Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News Volume XV Number 4, April 2007 UPCOMING EVENTS Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News - April 2007 Volume XV Number 4, April 2007 Friday & Saturday, April 21 & 20. Tabling at Earth Day Events: Friday at Caltech 11:30 AM to 1 PM. Saturday at Memorial Park in Pasadena, 10 AM to 4 PM. Stop by to sign petitions or stay to help out! Thursday, April 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, May 8, 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 Amnesty! Sunday, May 20, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers Human Rights Book Discussion Group. Vroman's Book Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. This month we read Caroline Elkin's Pulitzer-winning work, Imperial Reckoning (More below). COORDINATOR'S CORNER Greetings from Group 22 as Earth Day approaches! Recently as I thought about writing this column, I found myself in Zion National Park in southern Utah. One of my favorite views in Zion is the panorama behind the museum. My first sighting of it this trip was from the Watchman Trail. To the left of it is West Temple, a broad flat mesa topped by a small caprock, both of which are sprinkled with evergreens. A red rock face shows the iron that leaches through the Navajo Sandstone. Black streaks remind me of the waterfalls that cascade down the face of the cliff during rainstorms. At the far right from West Temple and across the Towers of the Virgin, stands the Altar of Sacrifice, flat topped, white faced with wide streaks of red flowing down to make clear this formation's name. When my gaze travels left to right from West Temple to the Altar of Sacrifice, I think of Amnesty International and the work its members do to lessen the suffering caused by human rights violations. In this beautiful natural setting, I think of the individuals around the world who willingly sacrifice their time, their safety and, yes sometimes, their lives, to protect the dignity of the human family and, in some cases, the very environment that sustains life. This month Group 22 takes part in two Earth Day celebrations. One is Friday, April 20 at Caltech, from 11:30 AM to 1 PM. The other is Saturday, April 21, at Memorial Park in Pasadena, from 10 AM to 4 PM. Please, join us. Stop by for some information, good conversation, an action to support, and an opportunity to get involved with our group. On April 6, some of us from Group 22 went to Vroman's Bookstore to hear Kiran Desai speak about her book THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS, our February book. What a delight to hear her, especially as she carefully explained her ideas concerning the first world, and her case the upper class in India, verses the developing world during the Q&A. This month we read the environmentally-themed TRACKS by Native American author Louise Erdrich and move onto a Pulitzer-winning book about the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya next month. Consider joining our book group for interesting reading and lively discussion. Since I believe everyday is Earth Day and the April event is a simple reminder, let's all remember Earth Day's three Rs. Recycle, of course; Reuse, yes; Reduce, let's work at it because, "Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect." -Chief Seattle, 1855 Happy Earth Day and join us at Group 22. [Ed. note: Visit http://rightsreaders.blogspot.com to see a photo of the Altar of Sacrifice as well as other Earth-related posts!] Stevi email@example.com ERITREA Orthodox Patriarch under House Arrest About a year ago Group 22 adopted Eritrean Prisoner of Conscience Estifanos Seyoum. Every month we worked on actions in his behalf until in January 2007 Amnesty International closed the case files of all the individual Eritrean POCs. The closure was motivated in part by reports of the deaths of several of the prisoners. AI could not confirm these reports because Eritrea is closed to human rights investigators. After the arrest of Estifanos and many others in September 2001, the Eritrean government continued to pursue a policy of political repression and religious persecution. Please join Group 22 this month in participating in an Eritrea action featured on the AIUSA website and write in behalf of Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonios. Amnesty International is deeply concerned about Abune Antonios, age 79, who has remained under house arrest in Asmara since January 2006. Abune Antonios was stripped of his ecclesiastical authority and forbidden to participate in the Church's administrative affairs by the government of Eritrea in August 2005. He is reported to have appeared in person at the office of President Issayas Afwerki in late 2004 to protest the arrest and imprisonment of three Orthodox priests, Reverend Dr. Futsum Gebrenegus, Reverend Dr. Tekleab Mengisteab, and Reverend Gebremedhin Gebreghiorghis. These priests had been leaders of the Mekane Hiwet Medhane Alem Church, an internal Orthodox movement that drew thousands of younger followers to weekly Sunday school classes and Bible study. In July 2005, Yitbarek Berhe, a deacon of the Orthodox Church, deputy administrator of the church synod (council) and adviser to the Patriarch, was reportedly arrested after being forced to resign from his post. In January 2006, authorities reportedly placed Abune Antonios under formal house arrest. He was accused of refusing to cooperate with the government in closing down the Medhane Alem Church and protesting the a rrest of the above-named individuals . Abune Antonios argued that his dismissal was in direct violation of long-established Church canons, under which a Patriarch's election is a lifetime appointment that cannot be revoked. He was subsequently stripped of his Patriarchal vestments and holy artifacts in January 2007. Abune Antonios has reportedly been held incommunicado since January 20, 2007. He suffers from diabetes and is reportedly not receiving medical attention. In addition to revoking his salary, the authorities have also forbidden Abune Antonios from having any contact with Orthodox followers and from attending or leading worship services. He has not been permitted to receive communion for the past year. The interim Church leadership, appointed by the government under Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros, has also reportedly excommunicated two prominent Church scholars, Andeberhan Gebremariam, Teweldemedhin Mengistu; two priests, Fr. Debretsion Araya and Fr. Yonas Debretsion; and another 60 parishioners who supported Abune Antonios. Excommunication is an extremely serious matter that precludes attendance at worship services, handling Bibles or other holy artifacts, taking communion, baptizing one's children, attending funerals, and being buried in consecrated ground . Background. Since 2002, the government of Eritrea has severely curtailed religious expression. It officially recognized Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran Christian churches and Islamic institutions, but has recently begun interfering in these as well. Members of some 35 minority Christian evangelical churches continue to face especially fierce persecution, even though freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Eritrean Constitution. Approximately 2,000 members of minority churches, including about 20 pastors, and dozens of Orthodox Christians and Muslims, are currently detained. Detainees are held incommunicado in harsh conditions without charge or trial. They are imprisoned in police stations at first, then in army camps and security prisons in different parts of the country, including the main military training centre at Sawa. Some are held in metal shipping containers and underground prisons. Several detainees have become seriously ill and are rarely provided with adequate medical treatment. They are repeatedly tortured by being beaten and being tied up in painful positions. We have provided a sample letter below, but please be encouraged to add your own thoughts: Sample Letter: Mr. Yoftahe Demetros General Secretary of the Holy Synod P.O. BOX 728 Asmara ERITREA Dear Mr. Demetros: I am deeply concerned about the fate of the Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, 79-year-old Abune Antonios who has remained under incommunicado house arrest in Asmara since January 2006. He suffers from diabetes and reportedly is not receiving necessary medical attention. In August 2005, the Eritrean Government stripped Abune Antonios of his ecclesiastical authority and forbade him to participate in the Church's administrative affairs. In January 2006, authorities reportedly placed Abune Antonios under formal house arrest for protesting the arrest of three Orthodox priests of the Medhane Alem Church, and for refusing to cooperate with the government in closing down that Church. Abune Antonios argued that his dismissal was in direct violation of long-established Church canons, under which a Patriarch's election is a lifetime appointment that cannot be revoked. He was subsequently stripped of his Patriarchal vestments and holy artifacts in January 2007. In addition to revoking his salary, the authorities have also forbidden Abune Antonios from having any contact with Orthodox followers and from attending or leading worship services and taking communion. I call on you to ensure that Abune Antonios and other Orthodox Christians be allowed to practice their faith without fear of persecution and interference by government authorities and government-appointed Church leaders. I also respectfully request that Abune Antonios be given access to adequate medical care, and be allowed to communicate with his family members, and parishioners while he is under house arrest. Sincerely, Your NAME and ADDRESS copy to: Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate H.H. Pope Shenouda III Rameses St. Abbassia Cairo EGYPT DEATH PENALTY Women in Sudan to be Stoned Sample letter for this compelling case follows: Mr. Ali Mohammed Ali al-Mardi Minister of Justice Ministry of Justice P.O. Box 302 Khartoum SUDAN Dear Minister: I am deeply concerned about Sadia Idriss Fadul and Amouna Abdallah Daldoum, two women from the Darfur region in western Sudan who are at risk of being stoned to death after being convicted of adultery. The sentence, which was reportedly imposed after an unfair trial, could be carried out at any time. The two women are currently in detention in Wad Madani women's prison in Wad Madani, Gazira State. Both women are married with children, and Sadia Idriss Fadul has one of her children with her in prison. Sadia Idriss Fadul, from the Fur ethnic group, was sentenced to death by stoning on 13 February 2007. Amouna Abdallah Daldoum, a member of the Tama ethnic group, was sentenced on 6 March 2007. They were both convicted of adultery by a criminal court in Managil province in Gazira state, central Sudan. According to reports, the women had no lawyer during their trial and were not able to defend themselves, as their first languages are those of their ethnic groups in Darfur. The court proceedings were conducted in Arabic, and the women were reportedly not provided with a translator. Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, including death by stoning, are inconsistent with Sudan's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a party. I join with Amnesty International in calling on you to ensure that the death penalty is not imposed on Sadia Idriss Fadul and Amouna Abdallah Daldoum. Sincerely, Your NAME and ADDRESS copy to: Ambassador John Ukec Lueth Ukec Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan 2210 Massachusetts Avenue N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008 email: firstname.lastname@example.org JUST EARTH Peruvian environmentalists under threat Human rights defender Javier Rodolfo Jahncke Benavente has received a death threat which appears to be directly linked to his work to protect the rights of communities affected by mining projects in the north of the country. Amnesty International believes that he and other members of the Red Muqui (Muqui Network) may be in danger. Javier Rodolfo Jahncke Benavente received an anonymous call to his mobile phone on 15 March from a man who told him, Vas a morir (You are going to die). Javier Rodolfo Jahncke works for the Red Muqui in rural communities in Piura department. The Red Muqui support group he runs is working to ensure that the communities have access to information about projected mining activities, and to a transparent and fair consultation before any such activities are carried out. The Red Muqui is a nationwide umbrella group of 19 organizations which work for the defense of the rights of rural and indigenous communities affected by mining projects. These include the right to information and to be consulted before any decisions are made about mining activity in their communities. Javier Rodolfo Jahncke Benavente filed a complaint about the threat with the prosecutor's office in Lima on 16 March. Amnesty International is not aware that they have opened an investigation. Background. Most mining in Peru is for metals and the mining projects covered by the organizations in the Red Muqui include the extraction of copper, zinc, lead and gold. The communities' main preoccupation is the environmental impact that these projects may have in their region. However, this is compounded by a lack of access to information and consultation prior to any decisions being made about mining activity in their communities. Other human rights defenders working on similar issues to Javier Rodolfo Jahncke Benavente have also received threats. On 31 August 2006, Dr Mirtha Vasquez Chuquilin, Executive Director of environmental and human rights organization, GRUFIDES, received an anonymous telephone call in which she was told Te vamos a violar y luego te vamos a matar (We will rape you and then we will kill you). Father Marco Arana, a member of GRUFIDES, received anonymous death threats by telephone on both 3 and 4 August 2006. On 27 September 2006, Father Arana's niece received a telephone call in which she was told: Dile a tu tio que no se meta, le vamos a disparar un balazo en la cabeza (Tell your uncle not to get involved, we will put a bullet through his head). Father Marco Arana and Dr. Mirtha Vasquez Chuquilin, as well as other members of GRUFIDES, have apparently also been followed by unidentified individuals on motorbikes, and have also been filmed and photographed in the street. GRUFIDES is part of the Red Muqui. (For more information see UA 312/06, 22 November 2006). Human rights defenders are a fundamental part of any society. The protection of human rights depends on the state accepting criticism and proposals from civil society in order to remove any obstacles to the promotion and attainment of all human rights. Therefore, human rights defenders should have the right and be encouraged to carry out their work without fear of reprisals. RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals: - expressing concern that human rights defender Javier Rodolfo Jahncke received an anonymous death treat on 15 March; - expressing concern for his safety and for the safety of all human rights defenders working in the Red Muqui; - urging the authorities to take steps to guarantee the safety of Javier Rodolfo Jahncke and all human rights defenders working in the Red Muqui, in accordance with their own wishes; - urging the authorities to carry out an independent and impartial investigation into the death threat received by Javier Rodolfo Jahncke, making the results public and bringing those responsible to justice; - asking to be informed of the results of this investigation; - urging the authorities to send a clear public message that they will not tolerate intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders; - urging the authorities to guarantee the right of local communities affected by mining projects to information and to participate in an open, transparent and fair consultation process before any mining activities take place; - stating that human rights defenders are a fundamental part of society and that the protection of human rights depends on human rights defenders being able to carry out their work without fear of reprisals. Attorney General: Dra. Adelaida Flora Bolívar Arteaga la Nación Fiscalía de la Nación Av. Abancay, cuadra 5 s/n Lima 1, PERÚ Minister of Energy and Mines: Sr. Juan Gualberto Valdivía Romero Ministro de Energía y Minas Ministerio de Energía y Minas Av. Las Artes Sur 260, San Borja Lima 41, PERÚ COPIES TO: Ambassador Felipe Ortiz de Zevallos Embassy of Peru 1700 Massachusetts Ave. NW Washington DC 20036 Email: email@example.com DENOUNCE TORTURE Saudi Juvenile held at Guantanamo Yousef al-Shehri, a Saudi Arabian national has been detained at Guantánamo Bay since he was 16 years old. Call on the US and Saudi Arabian authorities to ensure that he is either charged and tried in line with international standards or released, taking into full account his age at the time of his detention. Yousef al-Shehri was 16 years old when he was detained in Afghanistan on November 30, 2001 following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. He is believed to have been captured somewhere between Kunduz and Mazar-e-Sherif, along with a group of 120 others, by the Northern Alliance forces of General Abdul Rashid Dostum. After his capture, Yousef al-Shehri was transported to Shiberghan prison in Afghanistan where he was held for one and a half months. He was subsequently handed over to US custody and flown to the detention centre at the US military base at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba on January 16, 2002. Like the other Guantánamo detainees, Yousef al-Shehri was clothed in an orange jumpsuit, shackled, bound and blindfolded during the flight and then held in the wire cages of Guantánamo's original holding facility 'Camp X-Ray', exposed to harsh sunlight during the day and cold temperatures at night. Little is known about Yousef al-Shehri's current conditions of detention. Yousef al-Shehri was detained with his cousin Abdul Salam al-Shehri, who is believed to have been 17 at the time of his capture. Abdul Salam al-Shehri was released from Guantánamo in June 2006 and transferred to Saudi Arabia. Children in Guantánamo. Some estimates suggest that as many as 17 detainees were taken to Guantánamo when they were under 18 years old. At least four of these, possibly more, remain held. They are Mohammed al-Gharani, a Chadian national detained in Pakistan when he was 15, Omar Khadr, a Canadian national, aged 15 when captured in Afghanistan, Hassan bin Attash, a Yemeni national, 17 when he was captured in Pakistan and Yousef al-Shehri. Another detainee, Yassar Talal 'Abdullah Yahia al-Zahrani, from Saudi Arabia, was reportedly 17 when he was detained. He died in Guantánamo in June 2006, apparently as a result of suicide. Releasing three Afghan children from Guantánamo in January 2004, the Department of Defense stated that "as with all detainees, these juveniles were considered enemy combatants that posed a threat to US security ... Age is not a determining factor in detention." The three children who were released were between the ages of 13 and 15 at the time of their detention. In their release from the base the USA was acting in terms of government policy rather than in compliance with its international legal obligations. The US determined that the "juvenile detainees no longer posed a threat to our nation, that they have no further intelligence value and that they are not going to be tried by the US government for any crimes." Apart from the three children released in 2004, who were transferred to a separate section of the camp when details of their young age emerged, the others have been held in the same harsh conditions as adults, including prolonged solitary confinement in Camp V. Recommended Action: Call on the US and Saudi Arabian authorities to ensure that Yousef al-Shehri is either charged and tried in line with international standards or released, taking into full account his age at the time of his detention. We have provided sample letters, but please be encouraged to add your own thoughts: USA: Major General Glenn F. Spears firstname.lastname@example.org cc: Charles D. Stimson email@example.com cc: The Honorable Condoleezza Rice Secretary@state.gov I am writing to express my serious concern for Yousef al-Shehri, a Saudi Arabian national detained at Guantánamo Bay since he was 16 years old. I urge you to either release him immediately and unconditionally, or charge him with a crime, taking into full account his age at the time of detention and ensuring he is accorded all the protections due to child offenders. I also ask that any trial be conducted in accordance with international fair trial standards. I am concerned that the United States has held detainees at Guantanamo for almost five years and that most are being held without charge or trial. I am concerned that while detained at Guantánamo Bay, al-Shehri has not been afforded the special protections provided for in international law and standards for juveniles in detention. I am also worried that he may have been mistreated during his participation in a hunger strike. I call on you to fully investigate these allegations of mistreatment, to make the findings public, and to ensure that anyone found responsible for engaging in torture or ill treatment is brought to justice. I also call on you to keep Yousef al-Shehri's family fully informed of his status, health and well-being, and to ensure that he has adequate communication with his family. The detention facility at Guantánamo Bay is a blight for the United States and must be closed. All detainees held at Guantanamo must either be charged and tried in accordance with international standards in a civilian court without recourse to the death penalty, or released. Further, it is essential that US authorities establish an independent and impartial commission of inquiry into all aspects of "war on terror" detention policies and practices. Thank you for your consideration of this extremely serious matter. Sincerely, Your NAME and ADDRESS Saudi Arabia: Ambassador Prince Turki Al-Faisal Email: firstname.lastname@example.org I am writing to express my serious concerns for Yousef al-Shehri, a Saudi Arabian national detained at Guantánamo Bay since he was 16 years old. I urge your government to take whatever measures are necessary with the US authorities to ensure that Yousef al-Shehri is either charged with a recognizably criminal offense or released. I am also concerned about his treatment while detained at Guantánamo Bay, particularly, that he may have been mistreated during his participation in a hunger strike. Please raise with the US authorities these concerns over allegations that Yousef al-Shehri has been ill-treated in US custody. Finally, I urge you to ensure that Yousef al-Shehri's human rights will be protected if he is returned to Saudi Arabia and that he either be charged and tried in accordance with international standards of fairness or released. Thank you for your consideration of this most serious matter. Sincerely, Your NAME and ADDRESS LETTER COUNT Eritrea 1 Urgent Actions 25 Uganda 7 Total: 33 To add your letters to the total contact email@example.com RIGHTS READERS Human Rights Book Discussion Group Keep up with Rights Readers at http://rightsreaders.blogspot.com Sunday, May 20, 6:30 PM Vroman's Bookstore 695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena Imperial Reckoning --by Caroline Elkins As part of the Allied forces, thousands of Kenyans fought alongside the British in World War II. But just a few years after the defeat of Hitler, the British colonial government detained nearly the entire population of Kenya's largest ethnic minority, the Kikuyu some one and a half million people. The compelling story of the system of prisons and work camps where thousands met their deaths was the victim of a determined effort by the British to destroy all official records of their attempts to stop the Mau Mau uprising. ... An unforgettable account of the unraveling of the British colonial empire in Kenya a pivotal moment in twentieth- century history with chilling parallels to Americas own imperial project.