On-line Panel scheduled for July 22
Videotapes showing US police beating two unarmed black suspects in separate incidents in the past week are a disturbing reminder that police use of excessive force remains endemic in many areas, Amnesty International said today.
An incident filmed July 6 shows an officer from Inglewood (a town near Los Angeles airport) lifting a handcuffed youth in the air and slamming his head onto the hood of a police car. The second incident, on July 8, shows two Oklahoma City police officers repeatedly beating a suspect on the ground with their batons. The suspect was pepper-sprayed twice. In both cases the officers involved were white, and the suspects black.
"It is even more disturbing that both incidents took place in routine stop and search situations," Amnesty International said. "While some departments have introduced reforms following heightened scrutiny in recent years, this has not filtered down to all departments or all levels, and allegations of police brutality, particularly towards minority suspects, remain common in many areas."
While welcoming reports that investigations have been opened into both cases, Amnesty International is disturbed by remarks made by an Oklahoma City police spokeswoman, apparently justifying the officers' actions on the ground that the suspect was "not compliant". International standards, such as those contained under the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, state that force should be used only as a last resort and it must be proportionate to the threat posed. Repeatedly beating a barely resisting suspect, including while he is lying on the ground, appears in clear violation of these standards.
There have been other disturbing cases involving the Oklahoma City Police Department. In January 2001, Amnesty International wrote to the Oklahoma City police chief to express concern about the case of Billy Bennet Jr, who died in September 2000 after being hogtied and pepper sprayed. Although the coroner ruled out positional asphyxia as a cause of death in the case, Amnesty International urged the department to ban hogtying as a dangerous form of restraint and to review the use of pepper spray. In the same letter, Amnesty International also expressed concern about several fatal shootings by Oklahoma City police officers in a four-month period.
Amnesty International will be raising its concerns about the latest cases directly with the departments involved and urging them to review their use of force policies and ensure that human rights standards are incorporated into police training and fully observed.
Live Audio Chat!
Join us for a live discussion on police brutality on July 22, 2002 at 3 PM eastern. This live event is part of the Amnesty International USA's weeklong online event focusing on police brutality and minority communities in the US.. Learn more about this event and find other AI resources on police brutality at http://www.amnestyusa.org/countries/usa/police_brutality/onlineevent.html
Concern for Safety of Journalists
Death threats have been made against Angela Munoz Trujillo, editor of the weekly newspaper El Vocero and her colleagues in Colombia. Amnesty International is concerned for their safety and that of other journalists in Barrancabermeja and the rest of Santander Department.
On 9 July Angela Munoz Trujillo was stopped at the traffic lights near the ECOPETROL health centre in Barrancbermeja by two armed men. They threatened her saying, 'si te arriesgas manana a sacar el periodico, en la tarde estaras velando a uno de tus colaboradores', 'if you dare to publish the newspaper tomorrow morning, in the afternoon you'll be at the wake of one of your colleagues'.
On 8 July, the commander of the army-backed paramilitary group, Bloque Central Bolivar, Central Bolivar Bloc of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, declared in a local newspaper that various members of the local press and trade unions are paramilitary targets.
Fears for Angela Munoz Trujillo and other journalists in Santander are heightened following press reports of the killing of Mario Prada Diaz, editor of the monthly newspaper Horizonte Sabanero, on 12 July near the municipality of Sabana de Torres, Santander Department by unknown gunmen.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION. Barranca-bermeja is under siege from army-backed paramilitaries who control entire areas of the city, despite the presence of large numbers of security forces. Journalists and other members of civil society have frequently been harassed, tortured and killed; often by paramilitaries who, together with the security and armed forces, have often accused them of being guerrilla sympathizers. The Colombian Human Rights Ombudsman, Defensor del Pueblo, declared on 10 July that the local authorities and the securities in Barrancabermeja as well as the Colombian government should take effective measures to protect journalism in the city. Guerrilla forces have also been responsible for killing and threatening journalists they accuse of sympathizing with their enemies.
Last year around 10 journalists were killed and many others were threatened by either guerrilla or paramilitary forces.
Recommended Action. Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
- urging the Colombian authorities to take immediate and effective action to protect the safety of Angela Munoz Trujillo and other journalists in the region, as deemed appropriate by the individual journalists themselves, so that they may carry out their legitimate work in safety;
- calling for an independent, impartial and conclusive investigation into the threats against Angela Munoz Trujillo and other journalists in Barrancabermeja, Santander Department, for the results to be made public and for those responsible to be brought to justice;
- calling for an independent, impartial and conclusive investigation into the killing of Mario Prada Diaz, for the results to be made public and for those repsonsible to be brought to jsutice;
- calling for a full and impartial investigation into links between the security forces and paramilitary groups operating in the department of Santander, and urging that the results are made public and those found responsible for supporting and participating in such groups are brought to justice;
- urging the authorities to take immediate action to dismantle paramilitary groups, in line with stated government commitments and recommendations made by the UN and other intergovernmental organizations.
President of Colombia:
Senor Presidente Andres Pastrana
Presidente de la Republica
Palacio de Narino, Carrera 8 No. 7-26
Santafe de Bogota
(NB: Andres Pastrana is the President until 7 August when President-elect Dr. Alvaro Uribe takes office.)
Minister of the Interior:
Dr. Armando Estrada Villa
Ministro del Interior
Ministerio del Interior
Palacio Echeverry, Carrera 8a, No.8-09, piso 2o.,
Santafe de Bogota
Dr. Luis Camilo Osorio
Fiscal General de la Nacion
Fiscalia General de la Nacion
Apartado Aereo 29855
Diagonal 22B 52-01 (Ciudad Salite)
Santafe de Bogota
Call for End to Killing of Israeli Civilians
Palestinian Armed Groups' Attacks on Civilians are Crimes Against Humanity - New Amnesty International Report: Attacks May Constitute War Crimes. Visit www.amnesty-usa.org to read the new report.
In a report released recently, Amnesty International condemned attacks by Palestinian armed groups against civilians as crimes against humanity and possible war crimes, and called for the perpetrators to be arrested and prosecuted.
“There is no justification for attacking civilians, and Palestinian leaders must clearly state that all such attacks must cease, whether they take place in Israel, the West Bank or Gaza," said William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "Action must then follow words, with those responsible for these attacks arrested and brought to justice in line with international human rights standards."
Amnesty International examined 128 attacks between September 29, 2000 and May 31, 2002 in which 338 civilians were killed. Based on analysis of the attacks and the armed groups claiming responsibility, Amnesty International concludes that the attacks are widespread, systemic, and part of an explicit policy of attacking civilians. Those individuals who order, plan, or carry out such attacks are therefore guilty of crimes against humanity, and the attacks may constitute war crimes. Attacks on civilians are expressly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and the principles of international humanitarian law.
The report profiles the groups claiming responsibility for these attacks and reviews the statements of their leaders and officials. For example, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, formed by Fatah members in 2000, has claimed responsibility for 23 attacks. Marwan Barghouti, Secretary General of Fatah, stated to Amnesty International that Fatah considers that Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza are not civilians because "it is all an occupied country." Amnesty International asserts that international law prohibits attacks on civilians wherever they are.
Despite an obligation to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of attacks on civilians, many of the detentions of alleged members of armed groups by the Palestinian Authority appear to be motivated by considerations other than a genuine concern to bring the perpetrators to justice.
"The Palestinian Authority has the responsibility to stop attacks by Palestinian armed groups and claims that the Palestinian Authority has acted with due diligence to stop these attacks lack credibility," said Marty Rosenbluth, AIUSA's Country Specialist for Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Palestinian Authority. "However, the investigation and prosecution of those responsible must not result in further violations. To date, the measures taken by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have included torture and violations of the right to a fair trial."
Since 29 September 2000, more than 320 Israeli civilians including more than 60 children have been killed in suicide bomb and other attacks carried out by members of Palestinian armed groups and individuals. Amnesty International strongly condemns the deliberate targeting of civilians which violates fundamental principles of international law. AI calls on Palestinian groups and individuals to immediately cease such attacks. AI also calls on the Palestinian and Israeli authorities to bring to justice people within their jurisdiction who ordered and facilitated these attacks in accordance with international human rights standards.
Call on Hamas and Islamic Jihad to:
· end all attacks on civilians and to respect fundamental principles of international humanitarian law.
Call on the Palestinian Authority to:
· arrest and bring to justice those who order or carry out attacks against civilians, in trials that meet international human rights standards.
President Yasser Arafat
Office of the President
The Beach Forum, Gaza City
Fax: + 972 8 282 2366
Salutation: Your Excellency
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas)
Gaza, Palestinian Authority
Fax: + 972 8 286 6990
Salutation: Dear Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
'Abdallah al-Shami (Islamic Jihad)
Fax: +972 8 280 3924
Texas Convicts Penry Again!
Here’s an update on a case we have featured previously in this newsletter. On a happier note, as this newsletter goes to press we are pleased to note that the Senate Judiciary Committee has passed the Innocence Protection Act onto the full Senate.
Basic Instinct - Another Milestone in the Ugly History of the Death Penalty
By securing a third death sentence against John Paul Penry for the murder of Pamela Moseley Carpenter in 1979, Texas has achieved another milestone in its ugly history of judicial killing.
"It is just two weeks since the US Supreme Court ruled that the execution of people with mental retardation violates contemporary standards of decency," Amnesty International said. "Texas has responded by showing that it will continue to err on the side of the indecent".
John Penry, who has consistently been assessed as having mental retardation and an IQ of 50-63, came 13 hours from execution in 1988, and less than four hours from execution in 2000 before the US Supreme Court intervened and sent his case back to Texas for new trial proceedings.
"Texas has been pursuing the execution of John Penry for over two decades," Amnesty International continued. "It is difficult to view the state's apparent need to kill this man as anything but vengeance."
In its landmark 1989 decision in the Penry case, the Supreme Court ruled that the execution of people with mental retardation did not violate the constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual" punishment. That ruling was overturned on 20 June 2002 in Atkins v Virginia, in which the Court ruled that US "standards of decency" had evolved to the extent that there now was a "national consensus" against such executions. However, the Court did not say what constitutes mental retardation, leaving it for the individual states to decide. Yesterday, a Texas judge and jury concluded that John Penry was not learning disabled and he was sentenced to death.
"In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that the execution of the insane was unconstitutional, but left it to the individual states to establish who fell within this protection," Amnesty International said. "That decision has allowed a number of seriously mentally ill people to be put to death. We fear that the Atkins ruling may allow the same to occur in the case of people with mental retardation."
Amnesty International pointed to the case of Thomas Provenzano, executed in June 2000 despite his long history of serious mental illness. A Florida judge ruled him competent for execution despite finding "clear and convincing evidence that Provenzano has a delusional belief that the real reason he is being executed is because he is Jesus Christ". The judge expressed concern at the "minimal standard" for competency determinations that allowed the state to kill Provenzano.
"In 1972, US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall described the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment as 'insulation from our baser selves'," Amnesty International recalled. "It would seem that Texas, and other states, need more protection from their basic instincts."
Following the Supreme Court's Atkins decision on 20 June, Governor Rick Pejrry told the Houston Chronicle: "I think we've got a justice system that works in the state of Texas. The justice system in the state of Texas is basically for Texans." Last year, Governor Perry vetoed a bill aimed at exempting the mentally retarded from execution.
"It is time for Texas and the rest of the USA to aspire to higher standards of decency and join the 111 countries that have turned their backs on this ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," Amnesty International said.
In the 23 years that Texas has been seeking to execute John Penry, it has killed 274 people in its death chamber, a third of the national total.
PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk
Our group is committed to work for the release of Ngawang Pekar, a Tibetan monk who has been imprisoned by the Chinese authorities since his arrest in 1989 for participating in a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa.
While we have no new reports concerning Pekar, there is great news about another former Tibetan prisoner, Takna Jigme Sangpo. He was permitted to leave China for medical reasons, and he arrived in the U.S. on July 13. He will live with a niece in Washington, DC. (In an interview reported on www.savetibet.org, he clarified that his family name was Takna, "Tiger's Nose" in Tibetan, and not Tanak, as it has generally been spelled.)
Jigme Sangpo is a 74-year-old former schoolteacher who was first arrested in the 1960's. At his scheduled release in 2011, he would have served a total of 41 years in prison for his nonviolent expressions of his belief in Tibetan independence. His case was a focus of action by human rights groups and US officials, and in April the Chinese government released him on medical parole to the custody of his family in Lhasa. But he was only permitted to leave his house for hospital visits; his requests to visit the Jokhang Temple were denied, and his health grew worse. John Kamm, president of the human rights group Dui Hua Foundation, was allowed to visit him in June and negotiated with Beijing for his release. Kamm describes him as dignified, educated, and articulate, and says the world is going to be impressed when they get to know him.
Kamm was quoted in the July 14 LA Times in regard to Jigme Sangpo's case: "This is very much a decision made at the top of the leadership, and it's being implemented by the central ministries in Beijing. But at the level of the local Tibetan government, I did not sense any enthusiasm for this release at all."
We've been sending lots of letters to local Tibetan officials, so for a change this month let's try China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of whose officials accompanied Kamm when he visited Jigme Sangpo in Lhasa. Here's a sample letter that you can copy or use as a guide.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Tang Jiaxuan Buzhang
2 Chaoyangmen Nandajie
People's Republic of China
I am writing to you about a prisoner in Tibet Autonomous Region Prison No. 1. The prisoner's name is NGAWANG PEKAR. He was arrested in Lhasa in 1989 for participating in a peaceful demonstration.
I believe that NGAWANG PEKAR has been imprisoned solely for the nonviolent expression of his beliefs, and I am deeply concerned about reports that he has been beaten and subjected to torture and denied access to medical care. I respectfully urge that you review Ngawang Pekar's case and that you report his present status to international organizations.
I welcome the recent release of Takna Jigme Sangpo and other Tibetan prisoners of conscience, and I hope to hear soon of Ngawang Pekar's release. Thank you for your attention to this imprtant matter.
(Your name and address)
Postage for a letter to China is still just 80 cents. As always, please notify Group 22 if you should receive a response.
(695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena)
Note: If you plan to purchase the book at Vroman’s look in the Mystery section or request it at Will Call..
By Cheryl Benard
An American businessman visiting Peshawar,. Pakistan, vanishes from his hotel room. The only clue is an enigmatic message in
blood scrawled on the Coke machine. A series of murders follows. But in a country where half the population is hidden beneath chadors, tracking a murderer can be difficult.
Benard debuts with a surprisingly successful black comedy/mystery reminiscent in its droll narrative style of the works of Australian author Peter Carey . . . Clever, witty, and politically and culturally on the mark, this book is recommended for all collections. –Library Journal
With finely honed, double-edged humor, Benard both ridicules the tunnel vision of righteous multiculturalists, while at the same time expressing great compassion for the victims of a society caught in the throes of change. A memorable first novel. --Booklist
Read us on line: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22
Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 / email@example.com
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Amnesty International Group 22
P.O. Box 50193
Pasadena, CA 91115-0193