Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XIII Number 2, February 2005


Thursday, February 24, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting Caltech Y has moved. 
Just around the corner from our old meeting place, we moved to San 
Pasqual between Hill and Holliston, south side. You will see two 
curving walls forming a gate to a path-- our building is just beyond. 
Help us plan future actions on Tibet, the Patriot Act, Campaign Against 
Discrimination, death penalty, environmental justice and more.

Sunday, March 6, 7:00 PM. Introducing Rights Reel, a video discussion 
group.  Caltech Y, same location as our monthly meetings (see above).  
This month we view "Brothers and Others", a film about Arab-Americans 
detained post-9/11.

Tuesday, March 8, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting at the Athenaeum. 
Corner of California & Hill. This month commemorate Women's Day by 
taking action! This informal gathering is a great for newcomers to get 
acquainted with Amnesty!

Sunday, March 20, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers Human Rights Book Discussion 
Group. Vroman's Book Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.  This 
month we discuss Clea Koff's The Bone Woman. (More info below.)

Saturday, March 26, 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM. 4th Annual Amnesty 
Mini-Conference.  Cal State University-Fullerton. Continental breakfast 
and admission FREE! Workshops include:

Women's Campaign
Death Penalty
War on Terror
AIDS and Human Rights
Corporate Action Network
Introduction to Amnesty
Sudan Crisis
Racial Profiling
Human Trafficking

Directions:  Cal State Fullerton is located west of the Orange (57) 
Freeway in Fullerton.  The university is bordered by Nutwood Avenue to 
the south, State College Boulevard to the west, Yorba Linda Boulevard 
to the north, and the 57 Freeway to the east.  Coming from either the 
south or the north on the 57 Freeway, exit at Nutwood Avenue.  Go west 
on Nutwood.  Turn right at the main campus entrance at Commonwealth 
Avenue.  Follow E. Campus Drive to Parking Lot F.  The registration 
desk will be outside University Hall Room 252 at the south end of the 
building on the 2nd floor.


Hi all,

Hope everyone is staying healthy and avoiding the colds that have been 
going around.  I managed to get it last week, despite lots of vitamin C 
and Echinacea!

Good news!  Father Nguyen Van Ly was released from prison in Vietnam 
last month as part of a general amnesty for more than 8,000 prisoners 
in celebration of Tet, the New Year. He was imprisoned in 2001, and 
became an Amnesty Special Focus case-do you remember the posters we 
carried in the Doo Dah parade?  His photo was on one of them and 
actions on his behalf have appeared in this newsletter.  Members of 
Congress (urged by AI activists all over the US) sent a joint letter to 
the Prime Minister of Vietnam asking for his release in 2003, and in 
2004 the House passed a resolution calling for his release.

Video nights are coming back soon!  See Up-coming Events for more inf.  
Also, the lending library may soon be functioning as we have found a 
place to keep the books!  Thanks to Cheri Dellito for working on the 
lending library book-list.

This year's Annual General Meeting for USA will be in Austin, Texas 
April 8-10.  For further info, go to the AIUSA website or call the Western Regional 
Office at:  310-815-0450.  Subsidies are available to help offset 
travel costs.  More info on subsidies can be obtained from the Western 
Regional Office-ask to speak to Kathy Brown, the administrator or   Further along the line, the Western Area Regional 
Conference will be in San Francisco November 11-13, 2005. I hope we can 
all make it to this event, as it is much closer!

Yet another conference you can't miss!  The 4th annual amnesty 
mini-conference will be March 26th at Calstate Fullerton!  See 
Up-Coming Events for details!

Take care,


Human Rights Book Discussion Group
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena
Sunday, March 20, 6:30 PM

The Bone Woman
by Clea Koff

In the spring of 1994, Rwanda was the scene of the first acts since 
World War II to be legally defined as genocide. Clea Koff was one of 
sixteen forensic anthropologist chosen by the UN International Criminal 
Tribunal to go to Rwanda to unearth the physical evidence of genocide 
and crimes against humanity. The Bone Woman is Koff's riveting, deeply 
personal account of that mission and the six subsequent missions she 
undertook~Wto Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo.

Koff's unflinching account of her years with the UN~Wwhat she saw, how 
it affected her, who was prosecuted based on evidence she found, what 
she learned about the world~Wis alternately gripping, frightening, and 
miraculously hopeful. Readers join Koff as she comes face-to-face with 
the realities of genocide: nearly five hundred bodies exhumed from a 
single grave in Kibuye, Rwanda; the wire-bound wrists of Srebrenica 
massacre victims uncovered in Bosnia; the disinterment of the body of a 
young man in southwestern Kosovo as his grandfather looks on.

Yet even as she recounts the hellish working conditions, the tangled 
bureaucracy of the UN, and the heartbreak of survivors, Koff imbues her 
story with purpose, humanity, and an unfailing sense of justice.

Assist Survivors of Sexual Violence in CAR

At the end of 2002 and in early 2003, hundreds of women and girls in 
the Central African Republic (CAR) were subjected to widespread rape, 
sexual assaults, and other forms of violence. The perpetrators enjoyed 
impunity and remained at liberty to commit further human rights abuses. 
Urge CAR President Francois Bozize to pursue a robust policy of 
assisting survivors of sexual violence in CAR and to address the root 
causes contributing to violence against women.

Please write or send faxes to the government of the Central African 
Republic urging them to act as soon as possible. Please send appeals 

  President Francois Bozize
  President of the Central African Republic
  Palais de la Renaissance
  Central African Republic

Please send copies to:
  Ambassador Emmanuel Touaboy
  Embassy of the Central African Republic
  1618 22nd Street NW
  Washington, DC 20008

You can base your letters on the sample text below:

Monsieur le President,

I am deeply concerned for the hundreds of women and girls in CAR who 
were subjected to widespread rape, sexual assaults, and other forms of 
violence by combatants in your country at the end of 2002 and early 
2003. I urge you to pursue a robust policy of assisting survivors of 
sexual violence in CAR, specifically those who suffered during 
systematic and widespread sexual attacks between October 2002 and March 
Amnesty International's findings gathered by its researchers in CAR in 
late 2003 strongly suggest that, during the five months leading up to 
the March coup, acts of rape committed by all sides were systematic and 
widespread. The perpetrators enjoyed impunity and remained at liberty 
to commit further human rights abuses, including rape.

I urge you to provide legal redress for the survivors by instituting an 
independent and impartial Commission of Inquiry to carry out a thorough 
countrywide investigation into the crime of rape committed by 
combatants during this time. It will be essential that the Commission's 
recommendations are implemented in accordance with its obligations 
under international law.

In order to strengthen women's rights and prevent further sexual 
violence in CAR, I ask you to prioritize education programs targeting 
the public and community leaders on the importance of not stigmatizing 
survivors of rape and other forms of violence. Your government must 
take a strong public stance on gender-based violence sending a clear 
message that it is neither inevitable nor acceptable and that those 
responsible will be held accountable.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,  YOUR NAME and ADDRESS

Urgent Actions	28
Tsunami Aftermath	8
Refugees/Child Soldier	7
Campaign Against Torture	8
Stop Violence Against Women	7
Death Penalty	1
Total	58
Want to add your letters to the total?  Get in touch with

Women Targeted for Orientation, HIV status

"Two lesbians were living there. The guerrillas told them they had to 
leave the municipality. Within a month they had ~Qdisappeared.' People 
say they were killed. Their relationship was public knowledge; they 
lived together. They had become more or less accepted in the town."

A 14-year-old girl was stripped in the street in Medellin in 2002. A 
placard was attached to her, reading, "I'm a lesbian." Three armed men 
then raped her. A few days later she was found dead. Her breasts had 
been cut off.

The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) armed opposition 
group were believed responsible for the first of these atrocities, and 
army-backed paramilitaries for the second. All sides in the 40-year 
internal armed conflict in Colombia -- the security forces, army-backed 
paramilitaries and armed groups -- exploit gender stereotypes and commit 
sexual crimes. Paramilitaries and the FARC in particular have 
persecuted and abused individuals because of their sexual orientation, 
gender identity or suspected infection with HIV.

Armed groups often perceive homosexuality as a transgression of 
traditional moral values. Sex workers, lesbians and bisexual women have 
been persecuted and killed as a result. Homophobic violence is fuelled 
by the impunity that its perpetrators enjoy, in the knowledge that such 
crimes are rarely investigated.

In areas under their control, armed opposition groups and 
paramilitaries reinforce gender stereotyping. They impose rules of 
conduct -- like dress codes and curfews -- that invade privacy and are 
based on sexist and homophobic attitudes. They try to eliminate 
"undesirables" so as to impose their vision of society, to demonstrate 
that they have command over an area, and to win "legitimacy" from the 
population at large. As in many other countries, control of women's 
behavior, coercion in matters of sexuality and reproduction, and 
discrimination on grounds of gender or sexual identity are deeply 
entrenched in Colombian society.

Driven by homophobia, the armed groups have responded to the spread of 
HIV/AIDS by expelling civilians from their homes and killing 
individuals suspected of being infected, including members of their own 
forces. Women fighters were more likely to be killed than men, 
according to testimonies from former FARC combatants. "It is the women 
who suffer all the consequences. Men are not obliged to use condoms but 
pregnancy is punished. While a woman who is HIV-positive may be shot, 
there are [infected] men who are not."

Between 1998 and 2002, the FARC were said to have made HIV testing 
obligatory for the inhabitants of Meta and Caqueta departments. In 
Vistahermosa, Meta department, people were reportedly compelled at 
gunpoint to submit to tests and to pay for them. People who were 
perceived to be lesbian or gay were forced to leave their homes and 

Violence against women in Colombia is widespread and the government is 
failing in its responsibility to uphold women's right to a life free 
from violence, persecution and discrimination on grounds of sexual 
orientation or gender identity.

Take Action!  Use this sample letter as a guide:

President Alvaro Uribe Velez
Palacio de Narino
Carrera 8 No.7-26
Bogota, Colombia

Dear President Uribe:

I am concerned about the plight of Colombian women who have been 
persecuted and abused because of their sexual orientation, gender 
identity or suspected infection with HIV, in particular by the FARC and 
army-backed paramilitaries.

I urge your government to take the following steps to bring justice for 
the victims of abuse.  Please:

Acknowledge that violence against women, including those targeted 
because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is an integral 
part of the human rights crisis in Colombia.

End "social cleansing", including the "disappearance" and killing of 
people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, or 
because they are living with HIV or are sex workers.

Investigate all reports of homophobic violence, including sexual 
violence, and bring to justice those responsible in accordance with 
international standards for fair trial.

Ensure that human rights defenders, including those working in support 
of sexual rights, can carry out legitimate human rights work without 
fear of retaliation or violence.

Implement the recommendations made by the UN Special Rapporteur on 
violence against women.

Sincerely, YOUR NAME and ADDRESS

Exhumations Group Fears for Safety

Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of Sara Poroj and 
Sergio Rivera, who work for the Exhumations Programme of human rights 
organization Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM), Group of Mutual Support. They 
have been intimidated and threatened, in what appears to be an effort 
to stop their work to exhume secret mass graves.

On 3 February, Sara Poroj, the head of GAM's Exhumations Programme, and 
Sergio Rivera were staying at a hotel in the town of Playa Grande, 
Ixcán municipality, Quiché department. They were inspecting the site of 
a secret mass grave found within a former military base in Playa Grande 
and seeking permission from the Public Prosecutor's Office for its 
exhumation. At 3am on 3 February, a man armed with a gun entered the 
hotel room where Sara Poroj was sleeping and searched her documents and 
belongings, while keeping his gun pointed towards her head. According 
to eye witnesses, two other armed men were keeping watch outside the 
room. The three men left after about five minutes.

The following day, as Sara Poroj and Sergio Rivera were inspecting the 
site of the secret mass grave, a car stopped in front of the exhumation 
site and the occupants watched them for approximately four hours. As 
they returned to the hotel, the car followed them, and parked outside 
the hotel. Another car drew up, and armed men from both vehicles got 
out and walked around the outside of the hotel. Sara Poroj then 
telephoned GAM's main office in the capital, Guatemala City. Despite a 
request by GAM to the Presidential Human Rights Office (COPREDEH) to 
send police to the hotel, no police arrived. The GAM office managed to 
contact other human rights and social organizations close to Playa 
Grande, who mobilized some 25 people to get Sara Poroj and Sergio 
Rivera safely out of the hotel. The police eventually arrived at around 
7.30pm, by which time the incident was over. On 5 February, Sara Poroj 
and Sergio Rivera drove to the GAM office in Guatemala City. The same 
car that they had seen at the exhumation site reportedly followed them 
for approximately three hours.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION.  The military base in Playa Grande was the 
largest military base in the country, before being dismantled on 11 May 
2004 as part of government measures to reduce the size of the army. 
According to local human rights organizations, approximately 30 mass 
graves exist within the military compound. The graves reportedly 
contain the remains of victims executed during Guatemala's internal 
armed conflict, which lasted for over 30 years until the signing of the 
1996 Peace Accords. Some 200,000 people were killed or "disappeared" 
during the conflict, including the husband of Sara Poroj. According to 
the United Nation's Truth Commission, the Historical Clarification 
Commission, the department of Quiche' was the worst hit during the 
internal armed conflict, suffering 344 of the 669 massacres documented 
in its final report, Memory of Silence.

GAM is one of Guatemala's oldest human rights groups, formed in the 
1980s by people trying to establish what happened to their relatives, 
and thousands of others who "disappeared" during Guatemala's civil 
conflict. Sara Poroj was one of the founding members of GAM, and helped 
to organize the first exhumation within the former military base at 
Playa Grande in September 2004.

GAM and other organizations involved in the exhumation of clandestine 
cemeteries have been subject to numerous acts of intimidation in what 
appears to be an effort to stop their work.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals:

-	expressing concern for the safety of Sara Poroj and Sergio Rivera, 
members of the human rights organization Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM), 
following the attempts to intimidate them as they carried out their 
work for GAM's Exhumations Programme;

-	calling on the authorities to take immediate measures to guarantee 
their safety, and that of other individuals involved in the exhumation 
of secret mass graves;

-	urging the authorities to immediately investigate the recent acts of 
intimidation against Sara Poroj and Sergio Rivera, to make the results 
public and bring the perpetrators to justice;

-	urging the authorities to take immediate measures to ensure that all 
those involved in the exhumation of secret mass graves are able to 
carry out their legitimate work without fear of harassment.

Minister of Defense:
Ministro de Defensa Nacional
Carlos Aldana Villanueva
Avenida Reforma,1-45, zona 10
Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA

Attorney General:
Juan Luis Florido
Fiscal General
Fiscalia General del Ministerio Publico
8a. Avenida 10-67, Zona 1,
Ciudad Guatemala, Guatemala

Ambassador Jose Guillermo Castillo
Embassy of Guatemala
2220 R St. NW
Washington DC 20008

Policy Restricts Health Care Services

In recent years, the Bush Administration has adopted increasingly 
restrictive policies on health care services that are having a negative 
impact on women and families around the world. Although President Bush 
made HIV/AIDS a centerpiece of his 2003 State of the Union address, the 
president's Global HIV/AIDS legislative initiative (PL-108-25) includes 
a congressional earmark requiring 1/3 of US AIDS prevention funds to be 
utilized for "abstinence-until-marriage" programs. The effect is less 
money for other proven methods of preventing HIV transmission, such as 
education about condom use and the provision of condoms. The law also 
allows "faith-based" groups that receive federal funds to refuse to 
provide information about condoms and other proven methods of 
protection and to refuse to make referrals to clinics and other 
providers that do provide such information and services. In addition, 
the Bush administration was slow to support the use of less-expensive 
generic AIDS drugs to help the survival of women and families.

Abstinence-only sex education teaches exclusively the social, 
psychological, and health gains from abstaining from sexual activity. 
These programs neglect to discuss sexuality, sexually transmitted 
diseases, contraception and condom use and reliability. They emphasize 
failure rates of contraception and discourage its use. This program of 
action has been adapted into the domestic and foreign policy of the 
United States, and has received approximately $1 billion in federal and 
state matching funds since 1996 (PPFA, Abstinence-Only fact sheet). As 
a result of current US foreign policy, a program of abstinence-only sex 
education is being imposed at the expense of women and children's 
health. Abstinence-only programs are largely ineffective in situations 
where women and girls are the victims of sexual violence, coercion in 
the context of early marriage or wife inheritance, or trafficking. Even 
when sex is consensual, women and girls' unequal status in 
relationships render them unable to negotiate the use of condoms with a 
partner. It is in these circumstances that complete education regarding 
sexual health is most  needed.

In addition, the U.S. has imposed policies restricting access to 
information and services for healthcare and family planning. Such 
policies have forced the closure of healthcare and family planning 
providers in remote regions that lack other clinics, many of which 
offered HIV/AIDS services. Amnesty is concerned about the impact these 
policies have on the right to freedom of expression and information, 
and on the right to access the best healthcare and family planning 

Take Action!  Here is a sample letter:

The Honorable George W. Bush
The President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20500

Dear President Bush:

As a member of Amnesty International, I urge you to ensure US policy 
helps stop violence against women and girls worldwide and addresses the 
needs of survivors of violence, including providing effective health 
care services.  I urge you to lift current restrictions on health 
education and services, which are having a devastating effect on women 
and their families around the world.

Violence against women is a global human rights scandal that affects 
everyone, and one of the most pervasive and ignored human rights 
violations in the world.  Worldwide, at least one of every three women 
-- nearly one billion women -- will be beaten, coerced into sex, or 
otherwise abused in her lifetime, whether at the hands of family 
members, government security forces, or armed rebels.  In times of 
armed conflict, women have been systematically raped as a tool of war 
as part of "ethnic cleansing" campaigns, subjected to violence and rape 
that has resulted in their contracting HIV/AIDS, coerced into sexual 
slavery, and forcibly displaced from their homes.  In the home, many 
women face violence, including beatings, rape, and murder.

Violence is increasingly recognized as a key factor in the rising rates 
of HIV/AIDS infection among women.  Today, women are four times more 
likely to contract HIV from infected males than vice versa.  Women are 
estimated to make up 50% of those living with HIV worldwide.  In 
Africa, women account for 58% of those infected, while in South Asia 
women constitute up to 35% of new HIV infections.  In 1999, girls aged 
13 to 19 represented the majority of new HIV infections in the United 
States in their age group (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).  
In most parts of the world, women and girls lack the power to negotiate 
safe sexual relations with their husband or partner and are also unable 
to protect themselves against violence including rape and assault that 
lead to HIV/AIDS infection.  Increasingly, restrictive policies on 
international assistance for health care services are further 
exacerbating the obstacles women face to protect themselves against 
HIV/AIDS infection and other consequences of unprotected sexual 

Current US policy is especially concerning and having a deeply 
detrimental effect on women and their families. The requirement in 
current law that one third of US AIDS prevention funds be utilized for 
"abstinence-until-marriage" programs, means that less money is 
available for other proven methods of preventing HIV transmission, such 
as education about condom use and the provision of condoms. The impact 
of this harmful policy is further exacerbated by US policy that allows 
federally funded "faith-based" groups to refuse to provide information 
about condoms and other proven methods of protection and to refuse to 
make referrals to clinics and other providers that do provide such 
information and services. Your administration's reluctance to support 
the use of less-expensive generic AIDS drugs also severely impacts the 
survival of women and families the world over. Finally, the imposition 
of restrictive policies that present further obstacles to family 
planning services has forced closure of many health care and family 
planning providers in remote regions that lack other clinics. Some of 
these providers offered services to address HIV/AIDS.  Amnesty 
International is concerned about the impact your government's policies 
have on the right to freedom of expression and information, and on the 
right to access the best available health care and family planning 

I urge you to provide adequate funding for the Global Fund to Fight 
AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, ensure that affordable AIDS drugs are 
made available, and implement policies that support proven methods for 
AIDS prevention.  I also ask that you urgently repeal the provisions 
that require one third of US AIDS prevention funds be utilized for 
"abstinence-until-marriage" programs, and to repeal policies that 
impose further obstacles on health care and family planning services. 
Violence against women is widespread. US policy must aim to end 
violence and assist survivors in every manner, and not to impose 
further obstacles to life-saving services.

Sincerely, YOUR NAME and ADDRESS

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