Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena / Caltech News
Volume V Number 9, October 1997
Lots of activities for the group this month - it must be fall. Renewed
Last month's meeting was a great success with several potential new
members in attendance. We hope to see them all at the next meeting!
Martha Ter Maat aided our understanding of our prisoner case with a
terrific presentation on Tibet. She gave us a wonderful timeline
detailing the events leading up to and including those surrounding the
arrest of our prisoner, Ngawang Pekar, in 1989 (See Web Tips to
follow-up on this presentation).
Many thanks to those who tabled at the Economic Justice conference at
Throop Unitarian on the 4th - Olga, Marco, Tricia, and Martha. Jennifer
Harbury's presentation was reportedly the highlight of the day.
By the time you read this, our rummage sale and holiday card making
party will have occurred. Many thanks to those who pitched in to help.
And special thanks to Martha for purchasing all of the supplies for the
cards, Jim Smith for bringing over a large haul of items from a Cal Tech
colleague who moved to Japan, Larry Romans for picking up the tables,
and to Mark Roulston for smoothly handling getting new keys to the Y
(they locked us out again!) and arranging to get the tables.
A must-see event is coming up at the AFSC (American Friends Service
Committee) bookstore this Friday, Oct. 17th. Wei Jingsheng's new book,
The Courage to Stand Alone: Letters From Prison and Other Writings, will
be discusssed with a presentation by our own Martha Ter Maat and Ann
Lau, co-chair of the Visual Artists Guild. Ann will discuss Wei's case
and present a video interview with Wei Jingsheng and Martha will present
background information on the political and human rights situation in
October's monthly meeting will give us a chance to provide input to
those attending the Western Regional Conference in Tucson on Oct. 23 &
24th. So far, Martha and I from Group 22 plan to attend. I'll provide
a full report in the next newsletter. As well as looking forward to the
conference itself, I am anxious to see how well our holiday cards sell
and whether this will be a lucrative undertaking for the group.
As you have probably read in the paper this week, the Senate and House
passed a modification of last year's immigration law that will allow
many Nicaraguan, Guatemalan and Salvadoran refugees and other immigrants
to remain in the U.S. As usual, the Congress seems to be doing
something right (or at least partially right), but for the wrong
reasons. It will be interesting to see at the regional conference what
the reaction to this legislation is within the Amnesty community.
Finally, stay tuned for more information about an AI demonstration on
Saturday, November 1st when Chinese President Jiang Zemin visits Los
Thanks to everyone for their participation and interest in the many
events this fall. And I will see all of you at the monthly meeting on
--Revae Moran 818-249-1419
Group Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
THURSDAY, October 23, 7:30 PM Monthly Meeting
Caltech Y Lounge, Winnett Center 2nd Floor.
FRIDAY-SUNDAY, October 24-26
"Human Rights Have No Borders", AIUSA Western Regional Conference,
Tucson Arizona. It's not too late to sign up for a terrific program!
Contact the regional office for registration and program information:
TUESDAY, November 11, 7:30 PM
Athenaeum Basement (Corner of California and Hill), Letter-writing
meeting. Too many actions for this newsletter! Come help us write!
Note date changes for up-coming meetings: The November-December Meeting
will be a Tibetan holiday party held on Friday, December 5 at the home
of Martha Ter Maat. Watch for details in the next newsletter We also
plan to hold letter-writing in December on International Human Rights
Day, Wednesday, December 10 which will be the kick-off for our year long
celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights. Location for this special meeting TBA. Stay tuned!
GREETING CARDS NOW ON SALE!
Group 22 is now selling attractive handmade greeting cards as our fall
fund-raiser. The cards are a simple design, consisting of layered
decorative papers and the message "Peace" on the front and blank
inside. We have bundled them at 10 cards for $15. While we plan to
sell as many sets as possible at the Regional Conference, there will
surely be many left over. Use them yourself or give a set to a friend.
Contact Revae to place an order. Many thanks to all who helped with
What does Amnesty International do in cases where politically motivated
prisoners have used or advocated violence?
Amnesty International takes no position on the question of violence. It
does not identify itself with any of the parties to any conflict,
violent or non-violent, nor does it presume to judge in any situation
whether recourse to violence is justified or not. It deliberately
restricts itself to working for the protection of the human rights that
fall within its mandate and does not comment or act on issues that fall
outside those terms of reference.
It opposes the torture and execution of ALL prisoners and advocates fair
and prompt trials for ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS, regardless of whether
they are accused of using or advocating violence. However, Amnesty
International seeks the immediate and unconditional release only of
individuals imprisoned for the exercise of their human rights, whose
imprisonment cannot be reasonably attributed to the use or advocacy of
violence. In these cases, the detention violates the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
The human rights violations against which Amnesty International works
sometimes take place in a context of violence. This may take various
forms: confrontation between government and opposition groups which
engage in terrorist acts, civil war, international war.
Amnesty International's mandate applies in these circumstances as in any
other. A context of violence does not justify taking prisoners of
conscience or the practice of torture or execution of prisoners. This is
an important standard. The existence of a context of violence is often
taken as justification for a more permissible attitude towards human
rights violations- the arrest of people on account of their beliefs or
origins, the torture of prisoners or the use of the death penalty.
Indeed, in times of violence prisoners are particularly vulnerable to
such violations, and international standards and protection work become
especially important at such times.
Governments often falsely accuse people of having been involved
inviolence when in fact they are imprisoned solely on account of their
non-violent exercise of their human rights. Indeed, the accusation that
dissenters have been involved in violence is one of the arguments most
frequently used by governments in response to expressions of concern
about prisoners of conscience.
On the basis of its careful research Amnesty International makes its own
assessment of the facts in each case. It is not bound to accept the
assertion of a government, the interpretation of a court, or the claim
of a prisoner, as to whether an individual has used or advocate
violence. The fact that a prisoner has been convicted of breaking the
law or belongs to an organization whose aims call for the use of
violence, does not in itself preclude an individual from being
considered a prisoner of conscience. Amnesty International takes up each
case on its own merits.
October WEB TIPS
(Listing in Web Tips does not imply endorsement of website contents by
American Friends Service Committee
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Friends Committee to Abolish the Death Penalty
This month we are happy to co-sponsor an event with the American Friends
Service Committee Bookstore in Pasadena. If you are not already familiar
with AFSC, a trip to this site will give you a great overview of the
wide variety of peace and justice projects AFSC sponsors worldwide. The
areas which overlap most significantly with AI's mandate are refugee and
death penalty work. Two auxiliary sites worth noting are the Friends
Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) site, an excellent source for
information regarding human-rights related legislation and the Friends
Committee to Abolish the Death Penalty (FCADP) with a variety of
abolitionist resources including a well-stocked on-line bookstore.
Asian Arts: Kora Project
Walk in the footsteps of Ngawang Pekar! At our September meeting we
learned how Tibetan demonstrators in 1987-89 transformed the act of kora
(or khorra), a Buddhist ritual involving circumambulation of the Johkang
Temple in Lhasa while reciting prayers, into a form of political
protest. You can "virtually" walk the path around the temple at this web
site, where a photographer has sought to document, for purposes of
historical preservation, the buildings on this circuit. You'll have to
picture large groups of monks and nuns chanting political slogans and
displaying Tibetan flags for yourself (not to mention the security
police attacking and dispersing the demonstrators), but once again, the
magic of the internet brings you there!
Refugee Campaign: TUNISIA
Call for release of Rachida Ben Salem
Rachida Ben Salem, a Tunisian woman whose husband is a political refugee
in Holland, was sentenced to two years and three months' imprisonment on
September 9 following an August 28 trial. Her lawyers will now lodge an
Amnesty has adopted Rachida as a prisoner of conscience. We believe that
her case reflects an increasingly widespread problem: namely, the
arrest, detention, torture or ill-treatment, and systematic harassment
of relatives -- especially wives -- of imprisoned and exiled political
opponents of the Tunisian Government.
Rachida was arrested on May 18 of this year with her two daughters, ages
5 and 7. She was held in incommunicado detention at the Ministry of the
Interior in Tunis, where she was reportedly abused and insulted. She was
transferred to prison on May 31.
Following her trial, Rachida received a two-year prison sentence on a
charge of membership in an unauthorized association (the Islamist group
al-Nahda, of which her husband is a supporter). The prosecution did not
produce any convincing evidence to support this charge, which she
Rachida also received a three-month sentence on a charge related to
border-crossing. At the time of her arrest, however, she was in Tunisia,
quite some distance from the Libyan border. She was apparently convicted
on the basis of her intention to leave the country and join her husband,
who she and her children have not seen for several years.
Prior to her arrest, Rachida had been subjected to harassment and
ill-treatment for a long time. She does not have a passport and has not
been able to leave her country, a right guaranteed by Article 13 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Please write letters expressing concern at the sentencing of Rachida Ben
Salem and her alleged ill-treatment in police custody; calling for her
immediate and unconditional release; and urging that the case against
her be quashed by the Court of Appeal.
Send your appeals to: Salutation:
M. Abdallah Kallel Your Excellency
Ministre de la Justice
Ministere de la Justice
Boulevard Bab Benat
Refugee Thanks Amnesty for Support
We are pleased to report that Maryam Azimi, a refugee from Afghanistan
whose case was featured in the first mailing of the Refugee Campaign,
has received official permission to remain in Norway. She had fled there
with her children to escape human rights abuses in her homeland. This
summer, Maryam sent a letter thanking all of the Amnesty members who
worked on her case and sent appeals on her behalf. "I am very pleased
to let you know that my refugee problems came to an end this week and we
are now allowed to take residence in Norway," she wrote. "This could not
have been possible without continued support from Amnesty
Vanessa Redgrave Working with AIUSA
Readers of L.A. Weekly may have noticed the article about the INS
detention center near Bakersfield written by actress and activist
Vanessa Redgrave. Redgrave has been working closely with Amnesty on
refugee issues and the conditions facing asylum seekers in the United
States. A founding member of International Artists Against Racism,
Redgrave recently met with L.A. area activists engaged in monitoring
Immigration and Naturalization Service detention centers including our
own Larry Romans.
Redgrave has been performing her new show, Planet Without a Visa,
throughout Europe. The production, which is for and about asylum
seekers, includes poems and songs from the writings of Maya Angelou,
Bertolt Brecht and Pablo Neruda. Redgrave has agreed to perform at the
Annual General Meeting to be held in San Francisco next March. Another
reason to plan to attend the 1998 AGM!
Arrest Now! Campaign
Amnesty International strongly supports arresting and bringing to trial
suspects indicted for war crimes by the ICTY (International Criminal
Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia), as a matter of the utmost priority
for the international community. The U.S. and other governments have an
unequivocal legal obligation under U.N. Security Council Resolution 827
(which established the ICTY) to make arrests.
However, with few exceptions - most notably, the NATO-led action in July
1997 in which one suspect was apprehended and one killed - the SFOR (the
NATO-led Stabilization Force in Bosnia) has tended to avoid possible
confrontations, resulting in effective impunity for many of those
indicted for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.
On August 26, 1997, journalists on assignment for CBS television in
Foca, Bosnia-Herzegovina, surreptitiously taped two SFOR soldiers
drinking coffee at an outdoor cafe as an indicted war crimes suspect sat
nearby. This suspect was indicted by the ICTY for gang rape, systematic
rape, sexual assault, and the torture and enslavement of Bosnian women
and girls in Foca in 1992. When the journalists later asked a French
SFOR captain on active duty in the area why SFOR had not arrested the
man, he responded: "We must have good relations with the community and
not shock them."
The story of this encounter in Foca is scheduled to air on the CBS
program "Public Eye" on October 15, 1997. Meanwhile, CBS journalists
made contact with AI researchers in London and cooperated in the
preparation of a document for the "Arrest Now!" campaign incorporating
the story, entitled "How Can They Sleep at Night?"
1. Write, phone or send e-mail to
Senator Dianne Feinstein
331 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Barbara Boxer
112 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
You may also write your Congressional Representative.
--expressing dismay at the incident documented in the CBS story and
encouraging her to continue to actively support the arrest of ICTY
suspects. Senator Feinstein is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, and has a record of vocally supporting such arrests (in
particular, the July action). It would be appropriate to thank her for
this support in the past.
2. Write to the French Ambassador to the United States:
Ambassador Claude Fay
Embassy of France
4101 Reservoir Road NW
Washington, DC 20007
--expressing dismay at the incident and the hope that in the future,
French SFOR troops will fulfill their mandate to arrest indicted war
criminals when they encounter them. The French Army has command control
of the area of Bosnia which includes Foca.
For further information and material, consult the web page
http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22/balkans/ or contact L. Romans
"STICK UP" for Kim Seong Man: and Update
A few months back, several Group 22 members participated in the "Stick
Up for Kim Seong-man" by sending sticks of gum to this prisoner of
conscience in South Korea, thereby showing him and his jailers the
support he has from AIUSA. In July, Kim sent a letter to Drake Zimmerman
of Group 202 in Normal, Illinois.
He wrote: "I received several tens of letters from [the] USA thanks to
the Stick Up Campaign. They gave me consolation and encouragement. They
made me forget my loneliness and helped me not to lose self-esteem. They
let me feel the burden of the prison life lighter. I know that you
suggested the campaign; I thank you from the bottom of my heart." And
thanks to all who participated in this action.
MEXICO: Defend the Defenders of the Sacred Land
Local indigenous leaders and environmentalists in the Mexican state of
Morelos are fighting a government-sponsored project to build a
multi-million dollar golf course and luxury resort on land considered
sacred by the community. Their cases illustrate the need to defend the
principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Leticia Moctezuma Vargas, a teacher and activist, has been peacefully
campaigning with other members of the Tepoztlán community to stop the
project, which could seriously damage the local environment. Her right
to do this work is protected under Article 20 of the UDHR, which
guarantees freedom of association.
As a result of her participation in the protest, however, Leticia and
her young daughters have been beaten and have received death threats.
The resort project is backed by a major development company and the
state government. Lined up in opposition to it are the indigenous people
of Tepoztlán, human rights activists and grassroots organizations
working on behalf of the poor. As stated in Article 22 of the UDHR,
everyone is entitled to economic, cultural and social rights.
In April 1996, Leticia and her daughters joined a rally that was
violently broken up by police, who reportedly seized elderly women by
the hair and beat Leticia and her children. Such actions violate Article
5 of the UDHR, which forbids torture and ill-treatment.
At the rally, Leticia saw three officers drag Marcos Olmedo Gutierrez,
an elderly member of the community, wounded but alive, into a police
vehicle. He was later found dead. He had been killed by a bullet in the
back of the head, in breach of Article 3 of the UDHR, which sets forth
the right to life.
On July 1, 1996, Leticia received two threatening telephone calls. "Stop
interfering in politics," a man warned her. "You should take it easy
with your politics or we will kill you." The following day, another
threatening call came to the nursery where Leticia works. The anonymous
caller, this time female, said: "Take it easy or things will go bad for
you. Take it easy or we will kill you."
Such threats violate Article 3 of the UDHR, which says that everyone has
the right to live in safety, and Article 12, which protects the privacy
of the family.
Today, Leticia fears for her life because of her environmental
campaigning. She has been denied rights that the world has said should
never be violated.
Please send letters urging a prompt and thorough investigation into the
attacks and threats against Leticia Moctezuma Vargas and others in her
community; asking for those responsible to be brought to justice; and
requesting that the authorities take immediate measures to protect
Leticia and her family.
Send your appeals to:
Lic. Emilio Chuayffet Chemor
Secretario de la Gobernacion
Secretaria de la Gobernacion
Bucareli 99, 1er piso,
Col. Juárez 06699
Mexico DF, Mexico
Salutation: Dear Minister
PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE - China/Tibet
Tell Bill about Ngawang Pekar!
"Welcome" Jiang Zemin to Los Angeles!
The POC our group remains focused on is Ngawang Pekar, a 37-year-old
Tibetan Buddhist monk from Drepung Monastery in the city of Lhasa, Tibet
Autonomous Region (as Tibet is now called). As you may be aware, later
this month Jiang Zemin, President of the People's Republic of China,
will visiting the U.S., and meeting with our President Clinton. We ask
that you write, phone or e-mail President Clinton urging him to request
of Jiang Zemin that Ngawang Pekar's case be reviewed and that he be
released, or at least have his sentence reduced. A sample letter
Human rights activists in the Los Angeles area are preparing a
demonstration to "welcome" President Jiang Zemin to Los Angeles on
Saturday, November 1. Date and time are currently to be announced, but
we will let you know via our e-mail network when details are available
or if you are not on-line, give Revae a call closer to the date. His
visit in Los Angeles focuses on an aerospace deal, but we don't want to
miss the opportunity to raise the visibility of Chinese human rights
issues with the general public.
Dear Mr. President:
As a supporter of human rights and a member of Amnesty International, I
am writing to you out of concern for a prisoner being held in Drapchi
prison in the Tibet Autonomous Region. The prisoner's name is Ngawang
Ngawang Pekar, a Tibetan monk, was arrested in 1989 for participating in
a peaceful demonstration and sentenced to 8 years in prison. Recently,
his sentence was increased by 6 more years. I am concerned that he has
been imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom
of expression and about reports that he has been beaten and denied
access to medical care since his arrest. I am also concerned that the
6-year increase in his sentence was an extremely harsh punishment for
keeping a list of prisoners in Drapchi prison and that he was
subsequently held in an iron cell for 3 months after the list was found.
In your upcoming meeting with President Jiang Zemin of the People's
Republic of China, I respectfully urge you to request that Ngawang
Pekar's case be reviewed and that he be immediately and unconditionally
released in accordance with international law. If that is not deemed
possible, then I would hope that his sentence can at least be reduced as
a demonstration of the regard which the People's Republic of China has
for human rights.
I thank you for your assistance in this important matter.
Address your letter to:
President Bill Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Phone: (202) 456-1414
Fax: (202) 456-2883
For more information see the web site:
Editor's Last Word:
Submissions welcome. Deadline is generally the second Friday of the
month, check to be sure. Read us on line:
Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039
The Newsletter needs your support! If you enjoy receiving the
newsletter, we hope you will help us out with a donation to defray
copying and postage costs.
___ Send me the newsletter. Please enclose $10 to cover costs. Make
check out to Amnesty International Group 22.
Add me to the Group 22 e-mail list.
___ Newsletter List (1 message per month).
___ Announcement List (1-2 messages per week, includes newsletter,
meeting reminders, special actions).
___ I don't want the newsletter, but keep me informed about special
events, fund-raisers, etc.
Return to Amnesty International Group 22, Caltech MS 218-51, Pasadena CA
Amnesty International works impartially to free individuals jailed
solely for their beliefs, ethnic origin, language, or sexual
orientation, provided they have not used or advocated violence, to ensure
fair trials for all political prisoners, and to abolish torture and
executions worldwide. It is funded by members and supporters around the
Back to AI Group 22 home page