Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XIV Number 6, June 2006


Thursday, June 22, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting Caltech Y is 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 
and more.

Tuesday, July 11, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting at the Athenaeum. 
Corner of California & Hill.  Look for our table downstairs in the 
cafeteria area.  This informal gathering is a great way for newcomers 
to get acquainted with Amnesty!

Sunday, July 16, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers Human Rights Book Discussion 
Group. Vroman's Book Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.  This 
month we read Svetlana Alexievich's Voices from Chernobyl (More below.)


Greetings! It's summer and time to take in some of those popcorn 
blockbusters at the local cineplex, right?  Well, Amnesty has some 
different suggestions for your movie-going plans.  Last month, several 
of us went to see the Indian film, Water, highlighting issues of 
inequality and violence against women.  Now this month Amnesty is 
partnering with the creators of Road to Guantanmo (details elsewhere in 
this newsletter), a docudrama that has become particularly timely in 
light of the recent suicides at the military prison. We're looking 
forward to checking that out and have already used Amnesty's 
accompanying Road to Guantanamo Action Guide to collect 110+ letters 
calling for the closure of the prison.  (Thanks Stevi, Marti and All 
Saints for your help!)  This month, designated "Torture Awareness 
Month," we are also promoting a new piece of legislation on 
"extraordinary rendition" (outsourcing of torture to third countries).  
Please help us out by writing a letter to Senator Boxer as suggested in 
the action below.

This Sunday morning we will be assisting again with Camp Darfur.  Camp 
Darfur aims to bring attention to the plight of refugees from the 
genocide in Sudan by creating a simulated refugee camp and 
opportunities for action. Group 22 is pleased that this project has now 
come to All Saints Church in Pasadena.  Amnesty has just issued another 
"Crisis Response" designation for this human rights disaster and we are 
expecting fresh actions on arms control and international justice for 
the region in a few days.  Look for those actions at up-coming meetings 
and in future newsletters.

Meanwhile, our book discussion group, Rights Readers will be taking a 
look back at a different disaster when we read the very moving, Voices 
from Chernobyl, a recent National Book Critics Circle Award winner.  
It's been 20 years since the nuclear accident, a good time to examine 
the fallout (no pun intended!).  If that seems like too dark a subject 
for summer, rest assured that we will be continuing our tradition of 
reading a mystery in August, this time local author Naomi Hirahara's 
Summer of the Big Bachi.  And then in the fall we will be reading a 
book about Eritrea to give us some background for our work on our newly 
adopted Prisoner of Conscience case, Estifanos Seyoum.  Look for more 
information and actions on his case in future newsletters!

And if you need a success story to bring sunshine to your summer, don't 
miss the Summer Postcard feedback at the end of this newsletter!

Finally, not all of our news fits into one monthly newsletter!  Just a 
reminder that you can keep up with Group 22 actions and events at  Have a great summer!

Take care,

Stop Extraordinary Renditions!

New legislation has been introduced in Congress to stop the practice of 
sending detainees to third countries where they risk torture.  Senator 
Feinstein and Congressman Schiff are co-sponsors of the bill.  Let's 
get Senator Boxer on board too!  Sample letter follows:

Senator Barbara Boxer
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Cosponsor and pass H.R. 952/S. 654

I am concerned by the practice of "extraordinary renditions" in which 
the United States is transferring individuals for detention and 
interrogation to countries with a substantial record of using torture.  
US legal obligations under federal law and international treaties 
prohibit the transfer of any person to any country where they are 
likely to face torture.  Nonetheless, the US Government is reported to 
have sent or been complicit in sending individuals to countries like 
Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Morocco, countries that the State Department 
has criticized for practicing torture.

I am aware that President Bush and others in his administration have 
defended the practice of "extraordinary renditions" by stating that the 
US receives "assurances" that detainees will not be subjected to 
torture or inhumane treatment.  However, assurances from countries with 
such a long and well documented history of torture are insufficient.  
Even the Attorney General admitted that there was no way to monitor 
such assurances and confirm that they were complied with.

Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) has sponsored the Convention Against Torture 
Implementation Act  (S. 654) that would require annual reporting of 
countries that engage in torture and prohibit the transfer or return of 
a detainee to a country that has a history of torture.  I urge you to 
cosponsor and pass S. 654 or similar legislation, which is an important 
step in affirming U.S. commitments under both international and federal 
law to prevent torture, and helps restore U.S. credibility on human 
rights issues.

Sincerely, Your NAME and ADDRESS

Amnesty Collaborates with Filmmakers

As part of Torture Awareness Month, Amnesty is partnering with the 
creators of the film The Road to Guantanamo opening later this month:

The Road to Guantanamo is the terrifying first-hand account of three 
British citizens who were held for more than two years without charges 
in the American military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Known as the 
"Tipton Three," in reference to their home town near Birmingham, the 
three were eventually returned to Britain and released - still having had 
no formal charges ever made against them at any time during their 
ordeal. The film has already engendered significant controversy due to 
its critical stance toward the American and British governments. 
Additional controversy was generated because of the cast members' 
detainment by British immigration authorities upon their return from 
the film's premiere at the Berlin film festival.

Part documentary, part dramatization, the film chronicles the sequence 
of events that led from the trio setting out from Tipton in the British 
Midlands for a wedding in Pakistan, to their crossing the Afghanistan 
border just as the U.S. began its bombing campaign, to their eventual 
capture by the Northern Alliance and their imprisonment in Camp X-Ray 
and later at Camp Delta in Guantanamo.

More information about the film, including an Action Guide from Amnesty 
is available at The film opens in Pasadena on 
June 23.

Urgent Actions	18
Eritrea POC 	10
Denounce Torture	122
Total:	150
To add your letters to the total contact

Human Rights Book Discussion Group
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena
Sunday, July 16, 6:30 PM

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster
by Svetlana Alexievich

On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history 
occurred in Chernobyl and contaminated as much as three quarters of 
Europe. Voices from Chernobyl is the first book to present personal 
accounts of the tragedy. Journalist Svetlana Alexievich interviewed 
hundreds of people affected by the meltdown---from innocent citizens to 
firefighters to those called in to clean up the disaster---and their 
stories reveal the fear, anger, and uncertainty with which they still 
live. Comprised of interviews in monologue form, Voices from Chernobyl 
is a crucially important work, unforgettable in its emotional power and 

Environmental Justice for New Orleans

Environmental groups are sounding the alarm about the toxic chemical 
contamination in sediment and soil left in the wake of hurricanes 
Katrina and Rita. The hurricanes created 22 million tons of toxic 
debris, now dispersed throughout Greater New Orleans. Insufficient 
action has been taken to clean up the toxic contamination. No decision 
has been made as to whether there will ever be a coordinated government 
effort to rid storm ravaged communities of toxic substances.
Testing by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Natural 
Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and other independent organizations 
reveal that the sediment contains dangerous chemicals such as lead, 
arsenic, petroleum products, and other industrial contaminants. These 
toxic substances can cause significant health ailments like cancer and 
serious neurological disease. In many locations, toxic concentrations 
are far higher than federal and state agencies allow. The EPA and NRDC 
also found "hot spot" contamination near old industrial sites that have 
been outlawed for decades. Still, officials have declared Greater New 
Orleans safe for residents. Environmental groups are concerned that the 
EPA has based its safety evaluations on short-term exposure 
measurements. Long-term exposure of these dangerous chemicals is linked 
to significant health problems. Additionally, the EPA has not tested 
private yards and houses where people will spend large amounts of time. 
Learn more about the NRDC study.

The Right to Health is well established in International Human Rights 
Law The right to the highest attainable standard of mental and physical 
health is enshrined in Article 12 of the International Covenant on 
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The right to health is 
an inclusive right, extending not only to health care, but also to the 
underlying determinants of health, such as access to safe and potable 
water, adequate sanitation, an adequate supply of safe food, nutrition 
and housing, healthy occupational and environmental conditions, and 
access to health-related education and information.

To compound matters, New Orleans residents are facing immediate health 
effects associated with mold. Even before the floodwaters receded, mold 
began to grow throughout houses, some of which sat half-submerged for 
nearly a month. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and 
Prevention found that mold growth inside New Orleans homes was likely 
at or above a level associated with health ailments like decreased lung 
function. Furthermore, local doctors report that increasing numbers of 
residents are coming in with persistent respiratory complaints, eye 
irritation, and sinus infections, all triggered by mold. Long term 
exposure to certain types of mold has been linked to a variety of 
neurological effects, immune suppression, and infant pulmonary 

The Katrina disaster highlights race and class issues for all 
Americans. While the hurricane certainly hit wealthier, predominantly 
white communities that deserve full protection and cleanup, the 
hurricane's impact was especially devastating for low-income 
communities and communities of color. These neighborhoods, which are 
closer to toxic industrial sites, now have the highest concentrations 
of contamination and mold. Furthermore, there tends to be less 
community money to pay for privately funded cleanup and more limited 
access to health care. In general, a number of studies have 
demonstrated that certain communities - namely minority and low-income 
populations - experience a disproportionate burden of environmental 
pollution. Hurricane Katrina merely exacerbates the problem.

AIUSA believes that all residents of New Orleans have the right to live 
in a clean, healthy, and safe environment, that the hardest-hit areas 
should be given the highest priority for cleanup and rebuilding, and 
that residents should have the opportunity to participate in the 
process. AIUSA supports local and national health and environmental 
organizations in calling on the federal government to remove 
contaminated sediment, to adequately inform residents about potential 
health risks, and to provide clear guidelines as to how residents can 
protect themselves while cleaning and repairing their homes. In this 
process particular attention should be paid to low income areas and 
communities of color.

Take action:  Sample letter to EPA:

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Dear EPA Administrator Johnson

I am concerned for the health and safety of residents living in Greater 
New Orleans. 22 million tons of toxic debris lingers in the wake of 
hurricanes Katrina and Rita, yet no coordinated government effort has 
been taken to remove such hazards. This contamination threatens the 
right of residents to live in a clean, healthy, and safe environment. 
Authorities should take immediate action to protect these communities 
from the harmful effects of the toxic environment.

Though officials have declared Greater New Orleans safe for residents, 
tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the 
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and other independent 
organizations prove otherwise. These tests have found dangerous 
substances such as lead, arsenic, petroleum products, and other 
industrial contaminants in sediment throughout the area. Such materials 
are known to cause significant health problems like neurological 
disease. Many areas exhibit concentrations far higher than federal and 
state agencies deem safe, and both the EPA and NRDC have found ''hot 
spot'' contamination by pesticides which have been outlawed for 
decades. Mold also plagues many homes. Certain molds detected in the 
area are associated with health disorders, like decreased lung 

The EPA must meet its legal obligation to remove dangerously 
contaminated sediment and to assess the full scope of the mold hazard 
affecting Greater New Orleans. In addition to such action, authorities 
should fully inform people in the region of the precise scope and 
nature of environmental health threats, and should issue clear 
guidelines about appropriate measures to take when cleaning and 
repairing homes. Any response must also pay particular attention to 
minority and low-income communities, which now have the highest 
concentrations of contamination due to their proximity to sites of 
environmental pollution. Failure to act needlessly endangers the health 
and safety of Greater New Orleans' residents and neglects their right 
to live in a clean, healthy, and safe environment.

Sincerely, Your NAME and ADDRESS

Fear for Safety of Guatemalan Workers

Eleven families who used to work for Nueva Florencia Farm, a coffee 
plantation in the municipality Colomba Costa Cuca, department of 
Quetzaltenango, in the east of the country, have recently been 
intimidated in what appears to be an effort to dissuade them from 
defending their labor rights after a landmark ruling by a judge which 
awarded them land in compensation for unfair dismissal. Amnesty 
International is concerned for their safety.

On 1 June, the former workers received information that security guards 
had been given orders to shoot them if they walked through the coffee 
plantations of Nueva Florencia Farm. The former workers are extremely 
concerned for the safety of their children as their school is three 
kilometres from their homes if a shortcut through the coffee 
plantations is taken, but six kilometres if the longer public road is 

On 23 May, at approximately 2am, private security guards in the employ 
of Nueva Florencia Farm allegedly fired shots near the homes of the 
former workers. Shots had been fired nearby at approximately 1am on 22 
May, approximately 6am on 16 May and approximately 8pm on 15 May.

In 1997, 11 workers began legal proceedings against OTTMAR S.A., the 
owners of Nueva Florencia Farm, after having been dismissed for forming 
a trade union. On 11 May 2006 their legal case came very near to a 
final conclusion when a Judge publicly auctioned La Gloria and La Isla 
farms (also owned by OTTMAR S.A.) to raise money in order to pay the 
financial compensation package previously awarded to the former 
workers. In the absence of any buyers for the property the Judge 
awarded La Gloria and La Isla to the former workers who are awaiting 
deeds to the properties.

Since 12 May the private security detail of the Farm has been increased 
and has begun to carry out night patrols close to the homes of former 
workers. Also on 12 May Nueva Florencia Farm began paying for radio 
spots to be transmitted on a local radio which said that "To whomsoever 
is concerned: We inform you that La Gloria and La Isla are property of 
OTTMAR S.A. and anybody trying to invade these properties should be 
advised that our security guards have orders to remove them according 
to the law and force" "A quien interese: Se informa que las fincas La 
Gloria y La Isla son propiedad de OTTMAR S.A. por lo que se advierte a 
quien quiera invadirlas se ha ordenado a los guardias de seguridad que 
sean sacados conforme a la ley y fureza."

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.

Since 1997 the former workers allege to have been subjected to many 
acts of intimidation and reprisals for their trade union activities. 
They allege that their children have been denied the service of the 
local medical clinic which is located on the premises of Nueva 
Florencia Farm. The former workers also allege that they have been 
blacklisted and are unable to secure work on neighboring farms.

The problem of labor disputes between rural communities and large farm 
owners is widespread in Guatemala. The Government Agency for the 
Resolution of Land Conflicts (known as CONTIERRA) estimated in December 
2005 that there were 1052 cases of land disputes with as many half due 
to labor disputes. The lack of effective protection of labor rights of 
rural workers has been widely criticized by organizations such as the 
United Nations, in addition to Amnesty International (for more 
information See Guatemala: Land of Injustice?, 29 March 2006).

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as 
- expressing your concern for the safety of the 11 former workers and 
their families in the Nueva Florencia Farm;
- urging the authorities to carry out impartial and thorough 
investigation into the alleged shootings by security guards, with the 
results made public and those responsible brought to justice.
- reminding the authorities of the right of human rights defenders to 
carry out their activities without any restrictions or fear of 
reprisals, as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights 
and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Institutions to Promote 
and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental 

President of the Republic of Guatemala:
Presidente de la República de Guatemala.
Lic. Oscar Berger Perdomo
Casa Presidencial, 6 a. Avenida, 4-41 zona 1.
Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA

Secretariat of Agrarian Issues:
Secretaria de Asuntos Agrarios
Lic. Mariela Aguilar
12 Avenida 19-01, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA

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

Tunisian Internet Activist Imprisoned

A sample letter from the Freedom Writer's Network:
M. Béchir Tekkari
Ministère de la Justice et de Droits de l'Homme
31 Boulevard Bab Benat
1006 Tunis - La Kasbah

Dear Minister:

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to 
which Tunisia is a party, states that everyone shall have the right to 
freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and 
impart information and ideas of all kinds. Despite this, Tunisian 
lawyer and human rights defender Mohammed Abbou was sentenced to three 
and a half years in prison in April 2005, following an unfair trial. 
His conviction was based largely on two articles published on the 
Internet in which he criticized Tunisian authorities and denounced 
torture in Tunisia.

Since his detention in March 2005, Mohammed Abbou has undertaken 
several hunger strikes to protest his conditions of detention. After 
Abbou asked to change his prison cell, which he shared with ordinary 
criminal prisoners, prison guards reportedly beat him and removed his 
mattress. He now sleeps on an iron bed frame. He has been harassed by 
other prisoners, seemingly at the instigation of the prison 
authorities. Mohammed Abbou is imprisoned in the town of El-Kef, 
approximately 200 kilometers from his family home in the capital, 
Tunis, making visits by his family difficult.

In November 2005, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded 
that Mohammed Abbou's detention was indeed arbitrary and in violation 
of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 
19 of the ICCPR, which guarantee the right to freedom of expression. I 
believe that Mohammed Abbou is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned 
solely for the peaceful expression of his political beliefs. I urge you 
to release him immediately and unconditionally.

Sincerely, Your NAME and ADDRESS

copy to:
Ambassador Mohamed Nejib Hachana
Embassy of Tunisia
1515 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005

Success Story from Congo!

In last year's Summer Postcard Action, Amnesty activists sent messages 
of support to BVES, an organization that aids children in war-torn 
Congo and helps with the rehabilitation of former child soldiers. Some 
months later, Amnesty's London office received a message from Murhabazi 
Namegabe, director of BVES, who recounted how he had been reading with 
a group of children when uniformed soldiers burst into their hostel and 
demanded money. The soldiers became distracted, however, when they saw 
hundreds of colorful postcards and festive envelopes spread around the 
room - a display of supportive correspondence from Amnesty 
International members. They started reading the letters, testing their 
broken English, and demanded to know "Who wrote these letters?" and 
"And why?"

For Namegabe, director of a group that helps former child soldiers, it 
was the perfect opportunity to address a captive audience about the 
group's work. The children participating in the reading revealed to the 
uniformed men that they were former child soldiers and described how 
BVES had helped them. At the end of the impromptu workshop, the 
soldiers promised to bring in more child soldiers for demobilization 
and social rehabilitation.

Namegabe told Amnesty that the nearly 1,000 messages of hope they 
received from Amnesty members are precious to the children struggling 
through dark times.
  "Thanks, Thanks, Thanks, mingi, very much," said Namegabe.. "Aksanti 
saana (many thanks) to men, women and the youth of AI for advancing the 
cause of human rights across the entire world!"

This year's Summer Postcard Action can be found at  Send some love!