Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXIII Number 3, March 2015

  Thursday, March 26th, 7:30 PM. Monthly 
Meeting. We meet at the Caltech Y, Tyson 
House, 505 S. Wilson Ave., Pasadena. (This is 
just south of the corner with San Pasqual. 
Signs will be posted.) We will be planning our 
activities for the coming months. Please join 
us! Refreshments provided.
  Tuesday, April 14, 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, April 19, 6:30 PM.  Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion group. This 
month we read "My Father's Ghost is 
Climbing in the Rain" by Patricio Pron.

Hi All

Happy Spring-this past weekend marks the 
beginning of this season and daylight savings 
time is here!

Rob is editing his volumes of photos and video 
from his December Middle East trip and we 
plan to have whoever is interested over to view 
it.  Stay posted...

BTW, I read an interesting article in the New 
Yorker magazine about the anti-nuclear nun 
Stevi sends cards to in prison. Here's the link:

Con Carino,

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:
Sunday, April 19, 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado, Pasadena


New York Times 

What Did You Do in the Dirty War?
My Fathers' Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain

by Patricio Pron
In the 1970s, during the years that Argentina's 
last military dictatorship was busy raping, 
torturing and killing thousands of the country's 
citizens, a large obelisk in Buenos Aires was 
adorned with this menacing piece of advice: -
"Silence is health." That dictatorship ended in 
1983, but no one recovers quickly from a 
bludgeon, especially not a child. The Argentine 
novelist Patricio Pron was born in 1975, a year 
before the Dirty War began. The nameless 
narrator of his artful novel "My Fathers' Ghost 
Is Climbing in the Rain" isn't merely silent; he's 
For eight years he has been living in Germany, 
popping paroxetine, benzodiazepines and 
sleeping pills until his mind is shot through with 
gaps like a censored letter. Lest we forget we're 
dealing with damaged goods, Pron makes the 
novel's very structure as perforated as our 
man's memory. Holes appear in its numbered 
fragments - a missing No. 8, say, or an elided 
17 - whenever the narrator hits a snag. When 
he gets sick, the sequence turns feverish: 22, 11, 
9, 26, 3.
Only when his father sinks into a coma, in 
August 2008, does this bruised soul finally 
return to Argentina. There he finds a 
photograph that disturbs his willful amnesia: 
Dad in sideburns next to a woman who is not 
the narrator's mother. Below the photo lies a 
folder thick with clippings about a recent 
missing-person case: 60-year-old Alberto Jose 
Burdisso has disappeared from the town of El 
TrŽbol; decades earlier his sister, Alicia, 
vanished during the military dictatorship.
"You don't ever want to know certain things," 
the son thinks, staring at the photo of his father 
and the woman, "because what you know 
belongs to you, and there are certain things you 
never want to own." Reason enough to eat 
another Xanax.
But having discovered Dad's interest in Alberto 
and Alicia, the protagonist must find out: Who 
are these siblings? Why did they disappear? 
How is his father connected to them? And what, 
exactly, was Dad doing during those crucial 
years when Argentina's democracy imploded? 
Suspense swells through the early sections, as 
Pron nests mystery within mystery, carefully 
tending the big enigma: What trauma drove the 
narrator to Germany, and into the fuzzy comfort 
of pills?
For a while, our biggest clue is an elaborate 
metaphor about a car accident: "Once, my 
parents and I had an accident that I wasn't able 
to or hadn't wanted to remember: something 
crossed our path and our car spun around a few 
times and went off the highway, and we were 
now wandering through the fields, our minds 
blank, that shared experience the only thing 
uniting us. Behind us there was an overturned 
car in a ditch on the side of a country road, 
bloodstains on the seats and in the grass and on 
our clothes, but none of us wanted to turn 
around and look back, even though that was 
what we had to do and that was what I was 
trying to do as I held my father's hand in a 
hospital in the provinces."
Looking back. In one form or another, that's the 
central action in lots of novels by today's young 
South Americans - talented writers who grew 
up in the age of Operation Condor, when 
clandestine atrocity was as common as Coca-
Cola. In books like "Perla," by Carolina De 
Robertis, and "Ways of Going Home," by 
Alejandro Zambra, a generation is gazing into 
the past. In all of these books, silence is an 
infection, and coming-of-age requires airing the 
secrets of dictatorship. More often than not, that 
cure involves investigating one's own parents.
What makes Pron's novel unusual is how far its 
inquiry overlaps with reality. "The events told 
in this book," an epilogue informs us, "are 
mostly true." Alicia and Alberto Jose Burdisso 
were real victims. Pron's own parents belonged 
to the Iron Guard, a leftist group fanatically 
devoted to the populist leader Juan Domingo 
Peron. In "My Fathers' Ghost Is Climbing in the 
Rain," the narrator's father starts a 
revolutionary newspaper and his mother knows 
how to make a Molotov cocktail.
These parents rank, in other words, among 
Argentina's vanquished, and Pron is brilliant on 
the topic of growing up in the aftermath of 
heroic collapse. What's more, Mara Faye 
Lethem's translation gets his tone of numbed 
resignation just right. "No one in my generation 
had fought," the narrator thinks. "Something or 
someone had already inflicted a defeat on us 
and we drank or took pills or wasted time in a 
thousand and one ways as a mode of hastening 
an end." Watching a video of his father 
recounting his old professional exploits, the 
narrator feels crushed by both pride and 
Perhaps that's why the son's private project - 
the search for two missing persons and for his 
father's clouded past - turns explicitly into a 
"political task." The prodigal son gathers the 
mantle of revolution, and he admonishes his 
peers to do the same. All Argentines born in the 
1970s, we're told, should "solve" their parents' 
pasts. Social crimes, he insists, should not be 
recounted through ordinary detective novels; 
one must create "an unfinished puzzle" that 
forces readers to become active in the search. 
Normal plot resolution is "condescending."
But even if one takes Pron's novel on its own 
terms, abandoning the desire for conventional 
plotting, a serious problem remains. Though his 
self-appointed task is to track down, as far as 
possible, the historical truth of his father and 
Alicia, in practice he avoids any uncomfortable 
details about his father's participation in the 
Iron Guard. Instead, he gives us broad strokes of 
history that are barely better than those 
available on Wikipedia.
In fact, all of the historical actors in the novel 
feel like translucent ghosts. None of them, 
except Alberto and Alicia, even get names. 
There's more information about Alberto 
Burdisso's love life in the 2000s than there is 
about his father's or his mother's or Alicia's -
political activities.
On his Web site, Pron says he resolved the 
ethical difficulties of writing about family events 
by giving his parents veto power over his 
manuscript. In the end, his parents didn't kill 
the book (instead, his father submitted 
commentary to be posted on Pron's site), but I 
can't help wondering if that dangling veto 
cowed the project nevertheless. If that's the case, 
the pollution of silence reaches even deeper than 
Pron's narrator suggests. After all, many people 
in South America still don't want anyone to 
know exactly what they were doing in the 1970s 
and '80s. As a relative once told me, "These 
things still have repercussions" - social ones if 
not judicial.
Yet despite its failings, Pron's novel haunts me. 
Its unsentimental account of what it was like for 
a child of defeated leftists to grow up in 
Argentina in the shadow of the 1970s turned my 
heart upside down. Every night as a young boy, 
the narrator dreamed about tortured animals. 
And every morning, before driving his children 
to school, the father went out alone to start the 
family car, hoping it wasn't rigged with a bomb.
"In the past," Pron's narrator recalls, "we had 
lived in a country called fear with a flag that was 
a face filled with dread." Though his political 
search yields little more than dust, he gives us a 
fierce portrait of the damage done to 
Argentina's children. He gives us the testament 
of the child, not the parents. That's not the story 
Pron declares himself to be after, but it's a 
potent one nevertheless.

Marcela Valdes has written for The Nation, The 
Washington Post, and other publications.

 Patricio Pron, born in 1975, is the author of 
three story collections and four previous novels, 
and he also works as a translator and critic. His 
fiction has appeared in Granta, Zoetrope and The 
Paris Review, and has received numerous prizes, 
including the Juan Rulfo Short Story Prize, the 
Jaen Novel Award, and the 2008 Jose Manuel 
Lara Foundation Award for one of the five best 
works published in Spain that year. He lives in 


by Robert Adams

AIUSA released the following press release on March 
18, 2015:

New Amnesty International Poll Shows Anger 
at U.S. Surveillance
The United States' mass surveillance of internet 
and mobile phone use flies in the face of global 
public opinion, according to a new poll 
published today by Amnesty International. The 
release marks the launch of a worldwide 
UnfollowMe campaign, a global initiative 
calling on the leaders of the U.S. and UK - as 
well as their close allies - to ban indiscriminate 
mass surveillance and intelligence sharing.
The poll, which questioned 15,000 people in 13 
countries across every continent, found that 71% 
of respondents are strongly opposed to the 
United States monitoring their internet use. 
Meanwhile, nearly two thirds said they wanted 
tech companies like Google, Microsoft and 
Yahoo to block governments accessing their 
The majority of U.S. citizens (63%) are against 
their government's surveillance scheme 
compared to only 20% in favor.
"International public opinion clearly supports 
the scale back of mass surveillance," said Steven 
W. Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty 
International USA.
"If he wanted to, President Obama could halt 
surveillance programs that are jeopardizing the 
privacy of tens of millions of people around the 
world-he has the authority. He mandated 
limited protections for non-citizens more than a 
year ago, but they still haven't come to fruition. 
"Despite the President's promises of reform, 
mass surveillance could prove to be a 
permanent scar on the USA's human rights 
record, just like unlawful drone strikes and 
impunity for CIA torture."
In June 2013 whistle-blower Edward Snowden 
revealed that the U.S. National Security Agency 
was authorized to monitor phone and internet 
use in 193 countries around the world, collecting 
5 billion records of mobile phone location a day 
and 42 billion internet records - including email 
and browsing history - a month.
"We've got agencies looking through webcams 
into people's bedrooms. And they're collecting 
billions of cell phone location records a day," 
whistle-blower Edward Snowden said on 
Amnesty International's blog today. "They 
know where you got on the bus, where you 
went to work, where you slept, and what other 
cell phones slept with you."
The enemy within?

*	In the United States, less than a quarter 
of U.S. citizens approve of their 
government spying on them. 
*	Likewise, only 20% approve of 
technology companies giving the 
government access to data like emails, 
messages and social media activity. 
*	Among Americans aged 60 or above, the 
number drops even more -- only 13 
percent approve of their government 
spying on them/nearly 75% disapprove 
*	Half of U.S. citizens polled approve of 
spying on foreign national inside the 
United States 
*	In contrast, when it came to people living 
around the world, support for 
surveillance drops 14 points, to 36% of 
U.S. citizens polled 
*	Opposition to U.S. mass surveillance 
strongest in Brazil, Germany 
*	Strongest opposition to U.S. intercepting, 
storing and analyzing internet use came 
from Brazil (80% against) and Germany 
*	Key US allies also oppose surveillance 
*	The United States shares the fruit of its 
mass surveillance program with 
Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the 
United Kingdom under the Five Eyes 
Alliance. Even in these countries, more 
than three times as many people oppose 
U.S. surveillance (70%) as support it 
*	Tech companies under pressure to help, 
not hinder, privacy rights 
*	People also think tech companies like 
Google, Microsoft and Facebook have a 
duty to secure their personal information 
from governments (60%) as opposed to 
providing the data to the authorities 
Surveillance at home
*	In all 13 countries covered by the poll, 
people do not want their own 
government to intercept, store and 
analyze their phone and internet use. On 
average, more than twice as many 
people oppose surveillance by their 
government (59%) as those who 
approved (26%). 
*	Most opposed to mass surveillance by 
their own government are people in 
Brazil (65%) and Germany (69%). Spain 
(67%), where reports that the NSA 
tapped 60 million Spanish phone calls 
were met with outrage in 2013, also 
topped the opposition table (67%).

Gao Zhisheng


by Joyce Wolf

Group 22 received a message last week (March 
18) from the AIUSA China Co-group telling us 
that Amnesty International had closed their case 
file for our adopted prisoner of conscience Gao 

Amnesty believes that further public 
campaigning for Gao would have little impact 
and might even be counter-productive. Amnesty 
made the decision to close Gao's case in 
consultation with his family.

Following Gao's release from prison in August 
2014, his political rights were suspended for one 
year, in accordance with China's Criminal Law. 
The police monitor his daily activities and he 
cannot travel outside of Urumqi, where he now 
lives with his wife's family. "He also cannot 
issue, publish, or distribute comments, 
literature, or audio and visual products, inside 
or outside of China's borders, that are 
considered harmful to the nation's honor or 
interests, or are otherwise harmful to society. 
Should he be found to have broken these rules, 
he could be subject to further punishment, or 
even investigated for criminal liability," the 
AIUSA China team stated.

Gao's wife, Geng He, who lives in the U.S., 
reports that his health has improved in recent 
months since his release from prison. At that 
time he was in terrible physical and mental 
condition because of years of torture and 
solitary confinement. He still has serious 
problems with his teeth, and he is not allowed to 
travel anywhere for the dental treatment he 
needs. But now he can speak coherently and his 
mood is optimistic. He is able to spend a lot of 
time reading. (Radio Free Asia:

Geng He sent Amnesty the following message:
"Thank you very much to Amnesty 
International for its concern for Gao Zhisheng's 
case in the past few years. Gao Zhisheng's 
ability to leave prison alive and to go home was 
inextricably linked to Amnesty International's 
concern - it was your practical actions that 
brought hope and encouragement to human 
rights activists who have suffered gravely in 
prisons and their family members. Your help 
and support will bring glory to human rights 
work. Once again we thank you for your help 
and support!"

Amnesty International started campaigning for 
Gao in 2008. Named one of China's top ten 
lawyers in 2001, he incurred the wrath of the 
authorities for his bold defense of human rights 
cases, in particular, members of the banned 
Falun Gong spiritual movement. In 2006 he was 
arrested and given a suspended 3-year sentence 
for "inciting subversion". He was "disappeared" 
in 2009, shortly after his wife and children 
escaped to the U.S. China refused to reveal his 
location or status until December 2011, when 
China announced that Gao was beginning a 3-
year prison term in Shaya Prison in remote 
northwestern China.

Group 22 adopted Gao's case in 2010. Since then 
we have tried to do actions for him nearly every 
month. We wrote letters to Chinese authorities, 
collected signatures on petitions, thanked our 
U.S. officials for efforts they made in his behalf, 
and encouraged his wife and family with our 
support. Many Group 22 members read Gao's 
2007 book, "A China More Just", and some of us 
watched the documentary about him, 
"Transcending Fear".

Now that Amnesty has closed Gao's case, our 
Group 22 efforts in his behalf are ended. But as 
individuals we can still support his wife and 
family. If you are on Facebook, please "like" the 
Gao Zhisheng page at 

Group 22 will of course continue to support 
Amnesty's work on human rights in China.

My personal thanks to all who have participated 
in Group 22's work for Gao Zhisheng. It is my 
heart's desire that I may one day write another 
newsletter article announcing that Gao Zhisheng 
has at long last been reunited with Geng He and 
their daughter and son. 

By Stevi Carroll

Cameron Todd Willingham

Earlier we looked at the case of Cameron Todd 
Willingham's execution in 2004.  That case is 
now in the news again.  John H. Jackson, 
prosecutor for Mr. Willinghams's case, has been 
formally accused of misconduct by the State Bar 
of Texas.

Nine arson experts found that the forensic case 
used to convict Mr. Willingham lacked 
credibility, but Mr. Jackson had a jail-house 
snitch, Johnny Webb, testify that Mr. 
Willingham confessed to putting lighter fluid 
around the house and then setting the fire.  Mr. 
Webb was granted both a reduced sentence and 
financial aid for his testimony, one of the two 
main pillars - along with the faulty forensic 
evidence - that was used to convict and execute 
Mr. Willingham.  Mr. Willingham's defense also 
did little to help him.  His lawyers called one 
witness, a babysitter, who said Mr. Willingham 
loved his children.  One would think in a death 
penalty case the defendant's lawyers would do 
much more for their clients, but as we've seen in 
other cases, this is not true.

When new forensic evidence was established, it 
was not included in the court files by Mr. 
Jackson, and after the Texas Forensic Science 
Commission found the prior evidence to be 
faulty, then-Governor Rick Perry replaced the 
board's chairman and two other members.

The Marshall Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan 
news organization, works on criminal justice 
cases they believe need to be investigated.  This 
group and the Innocence Project have worked to 
bring posthumous justice to Cameron Todd 
Willingham. Mr. Webb told the Marshall Project 
that he "lied on the man because I was being 
forced by John Jackson to do so," and that he 
was told, "'You're either going to get a life 
sentence or you're going to testify.'" Mr. 
Willingham's stepmother, Eugenia Willingham, 
has worked for Mr. Willingham's posthumous 
exoneration. She said that Mr. Willingham said 
Mr. Webb told him, "Johnny Webb has told me 
they're going to make him testify against me."  
Although Mr. Jackson has been accused of 
misconduct, Ms. Willingham said she doesn't 
want him killed, but she would like him to do 
some prison time.

 If John H. Jackson is found guilty, his 
punishment could range from 'no discipline' to 
'disbarment.' He retired in 2012.  After learning 
more about Mr. Webb's testimony, Eugenia 
Willingham said,  "I just didn't know stuff like 
this existed in the United States of America." 

Indeed.  What kind of justice will be served for 
Cameron Todd Willingham?

Worldwide future for the death penalty

Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for 
Human Rights, believes that worldwide the 
death penalty is used too often against the poor 
and marginalized, especially in the drug trade.  
One hundred sixty countries have either 
abolished the death penalty or do not practice it, 
and in the past six months Chad, Fiji and 
Madagascar have joined this list.  Audrey 
Gaughran, Director of Global Issues for 
Amnesty International, says that with the 
addition of Fiji, the number of countries that 
have abolished the death penalty is now 99, and 
with Madagascar, the number will climb to 100. 
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for 
Human Rights will hold several regional 
seminars to discuss moving away from the 
death penalty this year.

Once again, Pope Francis has spoken out against 
this death penalty.  Quoting Dostoyevsky, he 
said, "To kill for murder is a punishment 
incomparably worse than the crime itself. 
Murder by legal sentence is immeasurably more 
terrible than murder by brigands." In the United 
States, 59% of white Catholics support the death 

Perhaps with the UN, Pope Francis, and groups 
like Amnesty International working to abolish 
the death penalty, more people's hearts will 
soften and heal and the death penalty will be 
seen as murder and not justice.
Whom to Execute

 "War is Hell." William Tecumseh Sherman
Men and women join the military for a variety 
of reasons and sometimes end up in war zones. 
Since 2001, the United States has been engaged 
in active war via the Global War On Terror, 
GWOT. With our all volunteer military, many of 
the men and women in uniform have served 
multiple deployments to the war zones. 

Irritable Heart - American Civil War; Shell 
Shock - WWI; Battle Fatigue - WWII; Post 
Traumatic Stress Disorder - Vietnam War to the 
present. All of these terms describe the after 
effects some combat military personnel 
experience. According to the National Center for 
PTSD statistics, 20% of the military personnel 
who have served in the war zones of Iraq and 
Afghanistan and up to 30% of our Vietnam War 
veterans have experienced PTSD. Now in the 
Iraq and Afghanistan theaters of war, military 
personnel also can suffer from traumatic brain 
injuries (TBI) thanks to the use of improvised 
explosive devices (IEDs). When these people 
commit capital crimes, should the death penalty 
be one of their possible sentences?

In 2009 in a Fordham Law Review article, 
Anthony Giardino, a lawyer and former Marine, 
said that veterans who have service-related 
PTSD and TBI should not be sentenced to death 
or executed. He argues that when a veteran has 
a PTSD experience, his ability to understand that 
acting in a militaristic manner can be impaired.  
This argument is further explored in a 2010 
article by Hal S. Wortzel and David B. 
Arciniegas, mental health experts.  Their 
findings suggest that military training and 
combat along with the traumatic experiences of 
war may have an impact on aggression and 
behavioral control. Mr. Giardino said that while 
some courts do consider war trauma 
experienced while sentencing veterans, "Many 
courts, however, would rather ignore this 
elephant in the room than confront the reality 
that the combined effect of government-
sponsored military training and combat 
exposure transforms men and women into 
something quite different from their former 

Whether or not to sentence veterans suffering 
from PTSD at the time of their capital crimes 
came to the fore with the case of Eddie Routh, 
the man who killed 'American Sniper' Chris 
Kyle. He was found guilty of the murder and 
sentenced to life without the possibility of 

The Greeks wanted their warriors to come back 
behind their shields or on them. With our 
medical advances, we have many more 
combatants coming back from the battlefields. 
When meting out justice to our warriors when 
they commit capital crimes, those people in 
control of our justice system may benefit from 
remembering how combat can change our 
brothers and sisters who serve in war zones.

As Sister Helen Prejean says, "People are more 
than the worst thing they have ever done in 
their lives."
To read more on PTSD, go to

Something new

I focus on executions and death penalty news in 
the United States.  This month I decided to look 
into the number and locations of known 
executions in the rest of the world.  The most 
recent information is for February - 86 men and 
two women: Afghanistan - one - hanging; China 
- seven - perhaps injection; Iran - 53 - hanging; 
Jordan - two - hanging; Pakistan - four - 
hanging; Saudi Arabia - 18 -beheading; Somalia 
- 1 - firing squad. For the names of those 
executed, their dates of execution, and their 
crimes, go to

Stays of Execution

2	Kelly Gissendaner	GA
5	Rodney Reed		TX
10	Brian Terrell		GA
18	Randall Mays		TX
24	Donnie Johnson	TN

11	Manuel Vasquez	        TX
			Lethal Injection 1-drug
17	Cecil Clayton		MO
			Lethal Injection 1-drug

UAs                        10
POC                         5
Total                      15
To add your letters to the total contact 

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code C1-128
Pasadena, CA 91125

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.