Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News --- Volume XIV 
Number 10, October 2006


Thursday, October 26, 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, November 14, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting at the Athenaeum. 
Corner of California & Hill. We meet downstairs in the cafeteria. This 
informal gathering is a great way for newcomers to get acquainted with 

Sunday, November 19, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers Human Rights Book 
Discussion Group. Vroman's Book Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., 
Pasadena. This month we read Mark Abley's Spoken Here: Travels among 
Threatened Languages (More below.)

Note: The November Monthly Meeting has been moved to November 30 due to 


Hi everybody! Long time no write column-Martha did the honors the last 
couple of times... (Thanks for the break, Martha!)

Robert and I attended the Western Regional Conference in Tucson, Arizona 
last weekend. The title was "Human Rights Have No Borders". Veronica 
Raymond, another Group 22 member, also attended with a friend of hers. 
We caught glimpses of each other in passing! There were several great 
speakers and workshops-we couldn't attend them all, but did pick up lots 
of literature, flyers, etc. We sold 3 tee shirts and 1 pack of holiday 
cards! Rob attended workshops on Video, Film and Human Rights Education, 
and Globalize Justice: An Insider's Guide to the International Criminal 
Court's Investigations. I went to Prevention, Not Execution: Prohibiting 
the Death Penalty for Severely Mentally Ill Offenders and Human Rights 
at the Border. We both attended a discussion on Amnesty's new draft 
policy on sexual and reproductive rights, and voted on resolutions. 
Guess who's back! Our "no-circ" friends made another attempt to get 
their resolution on MGM (male genital mutilation) passed. It failed in 
the working party as did a resolution to delay Amnesty formulating a 
policy on reproductive rights issues.

There were many organizations and speakers from immigrant rights groups, 
addressing the conditions of Mexican migrants. The border is only a few 
hours away from Tucson and concerns re border patrol mistreatment of 
migrants in custody, border patrol intrusion and harassment of Indians 
on reservation lands (the route from Sonora goes thru the Tohono O'dham 
lands), criminalization of humanitarian aid (the 2 defendants from No 
More Deaths had their felony charges recently overturned) and other 
issues were discussed. Amnesty is trying to develop a policy statement 
on immigration. To contribute your opinion, go to

In the group sales and display room, we saw photographs of an exhibit on 
Eritrea put on by ASU students called "One Heart Betrayed". They have a 
website- that 
has pictures of the display and information re Eritrea.

Remember Helen Berhane? She's a young Eritrean gospel singer who has 
been imprisoned in a shipping container. She has been tortured and was 
recently taken to hospital. See below for an action AI sent out an 
urgent action on her behalf.


Eritrean Estifanos Seyoum

Instead of writing on behalf of Estifanos Seyoum this month, we offer 
this action on fellow Eritrean Helen Berhane. We also encourage you to 
watch a short film about torture in Eritrea which you can find at

We have received reports that Helen Berhane was hospitalized at Halibet 
Hospital in Asmara following severe mistreatment. She has not been 
allowed any visits by relatives and Amnesty International is concerned 
she was tortured.

Helen Berhane is a gospel singer and a member of the Rema church, one of 
several minority churches persecuted by the Eritrean government. She was 
arrested on 13 May 2004 as part of a government crackdown on Evangelical 
and Pentecostal churches. She was taken to Mai Serwa camp and detained 
in a metal shipping container until early 2006. Shipping containers 
offer little ventilation, are boiling hot during the day and freezing 
cold at night. Furthermore, there are no washing or toilet facilities in 
the containers. Helen was recently moved out of the container into a 
cell in the camp. Helen has refused to abandon her faith and gospel 
singing, despite promises of release if she does.

Torture is used regularly by Eritrean authorities as a punishment for 
prisoners such as and the pattern of harsh detention condition and ill- 
treatment has not changed over the years, despite multiple appeals by 
Amnesty International and other NGOs.

Please write to the Eritrean authorities and to the Eritrean ambassador 
in your country,
- Expressing concern at reports that Helen Berhane was hospitalized due 
to severe mistreatment
- Calling for her be given adequate medical care
- Calling for her to be allowed visits from relatives
- Calling for her she be released once she has received adequate medical 
care if she is not to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence 
and brought to trial in accordance with international standards of 
fairness, and without recourse to the death penalty.

Mr Mohamed Omar
Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
PO Box 190

Mr Semere Beyene
Director, Department of Religious Affairs
Ministry of Local Government
P O Box 225, Asmara, Eritrea

Scott DeLisi, Ambassador
US Embassy
179 Alaa Street, Asmara (PO Box 211)

Postcards/China 5
Eritrea POC 6
Urgent Actions 14
Total: 25
To add your letters to the total contact

Human Rights Book Discussion Group
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena
Sunday, November 19, 6:30 PM

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Spoken Here:
Travels among Threatened Languages
by Mark Abley

Within the next couple of generations, most of the world's 6000 
languages will vanish, due mainly to the unstoppable tide of English. 
With an open mind and a well-worn passport, award-winning journalist and 
poet Mark Abley tells entertaining and vital stories about why languages 
matter. From Oklahoma to Provence, aboriginal Australia to Baffin 
Island, the cultures are radically different, but the problems of 
shrinking linguistic and cultural richness are painfully similar. 
Abley's investigation provides a stunning glimpse of the beauty and 
intricacies of languages like Yiddish and Yuchi, Mohawk and Manx, 
Inuktitut and Provenšal. More importantly, it offers a sympathetic and 
memorable portrait of the people who still speak languages under threat.

Justice for Forced Evictions in Zimbabwe

Across Africa, hundreds of thousands of people each year are forcibly 
evicted. They are removed from their homes without notice or 
compensation, and in many cases are stripped of their possessions and 
left homeless. Often they are displaced far from sources of clean water, 
food, sanitation, livelihood or education.
Forced evictions violate international law, yet many governments justify 
them on the grounds that they are essential for the development of 
infrastructure or in preparation for the hosting of international 
events. The tragic outcome in most of these cases is that the poorest 
and most vulnerable members of society are placed at even greater risk.

In 2001, the African Commission on Human and People's Rights adopted a 
resolution condemning the practice of forced evictions, and last year it 
issued a report condemning Operation Murambatsvina as a violation of 
international law.

Forced Evictions in Zimbabwe. During May-July 2005, an estimated 700,000 
people lost their homes, their livelihoods, or both when the Zimbabwe 
government forcibly evicted them and demolished their homes and 
businesses as part of Operation Murambatsvina ("Drive Out Rubbish"). The 
forced evictions and demolitions were carried out without any advance 
notice, in violation of standing court orders, and without any 
provisions for temporary shelter, access to food and clean water. In 
addition, police used excessive force against dislocated residents, 
including beatings caught on videotape. The vast majority of the victims 
have received no assistance with replacement housing since the 
demolitions, and because they were among the poorest of the poor in 
Zimbabwe, they have experienced hunger, sickness (including thousands 
with HIV/AIDS), and psychological trauma.

Five weeks after the mass evictions began, the government of Zimbabwe 
launched Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle ("Better Life"), describing it 
as a program to build houses for victims of the mass evictions.
Amnesty International research has found that, far from being a 
solution, the program has not assisted virtually any of the victims of 
Operation Murambatsvina. Few houses have been constructed, and even 
those which have been built are too expensive for victims to afford.

Most of the houses designated as "built" are unfinished, do not have 
access to adequate safe water and sanitation, and are uninhabited. At 
least 20 per cent of the houses that have been built are officially 
earmarked for civil servants, police and soldiers. In reality, far more 
than 20 per cent of the houses have been allocated to people who did not 
lose their homes during Operation Murambatsvina.

Despite having destroyed many of the victims' livelihoods during the 
evictions, the government demands proof of their income before they are 
considered for new houses. Many informal vendors and traders who were 
supporting themselves and their families before Operation Murambatsvina 
have lost their only source of income, and thus cannot provide any proof 
of income, even if they were offered the chance to purchase a house.

Un-serviced land plots (residential areas of land without access to 
water or sanitation facilities) have been allocated to some victims -- 
but there is no assistance for construction of houses. People who lost 
everything during Operation Murambatsvina are expected to somehow find 
building materials and rebuild houses on their own.

Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle is the only government response to the 
gross human rights violations perpetrated under Operation Murambatsvina. 
No other assistance or remedy has been offered by the government to the 
hundreds of thousands of victims. Amnesty International considers 
Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle to be a wholly inadequate to the abuses 
commited against the victims of Operation Murambatsvina.

Visit AIUSA's Economic, Social and Cultural Rights resource page:
Please write a letter to the Parliament of Zimbabwe urging immediate 
relief for the victims of Operation Murambatsvina. A sample letter has 
been provided, but we encourage you to add your own thoughts:

To: Hon. Zinyemba, MP
Chairperson, Portfolio Committee on Local Government
Parliament of Zimbabwe
P. O. Box CY298
Causeway, Harare

Dear Honorable Zinyemba,

I write to you today to express my deep concern over reports that an 
estimated 700,000 people lost their homes, their livelihoods, or both 
when the government of Zimbabwe forcibly evicted them and demolished 
their homes and businesses between May and July 2005. I was alarmed to 
learn that these evictions were part of a government program (Operation 
Murambatsvina) which targeted poor urban and surrounding areas nationwide.

Amnesty International reports that the forced evictions and demolitions 
of Operation Murambatsvina were carried out without any advance notice, 
respect for due process, in violation of standing court orders, 
mechanisms for individual redress, and without provisions for 
appropriate relocation measures. The vast majority of the victims have 
received no help from the government and have been left to find their 
own alternative shelter. Many are now living in overcrowded and often 
squalid conditions, and thousands of the victims are still living in the 
open under makeshift shelters.

I consider the government's response to the mass evictions wholly 
inadequate, having been implemented five weeks after the evictions 
began, and ultimately having failed to reach the majority of victims of 
Operation Murambatsvina. It is tragic that those targeted by Operation 
Murambatsvina were among the poorest of the poor, and now, as a direct 
consequence of the operation, have been driven deeper into economic and 
psychological distress.

In honor of World Poverty Day, I urge you to do everything in your power 
as a member of the Portfolio Committee on Local Government to demand 
that the government of Zimbabwe upholds its obligation to respect, 
protect, and fulfill the right to adequate housing, as recognized by the 
African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the International 
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
In particular, your committee should urge the Ministry of Local 
Government to revise Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle in order to ensure 
that it:

- provides security of tenure;
- prioritizes the provision of relief to the most vulnerable;
- addresses the housing needs of the poorest who cannot afford the cost 
of a stand or building materials; and
- includes plans to ensure adequate access to safe water and sanitation 
for all housing and stands.

Please give this matter your urgent attention. I thank you in advance 
for taking action to protect the human rights of all people in Zimbabwe, 
including the poor and most vulnerable.

Sincerely, Your NAME and ADDRESS

10 years in prison for sending an email

The Western Region of Amnesty International USA has adopted Shi Tao as 
its "Special Focus" case. We've highlighted his plight before, but 
here's a refresher on this journalist's plight.

In April 2004, the Chinese journalist Shi Tao used his Yahoo! email 
account to send a message to a U.S.-based pro-democracy website. In his 
email, he summarized a government order directing media organizations in 
China to downplay the upcoming 15th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on 
pro-democracy activists. Police arrested him in November 2004, charging 
him with "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities." 
Authorities used email account holder information supplied by Yahoo! to 
convict Shi Tao in April 2005 and sentence him to 10 years in prison.

China's vaguely-worded legal definition of what constitutes a "state 
secret" gives authorities broad discretion to detain people who 
peacefully exercise their right to free expression. In a similar case, 
authorities arrested government worker Li Zhi in August 2003 for 
allegedly using email accounts through Yahoo! and another company to 
make contact with a banned political party. Jailed on charges of 
subversion, Li Zhi is currently serving an eight-year sentence at 
Chuandong Prison in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

China has constructed an extensive system of Internet censorship to 
silence activists and journalists like Shi Tao. All Internet 
communications pass through government-controlled routers, and 
authorities are able to block access to many sites, to filter content, 
and to delete links or web pages considered "dangerous" or "subversive." 
No list identifying what information is filtered or blocked is publicly 
available, but a study done by Harvard Law School in 2002 found that 
more than 50,000 of 204,000 websites tested were inaccessible from at 
least one location in China. Websites using banned words such as 
"democracy," "freedom," and "human rights" are regularly blocked, as are 
the websites of international human rights groups (including Amnesty 
International) and several foreign news services.

Shi Tao (pronounced "shur taow"), a 38-year-old published poet and 
essayist, is held at Chishan Prison in Yuanjiang, Hunan Province, where 
he is reportedly forced to labor under harsh conditions. His family has 
been harassed by authorities. His wife underwent daily questioning by 
security officials and was persistently pressured to divorce Shi Tao, 
which she eventually did. His uncle and brother have been under 
surveillance and harassed both at work and at home, and his mother is 
reportedly monitored and harassed as she petitions for his release.

Amnesty International considers Shi Tao and Li Zhi to be prisoners of 
conscience, imprisoned for peacefully exercising their right to freedom 
of expression, a right protected in international law and the Chinese 

BACKGROUND. China currently has the largest recorded number of 
imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world. As of July 
2006, Amnesty International had documented at least 54 Chinese Internet 
users believed to be imprisoned for such acts as signing petitions, 
calling for an end to corruption, disseminating health information, or 
planning to establish pro-democracy groups. For more information, see 
Amnesty's report, "Undermining Freedom of Expression in China"

The crackdown on Internet users is part of a broader deterioration in 
China's human rights policies. Government authorities have demonstrated 
heightened intolerance of public criticism in recent years, resulting in 
the detention, "disappearance," imprisonment, beating, intimidation and 
harassment of human rights defenders and others seeking justice.

China is the world leader in executions, with thousands of people 
sentenced to death and executed each year. The Uighur minority in the 
Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region face intensified repression under the 
guise of China's "war on terror." Freedom of expression and religion 
continue to be severely restricted in Tibet. Christians not belonging to 
officially recognized churches must practice their religion underground. 
Members of banned spiritual groups, including the Falun Gong, face harsh 

Please send politely worded letters to China's Prime Minister, urging 
him to bring about the immediate and unconditional release of Shi Tao, 
Li Zhi, and all those imprisoned solely for the legitimate exercise of 
their right to freedom of expression. Encourage the authorities to amend 
or repeal vaguely-worded laws or regulations that can be used to 
persecute individuals who exercise their right to freedom of expression.

Write to:
Prime Minister of the People's Republic of China
Wen Jiabao Guojia Zongli
The State Council
9 Xihuangcheng Genbeijie
Beijingshi 100032
via email:

Fear for Safety/Torture/Detention

Mohamed Ismail, an internally displaced farmer from the Masalit ethnic 
group, was arrested by security forces on 25 September with 12 other 
people near Al Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. Ten are believed to 
have been released on 3 October. At least one man, Ibrahim Birzi, and 
possibly a second detainee, are said to have died in custody after being 
tortured. Amnesty International has grave fears for the safety of 
Mohamed Ismail, who is held incommunicado in Al Geneina.

The 13 people arrested are all said to have come from Foro Baranga, 
200km south of Al Geneina, and to have been arrested on suspicion of 
being members or supporters of the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement 
(SLA/M), one of the rebel groups who took up arms against the Sudanese 
authorities in Darfur. All those arrested are believed to have been 
tortured by being severely beaten with bicycle chains and leather whips, 
and by having their heads plunged in water. Ibrahim Birzi reportedly 
died as a result of torture, and is thought to have been buried secretly 
in a dried up watercourse (wadi).

Relatives of the detainees, and UN human rights monitors, who reportedly 
tried to visit the detainees several times, were not permitted to meet 
with them.

BACKGROUND. Since the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the SLA/M 
took arms against the Sudanese government in Darfur in 2003, the 
Sudanese government armed and supported local militias, known as the 
Janjawid, as a proxy force against the rebels. The Sudanese government 
and the Janjawid deliberately targeted civilians of the same ethnicity 
as the rebel groups, as a counter-insurgency strategy. More than 85,000 
have been killed, 200,000 have died as a result of conflict-related 
hunger or disease, and over two million have been displaced. Rebel 
groups have also committed human rights abuses, including targeting 
humanitarian convoys and workers.

In large parts of West Darfur, the Janjawid have almost complete control 
and are gradually occupying the land which was depopulated in 2003 and 
2004. The people displaced by the conflict fled either to Chad or to the 
nearest urban centres, which quickly developed into massive internally 
displaced persons (IDP) camps. The displaced people are virtual 
prisoners in the camps; they risk being killed, tortured or raped by 
Janjawid militia if they venture outside of the camps.

The Darfur Peace Agreement, signed on 5 May 2006 by the government of 
Sudan and one faction of the SLA/M, states that the parties to the 
agreement "shall unconditionally release all persons detained in 
relation to the armed conflict in Darfur" (paragraph 364). However, the 
Sudanese authorities continue to detain many people on suspicion of 
supporting groups which did not sign the peace agreement. Detainees are 
frequently held incommunicado for long periods, and the use of torture 
is widespread.

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

- calling for Mohamed Ismail to be immediately given access to his 
family, lawyer and independent medical care;

- calling for United Nations human rights monitors to have immediate 
access to Mohamed Ismail and all other detainees in Darfur,

- calling for the immediate release of Mohamed Ismail if he is not to be 
brought to fair trial on recognizably criminal charges;

- calling on the government immediately to set up an inquiry into the 
death in custody of Ibrahim Birzi and the torture of the 13 men, and to 
ensure that anyone who is suspected of participating or ordering torture 
is brought to justice in a fair trial.

Lieutenant-General Omar Hassan al-Bashir, President of the Republic of Sudan
People's Palace, PO Box 281
Khartoum, Sudan
Salutation: Your Excellency

Prof. Al-Zubair Bashir Taha, Minister of Internal Affairs
Ministry of Interior
PO Box 281
Khartoum, Sudan

Mr Muhammad Ali al-Maradhi, Minister of Justice
and Attorney General
Ministry of Justice
PO Box 302
Khartoum, Sudan

Dr Abdel Moneim Osman Taha
Rapporteur, Advisory Council for Human Rights
Khartoum, Sudan

Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed
Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan
2210 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington DC 20008