrary I submit.  Quite the contrary.'  The federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals described these comments as 'improper' and 'condemn[ed] the prosecution for teetering on the edge of misstating the law'.  In a 1982 decision, the US Supreme Court had ruled that 'the chronological age of a minor is itself a relevant mitigating factor of great weight' in capital cases. It said that 'the background and mental and emotional development of a youthful defendant [must also] be duly considered in sentencing'.

The prosecutor also urged the jury to vote for execution for the sake of Christopher Simmons' family: 'Show some mercy to his family, give him death... Look at his little brother [who had testified on his brother's behalf]. [He] said it all.  Someday I want to grow up to be just like [Christopher].  To be just like him.  Spare those kids of that.'

The Eighth Circuit also found these comments to be 'improper' and to have 'no place in an American courtroom', and 'admonish[ed] the prosecutor to consider the implications of placing the burden of an execution on the shoulders of a child, even if that burden exists only in the child's mind or in prosecutorial rhetoric'.  The court still upheld the death sentence. Under the United Nations Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors, adopted in 1990, prosecutors must 'at all times maintain the honour and dignity of their profession' and 'perform their duties fairly, consistently and expeditiously, and respect and protect human dignity and uphold human rights'.

BACKGROUND.  The execution of people for crimes committed when they were under 18 violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The prohibition on the imposition of the death penalty against child offenders is so widely respected that it has become a principle of customary international law, binding on all countries, regardless of which treaties they have or have not ratified.

There have been 17 executions of child offenders documented worldwide, 10 of them in the USA. The others were in Democratic Republic of Congo (1), Iran (3), Nigeria (1), and Pakistan (2). Last year, Pakistan's President announced that he would commute the death sentences of all young offenders on death row there.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:

-               expressing sympathy for the family and friends of Shirley Cook, explaining that you are not seeking in any way to excuse her murder;

-               expressing concern that Missouri intends to kill Christopher Simmons, in violation of international law, respected in almost every country, which prohibits the execution of people who were under 18 at the time of the crime, in recognition of the immaturity of young people and their potential for rehabilitation;

-               noting that the power of executive clemency exists to compensate for errors and inequities in the legal system, and that the Governor can now consider the mitigating evidence that the jury never heard, as well as taking full account of the improper arguments of the prosecution;

-               urging the governor to commute this death sentence in the interest of justice, decency, international law, and the reputation of his state.


Governor Bob Holden

Missouri Capitol Building, Room 218

PO Box 720

Jefferson City, MO 65102-0720


Illinois Moratorium Study

Repair or repeal? Read this landmark study for yourself!  See if you agree with the majority opinion of the Illinois moratorium commission that the death penalty should be abolished.

100th death row inmate found innocent

Learn more at the Justice Project's website and find out how the Innocence Protection Act can help prevent the miscarriage of justice.

Have you signed the petition for a
California Moratorium?

Let's make it happen in California! To have your signature count for the moratorium presentation to Governor Davis on May 1, please sign today and tell your friends!


Human Rights Book Discussion Group


Vroman's Bookstore
(695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena)

Sunday, April 28, 6:30 PM


Three Apples Fell
from Heaven


by Micheline Ahoranian Marcom


Set in 1915-1917-the years of the Ottoman Turkish government's brutal campaign that resulted in the deaths of more than a million Armenians-

Three Apples Fell from Heaven is a breathtaking look at a time marked by unspeakable horror and remarkable courage.

Sunday, May 19, 6:30 PM

Calamities of Exile


by Lawrence Weschler


The three essays in this volume, each long enough to be referred to as a nonfiction novella, originally appeared in the New Yorker, where Weschler is a staff writer. They engage directly with the

theme of political exile by delving into the lives of three exiles: South African author Breyten Breytenbach, who would attempt to reenter the country to participate more actively in the struggle against apartheid, only to be captured and imprisoned; Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi whose Republic of Fear offered many Westerners their first in-depth knowledge of Saddam Hussein's regime; and Jan Karan, a participant in the 1968 revolution in Prague who, after years of running a smuggling operation in and out of Czechoslovakia, would return to his liberated homeland only to be denounced for alleged collaboration with its Communist oppressors.

Editor's Last Word:

Read us on line:

Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 /






















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Amnesty International
works impartially to free-individuals jailed solely for their beliefs, ethnic origin, language, gender or sexual orientation, provided they  have not used or advocated violence-to ensure fair trials for all political prisoners, and to abolish torture and executions worldwide.  It is funded by members and supporters around the world.