Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXVI Number 6, June 2018

  Tuesday, July 10, 7:30-9:00 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 next to the building. This 
informal gathering is a great way for 
newcomers to get acquainted with Amnesty. 
  Sunday, July 15, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion Group. This 
month we read a short novel, "My Cat 
Yugoslavia" by Pajtim Statovci. 
  Note: We're taking a summer break and 
won't have any Thursday monthly meetings in 
July or August. Letter writing and book group 
meetings will continue as usual.


Hi everyone,

Welcome to summer, an educator's favorite time 
of year!

LAUSD school year ended June 8th, for which 
Alexi and Kathy are's been a busy 
year. I assume that Paula and Stevi will have the 
summer off as well.

Amnesty Group 22 will not have monthly 
meetings in June, July, and August but letter 
writing and the book group will  continue.

There's been a lot in the news lately about 
border issues and immigration. Amnesty has an 
action here on the issue of families who seek 
asylum at the US/Mexico border being 

Also see this article in the June 28 New Yorker 
by Jonathan Blitzer: The Government Has No Plan 
for Reuniting the Immigrant Families It Is Tearing 

Laura Bush wrote a Washington Post op-ed :
"Separating children from their parents at the 
border breaks my heart".


Next Rights Readers Meeting

Sunday, July 15
6:30 PM

Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Blvd 

My Cat Yugoslavia 
by Pajtim Statovci

By Liam Hoare, April 28, 2017

In My Cat Yugoslavia, a Talking Feline Is Only 
One Kind of Queer
By Pajtim Statovci

A man walks into a gay bar and there he meets a 
talking cat. "I noticed the cat across the dance 
floor," Bekim, the lonesome, dislocated narrator 
of Pajtim Statovci's compelling and altogether 
beautiful debut novel My Cat Yugoslavia, tells 
us. "I had never seen anything so enchanting, so 
alluring. He was a perfect cat" with gleaming 
fur and muscular back legs. "Then the cat 
noticed me; he started smiling at me and I 
started smiling at him, then he raised his front 
paw to the top button of his shirt, unbuttoned it, 
and began walking towards me."

Bekim is the youngest son of a broken family 
who, with his parents, came as a refugee from 
Kosovo to Finland in the early 1990s. He was a 
disturbed child who grappled with darkness 
and nightmares. His father, Bajram, was violent 
and once hired a Turkish imam to exorcise evil 
spirits from Bekim's body. My Cat Yugoslavia 
opens with Bekim as a twentysomething college 
student cruising for a hookup online.

Meeting this sexy, snarky, spunky talking cat 
changes Bekim's life. In spite of his cruelty-
"Gays. I don't much like gays," the cat reveals at 
the bar, causing Bekim to wonder why he's 
there in the first place-Bekim begins to tell him 
everything about his life, where he had come 
from, and what it's like to feel as if you're 
always being scrutinized. It is fair to say Bekim 
falls head over heels for this cat, and this 
encounter-which leads to the demanding, 
tempestuous creature moving in and then out of 
his apartment-sets in motion Bekim's return to 
Kosovo and an inevitable facing of his past.

Statovci, only 26 years old and himself born into 
a Kosovar Albanian family that migrated to 
Finland when he was only 2, has said that his 
choice to insert a talking cat into My Cat 
Yugoslavia was done "to explore stereotypes we 
have about ethnic, sexual, and religious 
minorities." By this, he not only meant that 
animals tend to have certain characteristics or 
qualities ascribed to them, but also that societies 
create a kind of hierarchy of animals in the same 
way as people continue to be distinguished and 
oppressed on the basis of weakness or 

This image of a talking cat within human society 
is also a way of examining the displacement and 
denigration that comes with being a Muslim 
Kosovar refugee in Western society, and a queer 
person in a culture with certain sexual and 
gender norms. "Maybe it was because I left the 
war and the destruction that followed it 
somehow stole my personal history and inserted 
another history in its place," that I wrote the 
novel in this magical realist way, Statovci has 
said. War and displacement "silenced my voice 
and made me smaller, took away my right to not 
be a part of the world that was being presented 
to me, 'the world in ruins,' the right to define 
myself outside the imagery that other people 
had when they heard about where I came from."

Perhaps because this is a literary debut, 
Statovci's magical realism and use of symbolism 
can sometimes come across as heavy-handed. 
The novel's construction-with Bekim's 
narrative interwoven with that of his mother, 
Emine-is not as sophisticated as it could be. 
Still, My Cat Yugoslavia is inventive and 
playful. It tells us a great deal about what it 
might feel like to be an outcast twice-over, to be 
at the bottom of the heap not just in one society 
but two, to experience, as Bekim says, a 
loneliness "so brutal that sometimes it felt as 
though nobody knew I even existed."

My Cat Yugoslavia's is also elevated by the 
quality of the writing (aided, to be sure, by 
David Hackston's elegant translation from the 
original Finnish). There is something truly 
wonderful about a debut novel where the 
sentences themselves are as beguiling, the 
metaphors as imaginative ("its dry skin rattled 
like a broken amplifier"; "his viscid sweat 
oozing between my fingers like egg white"), and 
the eye for detail as sharp as Statovci's.

As a portrait of a gay refugee, Statovci writes as 
well about unemotional hookups-"He gripped 
my wrist in his palms and pressed his thigh 
against my groin, as though he was afraid I 
might say something like I fancied him or ... 
how I understand him"-as finding love:

I didn't answer. He glanced quickly out of the 
window where the evening was beginning to 
darken and turn red. What if I stopped loving 
him or what if he could no longer bring 
himself to say it, or what if he fell in love with 
someone else or got a job on the other side of 
the world? Anything could happen. He could 
..."Don't think too much. That's your 
He moved his hand on my stomach; his 
fingertips felt warm and soft and his skin 
smelled of sliced almonds.
Then I said it too, because it would have been 
sheer madness not to say those words to a man 
like that.

At a time when there is a shortage of empathy 
for refugees both here and in Europe, Statovci's 
queer perspective on the search of rootedness in 
My Cat Yugoslavia is wonderful and original-
and much welcome, too.

PAJTIM STATOVCI was born in 1990 and moved 
from Kosovo to Finland with his family when he was 
two years old. He currently lives in Helsinki, where 
he is studying comparative literature at the 
University of Helsinki and screenwriting for film and 
television at Aalto University School of Arts, Design 
and Architecture. My Cat Yugoslavia is his first novel. 

Security with Human Rights
By Robert Adams


According to President Trump, human rights 
were discussed during the summit with North 
Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Francisco 
Bencosme, advocacy manager for Asia Pacific at 
Amnesty International USA, issued the 
following statement:

"While we welcome news that President Trump 
raised human rights at the summit, Amnesty 
International urges the U.S. government to 
continue to push for urgent reforms in North 
Korea. Human rights should not be a footnote in 
any engagement with Kim Jong Un, but rather a 
crucial component in negotiations between the 
two countries.

"There are no 'great winners' when North Korea 
continues to commit systemic, widespread, and 
grave violations of human rights, some of which 
may amount to crimes against humanity. It must 
close its prison camps, where up to 120,000 
people continue to be held; protect freedom of 
expression; and reunite families separated 
through displacement during the war, forced 
disappearances, or abductions."

By Stevi Carroll

Jerry Givens - Insight of an executioner

"Biggest mistake I ever made was taking the job 
as an executioner. Life is short. Life only consists 
of 24 hours a day. Death is going to come to us. 
We don't have to kill one another. "
~ Jerry Givens - Virginia's department of corrections - 
executioner from 1982 to 1999 who administered the 
death penalty to 62 inmates, some by lethal injection 
and some by electrocution.

Governor Brown: Grant Kevin Cooper a 
Reprieve and Test the DNA

Governor Brown is completely within his 
powers under the California Constitution to 
grant a reprieve to Kevin Cooper and convene 
an innocence review. 

The evidence that needs to be tested has not 
been subjected to advanced DNA analysis. The 
same San Bernardino County law enforcement 
offices that destroyed evidence pointing to other 
suspects refuse to allow new, state-of-the-art 
testing on the remaining evidence.

Please email Governor Brown at and make a follow-
up phone call to his office at (916) 445-2841. 
Make sure to mention that you want to see a 
reprieve for Kevin Cooper and that the evidence 
should be tested using state-of-the-art DNA 
analysis. You can also go to
4/common/public/?action_KEY=23068 to 
contact the Governor.

Recent Exonerations

Vernon Horn - State: CT
 -  Date of Exoneration: 4/25/2018
In 2000, Vernon Horn was sentenced to 70 years 
in prison for murder and robbery at a New 
Haven, Connecticut delicatessen. He was 
exonerated in 2018 after cell phone evidence 
concealed by police was discovered that showed 
he was not involved.

Anthony Jakes - State: IL
 -Date of Exoneration: 4/30/2018
In 1993, Anthony Jakes was sentenced to 40 
years in prison after falsely confessing at age 15 
to a murder in Chicago, Illinois. He was 
exonerated in 2018 based on evidence that police 
kicked and beat him until he confessed.

Jean Dorval - State: NJ
 -Date of Exoneration: 4/30/2018
In 1996, Jean Dorval and Duquene Pierre were 
sentenced to 60 years in prison for murder and 
aggravated assault in Union County, New 
Jersey. Pierre was acquitted at a retrial in 2016 
based on evidence that he and Dorval were out 
of state at the time of the murder and in 2018, 
the prosecution dismissed the charges against 

Marquis Jackson - State: CT
 - Date of Exoneration: 5/3/2018
In 2000, Marquis Jackson was sentenced to 45 
years in prison for murder and robbery at a New 
Haven, Connecticut delicatessen. He was 
exonerated in 2018 after cell phone evidence 
concealed by police was discovered that showed 
he was not involved.

David Robinson - State: MO
 - Date of Exoneration: 5/14/2018
In 2007, David Robinson was sentenced to life in 
prison without parole for a murder in Sikeston, 
Missouri. He was exonerated in 2018 based on 
evidence the real killer had confessed and two 
jailhouse informants admitted they falsely 
implicated Robinson.

Rosean Hargrave - State: NY
 - Date of Exoneration: 5/14/2018
In 1992, Rosean Hargrave was sentenced to 30 
years to life in prison for the shooting of two 
corrections officers in Brooklyn, New York. He 
was exonerated in 2018 based on evidence that 
the lead detective had fabricated evidence in 
other murder cases.

John Bunn - State: NY
 - Date of Exoneration: 5/15/2018
In 1992, John Bunn was sentenced to seven years 
to life in prison for the murder of a corrections 
officer in Brooklyn, New York. He was 
exonerated in 2018 based on evidence that the 
lead detective had fabricated evidence in other 
murder cases.

Dontia Patterson - State: PA
 - Date of Exoneration: 5/16/2018
In 2008, Dontia Patterson was sentenced to life 
in prison without parole for a murder in 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was exonerated 
in 2018 because police and prosecutors had 
concealed evidence implicating the real killer, 
and his defense attorney had failed to fully 
investigate the case.

Freddie Joe Lawrence and Paul Jenkins
 - State: MT - Date of Exoneration: 6/1/2018
Freddie Joe Lawrence and Paul Jenkins were 
each sentenced to 100 years in prison for 
robbery, kidnapping, and murder in Montana 
City, Montana. They were exonerated in 2018 by 
DNA tests that identified the real killer.

Johnny Tall Bear - State: OK
 - Date of Exoneration: 6/11/2018
In 1992, Johnny Tall Bear was sentenced to life in 
prison for murder in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 
He was exonerated in 2018 by DNA tests which 
showed that the witness who identified him was 

Source: The National Registry of Exonerations

Stays of Execution
21 	Clifton Williams	TX	
Stay granted by the Texas Court of Criminal 
Appeals on June 5, 2018 to permit Williams to 
re-litigate his claim of intellectual disability 
under Moore v. Texas. The Texas courts had 
previously denied his claim, applying the 
"Briseno factors" that were declared 
unconstitutional in Moore.

27	Angelo Fears		OH
	Rescheduled for October 17, 2019 by 
Gov. John Kasich on September 1, 2017.^

^ On September 1, 2017, Ohio's Governor Kasich 
issued a statement and an updated execution 
schedule, which changed the execution dates for 
19 of 26 condemned prisoners who 
had scheduled dates between September 2017 
and September 2020. The execution schedule for 
these 26 prisoners now extends through April 

No executions this month. (HOORAY!)

Take Action - Robert Van Hook

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:
	Opposing the execution of Robert Van 
Hook, and calling for his death sentence 
to be commuted;
	Noting that the trial court did not hear 
the full mitigating evidence of the 
defendant's abusive and dysfunctional 
upbringing and the impact that this had 
on his life, mental condition and 
	Explaining that you are not seeking to 
excuse violent crime or to downplay the 
suffering caused.

Contact this official by 18 July, 2018:
Governor John Kasich,
Riffe Center, 30th Floor, 
77 South High St.
Columbus, OH 43215-6117, USA
Twitter: @JohnKasich 
Phone: (614) 466-3555
Salutation: Dear Governor

If you take action, you can let Amnesty USA know at
actions/. Be sure to note that this is Urgent Action 

It is so important to report your actions because AI 
USA records the actions taken on each case--letters, 
emails, calls and tweets--and use that information for 
their advocacy. 

UAs                     21
POC                      6
Total                   27

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.