Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XI Number 10, October 2003


Thursday, October 23, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting 414 S. Holliston, Caltech Y
Lounge. Help us plan future actions for Tibet, the Patriot Act, Just Earth
campaign and more.

Tuesday, November 11, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting at the Athenaeum.
Corner of California & Hill. This informal gathering is a great for
newcomers to get acquainted with Amnesty!

Sunday, November 16, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers Human Rights Book Discussion
Group. Vroman's Book Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.  This month
we discuss A River's Tale: A Year on the Mekong, by Edward Gargan. (More
info below.)

November 1-2 Amnesty International Western Regional Conference the Crowne
Plaza Redondo Beach and Marina.  See below for more information.  Don't miss
this great opportunity!

Save the Date for Doo-Dah!  It's that time of year when Group 22 members
head for the streets to promote the idea that activism is fun!  We have a
new skit this year (see Lucas' column for details) and welcome volunteers
new and old to participate in this year's Doo-Dah parade on Sunday, November
23.  Please plan to attend the rehearsal/planning session on Sunday,
November 9 at 2:00 PM at the Caltech Y.  Contact Lucas at
for more information.


Hi everyone!

I'm filling in for Kathy this month as she's snowed under at work.  The main
thing I want to share with you is our entry for this year's Doo-Dah parade
in Pasadena, which will take place on Sunday, November 23. What is Doo-Dah?
If you are new to the area, the Doo-Dah parade is a Rose Parade parody that
attracts large crowds to Old Town Pasadena.  The entries vary wildly, from
espousing Pug (the dogs) Power to political commentary, from marching toilet
seats to spacecraft from other planets.  For many years, our group has
marched as "Animals for the Ethical Treatment of People", of which some
photos can be seen on our website.

But both masks and theme have become worn out, so this year our theme will
be "Letters to the Rescue", about letter writing on behalf of prisoners of
conscience such as Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. We will do a skit
involving super-sized envelopes marching in synchrony, a dictator, his
henchmen, and their prisoners, who are liberated by bushels of letters flown
in by the "Spirit of Amnesty". We will need at least 20 people, not just for
the skit itself but also to carry banners, hand out leaflets to the crowd,
etc.  A call for volunteers will be sent out soon, but if you are interested
in participating, please contact us at or
There will be a rehearsal / planning meeting on Sunday, November 9th, at the
Caltech Y (our regular monthly meeting site), from 2pm on.  Please try to




Ensure Reconstruction of Prison System

Following 23 years of armed conflict, the criminal justice system in
Afghanistan is not able to protect the rights of the people. Prisons, an
essential component of this system, are crumbling after years of neglect and
lack qualified staff. Prisoners are being held for months in overcrowded
cells, some of them shackled, with inadequate bedding and food. Prisoners
and detainees are not being held in safety; some are suffering ill-treatment
and torture.

Background information. Following 23 years of armed conflict, the criminal
justice system in Afghanistan is not able to protect the rights of the
people. Prisons, an essential component of this system, are crumbling after
years of neglect and lack qualified staff. Prisoners are being held for
months in overcrowded cells, some of them shackled, with inadequate bedding
and food. Prisoners and detainees are not being held in safety; some are
suffering ill-treatment and torture.

Prison staff are struggling to accommodate thousands of people held for long
periods in poor conditions, violating basic international human rights
standards relating to the treatment of detainees. They have received no
training and have not been paid for months.

Amnesty International recognizes that the task of rebuilding prisons across
the country is enormous and challenging. Unlike other key aspects of the
criminal justice system, until March 2003 the prison system had no
international donor taking the lead on its reconstruction. The Afghan
Transitional Administration does not have resources and expertise to
reconstruct a prison system that conforms to international minimum
standards. The international community must provide the essential financial
and technical support and expertise necessary for this vital task.

Take action! Please support Amnesty International's campaign to ensure the
reconstruction of the prison system in Afghanistan. Write a letter to your
government minister responsible for Foreign Affairs or Overseas Development
Aid urging them to ensure that they make a long term commitment to
reconstruction of the prison system in Afghanistan. Ask them to provide
prompt financial and technical assistance for the reconstruction of the
prison system in Afghanistan. Ask them to ensure that all their plans are
coordinated and reflect the need to build a prison system capable of
protecting human rights in line with international standards. Appeals to:

Andrew S. Natsios
U.S. Agency for International Development
Ronald Reagan Building
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20523

The Honorable Colin L. Powell
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20210

Copies to:

Ambassador Ishaq Shahryar
Embassy of Afghanistan
2341 Wyoming Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Sample letter

Dear Sirs:

I am deeply concerned about the lack of resources being put towards the
reconstruction of the prison system and how it falls short in respecting and
protecting human rights in Afghanistan. The lack of resources includes
training, food, water, shelter and rehabilitation. There are no
accountability structures to monitor prison officials and discipline those
that commit human rights violations.

I urge you to ensure that the U.S. government makes a long-term commitment
to the reconstruction of the prison system in Afghanistan, providing
financial and technical support to improve prison conditions and training
for staff to ensure that detainees and prisoners are treated humanely and in
accordance with international human rights standards.

I urge you to build on any commitments the U.S. government has made towards
the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Without essential commitment and support
by the international community, Afghanistan will not be able to protect
prisoners and detainees from human rights violations and build a prison
system with human rights at its core.

Sincerely,  YOUR NAME and ADDRESS


Concern for Bolivian Demonstrators

Amnesty  International   is   seriously   concerned   for  the  safety  of
demonstrators  at  mass protests around the country, following the apparent
use of excessive force by the army and the police. Since 20 September, over
50  people,  including  three  soldiers,  have reportedly  been killed and
several  hundred  have  been injured.  The  majority  of  the victims were
reportedly  shot. On 13 October, up to 14 people were killed in La Paz, and
an undisclosed number were arrested.

Representatives  of   the   Catholic   Church   and the  non-governmental
organization   Asamblea   Permanente  de  Derechos Humanos  (Human  Rights
Permanent  Assembly)  have criticized the use of fire arms and high calibre
weapons by members of the security forces. Amnesty International recognizes
the  duty of the Bolivian authorities to uphold law and order. However, the
organization  condemns  the  use  of  excessive force  and  calls  on  the
authorities to respect demonstrators' right to life in all circumstances.

The demonstrations are  the  largest  series  of  protests against the
administration of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada who has been elected
from   2002   until  2007.  Demonstrations  began  in  the  highlands  area
(Altiplano) in mid-September and have mobilized peasants, trade unionists,
and sectors of civil society in several cities, particularly in the area of
el  Alto,  near  the  capital  La  Paz.  Demonstrators are demanding social
reforms  and  protesting  against the exportation of Bolivia's natural gas.
There  have  been  also been calls for the President's resignation. Cabinet
ministers  have  resigned  and the Vice President Carlos Meza has withdrawn
his support for the government, even though he is still in office.

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

--recognizing the duty of the Bolivian authorities to maintain law and order
but expressing serious concern for the safety of demonstrators at mass
protests around the country, following the apparent use of excessive force
by the security forces;

--calling on the authorities to ensure that the security forces comply with
UN International standards including the 1979 UN Code of Conduct for Law
Enforcement Officials and the 1990 UN Basic Principles on the use of Force
and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials;

--asking for a thorough and independent investigation by ordinary courts
into the deaths of over 50 people who were reportedly killed during
demonstrations, as well as the injuries sustained by hundreds of others who
were reportedly shot;

--asking the authorities to guarantee the safety of those in detention and
for them to be granted access to lawyers, family members, and medical
assistance if necessary;

--calling for the terms of the investigation and its outcome to be made
public and for those found responsible be brought to justice.


Minister of the Presidency, Justice and Human Rights:
Sr. Ministro de la Presidencia e Interino de Justicia y Derechos Humanos
Sr. Guillermo Justiniano
Palacio de Gobierno
Plaza Murillo s/n
Salutation:  Sr. Ministro/Dear Minister

Minister of Foreign Affairs:
Sr. Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto
Sr. Carlos Saavedra Bruno
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto
Plaza Murillo, c Ingavi esq. Junin
Salutation:   Sr. Ministro/Dear Minister


Ambassador Jaime Aparicio
Embassy of the Republic of Bolivia
3014 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington DC 20008


Turkey (Leyla Zana)    18
Death Penalty          13
Urgent Action          21
Postcards               5
Total:                 56
Want to add your letters to the total? Get in touch with


Juvenile Issues in DC Sniper case

At a trial scheduled to begin on 10 November in the Commonwealth of
Virginia, the prosecution is intending to seek a death sentence against Lee
Boyd Malvo for a murder he is alleged to have committed when he was 17 years
old. International law, binding on all countries, prohibits the use of the
death penalty against child offenders - defendants who were under 18 at the
time of the crime.

John Allen Muhammad, aged 42, and Lee Boyd Malvo are charged in 10 sniper
killings that occurred over a three-week period in October 2002 in Virginia,
Maryland and Washington DC. At Lee Malvo's forthcoming trial, the teenager
will be tried for the murder of Linda Franklin who was shot dead in Fairfax
County, Virginia, on 14 October 2002. John Muhammad has not yet been brought
to trial.

Following the arrests of the two suspects, US Attorney General John Ashcroft
announced that he had ordered federal agents to transfer Lee Malvo from
federal custody to the local authorities in Fairfax County, Virginia. He
said that his decision was based on a number of considerations, including
that ''the first prosecutions should occur in those jurisdictions that
provide the best law... and the best range of available penalties''. He
added that it was ''imperative'' that the death penalty be an option.
Neither federal nor Maryland law provides for the death penalty for those
under 18 at the time of the crime, but Virginia law does. Virginia is known
for the relative speed at which it takes capital defendants from conviction
to execution, and has executed three child offenders since 1998.

Lee Malvo's trial, which is expected to last for more than a month, will be
held in the City of Chesapeake after the judge granted a defence motion for
a change of venue from Fairfax County. The charges against Lee Malvo include
murder ''in the commission of an act of terrorism'', and his defence lawyers
argued that under this theory all residents of Fairfax County (from whom the
jury would be selected) were victims in this high-profile crime and would
therefore not be impartial. The judge decided to transfer the trial to a
jurisdiction out of the immediate area where ''many citizens lived in fear
during the month of October 2002 as a result of the crimes with which the
defendant is charged''.

Last month, the judge denied a motion in which the defence sought to have
the death penalty excluded from the case in line with international law. In
an editorial, the Washington Post wrote: ''[W]hatever one thinks of capital
punishment, it ought not be applied to children, whose personalities and
capacities for judgment are not yet fully formed. Government takes on, in
general, a protective role with respect to children... It is an abdication
of that protective role for state governments, even in prosecuting terrible
crimes, to respond to youth crime by seeking execution. To sentence someone
to die for a crime committed as a child, one has to believe that - in the
long natural life the defendant would otherwise have before him - meaningful
change and some measure of redemption are either impossible or unimportant.
There are good reasons why the rest of the world has rejected executions of
children...''. The paper described such use of the death penalty as an
''abhorrent policy''.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION.  The imposition of the death penalty against people
who were under 18 at the time of the crime is prohibited by international
law, and has been roundly condemned by United Nations bodies and experts.
The Geneva Conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, 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 execution. In October 2002, the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights concluded: ''The acceptance of this norm crosses
political and ideological boundaries and efforts to detract from this
standard have been vigorously condemned by members of the international
community... [T]his proscription binds the community of States, including
the United States''.

Since 1990, the USA has executed 19 child offenders, compared to 14 such
executions reported in the rest of the world combined. These 14 occurred in
Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and
Yemen. Yemen and Pakistan have now abolished such use of the death penalty
in law. Iran is reported to be considering such legislation. The USA is
responsible for 13 of the 18 executions of child offenders known to have
been carried out worldwide since January 1998, and for all four of such
executions reported since January 2002. In October 2002, four of the nine US
Supreme Court Justices wrote that the execution of people for crimes
committed when they were under 18 years old was ''a relic of the past and is
inconsistent with evolving standards of decency in a civilized society. We
should put an end to this shameful practice.''

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

-expressing sympathy for the family and friends of Linda Franklin and the
other nine victims of the sniper shootings, explaining that you are not
seeking to minimize the gravity of these crimes or the suffering they have

-expressing deep concern, however, that Fairfax County intends to pursue the
death penalty against Lee Boyd Malvo in the event of his conviction, in
violation of a fundamental principle of international law respected around
the world;

-urging the Commonwealth's Attorney (prosecutor) to offer human rights
leadership and to respect international legal principles by dropping pursuit
of a death sentence in this case, in the interest of the reputation of the
Commonwealth of Virginia and the USA as a whole.


Robert F. Horan
Commonwealth's Attorney
4110 Chain Bridge Road, Room 123
Fairfax, VA 22030

You may also write to: (1) Attorney General Ashcroft, protesting his direct
complicity in this violation of international law, and urging him to use his
influence to stop the death penalty in this case; and (2) Secretary of State
Powell, urging that the State Department oppose this violation of US

 (1) John Ashcroft
Attorney General
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530

 (2) Colin Powell
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520


Human Rights Book Discussion Group
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena
Sunday, November 16, 6:30 PM
The River's Tale:

A Year on the Mekong

by Edward Gargan

>From Tibet to Vietnam, from windswept plateaus to the South China Sea, the
Mekong flows for three thousand miles, snaking its way through Southeast
Asia. Long fascinated with this part of the world, former New York Times
correspondent Edward Gargan recounts his ambitious exploration of the Mekong
and those living within its watershed.

Gargan invested over a year traveling the length of the river, and he gives
us an unforgettable account of his immersions into the unique and varying
cultures lining its banks. He vividly portrays regions shaped by colonial
occupation, brutal wars, and unspeakably corrupt governments. But he also
documents communities courageously moving forward while wrestling with the
past. On dirt streets Internet cafes stand next to thatched huts without
electricity. A thriving tourist industry lays adjacent to Pol Pot's killing
fields. New highrise office buildings tower over the disenfranchised
children of American soldiers. The River's Tale is a seminal examination of
the Mekong and its people, a testament to the their struggles, their defeats
and their victories.


Amnesty International USA
Western Regional Conference
October 31 - November 2, 2003
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Redondo Beach, CA

Keynote Speakers

Loretta Ross
Executive Director
The National Center for Human Rights Education

Carrie Dann
Western Shoshone Defense Project

Paul Hoffman
Chair, International Executive Committee of Amnesty International


-Crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo
-Violence Against Women
-Human Rights and the "War on Terrorism": An International Update
-Organizing in Your Community in Response to the Patriot Act
-Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: Focus on North Korea
-Human Rights in Guatemala and Colombia
-Outfront! Defending the Rights of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and
Transgender People
-Human Rights and Corporate Responsibility
-Human Rights Education: The Fourth R
-Human Rights in West Africa

And many others
Open to the public
Call 310-815-0450 or visit for more


Editor's Last Word:
Read us on line:
Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 /

Amnesty International's mission is to undertake  research and action focused
on preventing and ending grave abuses of the  rights to physical and mental
integrity, freedom of conscience and  expression, and freedom from
discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.