Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXIII Number 5, May 2015

  Thursday, May 28, 8:00 PM. [NOTE NEW 
TIME!] 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.) Special 
guest Mr. Gary Moody will discuss the social 
justice activities the local chapter of NAACP is 
engaged in. Everyone is welcome. Tasty 
snacks will be served.
  Tuesday, June 9, 7:30 PM. Letter writing 
meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner of Hill 
and California in Pasadena. In the summer we 
meet outdoors at the "Rath al Fresco," on the 
lawn behind the building. This informal 
gathering is a great way for newcomers to get 
acquainted with Amnesty.
  Sunday, June 21, 6:30 PM.  Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion group. This 
month we read "Philida" by Andre Brink.


Hi everyone,

I hope everyone had a relaxing long weekend 
but didn't forget the reason for Memorial Day -- 
to honor those who gave their lives in service to 
our country.  We went to my Dad's place, 
barbequed some steaks, ate corn on the cob and 
watched the National Memorial Day Concert on 
PBS.  In between the band music and song 
numbers, the struggles of individual disabled 
veterans were highlighted.   It takes guts to keep 
going when you're in a wheelchair and 
dependent upon others for your daily needs. It 
was very moving to see their stories. Their 
families deserve a medal too!

Con Carino,


Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:
Sunday, June 21, 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado, Pasadena

Andre Brink was born in Vrede in 1935. In his 
eventful life he has written over sixty books 
which have been published in thirty-three 
languages and have received numerous 
prestigious prizes. 

Andre is the eldest of Aletta and Daniel Brink's 
four children. The youngest and Andre's only 
brother Johan is a physicist. The younger of the 
two sisters, Marita, is a psychologist and 
Andre's other sister, Elsabe, also an author, died 
in 1998.

Andre's father, a magistrate, was re-posted 
every couple of years, so Andre grew up and 
went to school in several different villages and 
towns in South Africa: Vrede, Jagersfontein, 
Brits, Douglas, Sabie and Lydenburg.

His mother, a teacher, inspired his love of 
literature, especially the English classics.


New York Times Sunday Book Review

"Philida" is the latest offering from the South 
African author Andre Brink, whose anti-
apartheid novels -- along with those of such 
contemporaries as Nadine Gordimer and J. M. 
Coetzee -- have challenged readers to reflect on 
the intimate brutalities of a society founded on a 
dehumanizing ideology. Like several of Brink's 
historical novels, "Philida" probes South 
Africa's more distant sordid past, animating real 
figures from the Cape Colony's days of white 
settlement, when the enslavement and 
indentured servitude of local black and 
indigenous populations, as well as people 
brought over from the Dutch East Indies, were 
entirely routine.

This time, however, it's personal. Brink wrote 
this book after discovering that a collateral 
ancestor of his owned a slave named Philida in 
the early 1800s. As he recounts in the 
acknowledgments, the real Philida lodged a 
brave complaint to the Slave Protector in 1832 
about her treatment by Francois Brink, who was 
the son of her owner, Cornelis. She claimed that 
she had four children by Francois, and Andre 
Brink uses this historical record as a launching 
pad for his imagined version of Philida's life. In 
the novel, she tells the Slave Protector that 
Francois reneged on his promise of freedom and 
was planning to sell her, in order to follow his 
father's orders to marry a white woman.

Philida's resolve to seek justice is strengthened 
by the rumor -- soon to become reality -- that the 
British are planning to decree the emancipation 
of slaves in the Empire, including the Cape 
Colony, but her complaint comes two years too 
early to save her from further abuse by her 
owners, who eventually sell her off with her 
children upcountry. Surprisingly, her new 
owner turns out to be less cruel, and Philida 
eventually finds spiritual sustenance in a local 
iteration of Islam introduced to her by another 

The freedom Brink imagines for Philida is both 
physical and existential. She is officially released 
from slavery in 1834, but more emphasis is put 
on her unlikely and rather contrived 
transformation from downtrodden slave to 
empowered free woman. Philida's growth is set 
against the decline in fortune of the Brinks, an 
Afrikaans family whose power is waning under 
the new social order.

The story is told through multiple narrators, 
ranging from Cornelis and Francois to an old 
freedwoman who is in fact Cornelis's mother. 
Brink used this same device in an earlier 
historical novel about a failed slave uprising, "A 
Chain of Voices," to suggest the damage a 
system like slavery does to perpetrators as well 
as victims. Most of the first-person narration in 
this new novel, however, is given to Philida. 
Brink is not unaware of the minefield he has 
chosen to enter, having admitted in an interview 
that "there was a particular audacity and bloody 
cheek involved as a white person in imagining 
yourself into the skin of a black woman," but 
that "over so many years, the coming together of 
black and white has entered so deeply into my 
subconscious that perhaps the effort did not 
need to be too extreme."

Unfortunately, Brink's awareness of his own 
"bloody cheek" does not make his portrayal of 
Philida any less troubling. This comes as a 
disappointment, given Brink's characteristically 
more complex engagement with the feminist 
and subaltern politics of who has the right to 
speak for whom. The issue starts with his 
questionable use of a stylistic device to 
distinguish Philida's voice. She has trouble 
conjugating her verbs - "My head remember 
this and that and lots of other stuff as well" - 
yet she's capable of flights of lyrical description 
when the occasion demands it ("the thin 
shrilling of the lark like a twine of cotton among 
the others"), which makes her voice 
inconsistent. Besides, why give Philida a pidgin 
"slave-speak/slave-think" while not marking 
the voices and thoughts of Cornelis and 
Francois, relatively uneducated white men, to 
signal their place in society?

Brink's portrayal of Philida becomes even more 
problematic when she describes her first rape by 

 "And after some time I no longer cry, and I just 
let him do whatever he want, now I can feel him 
pushing into me, into the deepest deepness of 
myself, and then he begin to shake like a sheep 
that got its throat cut, and then I know that this 
is it . . . and I cannot and will not stop him any 
more, I just go on crying in his ears, no, no, no, 
crying no, no, yes, yes, yes, and then I no longer 
know or care what is happening. . . . I just do 
whatever you wish, you are the Baas, just push 
into me, I no longer want or wish anything, just 
stay inside me, just keep on, don't stop."

It would be one thing for Brink to describe the 
rape in such a way from Francois's perspective, 
to show that for certain kinds of ruthless men, a 
woman's "no" will always be taken to mean 
"yes." But for Brink to present this from her 
point of view, in the first person no less, does 
symbolic violence to Philida. Throughout the 
book, Brink's account of Philida's relationship 
with Francois is uncomfortably confused - at 
certain times, it comes across as one of power 
abuse and repeated rape; at others, a sentimental 
romance in which Philida claims to have loved 
him. This seems to be Brink's clumsy attempt to 
complicate the master-slave relationship and 
suggest that the fault lines of domination and 
attraction can shift. A more sophisticated 
treatment of the power relations between 
owners and slaves can be found in Yvette 
Christianse's 2006 novel "Unconfessed," based 
on historical records of a woman slave in the 
Cape who murdered her own child.

Other parts of "Philida" display the same 
disconcerting mix of violence and 
sentimentality. Each chapter starts with a precis 
written in the style of a picaresque novel. These 
twee summaries ("In this Chapter Philida's 
Thoughts continue to dwell on Zandvliet and the 
House of Ghosts and Cats in which she lives with her 
Ouma Petronella") and the often jaunty tone of 
the narrator-as-picaresque-heroine do not fit 
with the litany of horrors the chapters hold: 
Cornelis forcing two slaves to rape Philida in 
public; a crowd at a slave auction festively 
disputing the number of stripes across a dead 
slave's back.

The achievement of "Philida" is how it 
continues Brink's imaginative search for the 
roots of South Africa's later evils in its earliest 
settler history. What the character of Philida 
warns us about is the importance of not letting 
those in power get away with anything; just one 
slip-up, a moment of casual cruelty or neglect or 
even well-intentioned paternalism, can quickly 
fester into something more insidious. To 
represent torture or extreme violence in fiction 
is, in a context like South Africa, a fraught 
undertaking. "For the writer," as J. M. Coetzee 
wrote in 1986, "the true challenge is how not to 
play the game by the rules of the state, how to 
establish one's own authority, how to imagine 
torture and death on one's own terms." If, as 
Francois at one point admits, the things that are 
done to Philida (and by extension to all slaves) 
are "unspeakable," then Brink should take more 
care when he decides to speak them out loud.


by Robert Adams

AIUSA released the following press release on May 
23, 2015:

USA Freedom Act Fails Senate Vote As Patriot 
Act Reauthorization Blocked
WASHINGTON - The US Senate failed to pass 
a short-term reauthorization of Section 215 of 
the USA Patriot Act today, meaning that a major 
legal authority on which the U.S. government 
has relied for surveillance is poised to expire. 
The Senate also failed to pass the USA Freedom 
Act today, which had passed the House of 
Representatives earlier this month. Amnesty 
International USA reiterated its call for true 
surveillance reform.  
"The Senate's unwillingness to temporarily 
reauthorize the Patriot Act is an important 
signal that the tide has turned against mass 
surveillance. We are one step closer to forcing a 
serious conversation about the need for systemic 
overhaul," said Naureen Shah, Director of 
Amnesty International USA's Security and 
Human Rights Program. "Now there must be 
further action. In the nearly two years since 
Edward Snowden revealed the extent of its 
worldwide surveillance, the US government has 
avoided any meaningful new limits on the 
government's collection of our data. We hope 
today's vote will spur real change so people can 
again feel confident in their right to live free 
from government intrusion into their private 
"The Senate will reconvene on May 31, the day 
before Section 215 of the Patriot Act expires. The 
US government used section 215 of the USA 
Patriot Act to conduct surveillance far beyond 
even our worst fears. As governments around 
the world consider legislation granting far-
reaching surveillance powers, they should take 
note that similar powers are being successfully 
challenged in the US."

By Stevi Carroll


What's it like to be the only African-American in 
a uni-chamber legislature? And for 38 years, to 
be the person who introduces legislation to 
abolish the death penalty -- 38 times? Ernie 
Chambers, a long-time legislator in Nebraska 
can answer those questions.

The Nebraska legislature has 47 members in its 
unicameral body and this month after Senator 
Ernie Chambers once again introduced a bill to 
abolish the death penalty, 32 of those members 
voted for abolition.  Once before, in 1972, the 
legislators voted for abolition only to have then 
Governor Charles Thone veto it.  This time is no 
different with Governor Pete Ricketts pledging 
to stamp the bill VETOed again.

Nebraska is a conservative state and Governor 
Ricketts is sure most Nebraskans continue to 
support the death penalty; although, the bill was 
co-sponsored by Senator Colby Coash, a 
Republican.  Mr. Coash's path to abolition began 
when he was a college student in 1997.  On the 
night of the state's last execution, he went to the 
penitentiary. In the parking lot, he saw revelers 
having a party complete with a band, tailgating, 
and a countdown to the execution.  He also saw 
another group praying on the other side of the 
security gate.  These images remained with him 
as his attitude toward to death penalty changed.

Senator Chambers is unsure he can count on his 
colleagues to overturn the governor's veto. He 
said, "The work isn't done yet - if the governor 
overrides the bill it will be back to us, and you 
never know if someone will crumble or stumble. 
There are so many ways for politicians to avoid 
committing themselves."  The bill needs 30 votes 
to override the governor's veto and according to 
Mr. Chambers most of the people who voted for 
the bill have voted for it at least three times in 
the past. He, therefore, believes they have cast 
"a principled vote based on conviction" and so, 
when the governor vetoes it, the legislators will 
have just one more vote to abolish the death 
penalty in Nebraska.

Perhaps by next month, Nebraska will have 
become the 19th US state to abolish the death 

The Death Penalty in The New Yorker

The April 15, 2015, issue of The New Yorker 
magazine has an article, "The Death Penalty 
Deserves The Death Penalty," that explores 
various arguments for the abolition of the death 
penalty.  Of course, the challenges faced by the 
lack of drugs for lethal injection are discussed. 
The following, however, is a fine summary of 
the situation.

 "Even if lethal injection is fatally flawed, of 
course, there are other means of execution 
available. Electrocution, asphyxiation by 
poisonous gas, shooting by a firing squad, and 
hanging are alternatives in states where lethal 
injection is currently the primary means of 
execution. The inmates' plea may also seem 
myopically focused on one means of death 
when it is the end-execution as a form of 
punishment -- that should be judged. But any 
means inevitably connects to the end. It raises 
the fundamental question of whether any state 
is capable of administering capital punishment 
in a way that meets constitutional standards. If 
states can't do that, shouldn't the United States 
abolish the death penalty?"

To read the entire article, go to

The OK state and its lethal injection drugs
People who want to execute Oklahoma's death 
row inmates have hit another challenge.  Akorn, 
the manufacturer of the sedative midazolam, 
have asked the state to return any remaining 
supplies of the drug the state may have 
purchased to use in executions.  Another drug, 
hydromorphone, that could be used, but has not 
previously been used in Oklahoma, also will not 
be available.

Inmates from Oklahoma's death row have taken 
a case to the Supreme Court with a ruling 
expected by the end of June.  As a back-up plan, 
Governor Mary Fallin has signed a law allowing 
the use of nitrogen gas for executions.

Executing the mentally ill 

As we know, we in the USA are no longer 
allowed to execute juveniles or the intellectually 
disabled (called mentally retarded in the 
Supreme Court case), but what about people 
who are mentally ill?  Although we want the 
person being executed to know he is being killed 
and why he is being killed, we do not always 
allow evidence of mental illness to emerge 
during trials.

This month our lone execution is Derrick 
Charles.  Yes, he committed the crime of which 
he was convicted, but when he confessed to the 
police, he said he didn't know why he'd done it. 
During his trial, none of his history of abuse and 
mental illness was investigated by his defense 
attorneys or presented at his trial.  That he'd 
seen his schizophrenic mother stab his abusive 
stepfather, suffered from tactile and auditory 
hallucinations since childhood, been 
hospitalized twice for mental illness by the time 
he was 13, and heard voices and asked for 
medication while in juvenile detention for 
nonviolent offenses (the medication was denied) 
were not included in his trial.

The courts allow only 'insanity' as a reason not 
to seek the death penalty, but what constitutes 
insanity is left up to the states. No universal 
guidelines of what insanity is exist within the 
United States.  As we know, death penalty cases 
are very expensive and mentally ill prisoners 
may not have the resources available to raise a 
claim of mental illness during trials.  

For the mentally ill, death row itself produces 
problems.  Death row inmates are often isolated 
in their cells for 23 out of 24 hours and this 
isolation leads to further deterioration.  In Idaho, 
the isolation is for 24 hours a day.  Kate Black, a 
lawyer for the Texas Defender Service, says the 
Supreme Court should ban the execution of the 
mentally ill.  She said, "the same rationale that 
you (the Supreme Court) used in [banning 
execution of the intellectually disabled] - 
which is that there's no deterrent effect for 
someone who doesn't understand it, these 
people are at risk for having terrible counsel and 
of not being able to help counsel - all those 
things are also true about the mentally ill."

Former Georgia Chief Justice Norman Fletcher

As we recall, Troy Davis was executed in 
Georgia. Now former Chief Justice Norman 
Fletcher says, "Capital punishment must be 
permanently halted, without exception. ... With 
wisdom gained over the past 10 years, I am now 
convinced there is absolutely no justification for 
continuing to impose the sentence of death in 
this country." He has come to believe that the 
death penalty is unethical, that many innocent 
people have been killed, that racial disparity 
exists in the use of the death penalty, and that 
economic and political factors are involved to 
determine if and when capital punishment is 

Justice Fletcher's voice joins that of the drug 
manufacturers as well as medical professionals 
and pharmacists who are now prohibited from 
participating in executions.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Following is a press release from AIUSA's 
executive director regarding the sentencing of 
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

MAY 15, 2015
Amnesty International USA Responds to 
Death Penalty in Boston Bombing Case

In response to the announcement that Dzhokhar 
Tsarnaev was sentenced to death after being 
convicted in the Boston Marathon bombings, 
Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of 
Amnesty International USA issued the 
following statement:
"We condemn the bombings that took place in 
Boston two years ago, and we mourn the loss of 
life and grave injuries they caused. The death 
penalty, however, is not justice. It will only 
compound the violence, and it will not deter 
others from committing similar crimes in the 
It is outrageous that the federal government 
imposes this cruel and inhuman punishment, 
particularly when the people of Massachusetts 
have abolished it in their state. As death 
sentences decline worldwide, no government 
can claim to be a leader in human rights when it 
sentences its prisoners to death."

Amnesty International has documented a steady 
decline in the use of the death penalty in the 
United States and around the world over the 
past several years, though in 2014 there was a 
marked increase in death sentences to address a 
real or perceived threat of terrorism especially in 
Egypt and Nigeria. There remains no evidence 
showing that the death penalty deters crime or 
has any effect in reducing terrorism.

Annual death sentences in the U.S. have 
declined since 2000. In the last eight years the 
number of death sentences has been lower than 
any time since reinstatement of the death 
penalty in 1976. In 2014 there were 72 death 
sentences, the lowest number on record since 
1976. Executions have declined as well, from a 
high of 98 in 1999 to just 35 in 2014, the lowest in 
20 years; there were 43 executions in 2011 and 
2012 and 39 in 2013.

Amnesty International USA opposes the death 
penalty in all cases without exception as the 
ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading 
punishment. As of today, 140 countries have 
abolished the death penalty in law or practice. 
The U.S. was one of only nine countries in the 
world that carried out executions each year 
between 2009 and 2013.

The article "Long wait ahead on death row" 
from the LA Times ends with 
"The process can be particularly difficult for 
victims who want to get past the constant 
reminders, and was one reason many in Boston 
preferred a life sentence over death. With a life 
sentence, they argued, Tsarnaev would be 
locked away and forgotten.
'It will easily be a decade before the death 
sentence is even carried out,' [University at 
Buffalo law professor, Charles] Ewing said. 
'People looking for closure are not going to get 
it. When it eventually happens, this will be way 
out of people's consciousness.'"

Nevada, our neighboring state

And now a little irony.  It seems the Nevada 
Death Chamber is not in compliance with the 
Americans with Disabilities Act, so a joint 
Assembly and Senate budget subcommittee 
finds itself split 5-5 on whether or not to spend 
$860,000 for a new one.

Nevada has not executed anyone since 2006, and 
for some reason 11 or 12 executions carried out 
by the State have been volunteers. Volunteers 
are inmates who chose not to exhaust their 
appeals, so maybe they do need to comply with 
the ADA.

4	Willie Manning (#153)  MS	
       Charges Dismissed
        Years after conviction: 19

Stays of Execution
3	Rodney Berget		SD
8	Anthony Reid		PA
12	Kimber Edwards	        MO
14	Jeffery Wogenstahl	OH
14	Gregory Lott		OH

12	Derrick Charles	      TX
	Lethal Injection      1-drug (pentobarbital)

UAs                        15
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.