PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk
Group 22 has a long-term commitment to work in behalf of our adopted POC, Ngawang Pekar. He is a Tibetan monk who has been imprisoned since 1989, when the Chinese authorities arrested him for participating in a peaceful demonstration.
In a survey that rated political rights and civil liberties around the world, Tibet had the worst score of the areas categorized as "Disputed Territories". The survey, released in December 2001 by Freedom House, is a widely respected annual comparative study. On a scale of 1 to 7, from most free to least free, Tibet scored 7, while China itself was rated slightly better at 6.5. You can find more information at http://www.freedomhouse.org.
One U.S. elected official is trying to do something about this bleak state of affairs. Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA) visited China this month and urged the Chinese authorities to release Tanak Jigme Sanak, a Tibetan political prisoner whose current sentence runs until 2011, by which time he will be 85 years old and have spent 41 years in prison. Speaking to journalists in Beijing on Jan. 9,Lantos praised China's cooperation in the war on terror, but warned that Beijing will use the war to crack down on domestic dissent President Bush is now scheduled to visit China on February 21-22.
Therefore this month we suggest that you write directly to President Bush expressing your concerns about Ngawang Pekar. A sample letter follows:
Dear President Bush,
I am writing to bring to your attention a prisoner being held by Chinese authorities in Tibet Autonomous Region Prison No. 1. The prisoner's name is NGAWANG PEKAR (layname: Paljor). Ngawang Pekar, a Tibetan monk, was arrested in1989 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.
During your upcoming visit to China, I respectfully urge you to request the Chinese authorities to review Ngawang Pekar's case, along with those of other Tibetan political prisoners. Please ask the Chinese authorities to give information on Ngawang Pekar's current status and state of health to Amnesty International or other international organizations.
Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter. I wish you a successful and safe journey.
Address your letter to:
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Fax: 1 202 456 2461
(340 S. Lake Avenue in Pasadena)
By Jose Saramago
A city is hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and raping women. There is
one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides seven strangers-among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears-through the barren streets, and the procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. A magnificent parable of loss and disorientation and a vivid evocation of the horrors of the twentieth century, Blindness has swept the reading public with its powerful portrayal of man's worst appetites and weaknesses-and man's ultimately exhilarating spirit.
Jose Saramago was born in Portugal in 1922.. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
JUST EARTH NETWORK
New Threats to Mexican Environmentalists
Elifonso Martinez Torres (m), municipal representative of El Zapotillal
Juan Bautista Valle (m), Hector Carrillo (m)
Other members of the Organizacion de Campesinos Ecologistas de la Sierra de Petetlan y Coyuca de Catalan
The Mexican army has maintained a presence in the communities of El Zapotillal and Canelejas, in the municipality of Petetlan, Guerrero State, since 26 December 2001, reportedly intimidating and harassing local people. Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of people in the communities.
The OCESP, an environmental group that campaigns against logging operations that threaten the forests of Guerrero with activists and sympathizers in the area, particularly El Zapotillal. Members of the Organizacion de Campesinos Ecologistas de la Sierra de Petetlan y Coyuca de Catalan (OCESP), Peasant Environmentalist Organization of the Mountains of Petetlan and Coyuca de Catalan have claimed that soldiers operate in collusion with local political bosses (caciques) to fabricate charges against them. Over recent years several OCESP members have been been detained by the military and charged with drugs and firearms offences.
The army is responsible for counter insurgency and counter narcotics operations in Guerrero. The presence of the 19th Infantry Battalion in Canalejas and El Zapotillal was reportedly part of these duties. However, people in the communities have reported that soldiers have threatened and intimidated them, positioning soldiers outside the house of municipal representative (comisario municipal) Elifonso Martinez Torres, firing shots into the air and asking about the whereabouts of OCESP members.
OCESP members Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera were arbitrarily detained by the army in 1999, in Petetlan municipality, and tortured to force them to confess to drug and firearm offences. They were later tried and convictes on the basis of these confessions. In November 2001 President Fox ordered their release, after international and national pressure highlighted the injustice the men had suffered.
Leading human rights lawyer Digna Ochoa, who had represented Montiel and Cabrera, was murdered in her office in Mexico city in October 2001. No one has yet been brought to justice for her murder. In November 2001 many OCESP members and residents of El Zapotillal and other nearby communities went to Mexico City to demand justice for the murdered lawyer and petition the authorities to extend their investigation into the murder to Guerrero. On their return to Guerrero a leading OCESP member reportedly received death threats.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION. Political violence is endemic in Guerrero. There is a heavy military presence in many parts of the state, ostensibly to combat armed opposition groups and drug trafficking. This, together with the presence of armed opposition groups, has contributed to the grave human rights situation in the state. Over the years there have been persistent reports of the military being responsible for human rights violations.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
á expressing concern for the safety of people living in the communities of Canalejas and El Zapotillal, Guerrero state, in particular municipal representative Elifonso Martinez Torres and members of the Organizacion de Campesinos Ecologistas de la Sierra de Petetlan y Coyuca de Catalan (OCESP), including Juan Bautista Valle and Hector Carrillo, and asking the authorities to guarantee their safety;
á calling for a full, impartial and independent investigation into reports that soldiers of the 19th Battalion have threatened and harassed these communities, and for those responsible to be brought to justice;
á reminding the authorities of their obligation to ensure that the military carry out their work, including policing operations, in line with international standards to protect human rights.
President of the Republic:
Lic. Vicente Fox Quesada
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Residencia Oficial de 'Los Pinos'
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec
Mexico D.F., C.P. 11850
Salutation: Senor Presidente / Dear Mr President
Governor of Guerrero:
Lic. Rene Juarez Cisneros
Gobernador del Estado de Guerrero
Palacio de Gobierno, segundo piso
Plaza Central, Primer Congreso de Anahuac
Salutation: Senor Gobernador / Dear Governor
Ambassador Juan Jose Bremer Martino
Embassy of Mexico
1911 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington DC 20006
ICC PROGRESS REPORT
Senate drops Helms amendment!
Thanks to your emails, faxes, and phone calls we succeeded in our effort to get the Senate to remove the Helms version of the American Servicemembers Protection Act and recede (defer) to the House on its version, which is only in effect for one year. In the end, the final bill coming out of conference committee is stripped of the notorious anti-International Criminal Court Helms amendment. The bill will be voted on this week in the Congress. Our work is cut out for us next year, but we should declare victory when we can -- and we can today.
The removal of the Helms amendment is a big shot in the arm for individuals working to support strong international justice. While we could not remove all of the anti-ICC language, we helped convince members of the conference committee to reject Senator Jesse Helms' amendment that would have created a permanent law banning cooperation with the court. The committee instead agreed to maintain Representative Henry Hyde's amendment, which restricts the use of U.S. funds to support or negotiate the ICC during this fiscal year. There is still much more work to be done over the coming year to ensure the U.S. is able to participate in ICC in the future. Your help will be crucial for this ongoing effort.
The International Criminal Court, which will try those responsible for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, is expected to open in the Netherlands next year with the support of the majority of the international community. The 1998 Rome treaty establishing the court needs 13 more ratifications to come into force. So far, the court has the support of nearly every European country, including key U.S. allies Germany, England and France. We will continue to press the U.S. Government to drop its opposition to the court and to support efforts to bring those responsible for the world's worst human rights abuses to trial.
Thanks to all of the individuals whose efforts are helping to turn the tide for international justice in the right direction. Your efforts are making a difference.
For more information about the international criminal court visit http://www.amnestyusa.org/icc and to continue. To receive updates on this issue email email@example.com
DEATH PENALTY ACTION
California Prepares to Execute Stephen Anderson
Stephen Anderson, white, aged 48, is scheduled to be executed in California on 29 January 2002. He was sentenced to death for the murder of 81-year-old Elizabeth Lyman, a retired piano teacher, who was killed in her home in Bloomington, San Bernardino County, in May 1980.
Stephen Anderson broke into Elizabeth Lyman's home to burgle it after drinking a large quantity of vodka. He states that he thought the house was empty and claimed that he shot Elizabeth Lyman when she woke up and surprised him. After the shooting, he did not attempt to leave the house, and was arrested when the police arrived three hours later. He confessed to the crime. He is said to remain very remorseful about the murder.
Anderson was sentenced to death in 1981. He was granted a new sentencing because the jury had not been asked to consider whether the murder had been intentional. In 1986, after a deliberation lasting many days, a second jury concluded that it had been, and he was sentenced to death again.
To date, three jurors from the earlier proceedings have stated that they do not believe that the death sentence should be carried out. Their reasons include the fact that Stephen Anderson's lawyer was 'completely outclassed' by the prosecutor and 'ill-prepared to present his case'; that family members of Elizabeth Lyman believe a life sentence is adequate; and that some jurors felt pressured into voting for death by other jurors.
At his trial and re-sentencing, Stephen Anderson was represented by the same lawyer. The latter defended two other capital clients in San Bernardino County between 1981 and 1986. In each case, the appeal courts found that his representation had fallen below the standard required by the Constitution. The courts described the lawyer's conduct, among other things, as 'deplorable'. Stephen Anderson's death sentence has been allowed to stand, despite evidence that the lawyer's representation of him was similarly inadequate - for example, he presented only one mitigation witness at the 1986 re-sentencing, a retired prison minister whose only meeting with Anderson had taken place the day before. The lawyer failed to investigate or present to the jury compelling details of the physical abuse and neglect Stephen Anderson suffered during his childhood and of his other traumatic life experiences, including those he suffered while in prison in New Mexico as a 21-year-old.
In 2000, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence by two votes to one. Last month, six Ninth Circuit judges dissented against the majority's refusal to conduct a rehearing in front of the full court (en banc): 'At a time when much of the civilized world is questioning the fairness of our application of the death penalty...it is regrettable that this court refuses to consider en banc the case of an individual sentenced to death...after being represented by a court-appointed attorney whom we have now twice deemed constitutionally ineffective in capital cases -- an attorney who has demonstrated a willingness to lie to the court and to betray the interests of his capital clients.' The dissenters said that Anderson's 'death sentence may well have been imposed, not because of the crime that he committed, but because of the incompetence of an attorney with little integrity and a pattern of ineffective performance in capital cases', noting evidence from the other two cases that the lawyer had been 'deceptive, untrustworthy, and disloyal to his capital clients'. Of one client he had reportedly said that he 'did not care 'what happened to him, and of the other that he 'deserves to fry'.
The dissent concluded: '...we must at least ensure that the process we afford to individuals whose lives we propose to take is both fair and consistent with fundamental constitutional values. If the courts appoint incompetent counsel to handle a capital case, we should not then compound that judicial error by permitting the state to execute the ill-represented defendant. The system has now failed doubly in Stephen Anderson's case.'
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases. Those who lose relatives to murder deserve compassion and respect, but a retributive execution is not such a response. It simply extends the suffering to the family and friends of the condemned,who for years anticipate the killing of their loved one. The loss which Stephen Anderson's execution will inflict upon his mother, brother and two sons has been brought to the attention of the Governor as part of the clemency petition. The death penalty also denies the possibility of rehabilitation. Stephen Anderson, for example, has become an award-winning artist and poet on death row. His writings have been published in various media, and his play, 'Lament from Death Row',was performed in New York in 1991.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in your own words:
á expressing sympathy for the family and friends of Elizabeth Lyman, explaining that you are not seeking to minimize the suffering her death will have caused;
á opposing the execution of Stephen Anderson;
á expressing concern at compelling evidence that his defence representation was inadequate, noting the appalling record of the lawyer who defended him and the dissent of the six Ninth Circuit judges;
á noting that a number of the jurors now support clemency;
á expressing concern that executions cause further suffering, to the family of the condemned prisoner;
á noting Stephen Anderson's efforts towards rehabilitation;
á urging the Governor to grant clemency.
Governor Gray Davis
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: 1 916 445 4633
Salutation: Dear Governor
NEW REPORT ON 9/11
"War on Terror" Degenerating into Global "Dirty War"
In a new report, Amnesty International indicts governments' actions following September 11 that put human rights at grave risk worldwide. The report, "Rights at Risk," was released to coincide with a meeting of the UN Security Council that will review the work of the Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee.
"Amnesty International is concerned that the 'war on terror' may be degenerating into a global 'dirty war' of torture, detentions and executions," said Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director for Amnesty International USA. "A number of states have introduced new laws that violate human rights standards while others have used existing measures to crack down on opposition."
The Counter-Terrorism Committee was established by the Security Council following the September 11 attacks to monitor the far-ranging steps the Council said they must take to combat terrorism. Today it will start examining more than 100 reports from states about those measures.
Amnesty International's 50-page report describes human rights violations arising from "anti-terrorist" measures taken by countries around the world both before and after the attacks of September 11, including indefinite detention without charge or trial; incommunicado detention, which facilitates torture; unfair trials; and infringement of rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Amnesty International's Secretary General, Irene Khan, wrote to the Security Council urging it to take concrete steps to ensure that governments do not violate the obligations and standards of international human rights law in the process, stressing that "otherwise there is a grave risk, already borne out in some countries, that security considerations will prevail over human rights."
In addition, as none of the six experts the Committee appointed to assist it in its monitoring task are experts in human rights, Amnesty International is calling upon the Security Council to request the Counter-Terrorism Committee appoint an expert in international law, including human rights, to assist the Committee in monitoring the actions of states, and provide specific guidance on how states can comply with international human rights standards in the context of implementing measures to combat "terrorism."
"When the security of a state and the safety of its people are at risk," Amnesty International said, "it is vital that human rights standards and the rule of law are upheld. Respect for all human rights is the only way to ensure real security for all."
Read us on line: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22
Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 / firstname.lastname@example.org
From the 210 exit on Lake Avenue, head south, turn left on Del Mar
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Amnesty International Group 22
P.O. Box 50193
Pasadena, CA 91115-0193