Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XIV Number 9, September 2006


Thursday, September 28, 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, October 10, 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 

October 13-15, Western Regional Conference, "Human Rights Have No 
Borders" Tucson, Arizona. For more info, call the Regional Office at: 
310-815-0450 or visit 

Sunday, October 15, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers Human Rights Book Discussion 
Group. Vroman's Book Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. This 
month we read Uzodinma Iweala's novel about child soldiers, Beasts of No 
Nation (More below.)


The odd things that one remembers. On September 11, 2001, after taking 
in the news early in the morning I went to work as usual. I parked my 
car and walking past Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall on the way to the 
office, I encountered a parent and child headed away from the building. 
Looking relieved, they told me the courts were closed. Their judgment 
day, maybe their own family tragedy, had been postponed by our national 
tragedy. Mostly what I remember though, is that Group 22 had a 
letter-writing meeting that evening. Because Caltech closed its campus, 
regrettably, we had to cancel it. Some of us obeyed the instinct to be 
in community during a time of loss and gathered at our favorite 
discussion spot, Vroman's Bookstore, to debrief the day's events over 
coffee, but I think we would have felt even better if we had been 
writing. For this reason, I think I will always associate 9/11 with 
Amnesty letter-writing.

Sometime later, I observed that even though many felt the world changed 
on that day, for our then prisoner of conscience case, a Tibetan monk, 
nothing changed at all. He was still in prison and the shift in 
geopolitics wasn't going to affect him. We still needed to make sure he 
wasn't a "forgotten prisoner," the kind of prisoner Peter Beneson, 
Amnesty's founder, formed the organization to assist. Now we have 
adopted a different prisoner of conscience case, Eritrean Estifanos 
Seyoum. In his case, the world did change that week, but not in a way 
that the rest of us noticed. He was arrested on September 18, 2001 and 
although never officially charged or brought to trial, he has been held 
incommunicado since that time. We still need to make sure he isn't 
forgotten, even as we are still grappling with the human rights fallout 
of 9/11. Five years on, we can remember Estifanos Seyoum and other 
Eritrean prisoners swept up in that September 2001 purge by sending the 
letter suggested below. Thank you so much for helping us out with this 

Hope to see you soon at one of our meetings!


Eritrean Estifanos Seyoum

In September 2001 the Eritrean Government detained without charge or 
trial eleven former members of Parliament (known as the G-15), ten 
journalists, and hundreds of other men and women. All were accused of 
committing or aiding "treason" because they had called for democratic 
reforms or reported on political debates of concern to the Eritrean 
public. Less than one year later, the government began detaining without 
charge or trial members of minority religious groups, including 
approximately 2000 evangelical Christians, four Orthodox priests, 31 
Jehovah's Witnesses, and 70 Muslims. Most of the several thousand 
political and religious prisoners in Eritrea are held incommunicado in 
secret security or military prisons, without being charged or taken to 
court. Amnesty International considers they are prisoners of conscience 
imprisoned on account of their opinions and criticism of the government. 
It is renewing its ongoing appeals for their unconditional release, as 
well as the release of all other prisoners of conscience, including 
those imprisoned on account of their religious beliefs.

A recent publicly circulating report said to be written by escaped 
prison guards has alleged that several of G-15 prisoners and journalists 
have died in detention on account of the harsh conditions and denial of 
medical treatment. Among them is General Ogbe Abraha, said to have died 
in July 2002 of injuries related to a suicide attempt. The other deaths 
allegedly occurred in later years after detainees fell ill. The Eritrean 
authorities have refused to comment on these allegations. By failing to 
provide any information whatsoever on the prisoners, the Eritrean 
government has essentially authorized their disappearance. Despite 
numerous appeals over the years and international concern about their 
detentions, the authorities have never disclosed their whereabouts or 
conditions in detention or allowed access to them. Nor has the 
government permitted independent investigation of the conditions facing 
religious prisoners known to be held in secret prisons and military 
camps, at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Amnesty International therefore calls on the government of Eritrea to 
form an independent and impartial inquiry team to visit the secret 
prison where the G-15 and journalists are held, interview them 
privately, and report publicly on their situation and conditions of 
detention and health. Amnesty International again urges that the 
detentions should be brought within the framework of Eritrean 
constitutional and legal provisions, as well as the international human 
rights treaties which Eritrea has ratified, including the International 
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR prohibits 
arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman 
or degrading treatment of prisoners, and unfair trial. Amnesty 
International also urges the government to disclose the conditions of 
all religious prisoners of conscience. The ultimate goal remains the 
release of all prisoners of conscience and the government's observance 
of both the Eritrean Constitution and international human rights 

ACTION. Please copy, paste, print, and sign the following letter and 
submit it via regular mail and/or fax to President Issayas Afewerki. You 
may also send copies to the Peoples Front or Democracy and Justice main 
office, and the Embassy of Eritrea.

Peoples Front for Democracy and Justice
PO Box 1081
Fax: +291 1 129 848

Embassy of Eritrea
1708 New Hampshire Avenue NW
Washington DC, 20009
Fax: 202-319-1304

His Excellency
President Issayas Afewerki
Office of the President
PO Box 257
Fax: +291 1 126 422

Your Excellency,

Five years after the detention without trial or charge of eleven former 
members of Parliament and ten journalists, we remain deeply concerned 
about their whereabouts and well-being. Amnesty International considers 
the journalists and former government officials to be prisoners of 
conscience, held incommunicado and at risk of torture and ill-treatment 
for their political opinions. In light of recent allegations that some 
of these prisoners have died in a secret prison location, we call upon 
your government to address the situation of the "disappeared." In 
particular, we call for the formation of an independent and impartial 
inquiry into the conditions of the secret prison where the G-15 and 
journalists are held. We further urge you to abide by the framework 
established in the Eritrean Constitution and the international human 
rights treaties which Eritrea has ratified, including the International 
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Finally, we urge your 
government to disclose the conditions facing the several thousand 
religious prisoners of conscience held since 2002 and provide for both 
the exercise of justice and ultimate release of all prisoners of 
conscience in Eritrea.

We thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely, [Your Name and Address]

Seek Protection for Refugees

Continuing with the "100 Days of Action" on Sudan, we offer this sample 
letter to the Chadian Ambassador requesting Chad's cooperation in 
protecting refugees:

Mahamoud Adam Bechir
Ambassador Embassy of Chad
2002 R Street, NW
Washington DC 20009

Your Excellency:

I am writing to express my deep concern about the safety of civilians in 
Eastern Chad. While I recognize your government's need to address 
continuing attacks by Janjawid and rebel groups in Chad, I appeal to you 
to give the same level of attention to providing meaningful security and 
humanitarian assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons 
along the border.

I therefore call upon the Government of Chad to ensure that: Uprooted 
civilians are protected from Janjawid attacks and recruitment by rebel 
groups; Conditions in Eastern Chad are secure enough for international 
aid organizations to have access to all refugee camps and IDP 
communities to help to save lives Chadian refugees in Sudan are able to 
return voluntarily to Chad and resume their lives in safety.

Thank you for your attention to my concerns,

Sincerely, [Your Name and Address]

Eritrea POC 7
Urgent Actions 20
Total: 27
To add your letters to the total contact

Russian Editor Harassed

During Banned Book Week (Sep. 23-30) Amnesty highlights the plight of 
jailed and persecuted writers. For more actions visit:
Stanislav Dmitrievskii is Executive Director of the Russian-Chechen 
Friendship Society (RCFS), which monitors human rights violations, and 
the editor-in chief of the newspaper Rights Defender. He was sentenced 
after publishing articles calling for a peaceful resolution of the 
Chechen conflict.

For publishing non-violent articles written by the late Chechen 
separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov and his envoy, Akhmed Zakayev, 
Stanislav Dmitrievskii was given a two-year suspended sentence and a 
four-year probationary period on 3 February 2006.

The prosecutor stated that the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society 
director used the society's monthly newspaper to publish criticism of 
the Kremlin's policies in Chechnya and the Northern Caucasus - criticism 
that amounted to fomenting hatred. While the RCFS has been denouncing 
human rights violations in Chechnya, there have been numerous cases of 
alleged torture and ill-treatment, "disappearances," and extrajudicial 
executions of its own members since 2000.

The persecution of Stanislav Dmitrievskii is part of a pattern of 
harassment of human rights defenders. In January 2006, President Putin 
signed a new law granting excessive powers of scrutiny and discretion to 
government authorities in monitoring non-governmental organizations 
(NGOs). The new law may have a stifling affect on civil society: human 
rights organizations will be hampered in their work, while many innocent 
civilians will be subject to arbitrary authority.

Believing that the prosecution of Stanislav Dmitrievskii on "race-hate" 
charges constitutes a violation of his right to freedom of expression, 
Amnesty International is calling for the sentence to be overturned.

Please send politely worded letters to the Procurator General of Russia, 
urging him to free Stanislav Dmitrievskii from the charges against him, 
end harassment of human rights defenders, and amend the new law on NGOs 
to bring it in line with international standards.

Vladimir V. Ustinov
Office of the Procuracy
Ul. Bolshaia Dmitrovka 15a
Russian Federation

Ambassador Yury V. Ushakov
Embassy of the Russian Federation
2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007

Honduran POCs released!

Leonardo Miranda, the last of three Honduran prisoners of conscience on 
whose behalf AIUSA has campaigned for the past year through its Special 
Focus Case project, was freed on August 15, 2006. Leonardo's brother 
Marcelino was freed on July 12, 2006, following a decision by the 
Honduran Supreme Court in June that acquitted Marcelino and Leonardo of 
a 2001 murder for which they were wrongfully imprisoned. On August 15, a 
lower court commuted Leonardo's sentence on another charge, resulting in 
his release. Amnesty believed the two brothers and another indigenous 
rights activist, Feliciano Pineda, were jailed in connection with their 
efforts to secure communal land titles for their communities in Montana 
Verde. Pineda was released from detention in February 2006.

Cluster Bomb Transfer to Israel Suspended!

Thanks to hundreds of phone calls to U.S. Senators from Amnesty 
International USA members, the U.S. Department of State reportedly 
suspended the transfer of rockets armed with cluster munitions to Israel 
and is investigating Israel's use of previously supplied U.S. made 
cluster munitions to Israel. Because of their indiscriminate nature, 
Amnesty International has opposed the use of cluster bombs in the past, 
especially in civilian populated areas.

Human Rights Book Discussion Group
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena
Sunday, October 15, 6:30 PM
Keep up with Rights Readers at

Beasts of No Nation
by Uzodinma Iweala

This startling debut by a young American-Nigerian writer follows the 
fortunes of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed 
African country. Iweala's acute imagining of Agu's perspective allows 
him to depict the war as a mesh of bestial pleasures and pain. As seen 
through Agu's eyes, machetes sound like music, and bodies come apart on 
roads so cracked that you can see "the red mud bleeding from 
underneath." Agu has a child's primitive drive that enables him to 
survive his descent into hell, and, despite the brutality he witnesses 
and participates in, to keep hold of something resembling optimism. The 
contrast between his belief in the future and the horrific descriptions 
of the world around him makes Agu a haunting narrator. -- The New Yorker

Threats Against Salvadoran Gay Rights NGO

Members of the Between Friends Association (Asociacion Entre Amigos), 
including the organization's director, William Hernandez, have received 
death threats and are apparently under surveillance. This may be an 
attempt to halt the organization's work on behalf of lesbian, gay, 
bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in El Salvador.
At 7.30pm on 1 June, William Hernandez was threatened at gunpoint 
outside the office of the Asociacion Entre Amigos, in the capital, San 
Salvador, soon after the police officer assigned to protect him had left 
him for the day. An unidentified man approached William Hernandez from 
behind and put a gun to his neck, saying, "No voltees a ver. Tenes que 
dejar de joder en la Asamblea. Deja de hacer babosadas en la calle por 
que ya se que estas organizando mierdas para este mes. Ya busque dentro 
y no encontre nada y aqui voy a encontrar lo que busco; deja de joder o 
antes de que te cases te mato" ("Don't turn around. Stop fucking in the 
Assembly. Stop doing stupid things in the street because I know you are 
organizing some shit for this month. I already looked inside but didn't 
find anything. Here I'll find what I'm looking for. Stop fucking or I'll 
kill you before you get married".) The unidentified man grabbed a 
briefcase which William Hernandez was holding, and ran off.

Two days before this attack took place, the office of the Asociacion 
Entre Amigos had been raided. On 30 May, William Hernandez and another 
member of the organization's staff arrived at the office to find that 
three windows had been broken, their files had been searched, and two 
threats had been written on pieces of paper and left in the office. One 
note read "culeros se mueren", ("'fags' die"), and the other "esto es su 
merecido", ("this is what you deserve"). No valuable office equipment 
was stolen in the raid, but a number of documents were taken, including 
a hand-written program of the organization's activities planned for June 
to celebrate sexual diversity. One of the activities was a demonstration 
in front of the Legislative Assembly opposing the ratification of a 
constitutional reform banning the marriage of same-sex couples and the 
adoption of children by lesbians and gay people.

Since the raid, the Asociacion Entre Amigos has moved to a new office, 
but staff believe that they may be under surveillance. A number of 
unidentified men have been noticed outside the office, apparently 
keeping watch, for four to five hours each day.
The opposition Christian Democratic Party, (Partido Democrata Cristiano, 
PDC) and the Catholic Church in El Salvador are campaigning for an 
amendment to the constitution that would make it illegal for same-sex 
couples to marry and adopt children. The amendment was approved by the 
Legislative Assembly in 2005 but now has to be ratified by the new 
parliament, elected in March. The Asociacion Entre Amigos has been 
lobbying members of the legislative assembly and campaigning against 
this amendment.

BACKGROUND. The Asociacion Entre Amigos provides sex education to LGBT 
people, as well as to the wider public. It has also spoken out about 
human rights violations against LGBT people and the failure of the 
authorities to investigate such abuses.

LGBT people in El Salvador regularly faces attacks and intimidation. The 
Asociacion Entre Amigos has reported seven raids on their offices during 
the last five years. Although in all cases the incidents have been 
reported to the authorities, investigations into the incidents have 
proved superficial, and nobody has been brought to justice. William 
Hernandez still receives some police protection during his working hours 
following earlier threats against him (see UA 159/99, 12 November 1999, 
and follow-up).

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send letters:
- expressing grave concern for the safety of William Hernandez, Director 
of the Asociacion Entre Amigos, Between Friends Association, and other 
members of staff at the organization;

- calling on the authorities to take immediate measures to ensure the 
safety of the Asociacion Entre Amigos staff, in accordance with their 
own wishes, and to provide additional security measures for William 
Hernandez, in accordance with his wishes;
- calling for a thorough, prompt and impartial investigation into the 
death threats against William Hernandez, to make the results public and 
to bring those responsible to justice;

- reminding the authorities that the UN Declaration on the Rights and 
Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote 
and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental 
Liberties recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights 
defenders and their right to carry out their activities without any 
restrictions or fear of reprisals;

- urging the authorities to take immediate measures to end the 
intimidation of LGBT people.

Ministro de Gobernacion
Sr. Rene Figueroa
Centro de Gobierno
San Salvador, El Salvador

Fiscal General
Lic. Felix Garrid Safie
Fiscalia General de la Republica
Colonia Flor Blanca
49 Avenida Sur
Edificio 8-B
San Salvador, El Salvador

Ambassador Rene A. Leon
Embassy of El Salvador
2308 California St. NW
Washington DC 20008

Help Stop US Production of Landmines

On August 1, 2006, U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter 
introduced the Victim-Activated Landmine Abolition Act of 2006 (S. 3768) 
to freeze the U.S. procurement and production of landmines that are 
victim activated. Victim activated landmines fail to distinguish between 
civilians and combatants, detonating when any man, woman, or child 
triggers it. The United States has said it will continue to develop 
landmines, including victim activated mines, despite the risks of using 
such indiscriminate weapons. The Pentagon also requested over $1 billion 
for the production of new landmines starting in fiscal year 2006.

Amnesty International has joined many other non-governmental groups 
around the world in opposing the use, production, and stockpiling of 
anti-personnel landmines because of their indiscriminate nature and 
threat to countless men, women, and children. It is estimated by the 
U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines that there are between 15,000 and 20,000 
new casualties caused by landmines and unexploded ordnance each year. 
Most of the casualties are civilians and most live in countries that are 
now at peace. Landmine blasts causes deaths and injuries such as 
blindness, burns, destroyed limbs, and shrapnel wounds. Those who 
survive and receive medical treatment often require amputations, long 
hospital stays, and extensive rehabilitation.

Many of the landmines that have contributed to so much death and injury 
have been victim activated. Victim activated mines detonate when any 
person touches or triggers a mine, failing to discriminate between the 
foot of a soldier and a civilian. The use of these types of mines 
violates the prohibitions on the use of indiscriminate weapons contained 
in the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols. The 1980 Convention on 
Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons 
also encourages governments to take "all feasible precautions" to 
protect civilians from the effects of indiscriminate weapons.

In February 2004, the Bush administration announced, "The United States 
will continue to develop non-persistent anti-personnel and anti-tank 
landmines," which could include victim activated mines. The Pentagon is 
requesting $1.08 billion for the production of new landmine systems 
between fiscal years 2006 and 2011 as well as $688 million for research 
into these systems. The Pentagon recently issued a contract for initial 
production of a new high-tech munition system, Spider, which is capable 
of victim activation.

The Victim-Activated Landmine Act of 2006 (S. 3768) would ensure that 
the U.S. government only procures command activated weapons as opposed 
to victim activated weapons. Command activated munitions are detonated 
by human decision through remote-controlled means, requiring a user to 
identify a target first in order to ensure that they are not a civilian 
or a friendly force.

Experts say that command activated as opposed to victim activated mines 
will have little effect on military strategy. In addition, the former 
commandant of the U.S. Army War College said "the antipersonnel types of 
mines have not been planted by U.S. troops in well over a decade and are 
not particularly useful on the modern battlefield."
Recommended Action: Urge your Senator to cosponsor this important bill.
We have provided a sample letter, but please be encouraged to add your 
own thoughts:

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

The Honorable Barbara Boxer
United States Senate
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-0505

Dear Senator,

I urge you to cosponsor the Victim-activated Landmine Abolition Act of 
2006 (S.3768), introduced on August 1, 2006, by U.S. Senators Patrick 
Leahy and Arlen Specter. This bill would put a freeze on the U.S. 
procurement and production of landmines that can be activated by a 
victim and could help reduce the potential use of these indiscriminate 

According to the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines, an estimated 15,000 to 
20,000 are killed or injured from landmines and unexploded ordnance 
annually around the world. Many more suffer from the psychological and 
economic impact of these weapons. Dozens of U.S. troops in Iraq and 
Afghanistan have also been injured by accidentally triggering landmines.

Despite the risks of using these mines, the United States has said it 
"will continue to develop nonpersistent anti-personnel and anti-tank 
landmines." Reversing a U.S. practice of not producing landmines since 
1997, the Pentagon requested over $1 billion for the production of new 
landmines starting in fiscal year 2006.

S. 3768 would ensure that the United States refrains from purchasing 
mines that are victim activated and fail to distinguish between 
civilians and combatants. The bill would also prevent the United States 
from procuring "smart" or "non-persistent" mines, which despite 
improvements still fail to explode, threatening any person that touches 
the unexploded mines.

In order to help prevent the potential use of weapons that have 
contributed to so many accidental deaths or injuries around the world, I 
urge you to support the Victim-activated Landmine Abolition Act of 2006.

Sincerely, [Your Name and Address]