Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XIII, No 6, June 2005


Thursday, June 23, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting at the Caltech Y, located 
off 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 Sudan, the War on Terror, death penalty,
environmental justice and more.

Sunday, June 26, 2005, 2:00-4:00 PM, United Nations International Day
in support of Victims of Torture Special Event "Truth & Truth Telling
About Torture" Marymount High School, Cantwell Hall, 10643 Sunset
Boulevard, Los Angeles. Features Keynote Speaker, Darius Rejali, Reed
College, noted expert on state violence and torture, plus survivor
testimonies from "Lost Boys of Sudan," and cultural performances.
Sponsored by Program for Torture Victims in Association with Amnesty
International USA, and more.  For more info: 213.747.4944 ext. 246.
Parking at site.  Overflow at UCLA.

Tuesday, July 12, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting at the Athenaeum.
Corner of California & Hill.  The Rathskellar closes in summer so look
for us and our sign, outside at a table on the lawn!  This informal
gathering is a great for newcomers to get acquainted with Amnesty!

Sunday, July 17, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers Human Rights Book Discussion
Group. Vroman's Book Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.  This
month we discuss Louisa Waugh's account of a year in Mongolia, Hearing
Birds Fly. (More info below.)


Hi everyone.  Only a few more days to work and I'll be off for a few
weeks this summer.  I have a few projects to do at home during this
time off and most involve cleaning and organizing!  But we hope to do
some fun things too.  Hope everyone has a nice summer.

Amnesty has been in the news a lot lately.  Bill Schultz, the executive
director of Amnesty International USA, held a press conference 5-25-05
on the release of AI's annual report.  The report denounces high-level
government officials, including President Bush, for creating policies
that allow torture and ill treatment to occur in prisons in Iraq,
Guantanamo, and Afghanistan--calling them the "gulag of our time".  The
US was also cited for failing to apply standards of international law
to prisoners of war.  Our government has tried to cover up these
practices and has not adequately investigated or prosecuted the guilty
parties.  Dr. Schultz also announced the launch of AI's campaign
"Denounce Torture: Stop it now!" at the press conference.  To read the
report, visit

Robert Scheer of the LA Times wrote on this subject titled "Blaming the
Messenger Fools No One" in his June 7 column on the Bush
Administrations' response.  Did you see Michael Ramirez's obnoxious
cartoon showing Schultz as a clown?

Remember the Lost Boys of Sudan video that we showed last year?  Two of
the lost boys have written a book, "They Poured Fire," and are speaking
Sunday, June 26, Marymount High School.  See "Upcoming Events" for
details.  For more info about the book visit:

Robert and I went to the AI Film Festival in West Hollywood the last
weekend in May.  We saw movies about Bhopal, murders in Juarez, child
soldiers, and Olympic-style games in southern Sudan.  My favorite was
"State of Fear", a griping documentary about the military repression in
Peru during the time the Marxist guerillas, Shining Path were trying to
take over the country.  There are striking parallels to the situation
in the US and the "war on terror"!

Hope to see you soon at one of our meetings.

Take care,


Support Patriot Act Sunset Provisions

Amnesty International urges Congress to pass the "Security and Freedom
Enhancement Act" (SAFE Act) with strong bipartisan support. The SAFE
Act would repeal some of the more problematic aspects of the USA
PATRIOT Act that weaken constitutional and international legal
protections, while still ensuring that law enforcement officers are
able to investigate charges of terrorism.
Amnesty International has supported efforts to mitigate the problematic
provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, which was passed by the US Congress
and signed into law by the President soon after September 11, 2001. The
most troubling aspects of the USA PATRIOT Act infringe on the human
rights and constitutional protections of US citizens and non-citizens
and contravene basic protections provided in the U.S. Constitution and
various international treaties. The USA PATRIOT Act weakened the system
of checks and balances on the law enforcement authority and due process
safeguards under the law. The USA PATRIOT Act also created an ambiguous
and broad definition for "domestic terrorism" crimes, instituted a
lenient roving wire tap law that does not require affirmation of a
person's identity before conversations are monitored, allowed for
widespread use of sneak and peek searches, and relaxed the standards
that law enforcement must meet in order to obtain business and personal
records. The USA PATRIOT Act has inspired a proliferation of similar
laws throughout the world.

Senators and Members of Congress should pass the SAFE Act, which would
begin to restore basic constitutional and international human rights
weakened by the USA PATRIOT Act. Specifically, the SAFE Act would:

- Restore the protections afforded to civilians who are not the stated
targeted for the roving wiretaps and ensure that the person being
monitored is indeed the person under investigation;

- Limit the so called sneak and peek searches -- which gave law
enforcement the ability to implement search warrants without notifying
the target of the search -- to specific cases where a loss of evidence,
a threat of physical safety, potential intimidation of a witness, or a
risk of flight is feared. It also would require that notice of the
search be given within seven days, which the court can extend to 21

- Institute greater judicial protections on the ability of law
enforcement to secretly request business records by allowing the
recipient of such a warrant to challenge the order, and providing
notice to the target of the order if the government intends to use the
records in subsequent proceedings;

- Increase oversight over national security letters by allowing the
recipient to challenge the order and providing notice to the target of
the order if the records are to be used in further proceedings-- this
would increase protections against the compelled disclosure of library
and bookstore records;

- Amend the overly broad definition of the crime of "domestic
terrorism" so that it does not infringe on the rights of free speech
and freedom of association.

Amnesty International USA Recommendations:

- Congress should act quickly to pass the reforms enumerated in the

- Congress should continue to pass reforms to safeguard individual
human rights and revoke aspects of the USA PATRIOT Act that are in
breach of the rights protected in the US Constitution and international
human rights law.

Write your Senators, Representatives and the White House and urge them
to enforce the sunsets currently in the USA PATRIOT Act, co-sponsor and
pass the SAFE Act and amend the over broad definition of "domestic

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

Senator Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC   20510-0001

Congressman Adam Schiff
U.S. House of Representatives
326 Cannon House Office Building
Washington D.C. 20515

Dear _______________:

I am writing to ask that you enforce the sunset provisions currently in
the USA PATRIOT Act and place sunsets on other provisions that infringe
on our individual rights.

On behalf of Amnesty International, I urge you to cosponsor and pass
the SAFE Act, which will increase judicial oversight over government
surveillance and amend the current definition of "domestic terrorism"
so it does not infringe on the rights of free speech and freedom of

I also urge you to act quickly to bring the USA PATRIOT Act in line
with the US Constitutional and international human rights law. Thank
you for your time.

Sincerely, YOUR NAME and ADDRESS

Urgent Actions 13
Torture 7
Outfront 7
Sudan 7
Total: 34
Want to add your letters to the total?  Get in touch with

Human Rights Book Discussion Group
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena
Sunday, July 17, 6:30 PM

Hearing Birds Fly
by Louisa Waugh

After two years of working in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia,
journalist Louisa Waugh moved to the remote village of Tsengel, in the
extreme west of the country. This is the story of the year she spent
there, living and working with the people who have made a home in the
stark but beautiful landscape. With unflinching honesty, Waugh recounts
how she slowly learned to fend for herself in a world where life is
dominated by the seasons. The villagers and their culture vividly
emerge as she shares her happiness, frustrations, and occasional
extreme loneliness and fear. Hearing Birds Fly transports the reader
from the end of a long, hard Mongolian winter, through a
drought--stricken spring, into a lush summer spent in the mountains with
a family of nomads. A warm, totally unsentimental account of life in a
world where the act of survival is, in itself, a triumph of the human

Support Fifty Caliber Sniper Weapons Act

It is easier to buy a 50 caliber sniper rifle in the United States than
it is to buy a handgun, and once purchased, some of these weapons find
their way abroad. Encourage your Senator to support the Fifty Caliber
Sniper Weapons Regulation Act of 2005 (S. 935), which more accurately
classifies this rifle and imposes strong regulations.

Better controlling the dangerous spread of small arms and light weapons
is a central goal of the Control Arms campaign, launched by Amnesty
International, Oxfam and the International Action Network on Small Arms
in October 2003. The largely unregulated international trade in these
weapons and their resulting misuse contributes to grave human rights
violations and impedes economic development and access to basic social
services. Weapons such as handguns, assault rifles, rocket-propelled
grenades, and man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) take more than
a half a million lives each year. For these reasons, the campaign seeks
negotiation and ratification of an International Arms Trade Treaty that
would stop weapons sales to governments that seriously violate
international humanitarian and human rights law.

But it is not only limited regulation on the international arms trade
that leads to innocent people dying, and AI is not just concerned about
government-to-government arms transfers. When governments fail to enact
effective domestic gun regulation and private persons use domestically
purchased guns to commit gross human rights abuses both within and
outside a government's borders, it is a human rights concern. According
to the Geneva-based think tank Small Arms Survey, gun sales laws in the
United States are much more lax than in any industrialized country.
Under U.S. federal law, for example, private citizens can sell guns
without conducting background checks and thereby circumvent an
important legal provision intended to prevent undesirable individuals
from purchasing guns. The U.S. domestic sale of military-style weapons
such as the 50 caliber sniper rifle is of particular concern for
Americans and citizens abroad.

Although the 50 caliber sniper rifle is a firearm that utilizes
specific military features designed for combat, this rifle is sold in
the United States with fewer federal and state restrictions than those
placed on handguns. According to New York City's Police Commissioner
Ray Kelly, the 50 caliber sniper rifle "is clearly a weapon of war, a
round to be used in a wartime situation." Made specifically for
sniping, this rifle is highly accurate from a significant distance. It
has a range of up to 2,000 yards. Bullets fired from the 50 caliber can
pierce armored personnel carriers, aircraft, rail tank cars, humans,
and other structures, which poses a heightened risk of hitting innocent
bystanders. In addition, restrictions on these rifles are surprisingly
lax as they are classified as "long guns", which make no distinction
between a 50 caliber sniper rifle and a 22 caliber target rifle. A
youth of 18 years, for example, can legally buy a sniper rifle, but
cannot buy a handgun until age 21.

In response to the above regulatory concerns and the below threats,
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the Fifty Caliber Sniper
Weapons Regulation Act of 2005 (S. 935) along with two cosponsors on
April 28, 2005. If passed, S. 935 would put 50 caliber sniper rifles in
the same regulatory category as weapons such as machine guns and
sawed-off shotguns. This new classification would require future 50
caliber rifle transfers to comply with the requirements of the National
Firearms Act (NFA). Purchasers of NFA weapons must fill out a transfer
application and provide fingerprints to be processed by the FBI as part
of a detailed criminal background check, including a certification from
a local law enforcement official that possession of the firearm by the
purchaser would not violate any laws. The ATF reports that this
background check process takes about 60 days.

Amnesty International does not oppose gun ownership; Amnesty
International does oppose the sale and distribution of weapons that
contribute to gross human rights violations and abuse. It is a
government's responsibility to ensure that weapons sales and transfers
are adequately regulated.

Sample Letter

Senator Barbara Boxer
United States Senate
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC   20510-0001

Dear Senator Boxer:

We need your help to stop the dangerous domestic sale and proliferation
of the 50 caliber sniper rifle, which threatens the human rights of
citizens around the world. This military-style rifle shoots bullets
that pierce armored personnel carriers, aircraft, and rail tank cars.
Radical groups such as Al-Qaeda, the Irish Republican Army, and the
Branch Davidians have obtained these sniper rifles on the open civilian
market in the United States, in some cases using them to shoot at or
kill innocent civilians, police officers, and federal agents. I share
Amnesty International's concern about the easy availability of the 50
caliber sniper rifle in the United States and the resulting threats to
human rights and security around the world.  I urge you to cosponsor
and actively support the Fifty Caliber Sniper Weapons Regulation Act of
2005 (S. 935), which would address this dangerous threat.

In the last few years, several reports by the Violence Policy Center
have shown the significant threats to civilians and government
officials posed by the access to 50 caliber sniper rifles in the United
States.  This military-style rifle, which can pierce armored personnel
carriers, aircraft, rail tank cars, and humans, is widely and easily
available.  According to sworn testimony in 2001, Al-Qaeda bought at
least 25 Barrett 50 caliber sniper rifles in the late 1980s in the
United States.  The Irish Republican Army also used a 50 caliber sniper
rifle, purchased in the United States in 1995, to kill a British
soldier in 1997.

Abusive armed groups and individuals have also used the 50 caliber
sniper rifle domestically.  For example, in 1993, Branch Davidian cult
members fired 50 caliber rifles at agents of the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) in Waco, Texas.  In response, the ATF had
to request special military armored vehicles because the rifles were
able to penetrate their regular vehicles.  In February 2004, Donin
Wright shot a 50 caliber rifle at police officers, paramedics, and
firefighters from his house in Kansas City, Missouri.

Despite these significant threats and tragedies, this military-type
rifle is sold in the United States with fewer federal and state
restrictions than those placed on handguns.  At the moment, this rifle
is classified as a "long gun", which sets the regulation level very
low.  These rifles are easily purchased from individuals selling on
websites as well as from federally licensed dealers.  In fact, a youth
of 18 years can legally buy a sniper rifle, but cannot buy a handgun
until age 21.

I urge you to support the Fifty Caliber Sniper Weapons Regulation Act
of 2005 (S. 935), which would re-classify these rifles and tighten
regulation of their sales.  Thank you for your attention to this urgent

Sincerely, YOUR NAME and ADDRESS

This month Group 22 starts work on behalf of our newly adopted Vietnam
Prisoner of Conscience, Brother Nguyen Thien Phung (Huan).
We received a message from AI Group 6 in New Zealand, saying they were
also just beginning to work on his case. They contacted us because
their web search came up with the reference to Nguyen Thien Phung in
our previous newsletter. (Grateful acknowledgments to our newsletter
editor and our webmaster!) We look forward to some possible cooperative
actions with Group 6 in the future, as well as with the AI groups in
Australia, France, Spain, Sweden and Canada who have already been
working on his case. Let's hope the combined efforts of all of us
around the world will be effective!

AI USA currently has an action for Brother Nguyen Thien Phung. This
page has detailed background information, suggestions for composing
your letter, and additional addresses for appeals. You can go to and click on the May
2005 link.  Or you can copy the following sample letter or use it as a

His Excellency Phan Van Khai
Office of the Prime Minister
Hoang Hoa Tham
Ha Noi
Socialist Republic of Viet Nam

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing about BROTHER NGUYEN THIEN PHUNG (HUAN),  a prisoner at
prison camp Z30A, Xuan Loc, Dong Nai province. He has been imprisoned
in harsh conditions for 18 years, since he was arrested because of his
religious activities in May 1987 during raids on Thu Duc monastery,
near Ho Chi Minh City.

I call on the authorities to ensure Brother Nguyen Thien Phung receives
adequate food and appropriate medical care in accordance with
international standards.

I believe that Brother Nguyen Thien Phung was imprisoned solely for
peacefully exercising his right to freedom of religion and expression
by his activities as a member of the Congregation of the Mother
Coredemptrix. I urge that he be released immediately and
I encourage the Vietnam government to ensure full implementation of the
international human rights instruments which it has ratified. Thank you
for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely, [Your name and address]
Postage for overseas letters is 80 cents.

Stop Caterpillar Bulldozers Sales to Israel

The Israeli government continues to use Caterpillar bulldozers, often
illegally, to destroy hundreds of family's homes and possessions, in
support of Israel's overall policy of forced eviction and demolition of
homes of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories and Israeli
Arabs in Israel. Recently, Israel announced its intention to suspend
its policy of "punitive" house demolitions. However, numerous other
homes remain under threat of demolitions.

Recommended Action:

Mr. James W. Owens
Chair and CEO, Caterpillar, Inc.
100 NE Adams Street
Peoria, Illinois 61629-1425

You can base your calls, e-mails, and letters on the following talking

I am contacting you to express my concern about Caterpillar bulldozers
being used by the Israeli army to commit human rights violations in
Israel and the Occupied Territories.

- The Israeli army has used Caterpillar bulldozers among others to
demolish more than 4,000 homes, vast areas of agricultural land and
hundreds of other properties in Israel and the Occupied Territories in
the past four and a half years.

- The destruction of these homes, land and other properties have
resulted in widespread violations of the right to adequate housing and
a decent standard of living for tens of thousands of people.

- Although Caterpillar sells its bulldozers to the US government,
Caterpillar has been made aware of the fact -- through Amnesty
International and many others -- that its bulldozers are being sold by
the US government through US Foreign Military Sales to Israel.
I urge you to take the following actions:

If the D-9 bulldozers are in fact transferred to Israel through the
U.S. Foreign Military Sales Program, as Caterpillar has claimed, it
should immediately request the US government stop the transfer of these
bulldozers until enforceable guarantees can be obtained that they will
no longer be used to commit human rights violations. This suspension
should also apply to spare parts, training and other support whether
supplied by Caterpillar directly or through the US government.

Caterpillar Inc. should adopt a code of conduct that complies with the
United Nations Human Rights Norms for Business (UN Norms).

Caterpillar should appoint an independent committee to determine
whether the sale of its equipment to the Israeli military conforms with
its Code of Worldwide Business Conduct.

I thank you for your urgent attention to this matter and look forward
to receiving your response.

Sincerely, YOUR NAME and ADDRESS
Call for Independent Investigation

Last month's newsletter featured an action calling on the U.S.
government to conduct a truly independent investigation into the abuses
at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and other secret detention centers.  This
was prior to the release of AI's annual report and AI Secretary
General, Irene Khan's "gulag" comments.  It's not too late to take
action!  Here's an encore of the recommended action which you can send
to your Congressional representatives and President Bush (see Patriot
Act action for addresses).

Dear ___

The U.S. government has failed to conduct a truly independent
investigation into the abuses at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and other
detention centers. Only enlisted soldiers and a few officers have been
prosecuted, while those who designed and authorized a government policy
of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment have not been held to

Congress must establish an impartial and independent commission to
investigate the human rights violations at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and
other detention centers. Congress must urge Attorney General Gonzales
to appoint an independent Special Counsel to conduct criminal
investigations into administration officials, including himself, who
are suspected of having authorized or condoned these abuses or had
command responsibility for them.

Please let me know where you stand on setting up an independent
commission and calling for the appointment of a Special Counsel.
Sincerely, YOUR NAME and ADDRESS

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