Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XII Number 7, July 2004


Thursday, July 22, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting 414 S. Holliston, Caltech Y
Lounge. Help us plan future actions on the Patriot Act, Campaign Against
Discrimination, death penalty, environmental justice and more.

Tuesday, August 10, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting at the Athenaeum. Corner
of California & Hill. Please note that in the summer, the basement area
where we usually meet is closed.  Look for us on the lawn or check with the
receptionist. This informal gathering is a great for newcomers to get
acquainted with Amnesty!

Sunday, August 15, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers Human Rights Book Discussion
Group. Vroman's Book Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.  This month
we discuss John Burdett's Bangkok 8. (More info below.)


Hi all,

Hope you are enjoying the summer and keeping cool.

Lucas Kamp and Phil Lefcourt, group 2 members who are involved with the
coalition for civil liberties report that there will finally(!) be a meeting
of the Pasadena city council to vote on the resolution opposing the Patriot
Act. it will be Monday July 19th 8 PM at the Pasadena senior center Raymond
and Holly. Pasadena residents are encouraged to come. call the city council
at 626-744-4311 to double check room number and time. if you are a Pasadena
resident, also please email or phone your councilperson. for contact info,
go to  .
Unfortunately, the US Congress  did not pass the "Freedom to Read Protection
Act" which would have amended the patriot act to prohibit the government
from searching or seizing a patron's records from a bookseller or library.
Amnesty and Group 22 will continue to campaign with locally and nationally
on Patriot Act related human rights concerns.

Group 22 is starting a lending library of the books we have read in the
rights readers human rights book discussion group. i have obtained a list of
all the books our group has read (it is on the group 22 website at:;home.html . ).  I have sent it out to the
regular attendees of the book group to see which titles they would be able
to loan out.  Once we have this info, then i will send the list of books
available to check out to the group 22 list-serve.

It looks like Guantanamo detainees will get their day in court. The US
Supreme court recently ruled that the detainees are entitled to legal due
process and have their "enemy combatant" status reviewed by the military.
Amnesty has concerns about this process and has called for an independent
inquiry to investigate the "war on terror" detention policies, practices and

Don't miss our monthly meetings as we are planning some interesting
things-including bringing back "movie night" (popcorn and other refreshments

I am almost finished reading Blood Diamonds by Greg Campbell, a fascinating
and gory (warning!) tale of "conflict diamonds" (obtained and sold illegally
to finance brutal wars and killers), full of colorful and chillingly evil
characters. Last year, we sent postcards to Senators Feinstein and Boxer in
support of the "Clean Diamonds Act" and it was great to get the background
on this on-going campaign.  If you missed our conflict diamond discussion
July 18, then please join us next month when we take our August break to
read something a little more light, John Burdett's thriller Bangkok 8.

Take care,


Urge US Government to Stop Arms Trade

In the last decade, over 5 million people were killed using conventional
weapons, many of them civilians and many killed by illicit arms. The absence
of effective international and national controls of arms transfers has led
to countless atrocities and human rights abuses around the world. Amnesty
International urges the US government to take action to establish effective
mechanisms for the legal and transparent transfer of arms, and to prevent
weapons from getting into the wrong hands.


The uncontrolled proliferation and misuse of arms takes a massive human toll
in lost lives and lost livelihoods. An average of US $22 billion a year is
spent on arms by countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America -- a
sum that would otherwise allow them to meet development goals such as
reducing infant and maternal mortality. From Cote d'Ivoire to Cambodia to
Colombia, hundreds of thousands of people are unlawfully killed or maimed
each year by conventional weapons. In situations marred by conflict, the
availability of arms often leads to an escalation in levels of violence. In
2002, there were over 40 areas of sustained conflict involving armed
violence around the world. In virtually all of these conflicts, the forces
involved were responsible for abusing international human rights and
humanitarian law.

The escalation of abuses attributed to the availability of arms is not
solely limited to situations of conflict. In post-conflict cultures and even
in peaceful areas, weapons contribute to violence. As weapon availability
increases in an area, so does armed criminality. Armed groups are also often
intimately linked with drug trafficking. Arms often reinforce male sexual
and domestic violence against women. As a gun-based culture becomes
prevalent, in countries like Kenya, boys drop out of school to become
warriors. An estimated 300,000 children worldwide have been forced or have
chosen to relinquish their childhood and work as soldiers in armed conflict;
thousands more belong to criminal armed gangs.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the illegal arms trade generates
widespread corruption and bribes. Since the terrorist attacks of September
11th 2001, many provisions regulating the availability of arms have been
relaxed as countries seek to arm their allies. The US has significantly
increased military aid to many countries including some that have committed
grave human rights abuses and are thus identified by the State Department as
having a "poor" human rights record. Weapons in too many hands increases
violence, yet weapons in the wrong hands poses an even greater risk to
civilians as these weapons are frequently used to commit human rights

The US has a dominant role in the global transmission of arms. From 1998 to
2001, the US, the UK, and France had earned more income from arms sales to
developing countries than they had given in aid. The five permanent members
of the United Nations Security Council -- USA, UK, France, Russia, and China
-- are responsible for 88% of reported conventional arms exports. These
countries that are profiting most from weapons transfers must also play a
significant role in insuring that arms are exported and handled responsibly.

Currently there are no binding international laws to control arms, leaving
the responsibility to national governments. With this system, even in a
situation where a nation refuses to arm a country with a history of arms
abuse, there is little to prevent another supplier from doing so. More and
more countries are beginning to produce small arms, many with little ability
or will to regulate their use. Where national law governs arms trade, its
efficacy is weakened by practices such as brokering by a third party or the
licensing of arms technology to another country for production there.
Governments are also often lax in determining the actual end use of guns, as
the end-use certificate process is easily circumvented.

Amnesty International recognizes the legitimacy of states to purchase
weapons for the defense of their citizens and their territorial integrity.
However, this legitimacy has been grossly abused by states that have used
arms supposedly acquired for legitimate ends to commit human rights abuses,
including war crimes. Amnesty International believes that the vicious circle
of arms transfers, conflict and human rights abuse is a global problem that
needs a global solution, in which both supply and demand are addressed.

DRC: An Example of Arms Out of Control

The ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) provides
one example of the devastating consequences of proliferation and misuse of
arms. More than three million people have died during the past five years of
war in the DRC. At least 50,000 people have died in the Ituri region where
rival armed groups fight to control abundant natural resources, including
diamonds, coltan, gold, copper, cobalt and timber. The revenue from these
resources fuels an uncontrolled flow of arms into the region. Combatants
have used these weapons to commit grave violations of human rights,
including mass killings of unarmed combatants, the use of large number of
child soldiers, kidnapping, and the routine use of rape as a method of

Despite these atrocities, many countries, especially neighboring Rwanda and
Uganda have continued to supply arms to the DRC, adding to the already
sizeable quantities left over from previous conflicts. These countries have
contributed to the devastation of the conflict by continuing to supply arms
to insurgent groups, using ethnic and political conflict as a smokescreen
for their continued exploitation of the natural resources. This uncontrolled
flow of arms has enabled the Ituri conflict to expand into a devastating war
in a place that had previously known conflict using only traditional
weapons. Although a peace agreement has been signed and a transitional
government is being established in Ituri, conflict may continue as long as
the international community and, in particular, neighboring countries
continue to contribute to a tense situation with the arms necessary for
violent conflict.

The trade in arms which fuels the tragic conflict in the Democratic Republic
of Congo highlights the deficiencies in controls over the unchecked transfer
of arms worldwide. Amnesty International is greatly concerned by the
continuous flow of arms into conflict territories used by the warring
parties to commit grave violations of international human rights and
humanitarian law. The unchecked flow of arms, both into areas of conflict
and peaceful regions, contributes to increased violence and abuses. There i s
a need for binding international arms regulation to ensure that arms are
used responsibly, with respect to the rights and lives of the international

For more information on the illegal arms trade see Shattered Lives: the Case
for Tough International Arms Control, a report by Amnesty International and

Sample Letter

The Honorable [Your Senator's Name]
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator ________________ :

I am deeply concerned by the unregulated proliferation of arms, which has
contributed to devastating atrocities around the world. Often these arms
flow to countries and armed groups who use them for torture, repression, and
crimes against humanity. It is estimated that arms kill approximately 1,300
people across the globe each day -- a total of half a million per year or
almost one life per minute. I urge the United States government to examine
the dangers and human rights impact of the unregulated or illicit transfer
of weapons and to take steps to end such abuses.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is an example of how lax and at
times non-existent regulation to conventional arms transfers have a
devastating impact on human rights. Over three million people have died in
the DRC since 1998 as a result of the misuse of these weapons. The abundance
of arms is impelled by the exploitation of natural resources such as timber,
coltan, diamonds, gold, and cobalt. These arms fuel violent conflicts
between warring factions, which have resulted in gross and widespread
violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Abuses
include mass killings, the widespread use of child soldiers, rape as a
method of torture, the use of landmines, and kidnappings.

Some of the arms used to commit such atrocities in the DRC are reported to
have been manufactured in the Belgium, China, France, Germany, Israel,
Spain, the UK, and the United States. Some of these weapons were supplied
directly to the belligerents and some may have been transported prior to the
current conflict. Regardless, the long life span of such weapons means that
they continue to be responsible for current abuses.

The US government must improve its capacity to control its own arms
transfers in order to further protect US citizens and those of other nations
from armed violence. Further, the US must cooperate with other nations to
develop guidelines to insure that all proposed arms deals -- including those
brokered by a third party -- undergo strict and transparent licensing
procedures, and that all arms manufacturers and brokers register with their
country of citizenship or residence.

The United States has an important role to play in ensuring that no arms
transfers are made to states where these items may be used to commit human
rights abuses. The millions who have been maimed or killed in the DRC are
but one example of the deleterious effects of the unregulated flow of arms
around the world.

The US Senate has an obligation to play its part in halting this trade. I
ask you to urge the Bush Administration to examine the human rights impact
of the widespread misuse of weapons, improve enforcement of existing
controls, and take steps to end the unregulated arms trade.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and I look forward to your

Sincerely,  YOUR NAME and ADDRESS


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

Human Rights Book Discussion Group
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena
Sunday, August 15, 6:30 PM

Bangkok 8

by John Burdett

Under a Bangkok bridge, inside a bolted-shut Mercedes: a murder by snake, a
charismatic African American Marine sergeant killed by a
methamphetamine-stoked python and a swarm of stoned cobras. Two cops, the
only two in the city not on the take, arrive too late. Minutes later, only
one is alive: Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a devout Buddhist, equally versed in the
sacred and the profane, son of a long-gone Vietnam War G.I. and a Thai bar
girl whose subsequent international clientele contributed richly to
Sonchai's sophistication.

Now, his partner dead, Sonchai is doubly compelled to find the murderer, to
maneuver through the world he knows all too well, illicit drugs,
prostitution, infinite corruption, and into a realm he has never before
encountered: the moneyed underbelly of the city.  Thick with the authentic,
and hallucinogenic, atmosphere of Bangkok, crowded with astonishing
characters, uniquely smart and skeptical, literary and wildly readable,
Bangkok 8 is one of a kind.

"Bangkok 8 is one of the most startling and provocative mysteries that I've
read in years. The characters are marvelously unique, the setting is
intoxicating and the plot unwinds in dark illusory strands, reminiscent of
Gorky Park. Once I started, I didn't want to put it down." --Carl Hiaasen

Juvenile faces capital trial in Texas

At a trial about to begin in Harris County, Texas, the prosecution is
intending to seek a death sentence against Robert Acuna for a crime he is
alleged to have committed when he was 17 years old.

International law, recognized by almost every government in the world,
prohibits the use of the death penalty against those who were under 18 at
the time of the crime.

Robert Acuna is charged with the murder of Joyce Carroll and her husband
James Carroll, aged 74 and 75 respectively. Both were shot dead in their
home in Baytown, near Houston, on 12 November 2003.

Jury selection for Robert Acuna's trial began this week. The trial proper is
scheduled to begin on 2 August 2004. The lead prosecutor is Assistant
District Attorney Renee McGee. Her co-prosecutor is Assistant District
Attorney Vic Wisner. The District Attorney of Harris County is Charles A.

The United Nations Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors requires, among
other things, that prosecutors "be made aware of...human rights and
fundamental freedoms recognized by national and international law". The
Guidelines state that prosecutors must "respect and protect human dignity
and uphold human rights" in performing their duties.


Recognizing that the immaturity of young people and their capacity for
growth and change renders the death penalty a singularly inappropriate
punishment in such cases, international law bans the execution of child
offenders, people who were under 18 at the time of the crime. The Geneva
Conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the
Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified by 192 countries), 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. The Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights has found that the prohibition on the execution
of anyone who was under 18 years old at the time of the crime is now a
peremptory norm of international law (a jus cogens norm), from which no
country can exempt itself.

Since 1990, Amnesty International has documented 36 executions of child
offenders in eight countries -- the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Iran,
Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the USA, China and Yemen. The USA carried
out 19 of the executions, more than all other countries combined. It is the
only country which claims for itself the right to carry out such executions
in its normal criminal justice system. The DRC has abolished the special
military courts which led to the execution of a child offender in 2000;
Yemen, Pakistan and China have abolished the death penalty against child
offenders (although there are some residual problems in enforcing the law in
the latter two countries); Saudi Arabia and Nigeria now deny such use of the
death penalty; and Iran appears to be in the process of abolishing the death
penalty for under-18-year-olds.

Nineteen of the 38 death penalty states in the USA set 18 (at the time of
the crime) as the minimum age for death penalty eligibility, and another 12
states are abolitionist. Thus 31 US states, as well as the federal
government, do not use the death penalty against child offenders. Of those
states that do, Texas is by far the leading perpetrator, accounting for a
third of the country's condemned child offenders, and 13 of 22 executions of
child offenders carried out in the USA since 1977.  Six of the last seven
such executions were carried out by Texas executioners.

More than a third of the child offenders on death row in Texas and
approximately one in seven of those currently condemned nationwide, were
prosecuted in Harris County, where Robert Acuna is facing the death penalty.
No whole state in the USA, apart from Alabama (and the rest of Texas), has
more child offenders on death row than this single Texas jurisdiction.

In its October 2004 term, the US Supreme Court will revisit its 1989
decision allowing the execution of offenders who were 16 or 17 at the time
of the crime. Its decision is expected in early 2005. In 2002, four of the
nine Supreme Court Justices described the execution of child offenders as
"shameful" and "a relic of the past".

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

- expressing sympathy for the family and friends of Joyce and James Carroll,
and explaining that you are not seeking to excuse the manner of their
deaths, to minimize the suffering caused, or to express any opinion on the
guilt or innocence of the accused;

- explaining that you are deeply concerned that the Harris County District
Attorney's Office is intending to seek a death sentence against Robert Acuna
if it obtains his conviction, despite the fact that he was under 18 years
old at the time of the crime;

- using any of the above or other information as you see fit in explaining
your concern;

- urging that the District Attorney's Office drop its pursuit of the death
penalty in this case.


Assistant District Attorney Renee McGee
Harris County District Attorney's Office
1201 Franklin Street, Suite 600,
Houston, Texas 77002-1923


District Attorney Charles A. Rosenthal
Harris County District Attorney's Office
1201 Franklin Street, Suite 600
Houston, Texas 77002-1923

Send greetings to Sudanese HR Activist
Saleh Mahmud Osman

For many people, summer is a time for vacations, picnics and recreation. But
for prisoners of conscience or those who defend human rights in many
countries, summer brings no relief from the potential danger and sense of
isolation they may face.  By simply sending a postcard, however, you can
help support these women and men. You will find information on several cases
of concern on the Amnesty website, we include one here. Please send cards to
these people expressing your support and encouragement. Some suggestions:

- Keep messages simple, such as: "We are thinking of you, and hope you are

- Don't discuss the politics of the country or the accusations against any

- Please be sensitive to different cultural and religious mores. Picture
postcards are good to use, but revealing pictures of men or women or
references to alcoholic drinks could be offensive.

- International Airmail postage is 70 cents for standard size postcards.

For 20 years, Sudan has been gripped by a deadly civil war. While peace may
finally be near between the government and one of the rebel groups, new
opposition forces have erupted in Darfur in western Sudan. Conflict in
Darfur has intensified since February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Army
and later the Justice and Equality Movement took up arms against the
government, citing the marginalization of the region and a lack of
government protection for agricultural ethnic groups from attacks by nomadic
militias. The government then gave free rein to the nomadic militias (known
as the Janjawid) to attack the villages of the agricultural ethnic groups.
The Janjawid, supported and funded by the government, continue to attack,
kill, rape and abduct civilians. One million people have fled their burnt
villages to take refuge in towns, while more than 110,000 others have fled
Sudan altogether, crossing the border into Chad. Human rights activists and
lawyers have been arrested in many parts of Sudan in connection with the
conflict in Darfur. Human rights lawyer Saleh Mahmud Osman was arrested at
his home by members of the National Security Agency in February 2004.
Because he has not been charged with any criminal offense nor given access
to a lawyer, it is difficult to know exactly why Saleh Mahmud Osman was

However, his arrest may be connected to his having provided legal assistance
to victims of human rights abuses in Darfur, to detainees, and to prisoners
facing the death penalty. He is being held in Kober Prison under the
National Security Forces Act, which allows for detention without charge or
trial for up to nine months. You may send Saleh Mahmud Osman cards of
support via the Sudan Human Rights Group (SHRG).

Please send messages of support to:

Saleh Mahmud Osman
c/o Husam Beshir
PO Box 12877
11111 Khartoum

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