Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XVII  Number 2, February 2009


UPCOMING EVENTS

Thursday, February 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. This meeting we 
will be brainstorming for fresh ideas for actions 
during the coming year, after the success of our 
entry in the DooDah parade last month. Please 
join us! 

Tuesday March 10, 7:30 PM. Letter writing 
meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner of Hill 
and California in Pasadena. This informal 
gathering is a great way for newcomers to get 
acquainted with Amnesty. 

Sunday, March 15, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion Group. Vroman's 
Book Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., 
Pasadena.  This month we read "Brother, I'm 
Dying" by Edwidge Danticat. 


COORDINATOR'S CORNER

Hi everyone,
Weird weather we're having, eh? Is everyone 
finally convinced that global warming is a reality 
now?!
It has been a quiet month for Group 22 after all 
the planning and excitement of Doo Dah!  But we 
are going to plan some interesting activities for 
the months ahead, so keep coming to the 
meetings!  
Well, LAUSD has rescinded mid-year lay-offs, 
which is good. We will have to wait and see if 
teachers and support service personnel get RIF 
(reduction in force) notices March 15, which 
would be effective in July 09.  I joined several of 
my colleagues in a huge demonstration and 
march in downtown LA on January 29 after work. 
Since then, the district has said it will not cut our 
health benefits this year as they had threatened. 
Keep your fingers crossed for us and all the 
people in the US who have already lost or may 
lose their jobs. Let's hope that the Obama 
stimulus package works. Education and social 
services are not "pork", they are essential. 
"Education not incarceration".
Con carino,
Kathy


ERITREA UPDATE
by Joyce Wolf

The UK section of Amnesty International has a 
current action for Aster Fissehatsion, an Eritrean 
prisoner of conscience who was arrested in the 
same crackdown as Estifanos Seyoum, our 
group's adopted POC. She and Estifanos and nine 
other former government officials of the group 
known as G15 have been held incommunicado 
without charge or trial since their arrest in 
September 2001. Aster is presently the only 
Eritrea G15 prisoner of conscience who is 
included in the AI Individuals At Risk database.
Aster and Estifanos and the other G15 members 
were arrested because they signed an open letter 
in which they made "a call for correction, a call 
for peaceful and democratic dialogue, a call for 
unity, a call for the rule of law and for justice, 
through peaceful and legal ways and means." For 
more information about Aster and the G15, visit 
www.amnesty.org.uk/fissehatsion.
At least two G15 prisoners may have died in 
detention because of harsh conditions and denial 
of medical treatment, but the Eritrea authorities 
have refused to provide any information at all 
about the status of the detainees. 
Here is a sample letter that you can use as a guide 
to write in behalf of Aster and Estifanos. Postage 
is 94 cents. 

Fawzia Hashim
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
PO Box 241, Asmara
Eritrea 

Dear Minister,
I am deeply concerned for the safety of Aster 
Fissehatsion and Estifanos Seyoum and the nine 
other former senior officials detained with them 
since 2001 (the so-called G15).
They should be released immediately and 
unconditionally. They are being held solely for 
peacefully exercising their right to freedom of 
expression and as such are prisoners of 
conscience. 
It is believed that two of the G15 may have died 
in detention and I ask you please to clarify if this 
is the case. 
The International Covenant on Civil and Political 
Rights, to which Eritrea is a signatory, upholds 
the fundamental human right to freedom of 
opinion and expression. Please show the world 
that Eritrea respects this freedom by releasing 
Aster Fissehatsion and Estifanos Seyoum and the 
other G15 detainees, and by allowing all other 
Eritrean citizens peacefully to express their 
opinions without fear of harassment or 
imprisonment.
I look forward to hearing from you on this 
important matter.
Sincerely,
[your name and address]


RIGHTS READERS

Human Rights Book Discussion Group
Keep up with Rights Readers at 
http://rightsreaders.blogspot.com

Next Rights Readers meeting:
Sunday, March 15, 6:30 PM Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena
"Brother, I'm Dying" By Edwidge Danticut
 
Publisher Comments:
From the best-selling author of The Dew Breaker, 
a major work of nonfiction: a powerfully moving 
family story that centers around the men closest 
to her heart - her father, Mira, and his older 
brother, Joseph. 
From the age of four, Edwidge Danticat came to 
think of her uncle Joseph, a charismatic pastor, as 
her "second father," when she was placed in his 
care after her parents left Haiti for a better life in 
America. Listening to his sermons, sharing 
coconut-flavored ices on their walks through 
town, roaming through the house that held 
together many members of a colorful extended 
family, Edwidge grew profoundly attached to 
Joseph. He was the man who "knew all the verses 
for love." 
And so she experiences a jumble of emotions 
when, at twelve, she joins her parents in New 
York City. She is at last reunited with her two 
youngest brothers, and with her mother and 
father, whom she has struggled to remember. But 
she must also leave behind Joseph and the only 
home she's ever known. 
Edwidge tells of making a new life in a new 
country while fearing for the safety of those still 
in Haiti as the political situation deteriorates. But 
Brother I'm Dying soon becomes a terrifying tale 
of good people caught up in events beyond their 
control. Late in 2004, his life threatened by an 
angry mob, forced to flee his church, the frail, 
eighty-one-year-old Joseph makes his way to 
Miami, where he thinks he will be safe. Instead, 
he is detained by U.S. Customs, held by the 
Department of Homeland Security, brutally 
imprisoned, and dead within days. It was a story 
that made headlines around the world. His 
brother, Mira, will soon join him in death, but not 
before he holds hope in his arms: Edwidge's 
firstborn, who will bear his name - and the 
family's stories, both joyous and tragic - into the 
next generation. 
Told with tremendous feeling, this is a true-life 
epic on an intimate scale: a deeply affecting story 
of home and family - of two men's lives and 
deaths, and of a daughter's great love for them 
both.

About the Author
 
Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti and moved 
to the United States when she was twelve. She is 
the author of several books, including Breath, 
Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection; 
Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist; and 
The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award 
winner. She is also the editor of The Butterfly's 
Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the 
United States and The Beacon Best of 2000: Great 
Writing by Men and Women of All Colors and 
Cultures.
Danticat earned a degree in French Literature 
from Barnard College, where she won the 1995 
Woman of Achievement Award, and later an 
MFA from Brown University.  She lives in Miami 
with her husband and daughter.


TAKE ACTION FOR CONGO

Urge US Government to Stop the War 
Against Women in the DRC
Early in 2009, there was a dramatic turn of events 
in the conflicts in eastern DRC. The government 
of the DRC reached agreements with its 
often_hostile neighbors Uganda and Rwanda, 
permitting them to pursue their enemies by joint 
military operations on Congolese soil.
In Ituri district, in the far northeast of DRC, the 
American government reportedly helped to 
finance and plan the joint operation of Uganda, 
South Sudan and DRC against the Lord's 
Resistance Army. This operation led to dispersal 
of LRA forces but also to LRA reprisal attacks on 
Congolese civilians, in Ituri and neighboring 
Haut_Uele. Hundreds of Congolese reportedly 
were killed, and thousands displaced.
To the south of Ituri, in North Kivu province, 
Rwanda and Uganda apparently reached an 
agreement to end proxy warfare. Rwanda 
allegedly withdrew its support from Congolese 
Tutsi warlord, General Laurent Nkunda, and 
detained him in Rwanda. In return, the DRC 
government withdrew its support from the 
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda 
(FDLR). The Rwandan and DRC armies began 
joint operations against the FDLR. These 
operations enjoyed some success, in that large 
numbers of Rwandan Hutu, including FDLR 
members and their dependents, began returning 
home or turning themselves in to the UN mission 
(MONUC). A small American military mission 
was observed in North Kivu; its precise role is 
unclear.
Nkunda remained in Rwanda, as of February 7, 
and a spokesman for the Rwandan government 
said "negotiations" were going on between DRC 
and Rwanda over his return to DRC. Both 
Nkunda and his successor, General Ntaganda, 
have been accused of war crimes.
In South Kivu, political figures, civil society 
activists and ordinary citizens expressed concern 
over the possibility that Rwandan military forces 
would be sent to their area. There are FDLR forces 
in the province, and the Congolese of South Kivu 
no doubt would be glad to see the last of them. 
However, they have bitter memories of the 
violence of the Rwandan invasions of 1996 and 
1998 and the Rwandan occupation that lasted 
(officially) until 2002.
Some of the FDLR fighters reportedly are moving 
south, into North Katanga province, in 
anticipation of the arrival of Rwandan soldiers in 
South Kivu. North Katanga was occupied by 
Rwanda in the 1990s, and a period of chaos 
followed the withdrawal of Rwandan troops.
The situation in the entire eastern strip of DRC, 
from Haut_Uele in the North to Haut_Katanga 
in the South, is very dangerous. Systematic 
abductions of women and children remain 
widespread.
Direct or indiscriminate attacks against civilians 
and peacekeepers are war crimes and can 
constitute crimes against humanity, and are 
punishable under international law.

SAMPLE LETTER TO HILLARY CLINTON

Hillary Clinton
U.S. Department of State 
2201 C Street NW 
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton,
Amnesty International has called the conflict in 
North Kivu province (eastern DR Congo) a "war 
against women and children." Non_combatants, 
especially women, children and the elderly, suffer 
most of the casualties in the Congo fighting. Rape 
has been a weapon of war, used by all sides in the 
conflict.
In recent days, the dramatic reversal of alliances 
has led Rwanda to withdraw its backing from 
General Nkunda, while the government of DRC 
joins Rwanda to fight its former allies, the FDLR. 
This could be a major step toward peace in DRC 
and in the region. At the same time, there is a 
danger that the campaign against the FDLR could 
produce large numbers of rapes, murders, and 
displacement of civilians.
As a member of Amnesty International, I am 
writing to ask that the United States Government 
use its influence with the United Nations and the 
Governments of Rwanda and the Democratic 
Republic of Congo to:
* Ensure the urgently needed reinforcement of the 
UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC), while 
holding MONUC to its mandate of protecting 
civilians.
* Take concrete steps to protect women and other 
civilians in the eastern Democratic Republic of 
Congo, and to end impunity of those who commit 
acts of sexual violence or other war crimes.
I look forward to learning what actions you 
undertake on these concerns.
Thank you for your attention.
Sincerely,
Your name and address


DEATH PENALTY UPDATE 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Amnesty International Urges Governor 
Kaine to Commute Bell Death Sentence
(Washington DC)  Amnesty International has 
mobilized its worldwide membership to appeal to 
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to commute the 
death sentence of Edward Nathaniel Bell, 
scheduled to be executed on February 19. Bell was 
sentenced to death for the 1999 murder of 
Sergeant Richard Timbrook despite woefully 
deficient and low-quality legal representation and 
serious questions about his guilt. Bell, who was 
convicted on largely circumstantial evidence, has 
consistently maintained his innocence.
"The failure to provide adequate counsel to 
capital defendants is outrageous and, sadly, a 
defining feature of the American death penalty," 
said Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA. 
"Governor Kaine has an obligation to use the 
power of clemency to prevent such an irreversible 
injustice or Virginia will be marked as a state that 
willingly pushes our Constitution aside."
One of the jurors said in a signed affidavit 
following the sentencing phase of Bell's trial, "I 
was undecided at sentencing and wanted to hear 
something, anything about Eddie Bell. We were 
looking for something mitigating, some reason 
not to sentence him to death but we were given 
nothing by his lawyers and we felt his lawyers 
did him a disservice."
Edward Bell's clemency petition, which raises 
doubts regarding the reliability of Bell's 
conviction, has also presented evidence that he 
may have mental retardation. If so, his execution 
would violate US constitutional law under the 
2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Atkins v. 
Virginia, which states that executing persons with 
mental retardation is a violation of the Eight 
Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual 
punishment. The Virginia Supreme Court 
dismissed Bell's mental retardation claim as 
"frivolous" and no court has since held a hearing 
on this issue.
"Questions regarding mental retardation that 
surround this case should further raise doubts 
about whether this execution should proceed," 
said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, director of 
AIUSA's Death Penalty Abolition Campaign. 
"This is why executive clemency exists  to act as 
a failsafe when the courts are unable or unwilling 
to adequately address such fundamental 
questions."
Virginia is second only to Texas in the number of 
executions. If Bell's execution is not commuted, he 
would be the 103rd person killed by the 
Commonwealth since 1977.

[Editor's note: Edward Bell was executed in 
Virginia on the evening of 19 February.] 

URGE GOV. PERDUE TO SUPPORT 
CLEMENCY FOR TROY DAVIS

Troy Davis faces execution for the murder of 
Police Officer Mark MacPhail in Georgia, despite 
a strong claim of innocence. 
The Georgia Board of Pardon and Paroles has 
voted to deny clemency, yet Governor Perdue can 
still exercise leadership to ensure that his death 
sentence is commuted. Please urge him to 
demonstrate respect for fairness and justice by 
supporting clemency for Troy Davis. Take action 
at http://amnestyusa.org/troydavis.


MONTHLY LETTER COUNT
UAs                                                                           12
Total:	    12
To add your letters to the total contact 
lwkamp@gmail.com.


Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code 5-62
Pasadena, CA 91125
www.its.caltech.edu/~aigp22/
http://rightsreaders.blogspot.com


Amnesty International's mission is to undertake 
research and action focused on preventing and 
ending grave abuses of the rights to physical 
and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and 
expression, and freedom from discrimination, 
within the context of its work to promote all 
human rights.