Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XVII  Number 4, April 2009


Thursday, April 23, 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.  

Sunday, May 3, Monthly Movie Night.  
Time and location TBD.

Tuesday May 12, 7:30 PM. Note change of 
venue. Letter writing meeting at Zephyr coffee 
house, 2419 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena. 626-
793-7330. This informal gathering is a great 
way for newcomers to get acquainted with 

Sunday, May 17, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion Group. Vroman's 
Book Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., 
Pasadena.  This month we read "Dreams and 
Shadows - the Future of the Middle East" by 
Robin Wright. 


It's a beautiful day today and I sit here thinking 
about torture!  Actually, I'm counting my 
blessings ...
Members of Group 22 and others recently visited 
the offices of Representative Adam Schiff, 
Senators Boxer and Feinstein to discuss AI's 
concerns and recommendations regarding torture 
and accountability for same.  Read Larry's 
summary of these visits in this newsletter. 
Following the summary there is a sample letter to 
send to your Congressperson demanding an 
independent investigation into torture 
practices/policies and criminal prosecution if 
appropriate. The letter also asks the member of 
Congress to sign a letter asking the Obama 
Administration to release all documents related 
to torture from the previous Bush 
administration.  You can also participate in this 
action online at:
Group 22 had a very successful letter writing 
meeting at a new location last week, the Zephyr 
Cafe in East Pasadena.  Quite a crowded place!  
Be sure to check your email to see if the next 
letter writing will be at this new location!
Con carino,	 


U.S. - Calling for accountability for detainee 

Amnesty International has expressed great 
concern about U.S. policies and actions related to 
detentions, treatment (including torture) and 
transfer of detainees after 9/11, with its research 
and recommendations.  Early this month, AIUSA 
launched an initiative to organize local 
delegations of members to visit their Senators 
and Representatives.   The focused aim was to 
seek support for a non-partisan independent 
commission of distinguished Americans to 
examine and provide a comprehensive report on 
these policies and actions, and to make further 
recommendations for future policy in this area.

Local AI member Vincent de Stefano is leading 
these efforts in the Los Angeles area, with several 
members of the Pasadena group participating. A 
delegation including Yuny Parada and Robert 
Ward from our group (as well several others 
including Vincent) visited Adam Schiff's office on 
April 7. Yuny and Larry Romans and others 
visited Senator Barbara Boxer's office also on 
April 7, and Yuny and others visited Diane 
Feinstein's office on April 8.

In each case, we had a meeting with a designated 
staff member, with the opportunity to present 
AI's concerns and suggestions.  Vincent has been 
very well prepared, and in his role did most of 
the talking.  We encountered various levels of 
knowledge and preparation by the staff 
members, but we invariably found a receptive ear 
and a commitment to follow up with the member 
of Congress. The Obama administration has 
taken recent actions directly relating to these 
issues, releasing the previous administration's 
documents authorizing torture and starting to 
formulate an approach of effective impunity for 
intelligence personnel implementing the policies.  
With the shifting political landscape, it is 
especially important to maintain pressure on our 
representatives to not lose sight of the need for 
justice and accountability in these important 

Please contact the group if you are interested in 
participating in this on-going process.  A visit is 
planned with representative Xavier Bercerra's 
office for the morning of Thursday, April 23 (the 
day of our monthly meeting).  Even if you aren't 
in his congressional district, (most of us are 
probably in Schiff's) it would still be appropriate 
to attend.  There are also other visits under 
consideration, and follow-up work and possible 
further visits to the members of Congress already 


The recent release of memos has made all the 
more clear what we had previously heard about 
the last administration's torture policies. Forced 
nudity. Slamming detainees into walls. Forced 
sleep deprivation for days of shackled prisoners, 
standing in diapers in excruciating pain and filth. 
Although Attorney General Holder, on April 16, 
suggested that the Obama administration would 
not prosecute intelligence agents who carried out 
interrogations following legal advice, both those 
who authored the policy and those who executed 
it must be held accountable. Press your 
representatives to help establish or support a 
non-partisan independent commission and urge 
them to help expose and prosecute those 
responsible for abuses. 

Prosecute Torturers

The United States government has authorized 
and carried out policies since September 11, 2001 
that have led to the systematic abuse of human 
rights. Abuses include torture, arbitrary 
detention, secret movement of prisoners, 
widespread domestic surveillance and unlawful 
attacks on civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 
defending those actions, government and military 
officials have reinterpreted and ignored 
applicable legal standards, and shielded 
themselves from responsibility for their actions.

The U.S. government is required by international 
law to respect and ensure human rights, to 
thoroughly investigate every violation of those 
rights, and to bring perpetrators to justice, no 
matter their level of office or former level of 
office. Victims of human rights violations have 
the right under international law to access to 
remedy and reparation. In addition, there is a 
collective and individual right to the truth about 
violations. To ensure that abuses cease, to restore 
the rule of law and to rescue U.S. credibility as a 
rights-respecting nation, the United States must 
create a culture of accountability for the past. An 
independent commission of inquiry, along with 
prosecutions of crimes and remedy for victims, is 
a crucial component of accountability. 


Dear ________,

As your constituent, I would like you to help 
establish or support a non-partisan, independent 
commission of distinguished Americans to 
examine, and provide a comprehensive report on, 
policies and actions related to the detention, 
treatment, and transfer of detainees after 9/11 
and the consequences of those actions, and to 
make recommendations for future policy in this 

As you know, the government has a legal 
obligation to prosecute grave breaches of the 
Geneva Conventions. I ask that you help 
establish this commission of inquiry to live up to 
obligations and to help hold perpetrators of 
abuse accountable. Moreover, I ask that you ask 
Attorney General Eric Holder to launch a criminal 
investigation into abuses and hold those 
responsible for violations accountable. Although 
Attorney General Holder, on April 16, suggested 
that the Obama administration would not 
prosecute intelligence agents who carried out 
interrogations following legal advice, both those 
who authored the policy and those who executed 
it must be held accountable.

Finally, I would like you to introduce or support 
a Congressional sign-on letter calling on the 
Administration to immediately produce and 
publish remaining documents and other 
materials that argued for, documented, and 
established the basis for coercive interrogation, 
detainee treatment and policy in the last 
administration. It is important that we expose 
the truth about the abuses that were committed 
in our name and hold the guilty responsible so 
that these abuses do not happen again. Please let 
me know of your actions to hold abusers 

Your name and address

by Joyce Wolf

On April 16, Human Rights Watch published a 
95-page report on human rights violations in 
Eritrea. Group 22 has worked for several years on 
the case of Eritrean prisoner of conscience 
Estifanos Seyoum, so we might expect to be 
somewhat familiar with the situation. The HRW 
report reveals that conditions are even more dire 
than we knew. Visit for a 
summary of the report and a link to the full 

"Eritrea's government is turning the country into 
a giant prison," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa 
director at Human Rights Watch. The report 
states, "There is no freedom of speech, no 
freedom of movement, no freedom of worship, 
and much of the adult male and female 
population is conscripted into indefinite national 
service where they receive a token wage. Dissent 
is not tolerated. Any criticism or questioning of 
government policy is ruthlessly punished. 
Detention, torture and forced labour await 
anyone who disagrees with the government, 
anyone who attempts to avoid military service or 
flee the country without permission, and anyone 
found practising or suspected of practising faiths 
the government does not sanction."

Eritreans who have fled the country are still 
subject to oppression because the government 
will exact retribution on their family members 
who remain. The report quotes an officer 
formerly responsible for rounding up deserters 
from the national service: "If one of the men 
escapes, you have to go to his home and find 
him. If you don't find him you have to capture 
his family and take them to prison. ... If you 
disappear inside Eritrea then the family is put in 
prison for some time and often then the child will 
return. If you cross the border, then [your family] 
pays 50,000 Nakfa [US$3,300]."

Amnesty International's East Africa team says 
that Eritrea President Isayas Afewerki is 
notoriously stubborn and resistant to any form of 
criticism and that letters from AI activists will 
only provoke a hostile reaction and may even 
lead to retaliation against the individuals we are 
supposed to be helping. Therefore the AI strategy 
will now be to focus on donor countries 
providing assistance to Eritrea. There will also be 
Urgent Actions to countries who intend to deport 
Eritrean refugees back to Eritrea.

Our AIUSA Eritrea country specialist, Trish 
Hepner, plans to have some new actions 
available soon, possibly to US officials such as 
Secretary of State Clinton. May 24 is Eritrea 
Independence Day, and Group 22 hopes to 
participate in a cooperative action with other AI 
groups working on Eritrea as we did last year.
Samson Tu reports that he used the cases of 
Eritrean POCs whose files are being closed to 
gather support for the "New Forgotten 
Prisoners" resolution, which was overwhelmingly 
passed at the recent AIUSA AGM plenary 
session. He says that AIUSA Board and staff all 
support the request to review the POC cases 
facing closure, although the IS and AIUSA seem 
to have different philosophies toward work on 
individuals. Group 22 certainly doesn't want to 
forget Estifanos Seyoum! 


Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:
Sunday, May 17, 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Boulevard
 in Pasadena

"Dreams and Shadows - the Future  
of the Middle East"
By Robin Wright

New York Times Book Review:
Undercurrents of Hope in a Region of 
Published: February 28, 2008
Few American journalists are as familiar with the 
Middle East as Robin Wright. Having first visited 
Iran in 1973, lived in Beirut in the 1980s and 
chronicled the region on repeated trips since then, 
she has a deep mix of on-the-ground knowledge, 
awareness of the historical background and step-
back policy perspective. She wrote one of the first 
books on militant Islam ("Sacred Rage") and two 
others on Iran.
An Excerpt From 'Dreams and Shadows' 
( Like many who follow the 
Middle East closely, Ms. Wright, currently a 
diplomatic correspondent for The Washington 
Post, has known its violent turmoil and numbing 
cruelty. She witnessed the 1979 Iranian 
revolution consume itself with blood. (In four 
months in 1981 more than 1,000 government 
officials were killed.) In 1983 she watched 
rescuers remove bodies from the American 
Embassy in Beirut (some of the dead had been 
her friends) and months later from the United 
States Marines barracks there. She covered the 
eight-year Iran-Iraq war, when hundreds of 
thousands were killed. She was back in Iraq in 
2003 after Saddam Hussein was toppled.
But also like many who care about the region, she 
has been waiting impatiently for change. Having 
interviewed and befriended some enormously 
brave people there who have been pushing for 
liberty and democracy, Ms. Wright decided a few 
years ago that enough signs of progress were 
emerging to merit a deeper look at the 
As she puts it early in "Dreams and Shadows": 
"This is a book about disparate experiments with 
empowerment in the world's most troubled 
region. My goal was to probe deep inside 
societies of the Middle East for the emerging 
ideas and players that are changing the political 
environment in ways that will unfold for decades 
to come."
And so she has done. She went to the West Bank 
for the 2006 Palestinian elections, spent time with 
liberal opponents of the government in Egypt, 
interviewed the key Lebanese who helped eject 
Syrian troops and occupiers, and profiled 
Moroccan feminists and democracy activists who 
have helped bring about new laws. 
Along for the ride, readers are treated to clear 
and well-rendered accounts of Kefaya, the 
fledgling Egyptian dissident movement; the 
history of Iran's quest for nuclear power; the 
beginnings of Hezbollah; and fascinating tidbits 
like an early mention of the Kurds as a nation 
and how the Katyusha rocket, got its name. 
While this is an engaging tour of a complex area, 
the problem is that the moment of promise that 
set Ms. Wright off on her trip - the Cedar 
Revolution in Lebanon combined with the Iraqi, 
Palestinian and Egyptian elections all in quick 
succession - has turned distinctly sour. 
The spirit in the region that animated her quest 
three years ago has been exposed as more 
illusory than real. This leaves her book somewhat 
off key. It was supposed to help understand the 
future, but ends up being a series of visits with 
some wonderful people who remain 
marginalized and powerless. Instead of helping 
readers to see how the Middle East is evolving, 
Ms. Wright offers a set of portraits of failed 
That said, there is much to be gained from 
joining her on her trip. In some ways the 
subsequent failures of reform lend poignancy. 
The section on Morocco is a good example. 
Four years ago, under a new young king, 
Mohammed VI, Morocco set up a so-called 
Equity and Reconciliation Commission to expose 
the horrors of abuse that existed under his 
father's rule. Testimony was taken in public; new 
laws protecting human rights and women were 
enacted. We meet Driss Benzekri, who 
languished in prison for 17 years for defying the 
ruler at the time, King Hassan II. Later Mr. 
Benzekri, who died last year, was made head of 
a human rights group and adviser to King 
Mohammed. And Morocco is a less oppressive 
place today that it was, thanks to the new 
Yet King Mohammed "is head of state," Ms. 
Wright writes. "He is commander in chief. He 
appoints the prime minister and his cabinet. Both 
foreign and domestic policy comes from the 
palace. Judges are appointed on the 
recommendation of the Supreme Council, which 
is presided over by the king. The rubber-stamp 
Parliament debates, but it has little power and 
even less oversight of government performance. 
The king can legislate new laws without 
Parliament. And he can dismiss it at will. He still 
has the powers of a despot." 
In other words, there has been no real change in 
the Moroccan power structure, only greater 
tolerance from on high. And that could change on 
a whim. 
Ms. Wright's last chapter is about how the Iraq 
war has set back reform across the region, the 
opposite of its stated purpose. We re-encounter 
Ghada Shahbender, an Egyptian from an earlier 
chapter, who monitors presidential and 
parliamentary elections. Showing a group of 
students around the United States last year, Ms. 
Shahbender is angry but philosophical, a stand 
apparently shared by Ms. Wright. 
"In Iraq, Bush set back democracy and freedom 
in the region more than any other American 
president," Ms. Shahbender tells her. So now that 
things are going nowhere, what will she do next? 
"Keep trying," was the reply.

About the Author
Robin Wright has reported from more than a 140 
countries on six continents for The Washington 
Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Sunday Times 
of London, CBS News and The Christian Science 
Monitor. She has also written for The New 
Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs, 
Foreign Policy, The New York Times, The 
International Herald Tribune and others.
Her foreign tours include the Middle East, 
Europe, Africa, and several years as a roving 
foreign correspondent. She has covered a dozen 
wars and several revolutions. She most recently 
covered U.S. foreign policy for The Washington 
Among several awards, Wright received the U.N. 
Correspondents Gold Medal, the National 
Magazine Award for reportage from Iran in The 
New Yorker, and the Overseas Press Club Award 
for "best reporting in any medium requiring 
exceptional courage and initia_tive" for coverage 
of African wars. She was named journalist of the 
year by the American Academy of Diplomacy, 
and won the National Press Club Award and the 
Weintal Prize for diplomatic reporting. Wright 
has also been the recipient of a John D. and 
Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant.
As an author, Ms. Wright has been a fellow at the 
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the 
Brookings Institution, Yale University, Duke 
University, Stanford University, and the 
University of California at Santa Barbara. She 
lectures extensively around the United States and 
has appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and PBS 
programs, including "Meet the Press," "Face the 
Nation," "This Week," "Nightline," the 
"Newshour," "Frontline," and "Larry King Live.'
Among her books, The Last Great Revolution: 
Turmoil and Transformation in Iran was selected 
as one of the 25 most memorable books of the 
year 2000. She is also the author of Sacred Rage: 
The Wrath of Militant Islam, Flashpoints: 
Promise and Peril in a New World, and In the 
Name of God: The Khomeini Decade.


In 2008 the world moved even closer towards 
abolition of the death penalty.

In December, the United Nations General 
Assembly (UN GA) adopted by a large majority 
a second resolution calling for a moratorium with 
a view to abolish the death penalty. This 
resolution consolidates three decades of steady 
progress towards complete abolition of the death 

Developments at the UN provided a welcome 
boost to campaigners working across the globe to 
prohibit the death penalty. It also prompted 
some small but significant steps at the regional 
level. Notably, the African Commission on 
Human and Peoples' Rights again called on 
African states that still retain the death penalty 
to observe a moratorium on executions in the 
region with a view to abolish the death penalty.

Europe and Central Asia is now virtually a death 
penalty free zone following the abolition of the 
death penalty in Uzbekistan for all crimes. There 
is just one country left - Belarus - that still 
carries out executions.

In the Americas, only one state - the United 
States - consistently executes. However, even 
the USA moved away from the death penalty in 
2008. This year, the smallest number of 
executions since 1995 was reported in the USA.

The majority of countries now refrain from using 
the death penalty. Furthermore, in 2008 Amnesty 
International recorded only 25 out of 59 countries 
that retain the death penalty actually carried out 
executions. The practice of states indicates that 
there is increasing consolidation of majority 
international consensus that the death penalty 
cannot be reconciled with respect for human 

Despite positive developments a number of 
tough challenges remain. Countries in Asia 
carried out more executions in 2008 than the rest 
of the world put together. The region with the 
second highest number of reported executions 
was the Middle East.

In 2008, at least 2,390 people were known to 
have been executed in 25 countries and at least 
8864 people were sentenced to death in 52 
countries around the world.

Some of the methods used to execute people in 
2008 included beheading, electrocution, hanging, 
lethal injection, shooting and stoning.

Countries with the highest number of executions 
in 2008:

Continuing the trend from previous years, in 
2008 China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the 
United States of America were the five states 
with the highest rate of executions. Together they 
carried out (93%) of all executions worldwide.
In some states the use of the death penalty 
remained shrouded in secrecy. In China, Belarus, 
Mongolia and North Korea executions were 
carried out in a secretive manner or without 

As in previous years a large number of death 
sentences were handed down in trials that failed 
to meet internationally recognised standards of 
fairness. A concerning number of executions were 
carried out after proceedings that relied upon 
confessions solicited through torture in violation 
of international law. The authorities of Iran 
continued to execute prisoners who were under 
18 at the time of the alleged offence in flagrant 
violation of international law.


POC          1
UAs         37
Total:	    38
To add your letters to the total contact

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code 5-62
Pasadena, CA 91125