Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume X Number 6, June 2002

Wednesday, June 26, 7:00 PM.  Program for Torture Victims and Amnesty International present a program in honor of United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture at Loyola Marymount University, Ahmanson Auditorium, University Hall 100.  Justice for Survivors: Torture and Impunity.  Keynote Speaker: William Aceves, California Western School of Law, Author of USA: A Safe Haven for Torturers with Chris Abani, Nigerian Poet, survivor of torture.  Directions: At Lincoln & Jefferson, enter campus on Lincoln at LMU Drive. First building on right. Park in P1 entrance, auditorium by main entrance.

Thursday, June 27, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting 414 S. Holliston, Caltech Y Lounge. Help us plan future actions for Tibet, the abolition of the death penalty, campaign against torture and more.

Tuesday, July 9, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting at the Athenaeum.  Corner of California & Hill.  During the summer the basement recreation area is closed so we will meet on the patio.  Ask at the front desk if you can't find us.  An informal meeting, a great place for first-timers to ask questions!

Sunday, July 21 6:30 PM. Rights Readers Human Rights Book Discussion Group. Vroman's Bookstore (695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena) This month we discuss Coyotes by Ted Conover. (See inside for more information about the book).

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Many governments have scrimped on human rights following the September 11 attacks in the United States, using the "war on terrorism" to quash legitimate dissent or justify ongoing conflicts, Amnesty International charged as it released its 2002 Annual Report. The report documents the status of human rights in 152 countries. The organization also contended that the deficient human rights record of the US government erodes its capacity for human rights leadership, limiting the pressure the US can exert on other governments to improve their human rights practices. As evidence, it cited eight examples of actions by the US government that weaken its foreign policy hand, with dire consequences for people worldwide:

Eight Significant Human Rights Failings of the US Government that Undermine Its Global Leadership on Human Rights

1.      Military Tribunals

Parallel system of justice that concentrates power in executive branch, no appeals process

Risk to Global Leadership:  Erodes ability to criticize other countries for violations of due process, and endangers US citizens and troops overseas

Example: Saudi Arabia has a judicial system in which the accused have a limited right to defend themselves and a limited right to appeal; secretive trials are hidden from the public and are vulnerable to the undue influence of the executive branch - in this case the royal family - even in capital cases.

2.      Selective Adherence to Geneva Conventions

US has selectively applied portions of the Geneva Conventions' guarantees to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay

Risk to Global Leadership:  Dangerously signals that the US believes states can pick and choose which treaties and principles to uphold

Example: Russian government abuses against Chechens that violate Geneva Conventions.

3.      Treaty Exceptionalism

The US has failed to ratify key treaties including the Convention on theRights of the Child and has "unsigned" the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

Risk to Global Leadership:  Undermines global consensus on human rights and sets dangerous precedent for other countries to similarly "unsign" treaties

Example: Pakistan's failure to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

4.      Post-September 11 Detentions of Foreigners

Mistreatment in detention, indefinite detention, lack of access to counsel
Risk to Global Leadership:  Overlooks mistreatment of ethnic minorities in other countries   

Example: Ethiopia's detention of Oromos and Somalis without due process, including access to counsel; the detainees have been subject to indefinite detention and poor conditions.

5.      Death Penalty

Execution of juveniles and the mentally retarded, failure to institute federal moratorium, first federal execution in 38 years (McVeigh), new anti-terrorism legislation with enhanced death penalty statutes, federal government bringing capital charges against defendants in non-death penalty states

Risk to Global Leadership:  Lends dangerous legitimacy to governments that execute.

Example: China: During the government's national "strike hard" campaign, at least 1,781 people were executed between April and July 2001 -- more than the total number of people executed in the rest of the world in the previous three years. China executed at least 2,468 people in 2001.

6.      Safe Haven for Torturers

Failure to prosecute or extradite known torturers whom the government knows or should know are traveling through or living in the US

Risk to Global Leadership:  Sends the message that those who commit torture, genocide and war crimes can flee from justice.

Example: Japan's refusal to either return Peru's former president Alberto Fujimori to Peru -- where he has been indicted on charges of crimes against humanity -- or open an investigation into his responsibility for the human rights violations committed while in office.

7.      Mistreatment of Asylum-seekers

Imprisonment of non-criminal asylum-seekers

Risk to Global Leadership:  Signals that similar abuses against asylum-seekers elsewhere are acceptable

Example: Guinea: where Liberians and Sierra Leoneans in refugee camps are mistreated, including beatings and rapes, by Guinean security forces. In some instances, humanitarian assistance has been withheld.

8.      Exporting Tools for Torture & Human Rights Violations

Risk to Global Leadership:  Complicity in torture and other human rights violations by supplying US-made or supplied weapons and training used for abuse

Example: Spanish company markets restraint devices to countries including Pakistan and Yemen.

Conscientious Objectors in Israel

Be sure to visit for additional crisis response actions!
Amnesty International is concerned about the increasing number of Israeli soldiers and reservists detained because of their refusal to perform their military service.

A person who for reasons of conscience or profound conviction arising from religious, ethical, moral, humanitarian, philosophical, political or similar motive refuses to perform armed service or any other direct or indirect participation in wars or armed conflicts and is imprisoned as a result of his/her refusal to serve is considered by Amnesty International to be a prisoner of conscience unless such a person has also refused to perform alternative civilian service of comparable length. There is no such alternative civilian service in Israel.

The number of imprisoned conscientious objectors is now approximately 7, although numbers fluctuate every day. The total number of objectors imprisoned since the beginning of the intifada has now reached 130.

Appeal Case 1: Ilan Windholtz:  On 26 May, Ilan Windholtz (18) received a third prison sentence for his refusal to enlist as a conscript. This time, he received a 28-day sentence. His release date is 20 June.

Appeal Case 2: Uri Dotan:  On 2 June, Sgt. Maj. Uri Dotan, a student, received a 35-day prison sentence. His release date is on 3 July.

Appeal Case 3: Yosef Sendik:  On 5 June, reservist Capt. Yosef Sendik (38) received a 28-day prison sentence. Yosef Sendik, who works in marketing in Tel Aviv, was previously imprisoned in August 2001 for outright refusal "to serve in an army of occupation". He is to be released on 5 July.

TAKE ACTION Please write to the Israeli authorities describing the cases above, and explaining Amnesty International's position on conscientious objectors. Please call for all conscientious objectors who have been imprisoned to be immediately and unconditionally released.

Please also send letters/e-mails of support to the conscientious objectors through:
- Yesh Gvul, an Israeli group supporting Israeli soldiers who refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories:
- New Profile, Movement for the Civil-ization of Israeli Society, an Israeli peace organisation supporting conscientious objectors:

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
Minister of Defence
Ministry of Defence
37 Kaplan Street
Tel-Aviv 61909,
E-mail: or

Brig. Gen. Menachem Finkelstein
Chief Military Attorney
Military postal code 9605

Update on Shareholder Resolution

Activist groups, mainstream investors and religious groups scored a huge victory in their collective campaign to hold ExxonMobil accountable for promoting human rights and protecting the environment at the company's annual shareholder meeting in Dallas.

The resolution sponsored by Amnesty International USA, urging ExxonMobil to develop human rights policy garnered about 6.8% of the vote.  This translates into approximately 374 million shares representing more than $15 billions in shareholder equity, far in excess of the 3% minimum votes required and guaranteeing that we can reintroduce the resolution in the next two years.
Equally important is that a resolution calling on ExxonMobil to adopt a plan for renewable energy source gathered an impressive 20.3% of the votes, more than double the 8.9% vote for the same resolution last year.  In addition a resolution to amend the company's equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation gathered an incredible 23.5%.  On the whole, it was a great day for shareholder activism at ExxonMobil's AGM as shareholders try to prod the company to do the right thing on human rights, environment and labor rights fronts.

Call on ExxonMobil to publicly disclose exisiting security arrangements with state police, military forces, local militia groups and private security firms that have been hired to protect the company's operations in Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Indonesia.  For more information on this campaign and to take action on environmental defender cases, please visit our website at

Send Greetings to Activists in Israel/OT/Palestinian Authority

Each summer we take time out to send greetings to activists, some imprisoned, others harassed, who receive a boost from knowing that they have supporters from all over the world.  Join us at the letter-writing meeting to send cards to more human rights defenders.  Here are some tips for writing the cards.

* Keep your message simple and personal, such as: "We are thinking of you, and hope you are well."

* Don't mention the political situation or the accusations against any prisoners.

* Picture postcards would be good, but please be sensitive to different cultural and religious mores. Pictures of men or women in revealing swimsuits or references to alcoholic beverages could be offensive.

* International Airmail postage is 70 cents for standard size postcards and 80 cents for one-page letters.

In responding to the escalation of violence in Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Palestinian Authority, Amnesty International has made addressing this crisis a movement-wide priority, mobilizing its membership to help stop the killing. The organization has condemned grave human rights abuses committed by all sides in the conflict. The crisis and Amnesty's response to it have presented AI members in Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Palestinian Authority with challenges to their work. Travel restrictions have severely hampered the work of activists in the Palestinian Authority. The offices of AI Israel have received threatening calls and letters. AI members in Bethlehem have written to AIUSA from homes without water or electricity and surrounded by tanks. AI members in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv tell us they are afraid to take a bus, shop for food or even walk outside. Morale is low, but all of these members consider their connection to the international human rights movement to be a lifeline. As one member put it, "The fact that we all, as members of AI, have a common goal - that is to promote and protect human rights - helps to keep us unified in these times when we could become divided."

Please send messages of support to AI members in the Palestinian Authority and to those in Israel. You can send cards and letters to the address below, and AIUSA will pass them along to the appropriate offices:

AI Members in Israel Israel/Occupied Territories/Palestinian Authority and AI Members in the Palestinian Authority
c/o Amnesty International USA
600 Pennsylvania Avenue S.E.
5th floor
Washington, D.C. 20003

Government Action Network   3
Death Penalty                  9
Urgent Actions:                        3
Total:                         15
Want to add your letters to the total?  Get in touch with

Pre-emptive Action for Texas Juvenile

First an update on the juvenile cases featured in the April and May newsletters.  Napoleon Beazley was executed in Texas on May 28, 2002.  Chris Simmons who was scheduled for execution on June 5 received a stay from the Missouri Supreme Court pending the outcome of the case challenging the execution of the mentally retarded now before the US Supreme Court.  It is believed that if the US Supreme Court rules to abolish the execution of the retarded, the premise for the execution of juveniles will be undermined.  The Texas Supreme Court was presented with the same argument, yet refused to grant a stay.  You are encouraged to write a letter to Governor Perry in Texas protesting the arbitrary nature of this decision and his failure to grant Mr. Beazley even a 30 day reprieve.  The US Supreme Court's decision is expected sometime this month.  This month we have a chance to protest the charging of a another Texas juvenile with the death penalty.

The Smith County District Attorney in eastern Texas is intending to seek a death sentence against William Hodges (m), white, at his forthcoming murder trial. William Hodges was 17 years old at the time of the crime of which he is accused. International law prohibits the imposition of the death penalty against defendants who were under 18 at the time of the crime.

William Hodges has been charged with the rape and murder of 22- year-old Tonya Boaz committed near Lindale, Smith County, on 11 January 2002. Jury selection for his trial was due to begin on 23 May, but was postponed to allow more time for the state laboratory to complete DNA testing. The trial has not yet been rescheduled, but it could begin as early as July.

There is an unequivocal international prohibition on the use of the death penalty against child offenders, people who were under 18 at the time of the crime. The Geneva Conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the American Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty all have provisions exempting this age group from the death penalty. The UN Sub- Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights has affirmed that such use of the death penalty violates customary international law, binding on all countries regardless of which treaties they have or have not ratified. The UN Human Rights Committee, the body established by the ICCPR to monitor that treaty's implementation, has 'deplored' the USA's continuing execution of child offenders, and confirmed that the ICCPR's prohibition on such executions is non-derogable.

Since 1995, 10 child offenders have been executed in the USA, six of them in Texas. In the same period, Amnesty International has documented only seven such executions in the rest of the world combined - three in Iran, two in Pakistan, one in Nigeria, and one in Democratic Republic of Congo. In December 2001, the President of Pakistan announced that he would commute the death sentences of all child offenders on death row in his country. There are some 80 child offenders on death row in the USA, 30 of them in Texas.

The Smith County District Attorney is well aware of this international prohibition. Last year, he was the recipient of Urgent Action appeals in the case of Napoleon Beazley, who was also tried in Smith County (the current District Attorney was one of his prosecutors - see UA 156/01, AMR 51/095/01, 22 June 2001). Napoleon Beazley was executed on 28 May 2002.

Seven Nobel Peace Prize winners were among the thousands of people and organizations who appealed for clemency for Napoleon Beazley.  One of the Nobel laureates was Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. In his six-page letter of 16 May 2002, the Archbishop alluded to the William Hodges case: 'The obstinacy of the Smith County District Attorney, who within the last week, has set about getting the death penalty against a new child offender, is something with which I lament that I am all too familiar. During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in my country, there were members of the apartheid regime who refused to see that the human rights abuses they had committed were wrong or unlawful. The execution of a child offender clearly is such a human rights abuse. I stand assured that the Smith County authorities have been educated on that fact. The Commission was founded on the idea that people have an innate ability to repent and change, and I was astounded by the heartfelt accounts offered by perpetrators of the worst offences of human rights who were seeking amnesty. I hold out hope for the Smith County District Attorney...'.
The United Nations Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors states that not only should prosecutors be made aware of 'human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized by national and international law', but they must also 'respect and protect human dignity and uphold human rights'.

There have been 780 executions in the USA since it resumed judicial killing in 1977. Texas accounts for 271 of these executions.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in your own words, using the guide below:

* expressing sympathy for the family and friends of Tonya Boaz, and explaining that you are neither seeking to excuse the manner of her death nor comment on the innocence or guilt of the accused, William Hodges;

* noting that William Hodges was 17 years old at the time of the crime, and expressing deep concern that the District Attorney is seeking a death sentence in the full knowledge that he is violating international law;

* note that he is also breaching the United Nations Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors by failing to uphold international human rights law;

* noting Archbishop Desmond Tutu's concern about the District Attorney's actions and his hope for change away from this human rights violation;

* urging the District Attorney to drop his pursuit of the death penalty and abide by international law and global standards of justice.

Jack Skeen
Smith County District Attorney
100 North Broadway
Tyler, Texas 75702

Governor Perry
c/o Bill Jones, General Counsel,
PO Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711

Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk
Our group remains committed to work for 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.

The Memorial Day event, co-sponsored by AI Group 22, that featured two Tibetan nuns speaking about their experiences as prisoners in Drapchi Prison (where Pekar is being held) was a great success! It was quite moving to hear the nuns, Chuye Kunsang, age 26, and Passang Lhamo, age 25, tell of the harsh conditions and brutality which they and many others were forced to endure as prisoners of conscience. And in answer to our "big question" in last month's newsletter: Although they never met him, Chuye and Passang said that they had heard Ngawang Pekar's name mentioned while they were at Drapchi! Unfortunately, they could not provide any more specific information about him.

Some good news was recently released by the Tibetan Information Network (TIN) regarding four nuns who belonged to a group of prisoners dubbed the "Drapchi 14." These nuns gained notoriety after they secretly recorded songs on an audiotape, which was smuggled out of Drapchi, in which they expressed their feelings about conditions in prison and conveyed a message of hope over despair. In response to this courageous action, the nuns were subjected to severe beatings and increases in their sentences. Recently, one of these nuns, Ngawang Sangdrol, reportedly had her sentence reduced by one and a half years, and another, Phuntsog Nyidrol, had her sentence reduced by one year after both had "shown signs of repentance." Unfortunately, both Sangdrol and Nyidrol are reportedly in quite poor health as a result of maltreatment. The two other nuns, Tenzin Thubten and Ngawang Choekyi, received early releases for reasons that are unknown at this time. One can only hope that their releases were not due to fatal medical conditions, as it is fairly common practice for the Chinese authorities to release dying prisoners in order to avoid "bad press."
It is imperative that we continue writing to the Chinese authorities in order to keep them aware that there are those in the outside world (particularly Americans) who are concerned about Ngawang Pekar's plight. This month, we ask that you write to the Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Government. Below is a sample letter you can copy or use as a guide in composing your own:

Dear Chairman,
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:
Legchog Zhuren
Xizang Zizhiqu Renmin Zhengfu
1 Kang'angdonglu
Lasashi 850000, Xizang Zizhiqu
People's Republic of China

Human Rights Book Discussion Group
Vroman's Bookstore
(695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena)
Sunday, July 21, 6:30 PM

Note:  If you plan to purchase the book at Vroman's please request it at Will Call. It should be shelved under Amnesty International.
A Journey through the Secret World of America's Illegal Aliens

By Ted Conover
"This is the most objective account of illegal immigration from Mexico I've read, and one reason is that the writer =8A is so subjective. Interviews with 'experts,' ranging from an American labor organizer to a Mexican priest, are there for those who want sociological analysis. But they're interjected naturally and gracefully into Mr. Conover's first-person account of his travels with the migrant workers who start out as the subjects of his book and wind up friends he respects, admires and, in probable violation of United States immigration law, sometimes helps to reach their destinations. Another reason this book is so good is that Mr. Conover has such a true eye for human and topographical detail....There is grace in this book, even more wisdom. What makes it really glow on every page is Mr. Conover's realization that he is dealing neither with a crime nor a tragedy, but with another of those human adventures that make America a country that is constantly renewing itself." T.D. Allman, New York Times Book Review
Read us on line:
Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 /