Amnesty International Group 22 Caltech/Pasadena Newsletter February 1999 COORDINATOR'S CORNER As I write, it's an absolutely glorious California day outside, adding special poignancy to the fact that last week the state killed a man. Jay Siripongs will never again see the light of day. Thank you to everyone who wrote appeals on this case, and especially to Martha Ter Maat for coordinating the actions and also leading the touching vigil in Pasadena the evening before the execution. None of this work is in vain. It is vital to keep the issue alive both with the thinking public and with our elected representatives. It wouldn't hurt to write to Gray Davis yet again, to remind him of how we feel (address: The Honorable Gray Davis, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814). Amnesty International as an organization takes an unequivocal anti-death-penalty stance, as do many of us as individuals. Of course, different people's consciences approach the issue in different ways. There is certainly room in AI for different points of view, and no one should feel compelled to participate in actions they don't agree with. On the other hand, many anti-death-penalty activists might not be against the death penalty in principle, but have problems with its implementation in the real world. (Can we guarantee fairness with respect to race and class? Should juveniles be held to the same standards? How do we deal with knowing that a certain fraction of executed people are innocent?) The day is stubbornly maintaining its beauty, and my thoughts turn to our adopted prisoner of conscience in Tibet, Ngawang Pekar, and to prisoners around the world. Please give a thought to their situation, and keep up the letter writing on their behalf! And I encourage all of you to come to the next group meeting (Thursday evening, Feb. 25; see the calendar below) where Mary Weaver of the Pasadena Chapter of Friends Outside will give an overview of the local county jail and state prison systems, including the demographics, kinds of offenses, and significant problems. There will be a discussion of how we can work to improve the situation, within the context of AI's ongoing USA campaign. Hope to see you there! Cheers, Larry Romans 626-683-4977 Group Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org UPCOMING EVENTS Thursday, February 25, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting at 1052 E. Del Mar (between Catalina & Wilson) -- top floor. Highlights: Special Guest-Mary Weaver of Friends Outside. Tuesday, March 11, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting in the Athenaeum basement. Corner of California & Hill. USA CAMPAIGN Group 22's "planning committee", consisting of Emily, Diane, and Lucas, met to discuss thoughts for actions in this campaign by the group. The first step was to identify those areas of the campaign that are most relevant to our own locality, i.e., Pasadena and neighbouring communities. It was felt that, of the 6 general categories outlined by Mario Tafur in his talk to the group, 4 were of particular relevance to us: police brutality/accountability; prison conditions and abuse of coercive technologies (stun belts, etc.); gender-specific prison violations; and "MSP transfer" of technology to other countries where it is used in human rights abuses. These are of interest because of reports of local abuses, e.g., a death by police hogtieing, or of the existence of high-tech local institutions that might give rise to opportunities for technology abuse. Of the other principal areas of the campaign, the death penalty for children is less relevant because California law does not permit this, and detention of asylum seekers is not occurring in our immediate area (although there are such centers not far away, in San Pedro and Bakersfield). However, this does not imply that we should ignore these areas altogether, as there is concern about an initiative for the March 2000 ballot entitled "Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act", which, among other measures, seeks to expand the death penalty to gang-related crimes and generally increases penalties and weakens protections for minors. Actions directed against this measure would tie in with the "mini-campaign" on juvenile justice, and might include an event at a local bookstore centering on a recent book on this topic. The next step is to do research on the actual situation in our local institutions, and then to identify ways of combating abuses, e.g., by writing letters to the news media, tabling, and displays in local bookstores or similar venues. We have assigned each other tasks in researching these items and will report further at the next group meeting. PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk We are continuing to work for the release of Ngawang Pekar for more details about his case please check our web site: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22/ngawang/. Last month we asked that you write letters to the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on behalf of Ngawang Pekar. Since she will be visiting China on March 1 and 2nd we would like to encourage those of us who didn't write last time to send a letter informing her of Pekar's case and urge her to press for his release in the negotiations. Below is a sample letter that you may either copy or use as a rough guide in composing your own letter. Also below is a letter that I suggest we send as a group to Julia Taft, the new Special Coordinator for Tibet Issues, to bring Ngawang Pekar to her attention. I'd appreciate any comments on the draft and hopefully we can send it off at the next group meeting. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright 2201 C Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20520 Dear Secretary Albright, On hearing that you will be visiting China on March 1 and 2, I am writing to inform you of my concern for Ngawang Pekar, a Tibetan monk, who was arrested in 1989 for participating in a peaceful demonstration and sentenced to 8 years in prison. Subsequently, 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 his fellow prisoners and that he was subsequently held in an iron cell for 3 months after the list was found. Although Ngawang Pekar is only one man, his release could serve as a show of "good faith" that the Chinese government is serious in its efforts to begin to comply with international standards of human rights. The question of the legitimacy of Chinese rule over Tibet is not at issue here. I therefore respectfully urge you to bring up Pekar's case in your future dealings with the Chinese authorities and request that he be immediately and unconditionally released in accordance with the international laws to which China subscribes. I hope that this information may help you during your talks and that you may have an opportunity to raise his case with the Chinese authorities during your visit. I thank you for your time and attention to this important matter and would greatly appreciate any further information that you may be able to provide. Sincerely, ------------------------ Julia Vadala Taft Special Coordinator for Tibet Issues Department of State 2201 C St., NW Washington, DC 20520 Dear Mrs. Taft, We are writing you to congratulate you on your recent appointment. The position of Special Coordinator for Tibet Issues is a difficult and important one. We know, by looking at you past accomplishments that you will do a terrific job for the US government and for the interest of the Tibetan people inside Tibet and in exile. We would also like to express our deep concern for Nwagang Pekar, a prisoner being held by Chinese authorities in Tibet Autonomous Region Prison No. 1. Ngawang Pekar, a Tibetan monk, was arrested in 1989 for participating in a peaceful demonstration and sentenced to 8 years in prison. Subsequently, his sentence was increased by 6 more years. We are 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. We are also concerned that the 6-year increase in his sentence was an extremely harsh punishment for keeping a list of his fellow prisoners and that he was subsequently held in an iron cell for 3 months after the list was found. We have not heard anything about Nwagang Pekar for over a year and are very worried about his condition and treatment, particularly following the riots in Drapchi (Prison No. 1) on May 1 and 4, 1998. Please could you try to find out about his condition and relay any information to us, it would be greatly appreciated. We hope you will relay this information to those who can take action on this. Finally, Nwagang Pekar is a Prisoners of Conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of his beliefs and we therefore respectfully urge you to bring up Pekar's case in your future dealings with the Chinese authorities and request that he be immediately and unconditionally released in accordance with the international laws to which China subscribes. Thank you in advance for your time spent attending to our concerns and please respond as soon as possible in regard to action you may take, or comments you may have regarding this situation. Sincerely, URGENT ACTION: Israel/Occupied Territories Torture and ill-treatment / Legal concern: Jihad Husni Mohammed Shehadeh, physics student, Palestinian Jihad Husni Mohammed Shehadeh, a Palestinian detained without charge or trial by Israel since August 1997 for his alleged links to Hamas, is currently being interrogated and tortured, by Israel's General Security Service (GSS). Jihad Shehadeh has been under interrogation since 7 February 1999 when he was transferred from prison in Israel to Hasharon interrogation centre, also in Israel. The method of torture used on Jihad Shehadeh has included shabeh, where the person's hands and legs are tied to a chair in an uncomfortable position and sleep deprivation. Except for periods of interrogation, Jihad Shehadeh was hooded in this position with loud music playing, from the afternoon on 7 February until the following morning when he was taken to meet his lawyer. BACKGROUND INFORMATION Jihad Husni Mohammed Shehadeh was arrested in August 1997 under an administrative detention order - a procedure by which detainees are held without charge or trial for a renewable period of up to six months on the orders of a military commander. His administrative detention order is due to expire in one week. For years, Amnesty International has expressed concern that secret Israeli guidelines (authorized by the so-called Landau report in 1987), allow for the use of torture or ill-treatment, which it refers to as 'moderate physical pressure'. Similarly, since October 1994 a special ministerial committee said that 'increased physical pressure' can be used during interrogation. GSS officers who have testified in court admit to using prolonged sleep deprivation, forcing detainees to sit or stand in painful positions for long periods of time and squatting (gambaz) for up to two hours at a time. Violent shaking (tiltul), which may cause brain damage, has also been used but must be authorized by the head of the GSS. A UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has referred to many of these practices as 'methods of torture' as defined in the UN Convention against Torture. The Israeli government, however, denies they constitute torture. RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send letters: - asking the Israeli authorities whether shabeh has been used on Jihad Husni Mohammed Shehadeh and reminding them that this practice constitutes torture, in breach of the Convention against Torture to which Israel is a State Party; - asking that the use of any interrogation methods which constitute torture or ill-treatment cease immediately; - calling for the release of Jihad Husni Mohammed Shehadeh if he is not to be promptly charged with a recognizably criminal offence and given a fair trial according to international standards; - reminding the government of Israel of its commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular Article 5: 'No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment'. APPEALS TO: Mr Binyamin Netanyahu Prime Minister Office of the Prime Minister 3 Kaplan Street Jerusalem 91919, Israel Dear Prime Minister: Faxes: 011 972-2-566- 29 Salah al-Din Street Jerusalem 91029, Israel Dear Minister: Mr Avigdor Kahalani Minister of Internal Security Ministry of Internal Security PO Box 18182, 3 Sheikh Jarrah Kiryat Hamemshala Jerusalem 91181, Israel Dear Minister: COPIES TO: Ambassador Zalman Shoval Embassy of Israel 3514 International Dr. NW Washington DC 20008 MARTHA'S WEB TIPS FOR FEBRUARY San Francisco Bay Guardian http://www.sfbg.com/News/33/17/Features/boys.html http://www.sfbg.com/News/33/18/Features/juvie.html The San Francisco Bay Guardian recently ran a two part series on the juvenile justice. The first article "Lost Boys" recounts the fate of juveniles given "life without parole" sentences. The second discusses reforms and problems with San Francisco's juvenile justice system. American Prospect http://epn.org/prospect/38/38andef.html Another good introduction to the issue of juvenile crime is this article from "American Prospect" by David Anderson, author of Sensible Justice: Alternatives to Prison entitled "When should kids go to jail?" DEATH PENALTY UPDATE Respond to Anthony Porter's Release! On 5 February 1999, Anthony Porter was released on bail after more than 16 years under sentence of death. He had been convicted of the murder of a young couple, Jerry Hillard and Marilyn Green, in a park on Chicago's South Side in August 1982. Anthony Porter came within two days of execution in September 1998. The execution was stayed by the Illinois Supreme Court so that a hearing could be held to establish whether he was mentally competent to be put to death. Illinois law requires that inmates understand their punishment before they are executed. In August 1998, Anthony Porter's IQ had been measured at 51, which would have made him the most severely mentally retarded prisoner put to death since the USA resumed executions in 1977. The competency hearing got underway on 1 February 1999. However, in a dramatic turn of events, proceedings were suspended on 2 February when evidence came to light that Anthony Porter had been wrongfully convicted. Five journalism students and their professor from Northwestern University had been investigating the case for the past few months, and, together with a private investigator, had unearthed evidence apparently exonerating the prisoner. The students' investigation culminated in a videotaped interview with Alstory Simon conducted by one of the students and the private investigator on 3 February. In this interview Simon admitted to the killings, saying he had shot Jerry Hillard in self-defence during an argument over drug money. He said that the killing of Marilyn Green had been accidental. The state's lead witness at the trial had earlier retracted his eyewitness testimony, which identified Porter as the gunman. Alstory Simon's estranged wife and her nephew signed affidavits implicating Simon as the killer. Anthony Porter was released on 5 February and Alstory Simon was arrested two days later and charged with the 1982 killings. If Anthony Porter's conviction is overturned, he will become the 10th condemned inmate to be exonerated and released from death row in Illinois since 1977. Concern over this rate of wrongful conviction has fuelled demands for a moratorium on executions in Illinois, at least until the capital justice system can be shown to be safe from irrevocable error. Following Anthony Porter's release, Chicago's two biggest newspapers - the Sun-Times and the Tribune - both called for a moratorium. On the day of Anthony Porter's release, a spokesperson for Governor Ryan reportedly said: 'I know people use these reversals as an argument for a moratorium or why the death penalty should be revised, but an argument can also be made that the system is working as designed.' He said it was the long appeals process that gave the journalism students time to uncover the evidence of wrongful conviction, adding, 'the media is part of the system'. The spokesperson failed to point out that 'the system' has apparently kept a wrongfully convicted man on death row for over 16 years and would have executed him in September 1998 if his IQ had not been measured as abnormally low a month earlier. Furthermore, it was only by chance that a group of students had chosen to investigate Anthony Porter's case as part of their studies. One of the students recently said: 'One of the things I'll take with me as I start a journalism career, is that journalists really need to do this kind of stuff. Basically, the press just reported it at the time - Porter was arrested for this murder and nobody cared. It was a couple of people on the South Side. People get killed there regularly.' BACKGROUND INFORMATION Pressure is mounting on the Illinois state authorities to at least conduct a review of death row cases in the state to establish whether there have been any other wrongful convictions. On 8 February, Governor Ryan reportedly stated that he is willing to discuss a moratorium on executions, and several Illinois legislators are said to be planning to introduce bills to the state legislature that would impose a moratorium. In its November 1998 report Fatal Flaws: Innocence and the Death Penalty in the USA (AMR 51/69/98), Amnesty International featured the case of Aaron Patterson, currently on death row in Pontiac Prison, Illinois. There are serious doubts about his guilt. RECOMMENDED ACTION: If possible send appeals to add to the pressure for a moratorium following the release of Anthony Porter: - noting the release of Anthony Porter, who would have been executed in September 1998 if his IQ had not been measured as being abnormally low a month earlier; - noting that, if he is exonerated, Anthony Porter will be the 10th wrongfully convicted prisoner to be released from death row since 1977; - urging that steps be taken to abolish the death penalty in Illinois - the only way of ensuring that innocent people are not executed; - urging that, at the very least, a moratorium be imposed so that the state's death penalty procedures can be investigated and a review of all death sentences in Illinois can be conducted to establish if there are other wrongfully convicted people on death row (you can mention the case of Aaron Patterson as a possible example of wrongful conviction). APPEALS TO: Governor The Honorable George Ryan Capitol Building Springfield, IL 62706 Fax: 1 217 782 3560 Salutation: Dear Governor PLEASE SEND COPIES TO: Chicago Tribune 435 N Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL 60611 Fax: 1 312 222 2598 Chicago Sun-Times 401 North Wabash Ave Chicago, IL 60611 Fax: 1 312 321 3084 or 2980 E-mail: email@example.com 1999 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING Minneapolis in April! This is a good time for AIUSA members to plan for the 1999 Annual General Meeting, which will take place April 16-18 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Editor's note: the last blizzard of the year comes in late March so you're safe, I swear). For those who haven't experienced Minneapolis first-hand, it's a great discovery. In addition to a historically progressive political climate, the city boasts many lakes and bridges, scenic walks, great music and fine restaurants. The conference site, Radisson Hotel is ideally situated on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Tours will be available of a nearby torture survivor's clinic and the University's Human Rights library. Special focus for the AGM this year will be on human rights education and the USA campaign. Plan to be there for inspiring keynote speakers, stimulating panels, a human rights education fair and networking with other activists from across the nation. Group 22's Doo-Dah parade shennanigans will be featured a the Idea's Fair! The registration deadline is April 2. Call the regional office at 310-815-0450 to request a registration form. THANKS FOR WRITING TO BI-MENG ZHENG Many thanks to those who sent greetings to Bi-meng Zheng -- an asylum seeker from China currently detained in San Pedro, California -- as part of AIUSA's 1998 Holiday Card Action. The Refugee Office is aware that he has written to many Amnesty members, and we are evaluating whether we can take action on his case. It is clear that he was deeply moved by AIUSA members' messages of warmth and concern. EDITOR'S LAST WORD: Read us on line: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22/ Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 / firstname.lastname@example.org Amnesty International works impartially to free-individuals jailed solely for their beliefs, ethnic origin, language, gender 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 world.