Thursday, August 24, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting 1052 E. Del Mar. Avenue, Top Floor.
Tuesday, September 12, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting at the Athenaeum. Corner of California & Hill. Our basement location has been closed for the summer. We hope it will be open again in September but if not, look for us in the "beer garden" -- ask at the front desk for directions.
Sunday, September 17, 7:30 PM. Human Rights Book Discussion Group at Borders Books on S. Lake Avenue. This month we discuss "This Earth of Mankind" by Indonesian novelist Pramodeya Ananta Toer. Details inside.
Larry Romans is vacationing this month, so this is just a quick note to say that while it's tempting to take a rest in August, in fact it's one of our more important monthly meetings due to all the plans for fall we need to make including staffing for the Caltech Grad Fair, recruitment at All Saints, and decisions about a Doo-Dah parade theme. I hope to see many of you there on August 24!
Martha Ter Maat
Everyone in Saudi Arabia is at risk of human rights violations. However, foreign nationals, particularly those from poorer countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, are especially vulnerable to abuse.
Many migrant workers suffer at the hands of their employers, on whom they are completely dependent. Some are not paid. Some are beaten. Some are raped. If arrested, foreign nationals may be deceived or coerced into signing a confession in Arabic, a language they may not understand. They are frequently tortured and ill-treated. They are more likely than Saudi Arabians to be sentenced to death and the judicial punishments of flogging and amputation.
They are forced to suffer in silence and solitude. They are given no information about the system that will decide their fate and sometimes no clue as to the nature of that fate, even if it is the death penalty. They are usually denied prompt contact with their friends, family or consular officials, and are never allowed legal representation in court. Almost all of them lack the support, influence or money to seek pardon, commutation or reduction of their sentence.
Friends and families suffer too. They are not told what is happening to their loved ones and are usually powerless to help them.
Soleha Anam, an Indonesian domestic worker found guilty of murdering her employer, was executed in 1997. Her family tried to get help from the Indonesian Embassy and the labour supply company, but were brushed aside. They only learned of her execution when the press reported it. Her father, a 70-year-old tenant farmer, said:
"I am also sorry because there was no help for Soleha... I am a small person, I am nothing... I just wish someone would help to bring her body home so she can be buried here."
Write to the Saudi Arabian authorities and ask them to:
Send your letters to:
His Excellency Dr 'Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al-Sheikh
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Salutation: Your Excellency
Group 22 continues our efforts on behalf of prisoner of conscience (POC) Ngawang Pekar (naw-wan pee-kar). He's a Tibetan monk, about 37 years old, who was arrested by Chinese authorities in 1989 for participating in a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa. His initial prison sentence of 8 years was increased by an additional 6 years, and he is reported to have been beaten and denied medical care.
Ngawang Pekar is on a list of POC's that Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) plan to present to the Chinese government when they go to China this month, according to the AIUSA China Co-Group. After the Senators present this list, it might be appropriate to send them expressions of thanks, letting them know that we support those who support human rights, with copies to Chinese government officials. Watch for an update on this topic!
With the U.S. Senate vote on granting China PNTR (Permanent Normal Trade Relations) scheduled for September, the subject of human rights in China will be a focus of attention in the coming weeks. Li Peng, former Premier during the Tiananmen crackdown and current parliamentary head, will make a rare US visit for a UN conference Aug 30. The AIUSA casework coordinator suggests that this is a good opportunity to raise our prisoner's case by sending letters to Li Peng in care of the Chinese Embassy in Washington. This requires only a regular 33-cent stamp! Or you can fax the Embassy at (202) 588-0032, or send email to email@example.com.
Here is a sample letter that you could copy or use as a guide:
Chairman of the National People's Congress
c/o Embassy of the People's Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008
I am writing to you about a prisoner being held in Tibet Autonomous Region Prison No. 1. The prisoner's name is NGAWANG PEKAR.
Ngawang Pekar, a Tibetan monk, was arrested in 1989 for participating in a peaceful demonstration in the city of Lasashi and sentenced to 8 years in prison. Later his sentence was increased by an additional 6 years. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, and I am concerned that he has been imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his universally recognized right to freedom of expression. I am further deeply concerned about reports that he has been beaten and denied access to medical care.
I respectfully request that you do everything possible to see that Ngawang Pekar's case is reviewed with consideration of the international laws to which China is signatory. I also ask that Ngawang Pekar be allowed access to independent non-governmental organizations so that his state of health may be determined and made known.
Thank you very much for taking the time to consider this important matter. As you know, the U.S. Senate will soon vote on granting China permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), and cases such as Ngawang Pekar's may presently be in the thoughts of the senators and the general public.
For 33 cents you could also write to Chinese president Jiang Zemin in care of the Embassy, especially since he will be visiting New York for 3 days starting Sept 6:
President of the People's Republic of China
c/o Embassy of the People's Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008
Mexican environmental activists and farmers Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera, who have been in jail since May of last year, await the verdict on their case, which may come as early as the third week in August. Meanwhile, a recent report by Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos - CNDH) has confirmed the human rights violations against the two activists and their community. The report further states that the two men were not carrying weapons at the time of arrest as the authorities have claimed. Although the report could have an impact on the judge's decision, the men's lawyers at the Mexican human rights organization PRODH are still concerned that the lack of impartiality and rule-bending by the court will override any independent recommendations.
Since May 2, 1999, when members of Mexico's 40th Infantry Battalion stormed into the town of Pizotla, in the southern State of Guerrero, Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera have been victims of shocking human rights violations. The two environmentalists endured several days of threats, beatings, and torture until they signed blank pieces of paper, which were later presented to the judge in the form of 'signed confessions.'
In 1995 US-based Boise Cascade set up a wholly owned subsidiary (Costa Grande Forest Products) in Guerrero, Mexico, and formed business partnerships with ejidos -- communal farming associations that hold the title to most of Mexico's forests see 'Defending the Forests and Other Crimes' by John Ross, Sierra, July/August 2000. Boise's operations began to work around the clock, purchasing logs from the local ejido bosses and forest managers. Rodolfo Montiel and other campesinos were concerned about the magnitude and extent of the logging, especially when people began noticing changes in the local ecology.
In a recent interview, Montiel described how the rivers began to dry up soon after the logging operations began in 1995. 'By ninety-seven, there was nothing but garbage and plastic in the riverbed. Everyone knew it was the fault of the logging ' without the trees, the rivers dry up.?
In response to the rampant logging, Rodolfo Montiel founded the Organization of Campesino Environmentalists in 1998, which began a letter-writing campaign to Mexican environmental officials. When their letters did not receive a response, the group began peaceful blockades of the logging roads. Eventually, these protests put a halt to the logging.
Boise Cascade left Mexico in April of 1998 'due to difficult business conditions.' Soon after, threats and intimidation against Montiel's organization and its sympathizers began in earnest. During the course of thirteen months, four members of the organization were killed and one remains 'disappeared.'
According to Montiel and other members of the Organization of Campesino Environmentalists, the caciques hired gunmen and, according to the allegations, were coordinating with the military in the area as they looked for local leaders of the environmental group. Locals tell stories of how the army would come into small towns asking the whereabouts of Montiel and other activists. These inquiries were often accompanied by death threats.
On April 1, 2000, Amnesty International declared the two environmental activists 'Prisoners of Conscience', and just a few days later Rodolfo Montiel was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, considered to be the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for the environment. Unfortunately, Montiel could not travel to San Francisco (where the awards are usually given) and had to receive his prize inside the jail in Iguala. 'The only prize I was expecting was a bullet from the Mexican government,' Montiel said upon receiving the Goldman award.
Despite wide coverage in the Mexican and international press, the government of Mexico has been silent about the case. It has also been unresponsive to the letters sent by Sierra Club, Amnesty International, activists worldwide, and members of the United States Congress. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has led the way in Congress by initiating letters to President Zedillo, President Clinton, and to the Judge presiding over the case. To date, neither Rep. Pelosi nor any of the other members that signed those letters have received a response from the Mexican government.
The recent report by the CNDH acknowledged that Montiel and Cabrera were tortured, and that they were framed by soldiers of the Mexican army. Article 8 of Mexico's Federal Law to Prevent and Punish Torture prohibits using confessions and information obtained under torture as evidence. Thus, the Mexican government must drop the charges and release Montiel and Cabrera immediately and unconditionally.
'When someone kills many people, he is guilty of genocide. Someone who kills a lot of trees is guilty of ecocide. When I see a tree cut down, it wounds me inside.' -- Rodolfo Montiel
Your letters work. Already, letters from activists worldwide have contributed to the government of Mexico's decision to investigate the environmental consequences of logging in Guerrero. We must continue to pressure the government to release the two environmentalists and ensure that existing human rights and environmental laws in Mexico are enforced.
The outcome of the July 2 elections is an opportunity for the new administration of President-elect Vicente Fox to ensure that the rights of all Mexicans are respected. We must urge President-elect Fox to speak out on behalf of Montiel and Cabrera and to publicly recognize that the peaceful protection of the environment is not a crime. Write to:
President Ernesto Zedillo
c/o Ambassador Jesus Reyes-Heroles
Embassy of Mexico
1911 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20006
President-elect Vicente Fox Quezada
525 Paseo de la Reforma
Col. Lomas de Chapultepec
México, D.F. CP11000
This new (and still under construction) site has been set up to be a resource for California death penalty activists, collecting state death penalty stats, stories and legislative links we can use in up-coming moratorium campaigns as well as for pre-execution actions. Please bookmark it and keep checking back for new ways to take action on this issue as well as to keep track of activism around our state!
This Earth of Mankind
by Pramodeya Ananta Toer
Minke is a young Javanese student of great intelligence, sensitivity, and ambition. Living equally among the colonists and colonized of late nineteenth-century Java, he battles against the confines of colonial strictures. The son of a noble Javanese, he moves easily among the Dutch and their ideas and language but is prevented from enjoying their rights. He also fails desperately in love with the beautiful Indo European Annelies, and it is through her and her extraordinary family that Minke finds the strength to embrace his world-- the world of Indonesia-- and all its beauty and possibility, brutality and anger.
This remarkable tale, the first in the Buru Quartet, was originally recited orally by Indonesian political prisoner Pramodeya Ananta Toer to his fellow cellmates in daily installments.
Pramodeya is a master, and a brilliant one, at setting out an intricate web of motivation, character, and emotion: -- New York Times Book Review.
Prominent human rights activist and head of the New Your-based non-governmental organization, International Forum for Aceh, Jafar Siddiq Hamzah is missing and may have been kidnapped or "disappeared."
Use the sample letter below to send a letter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, or take a moment to call the State department's public affairs office at (202) 647-6575. If you would prefer, you may fax the State Department at (202) 261-8577.
Madeleine K. Albright
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 25210
Dear Secretary Albright,
I am concerned for the well being of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah. An Acehnese human rights activist and head of the New York-based non-governmental organization, International Forum for Aceh, Mr. Hamzah has been missing since August 5th. On the evening of Saturday, Aug. 5, he failed to keep an appointment for a meeting in Medan, Northern Sumatra, Indonesia.
He did not return to the house where he was staying in Medan that night, and his family has reportedly had no contact with him since then. They have checked with local hospitals in Medan, but found no record of him there.
Jafar Siddiq Hamzah is a prominent human rights activist both inside and outside of Indonesia. His family is worried that he may have been kidnapped or "disappeared" because of his high profile human rights work.
I urge you to publicly request that the Indonesian authorities launch a high-level investigation into his
disappearance. Please tell me how you intend to address this matter.
Additional Background. Jafar Siddiq Hamzah is a prominent human rights activist both inside and outside Indonesia. His family is worried that he may have been kidnapped or "disappeared" because of his high profile human rights work.
More than 300 people may have been killed this year in Aceh, where serious human rights violations -- including arbitrary arrests, torture, "disappearances" and killings -- occur routinely. Many civilians have been killed or arbitrarily arrested by soldiers and police ostensibly trying to capture suspected members of the armed opposition group Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM), who also have been accused of serious human rights abuses.
Violations have continued despite the implementation of an agreement between the Indonesian authorities and GAM on June 2, which provided for a suspension in armed operations to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered in the province. Human rights defenders and humanitarian workers in Aceh are among those who have suffered harassment, intimidation, and arrests over recent months.
An Amnesty success story, a few of us sent cards to Chaoki Chihi at a recent letter-writing meeting.
On March 15, Tunisian student Chaouki Chihi was tried and sentenced to six months in prison after publicly reading a poem critical of Tunisian authorities. On June 4, he was released from jail. Chihi's case had been assigned to Amnesty local groups in the US, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, and the UK. Amnesty's research department feels that the international pressure brought to bear on his case, combined with publicity within Tunisian, helped secure his early release from prison. Tunisian security had claimed that the poem Chihi read insulted them, and they charged him with "affront to public decency" -- a charge that is usually punished with a fine, if at all. During the past 10 years, student activists in Tunisia have often come under pressure from the government, however. In the prison where Mr. Chihi was detained, up to 300 prisoners are often held together in the same cell.
President Vladimir Putin
Prezidentu Rossiyskoy Federatsii
I wish to express my concern regarding Adam Abubakarov, a Chechen 16-year-old believed to be held incommunicado in the hospital of the pre-trial detention center in Pyatigorsk.
Adam Abubakarov had reportedly returned to Chechnya in February 2000 to help his grandparents dig an air-raid shelter. On his way back to his family in Ingushetia, he was detained by Russian forces at an army checkpoint in Urus-Martan on February 22 or 23, 2000. The military authorities apparently detained him as a suspected fighter when they assumed that the blisters on his hands were the result of his handling weapons. The boy was then reportedly taken to a "filtration camp" in Urus-Martan known as the "Internat," and from there to other secret detention centers in the Russian Federation.
I am very concerned about the safety of Adam Abubakarov. Amnesty International has documented that detainees at "filtration camps" are routinely and
systematically tortured and ill-treated. I urge you to ensure that information about Adam Abubakarov's whereabouts and state of health be provided immediately to his family, and that he be allowed access to his family, a lawyer of his choice and to appropriate medical care. In accordance with international standards prohibiting arbitrary arrest, he should be released if he is not officially charged with a recognizably criminal offense.
I thank you for attention to these serious matters, and I look forward to your reply.
President Laurent-Désiré Kabila
Président de la République
Présidence de la République
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
I request your assistance concerning Freddy Loseke, editor of La Libre Afrique newspaper, who was arrested in Kinshasa on December 31, 1999. His arrest followed the publication of an article by his newspaper alleging that a military commander was plotting your assassination.
Freddy Loseke was taken to Kokolo military barracks, where a military officer repeatedly kicked him. He was held until January 9, 2000, and then released. He was rearrested the following day and returned to Kokolo barracks. Soldiers there kicked, punched and whipped him, stripped him naked, and threw him into a cell. He appeared before the Cour d'ordre militaire (COM) on January 12, where he reportedly was charged with "spreading false information." The prosecution later amended the charge against him to "insulting behavior toward the army" (outrage a l'armee). He was convicted of this charge and sentenced on May 19, 2000, to three years in prison.
Amnesty International considers Freddy Loseke to be a prisoner of conscience who has been imprisoned solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression. I urge you to see to it that he is released immediately and unconditionally. In the meantime, I ask that you ensure that he receives adequate access to his family and to any medical assistance he may require. Finally, I ask you to bring to justice anyone who may have participated in torturing Mr. Loseke.
I thank you in advance for your assistance with this matter, and I look forward to your reply.
Editor's Last Word:
Read us on line: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22
Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 / firstname.lastname@example.org