Volume VIII Number 7, July 2000
In This Issue
Prisoner of Conscience
Thursday, July 27, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting 1052 E. Del Mar. Avenue, Top Floor.
Tuesday, August 8, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting at the Athenaeum. Corner of California & Hill. Our basement location is closed for the summer, look for us in the "beer garden" -- ask at the front desk for directions.
Sunday, August 20, 7:30 PM.
Human Rights Book Discussion Group at Borders Books on S. Lake Avenue.
This month we discuss "Drinking at the Sea of Gaza" by Amira Hass. Details
About thirty-nine years ago, on
May 28, 1961, a lawyer in London named Peter Benenson printed an "Appeal
for Amnesty" in the London Observer, after reading about a group of students
in Portugal who had been arrested and jailed for raising a toast to "freedom"
in a public restaurant. This appeal, with the radical idea of rallying
private individuals to demand human rights around the world, was the birth
of Amnesty International.
We have recently learned that Peter
Benenson is extremely ill. I've been planning for some time to review the
early history of AI in a group meeting. With all our activities, this has
tended to slip off the agenda, but in this month's group meeting (Thursday
evening, July 27; see the calendar for details) we will make a point of
it. Please join us for a very special "letter writing" to send get-well
wishes to Peter Benenson -- and also greetings on the occasion of his 79th
birthday (which will be July 31th).
In last month's newsletter you read about group member MarthaTer Maat's letter in the Star-News advocating adoption of a code of ethics for US companies doing business in China. This month, group member Cheryl Wysocki has contacted several companies doing business in China, starting a dialogue on their approach to concerns about workers' rights. Our monthly meeting Thursday, will be an opportunity for further discussion of these concerns, and Amnesty International's approaches to human rights in China (including the situation in Tibet and our prisoner of conscience
Ngawang Pekar) in the era of Permanent Normal Trade Relations. Please join us on Thursday, and for our letter-writing meeting on Tuesday, August 10 (in the Athenaeum as usual, but in a slightly different time and location there to accomodate their summer schedule), and also for our book discussion group on Sunday, August 20. Details in the calendar!
Larry Romans 626-683-4977
Group Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk
Group 22 continues to seek the release of prisoner of conscience (POC) Ngawang Pekar (naw-wan pee-kar), an approximately 37-year-old Tibetan Buddhist monk. He has been imprisoned since 1989 after being arrested by Chinese authorities for participating in a peaceful demonstration in the city of Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, in support of Tibetan independence.
As it looks as though the Senate will be voting on permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China by the end of July, we ask that this month you write to Senators Feinstein and Boxer on behalf of Ngawang Pekar. Though AI does not take a position on the granting of PNTR to China, please inform the Senators of his case, request that they contact the Chinese authorities to inquire about Pekar, and that they keep his case, as well as those of many other Tibetans, in mind when voting on PNTR. It is also strongly recommended that you cc a copy of the letter to Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji. Below is a sample letter that you can either copy verbatim or, preferably, use as a guide in composing your own letter:
Dear Senator Feinstein:
As a firm believer in the principles delineated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I am writing to you out of concern for 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 Lhasa and sentenced to 8 years in prison. Subsequently, 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 since his arrest and that the 6-year increase in his sentence, following 3 months in an iron isolation cell, was an extremely harsh punishment for keeping a list of his fellow prisoners.
I respectfully request that you contact the Chinese authorities to inquire about Ngawang Pekar's case and urge them to immediately and unconditionally release him in accordance with the international laws to which China is signatory. Further, although Amnesty International does not take a position on PNTR with China, I would hope that you will keep his case in mind, as well as those of a great many others in China, when you vote on the issue. Amnesty does not call for Tibetan independence from China, but only that those in Beijing impart some real meaning to the word "autonomous" and respect the rights of their minority populations.
I thank you for your attention to this important matter and would greatly appreciate any further information that your office may be able to provide, especially any information you may receive regarding Ngawang Pekar.
c: Senator Barbara Boxer
cc: ZHU Rongji, Premier of the People's Republic of China
Zhu Rongji's address is:
ZHU Rongji Zongli
People's Republic of China
For postage to China, use a
60-cent stamp. Include your name and mailing address at the top of the
letter to enable a reply, and please notify the Group 22 coordinator if
a reply is received with information about Ngawang Pekar.
Possible ill-treatment of deportees
News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International, 5 July 2000
Amnesty International calls on the Saudi Arabian authorities to respect the human rights of the illegal immigrants who are currently the subject of an official campaign of deportation of those residing in the country without a valid residence permit.
The campaign has been carried out intermittently for at least the last two years. The current campaign began in April 2000 with the government announcement widely disseminated in the media, calling on those who are illegally overstaying in the country to regularize their status or leave before the end of a grace period.
In April, a Saudi Arabian official warned overstayers and residents without permits that after the expiry of the grace period on 2 July 2000, no one would be allowed to leave the country without paying a fine and being questioned to find out the individuals, families or companies which were harboring them.
The French News Agency (AFP) reported on 4 July that the Saudi Arabia authorities announced a fine of more than 26,000 US dollars on those who are overstaying in Saudi Arabia without residence permits, a sum of money which is not affordable by many of them. The consequences for those who fail to pay are not clear to Amnesty International, although they could include lengthy imprisonment and thereby further exposure to human rights violations.
An official from the immigration department was reported to have said that some 350,000 illegal foreign workers have already left Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International is concerned that anyone unable to leave the country before the expiry of the amnesty offered may face imprisonment, probably in incommunicado detention and may be ill-treated or tortured.
"Foreign nationals from poor countries are particularly vulnerable to ill treatment by police forces with no one to turn to for help," Amnesty International said "It is unlikely that those who would be questioned would have access to legal aid or their countries' diplomatic missions."
Amnesty International calls on the international community to seek assurances that those who are found without residence permits in Saudi Arabia do not have their human rights abused and are not deported to countries where they may be at risk of serious human rights violations.
Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, WC1X 8DJ, London, United Kingdom
Please write and express your concerns to:
His Royal Highness Prince Naif bin 'Abdul 'Aziz
Minister of the Interior
Ministry of the Interior
PO Box 2933, Airport Road
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Salutation: Your Royal Highness
JUST EARTH NETWORK
Nikitin in U.S., Charged again/ Honduran Action
Aleksandr Nikitin, the Russian nuclear scientist accused and tried on the charges of espionage for co-authoring a Bellona Foundation report detailing environmental dangers associated with aging Russia's nuclear submarines visited the United States this month. Nikitin met in Washington, D.C. with members of Congress, the State Department and White House officials. While in San Francisco, he was finally able to accept the Goldman Environmental Prize three years after it was awarded to him and after a four and 1/2 year legal battle with the Russian courts to clear the spy charges. Time to celebrate! But wait! As quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle, Nikitin says of the Russian government, ``Once this system puts an eye on you, it will hold it there for the rest of your life.'' Sadly this is all too true. It comes as a shock to learn that the Russian Prosecutor General's office is once again trying to convict Aleksandr Nikitin.
In a surprise appeal received by Nikitin on July 19, the Prosecutor General's office (Attorney General) has requested that the case be re-investigated, after more than four years of investigations, harassment and legal proceedings. The prosecutors revisited Soviet-era laws to resuscitate this case.
Since this is breaking news,
we are not able to bring you an action for Nikitin at this time, but hope
to in a future newsletter. Meanwhile please write on behalf of the Honduran
Fear for Safety-Indigenous Activists
Two indigenous human rights defenders have been harassed and intimidated. They believe the police are implicated, and Amnesty International is concerned that they are in danger.
Salvador Zúñiga and Berta Cáceres work with the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas (COPIN), Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations. Honduran human rights defenders believe the couple are being intimidated because COPIN is campaigning against the El Tigre dam, which will displace indigenous people and flood their ancestral lands.
On 31 May, an armed man was seen standing outside the couple's house, in the town of La Esperanza, Intibucá department. He ran away when their children raised the alarm. Several cars were stationed outside over the next few days, apparently watching the house. COPIN members believe that local police are involved, working on behalf of landowners.
The couple's house was apparently broken into twice shortly before this surveillance began. The first time, on 26 May, the housekeeper was beaten. On 30 May, the house was searched but nothing was stolen.
The indigenous Lenca people may be displaced when the El Tigre dam is completed. The dam will affect the departments of Intibucá and Lempira, near the border with El Salvador. Indigenous people are also concerned that the dam will leave their ancestral lands under water.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION Honduran human rights defenders face serious danger. On 26 April 2000, Julio César Pineda, an outspoken critic of human rights violations committed by police agents was almost killed when he was shot in the head at close range. Several indigenous leaders have also been killed in the last few years. The authorities have so far taken few, if any, steps to investigate these crimes, bring those responsible to justice and ensure human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear.
The right to defend human rights has been recognised in international declarations and resolutions. The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a declaration intended to ensure that states work to protect human rights defenders and guarantee them the freedom to carry out their legitimate activities (Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted on 9 December 1998). The Organization of American States have undertaken to implement this declaration, in a resolution adopted by their General Assembly in June 1999, and agreed to provide 'Human Rights Defenders with the necessary guarantees and facilities to continue freely carrying out their work' as well as to adopt 'the necessary steps to guarantee their life, liberty, and integrity'.
In April 2000, the UN Human Rights Commission requested that the United Nations Secretary General appoint a special representative on human rights defenders.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send airmail letters:
Minister of Defense and Public Security:
Elizabeth Chiuz Sierra
Ministra de Defensa Nacional y Seguridad Pública
Ministerio de Defensa Nacional y Seguridad Pública
Palacio de los Ministerios, 2º piso
Salutation: Señora Ministra / Dear Minister
Ambassador Dr Hugo Noe Pino
Embassy of Honduras
3007 Tilden St. NW Suite 4-M
Washington DC 20008
Human Rights Book Discussion Group
Borders Books & Music
475 South Lake Avenue, Pasadena
Sunday, August 20, 7:30 PM
at the Sea of Gaza
by Amira Hass
These daily-life vignettes of a territory in limbo between occupation and semistatehood
are offered by an Israeli journalist.
Hass reported for thenewspaper Ha'aretz, not by parachuting in for the
periodic riot and round up but by living there. This unusual arrangement
arched eyebrows on either side of the Palestinian-Israeli chasm ("You mean,
you're Jewish?" was a frequent reaction of Gazan women to Hass), and despite
her inclination to severely criticize the strictures Israel enforces on
Gaza, she clearly depicts the problems--from potholes to arbitrary Palestinian
policing--endured by the enclave's one million people. The reportage covers
the period before and after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.
Hass profiles PLO returnees, Hamas rejectionists, shopkeepers, and workers
and their travails in entering Israel. Through a deep understanding of
Gazans' moods of militancy and passivity, Hass ably dissects and explicates
the individuated elements of a generally difficult and evolving political
Local women aid workers must be released
A follow-up to our very successful events drawing attention to the plight of women in Afghanistan. Even as people gathered at All Saints on July 9, this incident took place. Here is a July 12 AIUSA press release.
The release of a United States aid worker in Afghanistan is an important development, but Taleban must immediately release her seven female Afghan colleagues who are believed to remain in detention, Amnesty International said today.
The seven Afghan women and 71 year old Mary MacMakin from the United States were arrested along with eight men on 9 July by Taleban officials. All of them work for the organization Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Support for Afghanistan (PARSA) of which Mary MacMakin is the director. The men were released immediately after their arrest and brief detention at the Kabul House of Juvenile Delinquents.
The women were arrested around the same time the Taleban reportedly issued an edict ordering all Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to lay off all female staff working in Afghanistan. According to reports Mary MacMakin has been given 24 hours to leave Afghanistan or face deportation after her release.
"Solidarity with local women who are under attack from the discriminatory policies of the Taleban is the need of the hour," Amnesty International said, "At a time when humanitarian assistance is so important to provide for the needs of the general population, the dismissal of female employees involved in relief operations will further exacerbate human suffering in Afghanistan."
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of the remaining seven women, who it believes are prisoners of conscience held solely on grounds of gender and for not complying with Taleban gender policies. The human rights organization is also concerned that the seven Afghan women are likely to become forgotten prisoners of conscience amid media attention mainly focussing on the US aid worker.
The Taleban authorities have reportedly said that Mary MacMakin was involved in anti-Islamic activities and that incriminating materials were found in her possession.
Amnesty International is calling on the Taleban to end all policies that are discriminatory towards women and allow them to participate freely in society.
Background. In recent years the Taleban have imposed harsh repression on women including restrictions on movement, employment and education. The release of Mary MacMakin comes after US protests against the arrests and following meetings between United Nations representatives and the Taleban to discuss the issue.
PARSA is a small NGO that works
mainly with Afghan war widows, training them in basic skills such as weaving
and embroidery so that they can support themselves and their Families
WEB TIPS FOR JULY
Sierra Magazine article about Mexican environmentalists
This article detailing the environmental and human rights issues surrounding the cases of Rudolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera appeared in a recent issue of the Sierra Club's magazine Sierra. You can browse more Sierra Club resources on the case at http://www.sierraclub.org/humanrights/
Jessy San Miguel, Latino, aged 28 (executed - 6/29)
Caruthers Alexander, black, aged 51 (rec'd stay)
Orien Cecil Joiner, white, aged 50 (executed 7/12)
Juan Soria, Latino, aged 33 (26 July)
Brian Roberson, black, aged 36 (9 August)
Oliver Cruz, Latino, aged 33 (9 August)
John Satterwhite, black, aged 53 (16 August)
Richard Wayne Jones, white, aged 40 (22 August)
David Earl Gibbs, white, aged 39 (23 August)
Jeffery Caldwell, black, aged 37 (30 August)
Jessy San Miguel and Orien Cecil Joiner were executed in Texas on 29 June and 12 July respectively.
Seven more prisoners convicted of capital murder remain scheduled for execution in Texas before the end of August (names above with the date the state plans to kill them).
Texas now accounts for 25 of the 54 executions carried out in the USA this year. Since the USA resumed executions in 1977, 652 prisoners have been put to death nationwide, 224 of them in Texas.
On 7 July, a county court judge stopped the execution of Caruthers Alexander, scheduled for 12 July. The reprieve was granted so that modern DNA testing techniques can be carried out on a hair found on the victim, Lori Bruch, a 19-year-old woman raped and strangled in 1981.
Oliver Cruz's execution date has been moved from 19 July to 9 August.
The death penalty in the USA, particularly the high rate of executions in Texas, continues to generate significant national and international attention and debate due to a growing awareness of the capital justice system's capacity for error.
The risk of executing the innocent, which will always be present in any capital justice system no matter how sophisticated, is just one reason to abolish the death penalty. Amnesty International, while sympathizing with the suffering of the victims of violent crime and their families, believes that the death penalty is inherently cruel, inhuman and degrading, is brutalizing to all involved in its application, and is a symptom of, rather than a solution to, a culture of violence. The death penalty in the USA disproportionately targets the poor and members of racial and ethnic minority groups. US leaders should actively work towards abolition of this outdated and fallible punishment, rather than relying on perceived public support for executions to justify their continuation.
BACKGROUND. Governor Bush can only commute a sentence if he receives a recommendation to do so from his appointees on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP). A former Texas Attorney General recently said: 'There's no doubt if the governor tells the paroles board what he wants done, they do it.' In any event, the Governor can grant a 30-day reprieve, and then ask the BPP to review the case.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: If possible, please maintain the pressure on the Texas authorities by continuing to send faxes/express letters, IN YOUR OWN WORDS, protesting the relentless use of the death penalty in Texas and calling on the Governor and the BPP to use their powers to stop all executions in Texas and to support a moratorium with a view to abolition.
The Honorable George W. Bush
Governor of Texas
PO Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711-2428
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
PO Box 13401
Austin, TX 78711-3401
Editor's Last Word:
Read us on line: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22
Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 / email@example.com