Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News

Volume X Number 3, March 2002


Thursday, March 28, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting 414 S. Holliston, Caltech Y Lounge. Help us plan future actions on Afghanistan, Tibet, the Campaign against Torture and abolition of the death penalty.

Tuesday, April 9, 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, April 28, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers Human Rights Book Discussion Group. Vromans Bookstore (695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena) This month we discuss Three Apples Fell From Heaven by Micheline Ahoranian Marcom. (See below for more information about the book).


This last month was very busy for our group, with a number of events where we publicized Amnesty's work and collected lots of signatures on petitions addressing human rights issues. We co-sponsored two events at Caltech: one for Women's Day with speakers from Afghanistan, East Timor and Guatemala, and one on the International Criminal Court. Thanks to Lucas for coordinating our co-sponsorship of these events, in addition to his usual responsibilities of taking care of our letter-writing and electronic media. Also, we had an opportunity to table at All Saints Church in Pasadena, thanks to Martha, who edits our newsletter and coordinates our work toward abolishing the death penalty.

Finally, the Environmental Education Fair at the L.A. County Arboretum was a wonderful opportunity to reach educators and children, and publicize the "Just Earth" program, a historic partnership between Amnesty and the Sierra Club to defend environmental activists around the world. A highlight of our tabling there was a letter to Mexican President Fox urging him to protect threatened environmental activists, on a huge sheet of paper colorfully signed and decorated by dozens of enthusiastic children. Thanks to Joyce for organizing our participation in this event, which is turning into a yearly tradition for us. And thanks to group members Howard, Ike, Kathy, Robert, Saskia (with Killian), Wen, Yuny and Yvonne, for helping in the events!

Our group has a long-term commitment to working to free Tibetan monk Ngawang Pekar, imprisoned by the Chinese authorities in Lhasa. Thanks to Joyce and Robert for coordinating our work on this case. We're looking forward to a visit in late May by two Tibetan nuns who suffered imprisonment in the same Lhasa prison. Stay tuned for more details! Meanwhile, be sure to write to Representative Schiff to support the Tibetan Policy Act (see the action in the newsletter) -- and while you're at it, please send him another letter (separately, for more impact) asking him to support a professor unfairly imprisoned in Ethiopia. It's very important to keep reminding our elected officials of our commitment to human rights around the world.

I look forward to seeing you in our monthly meeting next Thursday evening (March 28)!


Larry Romans           818-354-5809

Group Coordinator

The Challenge For Human Rights

Seattle, Washington, April 19-21

It’s not too late for Seattle! This year's Annual General Meeting will take place in Seattle, Washington, the site of the now-symbolic protests against the World Trade Organization. Amnesty International members and activists from across the country will come together to discuss creative strategies for confronting today's most pressing human rights challenges.

The Annual General Meeting is an exciting weekend with policy discussions for AIUSA members, organizational strategic planning sessions, activist and youth leadership meetings, networking sessions and special gatherings.  For more information or to register on line, please visit the AIUSA website: Or call to request a brochure: 310-815-0450.

Questions about Group 22? Please contact Larry Romans, Group Coordinator at 818-354-5809/


Support Human Rights in Election Aftermath

Violence, intimidation, and corruption have marred Zimbabwe's recent presidential election in which Robert Mugabe has claimed victory. Please email South Africa's Ambassador to urge her to intervene in the crisis and to implore Zimbabwe to respect the rule of law and to end the political violence.

Ambassador Sheila Sisulu

Embassy of South Africa

3051 Massachusetts Ave NW

Washington, DC 20008

Dear Ambassador Sisulu

I am writing to express my deep concern over the numerous reports of human rights violations in Zimbabwe in connection with the recent presidential election. The human rights situation remains in crisis and is likely to worsen.  I urge the Government of South Africa to acknowledge the crucial role it can and must play in attempting to avert a human rights disaster in Zimabwe.

Through bilateral and multilateral engagement with Zimbabwe, your government, alone and through the South Africa Development Community can apply pressure on the Zimbabwean government to end violations of human rights.  Given the numerous human rights violations documented to date in Zimbabwe, I fear that human rights violations will only escalate following the elections, unless the Government of South Africa takes all steps possible to forge a peaceful resolution to this crisis.




Attorney access, ability to challenge detention, overuse of solitary confinement, heavy shackling, among points of concern

"I have now been in solitary confinement for three-and-a-half months and by the time of the next hearing I will have been here for four months. . . . Why am I imprisoned? Why in solitary confinement? And why under maximum security measures? I have many questions and no answers. What are they accusing me of? Nobody knows."

-- Letter from detainee held at Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn

(New York) -- Six months after the September 11th attacks, a significant number of the approximately 1,200 non-US nationals originally detained in the aftermath of the tragedy continue to be deprived of their human rights in violation of international law and the Immigration and Naturalization Service's own standards, Amnesty International said in a report released today. The human rights organization's latest report is based on information about more than 200 cases compiled through interviews with attorneys, detainees and their relatives and a review of documents and other reports.

While the detentions have been surrounded by extreme secrecy, the organization's research confirms that basic rights have been violated, including: the right to humane treatment; to be informed of reasons for detention; to have prompt access to a lawyer; to be able to challenge the lawfulness of the detention, and to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. These rights are important safeguards against arbitrary detention. Amnesty International has received reports of cruel treatment, including: prolonged solitary confinement; heavy shackling of detainees during visits or when they are taken to court; and lack of adequate exercise.

"The government's treatment of these individuals is simply unacceptable and is a violation of international law," William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), said at a press conference to release the report, Amnesty International Concerns Regarding Post September 11 Detentions in the USA. "Ironically enough, their treatment is in many instances a violation of the standards set by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service itself. "

Amnesty International has examined documents showing that scores of people arrested in the wake of September 11th were held for more than 48 hours -- 36 were held for a month or more and one man for nearly four months -- without being charged with a violation. An "interim rule" introduced shortly after September 11th allows the INS to hold people for up to 48 hours without charge or for a further undefined period "in an emergency, or in other extraordinary circumstances."

Amnesty International also has received disturbing reports of people being held well beyond the dates posted for voluntary departure, deportation to their home countries, or after bail had been set and was ready to be met. Some 300 men -- mainly from Muslim or Middle Eastern countries -- are believed to remain in INS detention, and an unknown number have been deported or released on bail.

The many egregious examples highlighted in the report include:

Š             Rabih Haddad, a Lebanese national, charged with overstaying his tourist visa, who has been held in solitary confinement since December 14 in Chicago's Metropolitan Correctional Center. According to his letters from prison, his cell windows are whited out so he has no view; he is handcuffed while being escorted to showers 10 steps from his cell; and he is allowed only one 15-minute call to his family every 30 days.

Š             A Mauritanian national was still detained more than four months after the date he agreed to "voluntary departure" when Amnesty International interviewed him in February. He had reportedly applied for an extension of his visa. On October 11, while his extension was pending, he was arrested and held on a visa overstay violation. He was granted a voluntary departure at the end of October and his attorney's office supplied the plane ticket home.

Š             The wife of a detainee held in solitary confinement at Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) since September was permitted to visit him for the first time only on December 19 and, as of late February, had only been permitted to visit him once more. In February, Amnesty International received reports that his visiting rights were suspended for 60 days as punishment for failing to stand up when a guard came into his cell during prayer.

"The harshly punitive conditions in which these detainees are held appear excessive, considering that many of them have been charged with routine visa violations for which they would not normally be detained," Dr. Schulz said. "We certainly recognize our government's obligation to take all necessary measures to protect its citizens from potential security threats. However, we are concerned that many of these people are being held on flimsy evidence, pending broad criminal probes, without due safeguards."

Amnesty International is calling for a full inquiry into conditions at the federal MDC, where some 40 detainees, many held for routine visa violations, are reportedly confined to sealed, usually solitary cells for 23 hours or more a day and subjected to other deprivations. Federal authorities denied Amnesty International's request to visit this facility. Amnesty researchers were given access to detainees at the Hudson County Correctional Facility and Passaic County Jail in New Jersey.

The organization also is urging the authorities to release detailed information on all detentions as requested under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by Amnesty International and other human rights groups and to ensure that all those arrested or detained are treated humanely and provided with their rights under international law and that individuals are not deported to a country where they would be at risk of serious human rights abuses.

Amnesty International's report updates a memorandum sent to the US Government in November 2001: Memorandum to the US Attorney General - AI's Concerns relating to the post 11 September investigations. Both reports are available on


Protest Targeting of Ambulances
 by Israeli Military

Note that this action is designed for health professionals. We know some of you out there fit this category, so please flash your credentials! If you aren’t, you can still express your concern to Israeli government officals.

Since the recent upsurge of violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories, there has been a major increase in deaths of Palestinians as a result of Israeli military action, including deaths of health personnel and those seeking medical care. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have fired on vehicles trying to reach hospitals causing deaths and injuries, and doctors and other health workers have been killed by army gunfire while travelling in ambulances, in breach of international humanitarian standards. Further obstacles have also been placed in the way of Palestinian patients travelling to hospitals with delays at roadblocks or refusal of passage being imposed by Israeli soldiers. Amnesty International is calling urgently for the Israeli authorities to respect medical neutrality as set out in the Geneva Conventions of August 1949 and the 1977 Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions. Amnesty International is urging health professional bodies to protest at these breaches and to reaffirm principles of both humanitarian law and medical ethics in the current conflict.

Please write letters on professional letterhead paper to the government members listed below

Letters to the Israel Government:

Š             introducing yourself as a concerned health professional with an impartial interest in human rights

Š             expressing profound disquiet at the recent upsurge of killings in Israel and the Occupied Territories and the growing toll of deaths and injuries

Š             expressing serious concern about the closures and curfews in Palestinian areas and the restrictive travel limits imposed at Israeli checkpoints which have all prevented Palestinians from obtaining medical care

Š             expressing alarm at Israeli Defence Force (IDF) attacks on health workers and ambulances

Š             urging the Government to instruct the IDF to respect medical premises, vehicles and personnel

Š             urging the Government to carry out investigations into the circumstances surrounding the killing of civilians and targeting of ambulances

Letters to the Israeli Medical Association

Š             introducing yourself as a concerned health professional with an impartial interest in human rights

Š             expressing deep concern about the effect of current Israeli military action on health services and on the impeded access of Palestinians to health care in Israel and the Occupied Territories

Š             noting your serious concerns about attacks on Palestinian ambulances and medical personnel

Š             urging the Association to use its good offices to press the government to protect medical personnel and to ensure that those seeking medical care have unrestricted access to clinics and hospitals

Š             urging the Association to reaffirm the vital importance of maintaining respect for international humanitarian law and medical ethics


Prime Minister

Ariel Sharon

Prime Minister and Minister of Defence

Office of the Prime Minister

3 Kaplan Street, Hakirya, Jerusalem 91007



Military Commander of the Central Division

Major-General Itzak Etan

Israeli Defence Forces

Gaza Strip, Military Post 01105

Erez Check Point



Military Commander of the Southern Division

Major-General Doron Almog

Israeli Defence Forces

West Bank, Central Area Command

64 Israeli Defence Forces

Military Post 01149, Israel


Israel Medical Association

Dr Yoram Blachar


Israel Medical Association

2 Twin Towers, 35 Jabotinsky St.

P.O.B. 3566, Ramat-Gan 52136




Minister of Health

Nissim Dahan

Minister of Health

Ministry of Health

2 Ben Taibai Street

PO Box 1176

Jerusalem 91010



Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk

Regular readers of this newsletter know that for some years Group 22 has worked in behalf of our adopted POC Ngawang Pekar. He is a Tibetan monk imprisoned since his arrest in 1989 for participating in a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa.

If you want to learn more about the infamous Drapchi Prison where Pekar is held and about human rights in Tibet, please plan to stay in town over Memorial Day weekend to hear two young Tibetan nuns, Chuye Kunsang and Passang Lhamo, tell of their experiences in Drapchi Prison. Watch the April and May newsletters for information on this event. A Swedish site has a nice photo of the nuns.

On March 7 the House International Relations Committee held a hearing titled "U.S. Policy Considerations in Tibet". Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky, Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, reported on the current situation. The fact that she was selected to accompany President Bush on his recent trip to Beijing signals China that the U.S. considers Tibetan issues very important. Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, special envoy from the Dalai Lama, also testified, as did actor Richard Gere. A full report is available at

This hearing may indicate that the Committee is ready to act on Tibetan Policy Act of 2001, Section 12 of which urges the "release of all those held prisoner for expressing their religious or political views in Tibet". So this month we ask you to write again to Rep. Schiff, who is a member of the International Relations Committee and also belongs to the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights. Here is a sample letter you can copy or use as a guide:

Dear Representative Schiff,

I urge you to give your support to H.R.1779, the Tibetan Policy Act of 2001.

Section 12 of this bill would have the U.S. request China for the immediate and unconditional release of all those held prisoner for expressing their political or religious views in Tibet. It would also have the U.S. seek access for international humanitarian organizations to prisoners in Tibet to ensure that prisoners are not being mistreated and are receiving necessary medical care. NGAWANG PEKAR is a Tibetan monk held in Tibet Autonomous Region Prison No. 1. He 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. I am deeply concerned about reports that he has been beaten and denied access to medical care since his arrest. Passage of H.R.1779 would be of great help to Ngawang Pekar and other Tibetan prisoners of conscience.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.



You can mail your letter to

The Honorable Adam B. Schiff

437 Cannon HOB

Washington D.C. 20515

For email or other contact, visit

Help Free Ethiopian Teacher/ Union Leader

Authorities in Ethiopia have thrown Dr. Taye Wolde-Semayat into prison. The former President of the Ethiopian Teacher's Association and former university professor of political science was sentenced by Ethiopian authorities to 15 years in prison following a trial in 1999 that breached international standards for fair trials. Prosecutors based much of their case on evidence of witnesses who later retracted their testimony, saying their statements had been extracted under torture. He has been in jail ever since. Please send an email to your Representative asking him or her to sign a letter on behalf of Dr. Taye.  Sample letter follows:

The Honorable Adam B. Schiff

437 Cannon HOB

Washington D.C. 20515

Dear Representative Schiff,

I am writing to express my deep concern for Dr. Taye Wolde-Semayat of Ethiopia.  Dr. Taye, a professor of political science who studied in the United States, was the leader of the Ethiopian Teacher's Association, Ethiopia's largest labor union, until Ethiopian authorities arrested him in 1996. He has been in jail ever since.

Although prosecutors charged Dr. Taye with conspiracy against the state, Amnesty International believes that the true reason for his imprisonment was his criticism of government policies and his legitimate union activities.  He was sentenced to 15 years in prison following a trial that breached international standards for fair trials.  Prosecutors based much of their case on evidence of witnesses who later retracted their testimony, saying their statements had been extracted under torture.  As president of the Ethiopian Teacher's Association, Dr. Taye was an outspoken advocate for teachers, calling for better working conditions and a unified educational system. 

I urge you to please join Representative Mark Kirk in calling upon Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to bring about the immediate and unconditional release of Dr. Taye Wolde-Semayat.  I would appreciate your letting me know how you intend to address this case.





Prisoner of Conscience Ngawang Pekar            2

Campaign Against Torture                                          5

OutFront Egypt 23                                                               16

Government Action Network                                     4

Just Earth Network                                                             5

Urgent Actions:                                                                      3


Total:                                                                                              32


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


Passover Action: Send a card to Grigory Pasko

Grigory Pasko is a journalist and environmental defender who is serving a four-year prison sentence for exposing the dumping of radioactive waste by the Russian Navy. As we explained last month, his case has recently received a favorable review in court, however he remains in prison.  This month we are sending him notes of encouragement:.

Please send cards of support to:

690106 Russian Federation

g. Vladivostok

Partizanskiy Prospekt 28 b

Sizo IZ 25/1

Grigoriyu Pasko


Tips for Sending Cards

Š             Please keep your messages simple, such as: "We are thinking of you."

Š             Because prisoners hold diverse religious beliefs, greeting cards of a general, non-religious nature would be appropriate.

Š             Do not mention the political situation in the country or the accusations against the prisoners.

Š             International Airmail postage currently is 80 cents for most greetings cards or one-page letters.

This action is part of the Passover action sponsored by Amnesty’s Interfaith Action Network. The holiday of Passover commemorates the emancipation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. With its emphasis on freedom from oppression, this ancient holiday finds modern-day parallels in the work of Amnesty International. Here are two more:

Chinese women's rights activist Rebiya Kadeer was arrested in 1999 while on her way to meet U.S. Congressional staff members. She was sentenced to eight years in prison for “providing secret information to foreigners.” Amnesty International considers her a prisoner of conscience and is concerned about her deteriorating health.

Please send cards of support to:

Rebiya Kadeer

c/o Baijiahu Prison


Baijiahu Jianyu

Wulumuqishi 830000

Xinjiang Weiwuer Zizhiqu


Leyla Zana was the first woman ever elected to the Turkish Parliament. Following an unfair trial, she and three other parliamentarians – Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan, and Selim Sadak – were convicted in 1994 of being members of an illegal opposition group and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Please send cards of support to Leyla Zana and her colleagues:

[prisoner’s name]

Ankara Merkez Kapali Cezaevi




Protest Execution of Saudi Gays

On January 1, 2002, 'Ali bin Hittan bin Sa'id, Muhammad bin Suleyman bin Muhammad and Muhammad bin Khalil bin 'Abdullah, all Saudi Arabian nationals, were executed in Abha, Asir province, possibly solely for their sexual orientation. The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior issued a statement announcing that the three were convicted of homosexual acts, adding vaguely-worded charges of "luring children and harming others" without providing any further details. The trial proceedings of the three men remain shrouded in secrecy. Please write to the King of Saudi Arabia to protest these executions.

Please send express/airmail letters:

Š             expressing concern that the three men named above may have been executed primarily because of their sexual orientation and seeking urgent clarification of the exact charges and evidence brought against them, together with information on their trial proceedings;

Š             seeking urgent clarification of the names of any prisoners under sentence of death due to their sexual orientation and calling for the commutation of their sentences;

Š             expressing dismay at the continued use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, and calling for a moratorium on executions as called for by the United Nations;

Š             and urging that international standards for capital trials are strictly observed.

Send appeals to:


King and Prime Minister,

The Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines

His Majesty King Fahd bin 'Abdul 'Aziz Al-Saud

Office of H.M. The King

Royal Court, Riyadh

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Salutation: Your Majesty.


His Royal Highness Prince Naif bin 'Abdul 'Aziz

Minister of the Interior

Ministry of the Interior

P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road

Riyadh 11134

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Salutation: Your Royal Highness


His Excellency Dr. 'Abdullah bin

Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al-Sheikh

Minister of Justice

Ministry of Justice

University Street, Riyadh 11137

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Salutation: Your Excellency


Send copies to:

Prince Bandar Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz

Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi

Arabia to the U.S.

Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia

601 New Hampshire Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20037

Tel: (202) 337-4076/4134


National Week of Student Action
Focuses on Death Penalty

This April Amnesty high school and university groups across the US will participate in the annual National Week of Student Action.  Each year students work to bring attention on their campuses to a pressing human rights issue.  This year the campaign focuses on the death penalty.  You can take part by visiting the AIUSA web page:

You will find actions on Russia, the US Innocence Protection Act, and a wealth of educational materials for browsing of download including a comic book!

Have you signed the petition for a
California Moratorium?

NWSA students will also be collecting signatures for Californians for a Moratorium on Executions.  You can sign the petition on line at:

What is a moratorium on executions?

A moratorium is a "time out" on executing prisoners. Californians for a Moratorium on Executions (CME) is asking Governor Davis to suspend all executions at least until a study of the racial, economic, and geographic disparities in California's death penalty can be completed.

A moratorium is about the fundamental principles of the United States: due process, the right to a fair trial, and justice. The first moratorium in the U.S. in recent years was implemented by Governor Ryan of Illinois in January, 2000 after the 13th innocent individual walked off of death row in his state. The purpose of the moratorium and the study is to avoid precisely this type of error, and to examine the inconsistencies in who gets sentenced to death and who lives.

Who supports a moratorium?

73% of Californians in a recent poll favored a moratorium on executions while the reliability and fairness of the death penalty are studied.

Over 175 organizations, representing religious groups, human rights and social justice organizations, labor unions, civil rights advocates, the legal community, major newspapers, and more have passed resolutions calling on Governor Davis to suspend executions.

Not everyone who supports the moratorium is against the death penalty - some believe simply that there are strong reasons to further examine the fairness of the death penalty, to avoid the execution of innocent persons and to study the discrimination based on race, place, and poverty.

Locally, the city and county of San Francisco, Santa Clara County, and the cities of Menlo Park, Oakland, West Hollywood, Santa Cruz, and Berkeley have also passed moratorium resolutions.

To date, over 40,000 Californians have signed the moratorium petition, and over 3.2 million people have done so worldwide.

Internationally, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the European Union, the European Parliament, and the African Commission on Human and People's Rights have all called for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

Why should I support a moratorium on executions?

People in the United States pride themselves on fairness, and study after study has shown the death penalty to be grossly unfair. 99 people nationwide have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence, some coming within hours of their execution.

Right now, race, place, and poverty are the determining factors in who lives and who dies when it comes to California's death penalty. Executions should be suspended so we can study the system thoroughly.

There are alternatives. Existing law in California provides for life without the possibility of parole, under which no offender has ever been released, except for one man who was determined to be innocent. Several human rights and religious organizations advocate other alternatives that include life sentences combined with restitution to the victim's family and victim/offender reconciliation programs.

Over 607 people are on death row in California.

How long would the moratorium last?

At least until the study can be completed, which examines the racial, economic, and geographic disparities in the application of California's death penalty.

After the study, a Senate commission will review the findings and consider appropriate legislation, including the abolition of the death penalty. Many of the groups, organizations, and individuals involved in CME (including Amnesty) strongly believe that a moratorium should lead to the abolition of the death penalty, as they feel the system is broken and it cannot be fixed.


Human Rights Book Discussion Group


Vromans 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.

"The fierce beauty of her prose both confronts readers with many breathtaking cruelties and carries us past them...But the novel is much more than a catalog of horrors, however brilliantly described. It is also about love and tenderness, the pleasures of custom and ritual, the moments of unexpected generosity and courage and, above all, the necessity of remembering-oneself, one's family, one's language, one's history." --Margot Livesey, The New York Times Book Review


Editor's Last Word:

Read us on line:

Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 /






















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