Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXIII Number 10, October 2015

  Thursday, October 22, 8:00 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, November 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, November 15, 6:30 PM.  Rights 
Readers Human Rights Book Discussion 
group. This month we read "Without You 
There Is No Us" by Suki Kim.
  November 20-22. AI Western Regional 
Conference at Sheraton Gateway Hotel near 
LAX. Registration and agenda are available at


Hi everyone

Is fall finally here?  It's nice and cool outside 
(mid 70s-80s) for a change...

Did you watch the Democratic presidential 
debate?  No matter who you support, you've got 
to admit they're a lot different than the 

Note the update on our new POC, Narges
Mohammadi, by a new contributor to our 
newsletter.  Hopefully we can do some actions 
on her behalf once Alexi, the case file holder for 
Narges, returns from her trip.


Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:
Sunday, Nov. 15,  
6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado, Pasadena

Without You There Is No Us
By Suki Kim

[The New York Times Sunday Book Review]
By Euny Hong, December 11, 2014

My Time With the Sons of North Korea's Elite

Caption: Dear Leader: Paying respects to Kim Jong-il 
in Pyongyang, 2012. Credit Pedro Ugarte/Agence 
France-Presse - Getty Images

Suki Kim's "Without You, There Is No Us," a 
chilling memoir of this Korean-American 
author's 2011 stint as a visiting English 
instructor at a North Korean university, takes its 
title from a patriotic song extolling the Great 
General Comrade Kim Jong-il, whose death was 
announced on what happened to be the day of 
the author's final class in the Democratic 
People's Republic. The book reminds us that evil 
is not only banal; it is also completely arbitrary.
Why, for example, do the North Koreans count a 
sturgeon farm among the 12 "military-first" 
wonders of their country, as the author reports? 
And why was it so important that Kim Jong-il be 
regarded as the earth's foremost expert on every 
subject? (Not only does he supposedly hold the 
world record for the most holes-in-one in a 
single golf game, as stated in his official 
biography, but he was "even well versed in 
apple growing," a guide at the orchard 

Of course, all totalitarian dictatorships try to 
shield their populations from the outside world; 
that's par for the course - or perhaps 38 below 
par, as in Kim Jong-il's world-record golf game. 
But the North Korean regime has achieved a 
level of irrationality that the post-Caligula world 
has never seen.

To call North Korea a banana republic - the 
term historically used to denote little 
dictatorships with only one export - would be 
an insult to bananas. For North Korea produces 
nothing the world needs, and the regime knows 
it. Kim recounts many examples of how this 
global uselessness is the regime's own fault. To 
cite just one, the government has, until very 
recently, concealed the existence of the World 
Wide Web.

The most fascinating bits of Kim's book are 
those that deal with her students' shocking 
technological backwardness - shocking 
because the institution they attend is the 
Pyongyang University of Science and 
Technology. The students do have access to an 
internal network, or intranet, but it's not 
connected to the Internet, and they use their 
computers mostly as dictionaries. The sight of 
these whiz kids "staring blankly at screens," 
Kim writes, "was so pathetic that I was seized 
by a pang of anger, mixed with sadness, and 
soon left the room."

Pretty much every other major Communist 
nation in history has tried its best to keep 
scientists abreast of cutting-edge research and 
technology. The Soviet Union, even at its most 
oppressive, still produced Sputnik and gave 
NASA a run for its money. North Korea, 
meanwhile, does not seem to have any world-
class scientists - or world-class anything else. 
There is no North Korean equivalent of the 
Bolshoi Ballet. The country seems unable even to 
produce a world chess champion, for crying out 

Yet Kim's narrative suggests that the regime's 
stranglehold on information is starting to crack. 
Kim may have been one of the very few Western 
journalists to witness what might be the -
beginning of the end - namely, the 
introduction of Google to a very limited number 
of students. The first time they use it, they are 
bewildered that any given search term could 
produce hundreds of thousands of results.
The students, Kim writes, "were under strict 
orders not to reveal anything about the Internet, 
including their access to it." So why would the 
authorities even permit it?

One can only assume that at long last, North 
Korea realizes it has no choice. Today's North -
Korea is not like that of Kim Il-sung, the nation's 
founder. During most of his reign, North Korea 
was richer than South Korea. The Eternal 
President was a scary presence on the world 
stage, with a Khrushchev-like gravitas and 
ability to instill fear in his adversaries.
Currently, by contrast, North Korea has no 
allies, and has the worst public relations 
problem in its history. The current leader, Kim 
Jong-un, is such a global laughingstock that he is 
the running gag in a coming satirical film, "The 
Interview." No dictator wants to be a major 
character in a movie starring Seth Rogen. Not 

The most surprising of all the author's anecdotes 
appears toward the end of the book: For some 
reason that Kim frustratingly never explains, the 
North Korean authorities gave Kim and her 
fellow English instructors permission to show 
their pupils the films "Avatar" and "Harry 
Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (the 
Westerners had brought the DVDs with them in 
their luggage). I am dying to know how the 
students could possibly have reconciled these 
films' state-of-the-art special effects with the fact 
that they have been taught all their lives that 
Westerners lead mirthless lives and have spotty 
access to technology. Before the screening, one 
of Kim's students asks, "Is Hogwarts a nice 
place?" Uh-oh. No good can come of such a 

Kim's description of her former charges is 
highly sentimental and sometimes gloomy; she 
can't help wondering whether she has literally 
endangered them by giving them a sense of 
hope. "I hope they have forgotten everything I 
inspired in them," she writes. But whether Kim 
realizes it or not, her own book suggests that the 
North Korean authorities, or at least the higher 
education system, has already surrendered to 
the future. They seem to take it as a foregone 
conclusion that "Harry Potter" is as inexorable 
as the Internet, impossible to keep at bay 
forever. Can a dissolution of the most closed 
regime the modern world has ever known be far 

[Euny Hong's book of reportage, "The Birth of 
Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the 
World Through Pop Culture," was published in 

Suki Kim is the author of a New York Times 
bestselling investigative memoir, Without You, 
There Is No Us, My Time with the Sons of North 
Korean Elite. Her first novel, The Interpreter, was 
a finalist for a PEN Hemingway Prize. Since 
2002, she has travelled to North Korea as a 
writer, witnessing both Kim Jong-il's 60th 
Birthday celebrations as well as his death at age 
69.  Her essays and articles have appeared in the 
New York Times, Harper's, and the New York 
Review of Books. She has been the recipient of a 
Guggenheim, a Fulbright, and an Open Society 
fellowship. Born and raised in Seoul, she lives in 
New York.

By Robert Adams

The Secrets Are Out on Drones
by Elizabeth Beavers, security with human 
rights policy and activism coordinator, AIUSA
October 15, 2015

The secrets are out. Today, The Intercept 
published a series of articles allegedly based on 
leaked documents that expose the inner 
workings of the lethal drone program. While we 
are not in a position to independently verify 
them, they underscore the Obama 
administration's long-standing failure to bring 
transparency to the drones program. Here are 
three reasons this is such a big deal:
1. There is new evidence that aspects of the 
drone program may be unlawful. 
International law requires that lethal force be 
used outside of specific recognized zones of 
armed conflict only when it is strictly 
unavoidable to prevent an imminent threat to 
life. But these new disclosures emphasize what 
Amnesty has long argued: that the 
administration's policies amount to a radical re-
interpretation of established standards 
governing the use of force. The leaks show that 
after strikes are approved, there is a 60-day 
window for them to be carried out. It is difficult 
to imagine a truly imminent threat that lasts for 
two months.
2. There is now even more cause for concern 
about the identity of those killed in drone 
Amnesty has documented instances of 
potentially unlawful killings by drone strike, 
including a woman killed in front of her 
grandchildren. And journalists have tried to 
keep count of precisely who dies by drone 
strikes, but this is a near-impossible task, as the 
administration has largely refused to identify 
the victims.
If confirmed, the Intercept's revelations paint an 
alarming picture.  According to the documents, 
during one five-month stretch, 90 percent of 
those whom the U.S. government killed by 
drone strike were unintended targets. The 
documents also show that those killed by strikes 
are considered an "enemy killed in action" even 
if they were not the intended target, unless 
evidence emerges after their death to prove 
otherwise. This is completely inconsistent with 
the administration's policy guidelines, 
announced in May 2013, stating that drone 
strikes will only occur with "near certainty" that 
there will be no civilian casualties.
3. This sort of information is the type of 
transparency that President Obama has been 
saying he supports. 
He has promised to make the drones program 
"more transparent to the American people and 
the world" because "in our democracy, no one 
should just take my word for it that we're doing 
things the right way." Now the Obama 
administration must own what that the articles 
reveal: a lethal drone program responsible for 
apparently unintended killings, and which 
appears to operate outside the established 
international legal norms.
Today's articles show that the "global war on 
terror" did not end with the George W. Bush 
administration. Instead, under the auspices of 
the wide-ranging 2001 Authorization for the Use 
of Military Force, the Obama administration 
continues in many ways to operate as if the 
entire world is a battlefield. An endless war 
paradigm persists, and drones are its new 

Narges Mohammadi
By Dominique Razon


On August 2, 2015, Narges Mohammadi - an 
Iranian Human Rights activist who was arrested 
this past May in Tehran - was taken from the 
city's Evin Prison to Taleghani Hospital.  During 
examination, doctors insisted she be 
hospitalized due to signs of neurological 
paralysis.  Despite the doctor's advice, Narges 
Mohammadi was returned the next day to Evin 
prison, without receiving specialized care. 

According to her husband, Taghi Rahmani, this 
is not the first time Narges has been denied 
medical care. "Since her arrest [on May 5, 2015], 
Narges has been seen by neurologists three 
times, and every time the doctors have said that 
she must be hospitalized to control her illness 
and prevent it from getting worse," said 
Rahmani. "Even the prison infirmary's doctor 
has stressed the need to hospitalize her, but the 
Judiciary has so far refused to do so."  Human 
rights group Amnesty International added that 
Mohammadi also hasn't even been allowed to 
call her two children, who are currently residing 
with their father in Paris, France.  

Denying Narges her medical rights as a political 
prisoner could prove fatal.  "... prisoners are not 
always provided with actual medical care and 
instead are simply returned to prison,"  stated 
Amnesty in a recent newsletter.  This neglect has 
been attributed to the death of seven inmates in 
Iran in the past five years.  The denial of medical 
care is in strict violation of the International 
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which 
prohibits torture and other detrimental 

The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the 
Treatment of Prisoners also state that prisoners 
who require specialized treatment must be 
transferred to specialized institutions or to civil 

Narges is vice president of the now banned 
Defenders of Human Rights Center, and 
founder of Step By Step to Stop Death Penalty, a 
group fighting to end the death penalty in Iran.  
Before her arrest in 2015, Mohammadi told 
Amnesty she was being arrested due to her 
human rights work, a sentiment that is shared 
by the International Campaign for Human 
Rights in Iran (ICHRI). Charges brought against 
her include: membership of an illegal 
organization whose aim is to harm national 
security, spreading propaganda against the 
system, and assembly and collusion against 
national security.  

Little to no attention has been given to 
Mohammadi's story.  As her medical care 
continues to be denied, Mohammadi's health 
worsens.  With her October 6 trial date 
approaching, Amnesty has issued an Urgent 
Action appeal and designated Mohammadi as a 
"prisoner of conscience".  For information about 
how you can help, visit the Amnesty website,

Narges' October 6 trial was postponed by the 
Judiciary.  No explanation was given to her 
lawyers, nor was a new trial date given.  Narges 
continues to serve time at Evin prison.  This 
marks the third postponement of her trial since 
her arrest on May 5. 

By Stevi Carroll
Pope Francis in DC

When Pope Francis addressed members of the 
US Congress, he included his views on the death 

 "Recently my brother bishops here in the 
United States renewed their call for the abolition 
of the death penalty. Not only do I support 
them, but I also offer encouragement to all those 
who are convinced that a just and necessary 
punishment must never exclude the dimension 
of hope and the goal of rehabilitation."

Kelly Gissendaner

Execution provides the ultimate punishment for 
heinous crimes, and thus, justice is served.  In 
1997, Kelly Gissendaner and Gregory Owen 
conspired to kill Ms Gissendaner's husband, 
Douglas Gissendaner.  Mr. Owen carried out 
Mr. Gissendaner's murder. During their trial, 
Mr. Owen's plea deal to testify against Ms 
Gissendaner rewarded him with life in prison 
with the possibility of parole for which he will 
be eligible in 2022. Kelly Gissendaner was 
sentenced to death.

Pleas to halt Ms Gissendaner's execution came 
from a variety of people.  Amnesty International 
highlighted her case with both an Urgent Action 
and a Take Action Now online petition. Pope 
Francis asked the review board to reconsider her 
sentence. He said that in no way did he 
minimize the gravity of the crime but thought 
"to commute the sentence to one that would 
better express both justice and mercy." Several 
women who served time with Ms Gissendaner 
also supported her because of the help she'd 
given them and others to resist despair and 
rehabilitate themselves. Ms Gissendaner's 
children, Kayla and Dakota Gissendaner, 
overcame their anger toward their mother for 
the murder of their father and became steadfast 
supporters for her clemency. Norman Fletcher, a 
retired Georgia Supreme Court Justice voted to 
uphold Ms Gissendaner's sentence 15 years ago. 
He now regrets his vote.  He has come to believe 
her death sentence did not square with the crime 
she committed. He also called into question an 
appeal made by Ms Gissendaner saying it had 
been 'deeply flawed'. 

Despite pleas to halt Ms Gissendaner's 
execution, she became the first woman executed 
in a southern US state in 70 years on September 
30, 2015.  Witnesses said Kelly Gissendaner sang 
"Amazing Grace" as the lethal injection ended 
her life. 

As Megan Chambers, a former inmate who met 
Ms Gissendaner in prison and received comfort 
and help with her own rehabilitation from her, 
said, "Kelly did that. Prison doesn't help you 
rehabilitate - prison's a business. ... How could 
the state kill her when she's more of a benefit 
alive?" Has justice been served?

October 10, 2015 World Day Against the Death 

Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director of 
Amnesty International USA:

 "The tally nearly reached four executions in just 
over a week's time, but for the bungling of an 
execution in Oklahoma. The state procured the 
wrong drug to kill the prisoner, only realizing 
the mistake at the very last minute. Now the 
state's Attorney General is investigating what 
went wrong.

 "In fact, just about everything is wrong with 
the capital punishment system. It's 
fundamentally broken and should be ended 
once and for all.

 "Thankfully the death penalty is in decline in 
the United States and around the world. Last 
year, executions in the United States were at a 
20-year low, and death sentences were at their 
lowest level since 1976. What's more, nineteen 
states plus the District of Columbia have 
banned capital punishment, and seven other 
states have not carried out an execution in 10 

 "It's really just a handful of states that are still 
aggressively pursuing executions. Texas, 
Oklahoma, and Missouri, in particular, are 
moving further and further away from national 
standards of decency. Globally, 140 countries 
have abolished the death penalty in law or 
practice, and only 22 carried out executions last 

 "The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, 
inhuman and degrading punishment. The 
United States cannot practice it and claim to be 
a human rights leader on the global stage. Now 
is the time to end capital punishment for 

The US Supreme Court

2015 is a year to watch the Supremes.  They are 
scheduled to hear four death penalty cases.  

Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader 
Ginsburg also have recommended the court look 
again at the constitutionality of the death 
penalty. In The National Law Journal (NLJ) 
following his dissent in Glossip v. Gross, Justice 
Breyer said, "You know, sometimes people make 
mistakes, [executing] the wrong person. It is 
arbitrary. There is lots of evidence on that." 
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, also from the NLJ, 
said, "I've always made the distinction that if I 
were in the legislature, there'd be no death 
penalty. If I had been on the court for Furman [v. 
Georgia, 1972, invalidating the death penalty], I 
wouldn't have given us the death penalty back 
four years later."

Perhaps 2015 will be the year death penalty 
abolition will have life breathed into it from the 
US Supreme Court.

4		Bobby Johnson		CT
In 2007, 16-year-old Bobby Johnson falsely 
confessed to committing a murder in New 
Haven, Connecticut and was sentenced to 38 
years in prison. He was exonerated after the 
Connecticut Innocence Project found evidence 
concealed by police that identified the real killer.

14		Lewis	Fogle			PA
In 1982, Lewis Fogle was sentenced to life in 
prison for the 1976 rape and murder of a 15-
year-old girl in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. 
He was exonerated after DNA tests obtained by 
the Innocence Project and the Pennsylvania 
Innocence Project excluded Fogle and identified 
the DNA of an unknown male.

18		Brandon Burnside		WI
In 2011 Brandon Burnside was sentenced to life 
in prison for murder in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 
He was exonerated after DNA testing pointed to 
another suspect and eyewitness identifications 
were shown to be flawed.

30		Beniah Alton Dandridge	AL
In 1996, Beniah Alton Dandridge was sentenced 
to life in prison for murder based on false 
testimony by a jailhouse informant and a crime-
scene fingerprint. He was exonerated after 
independent fingerprint analysis obtained by 
the Equal Justice Initiative showed that the print 
belonged to the victim's son.

30		Damian Mills			NC
Damian Mills, Larry Williams, Jr., and Teddy 
Isbell and two other men-Larry Wilcoxson and 
Kenneth Kagonyera-pled guilty to a murder in 
2000 in Buncombe County, North Carolina. 
Wilcoxson and Kagonyera were exonerated in 
2011 after DNA linked the crime to three other 
men. Mills, Williams and Isbell were exonerated 
in 2015.

2		Richard Lapointe		 CT
In 1992, Richard LaPointe was sentenced to life 
in prison without parole for the rape and 
murder of his wife's 88-year-old grandmother. 
He was exonerated because the evidence 
withheld by the prosecution proved that he had 
an alibi.

Sentence Commuted
6		Kimber Edwards		MO 
His sentence was commuted to life 
imprisonment without the possibility of parole 
four days before he was due to be put to death.

Stays of Execution
30		Richard Glossip+		OK 
(originally stayed only until 11/6)
6		Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman		TN
7		Benjamin Cole +			OK
19		Michael Ballard			PA
21		Bruce Earl Ward*		AR
21		Don William Davis*		AR
28		John Grant+			OK
28		Christopher Wilkins		TX

30		Kelly Gissendaner f		GA
	Lethal Injection	1-drug

1		Alfred Prieto~ 			VA 
	Lethal Injection	3-drug
7		Juan Garcia			TX 
	Lethal Injection	1-drug
14		Licho Escamilla			TX 
	Lethal Injection	1-drug

f   female
~  foreign national
+  On October 2, 2015 The Oklahoma Court of 
Criminal Appeals granted the Attorney General's 
request to indefinitely stay all pending executions 
to allow for review of lethal injection procedures.
*  On October 8, the Arkansas Circuit Court 
granted a temporary restraining order staying all 
eight scheduled executions so that already 
pending judicial review of the state's execution 
procedures could take place. 

UAs                                   5
POC                                  16
Total                                21
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.