How the time flies! Can it really be four years since I began my term as group coordinator? Well, it really is, and it's time to turn over the reins of power to a new generation of leaders!
I am very pleased to announce that the group has elected Lucas Kamp and Kathy Hansen to replace me, jointly sharing the responsibilities of coordinator. Both of them have been active and dedicated members of the group for some time, and it will be great for our group's continuing work to be coordinated by such capable hands, as we face both new and old challenges to human rights in the years to come, with new tools and an evolving mandate.
I hope to have more time to spend on actions and campaigns, and I also plan to return to working on the website, taking over the primary duties of Electronic Media Coordinator from Lucas. Besides this, Alexi and I are expecting another baby in early November, so I'm not too worried about getting bored in my retirement from coordinatorship.
It's been great coordinating the group through a very active and productive period of its development. Together, we've originated or participated in lots of great events and actions working for and publicizing human rights around the world. A number of members have come and gone, but we've always had a wonderfully dedicated and creative membership base. I look forward to participating in the group's evolution under its new coordinators!
Cheers, Larry Romans
Back to School? Sign up for Article 26!
One of Amnesty International's objectives is to make all people of all ages aware of the basic rights and responsibilities that each individual possesses and, in the long term, to build a "culture of prevention" of human rights abuses.
Education in human rights is itself a fundamental human right and also a responsibility. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration states that everyone has the right to education, and that education should strengthen respect for human rights. Through their human rights education work, Amnesty International members are doing what they can to fulfill this part of the Universal Declaration. If people do not know their rights, they cannot defend or fight for them. Human rights education teaches both about and for human rights. The goal is to help people understand human rights, value human rights, and to take responsibility for respecting, defending and promoting their human rights as well as the rights of others.
Amnesty's Educator's Network new e-mail newsletter 'Article 26' will keep you up to date on materials available for school or community human rights education projects. Visit the AIUSA website to sign up:
HUMAN RIGHTS & THE ARTS
Western Regional Conference October 25-27
'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers' - Article 19 of the UDHR
The Western Regional Conference of Amnesty International USA is a unique opportunity for activists, scholars, communities, and students to come together to learn about, discuss, and act upon some of the most important human rights issues facing our world community today.
This year's conference focuses on human rights and the arts. The use of the arts as a medium for human rights activism, including poetry and prose, film, dance, theater, and art, opens people to experience the pain, suffering and hope of human rights victims in ways that are vivid, moving and often beautiful.
Join us as we explore the connections between the arts and human rights activism and also celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Urgent Action Network.
General JosŽ Gallardo, former Prisoner of Conscience from Mexico; Sister Diana Ortiz, author of "The Blindfold's Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth" (written with Patricia Davis, Orbis Books, October 2002) ; and AIUSA National Executive Director William Schultz
The conference program begins at 9:00 AM on Saturday, October 26th, and ends at 3:30 PM on Sunday, October 27th. á
Violence Against Women
Amnesty's 'New Tactics'
Political Asylum and
Immigrants' Rights Issues
The Death Penalty: An International Overview
Human Rights in Mexico
Building Skills for Legislative Work
Human Rights Implications of the
'War on Terrorism'
The Middle East
The International Criminal Court
Opportunities for Media Coverage
Fighting for Abolition in the West
Contemporary Forms of Slavery
Police Abuse of Power and Accountability Issues in the United States
Best Practices and Group Organizing
Just Earth! Campaign
Human Rights Education through the Arts
Conference Site and Accommodations
The Executive Tower Hotel
1405 Curtis Street
Denver, CO 80202
800 - 525-6651
The Executive Tower Hotel will be offering Amnesty International conference attendees a special group rate of $89 single or $99 double, with a $10 charge for each additional person above double-occupancy, plus tax, for reservations for Friday and Saturday nights.
PLEASE NOTE !!!!! Conference attendees must make their own reservations directly with the hotel at the phone numbers listed above. Be sure to mention Amnesty International to obtain the group rate. Space is limited, so please make your reservations as soon as possible! To request a roommate, please send your registration to the Los Angeles Western Region Office by September 20th. Reservations must be made by October 4, 2002, to take advantage of the special rate!
Before October 4th
Student/Senior/Limited Income $10
After October 4th
Student/Senior/Limited Income $15
To register, please send a check or money order (payable to AIUSA) with a completed registration form to: AIUSA Western Region, Regional Conference, 2999 Overland Avenue, Suite 111, Los Angeles, CA 90064. Registration will also be available at the conference. For further information, please call the Los Angeles Western Region Office at (310) 815-0450.
AIDS Activist Wan Yanhai Disappears
Note Added in Proof: Just before mailing out this newsletter, news was received that Dr Wan Yanhai, the subject of the following article, was released by the Chinese government. It is highly unusual for the Chinese to release a political prisoner after less than a month's internment, so this success must be attributed at least in part of the international outcry, in which Amnesty International played a leading role, against this injustice.
Amnesty International is seriously concerned for the safety of Dr Wan Yanhai, a Chinese HIV/AIDS activist, who reportedly went missing on or around 24 August. It is feared that he has been detained by Chinese police.
Dr Wan Yanhai was reportedly last seen on 24 August in Beijing at a gay and lesbian film screening. All attempts by his family to contact him since then have failed. The Chinese authorities have not yet responded to requests for information about his whereabouts. He was allegedly under surveillance by plainclothes police as a result of his HIV/AIDS activism and his support for health issues concerning lesbians and gay men and sex workers in China.
Wan Yanhai is the founder of the Aizhi Action Project, a group which focuses on the promotion of HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in China, and the advocacy of the rights of people with AIDS. Other members of the Aizhi Action Project have reportedly been subjected to surveillance and have been questioned since the group started organizing petitions to the government for better treatment.
A former health official in Beijing, Wan Yanhai was expelled in 1994 from his post after receiving criticism by the Health Ministry for his involvement in HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns and for supporting equal rights for gays and lesbians.
Since founding the Aizhi Action Project in 1994, Wan Yanhai has played a prominent role in publicising the extent of the spread of AIDS throughout China, highlighting the connection between blood transfusions and HIV/AIDS, which caused many deaths in the central province of Henan. Wan Yanhai has published on the Aizhi Action Project's website (www.aizhi.org) lists of people who apparently died in Henan province of HIV/AIDS related illnesses after selling blood between late 1980s and mid 1990s to government-sanctioned blood collectors.
In July, the Aizhi (AIDS) Action Project was forced to move out of its office when its partner institute allegedly received orders from the Chinese authorities to stop cooperating with the group.
According to Xinhua, the state-run news agency, the government is stepping up measures to keep the number of Chinese HIV/AIDS patients below 1.5 million by 2010. However, a UN report published in June 2002 estimates that by 2010 the number of HIV-infected people could rise to 10 million if effective measures are not taken.
Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Chinese, English or your own language.
á expressing concern at reports that Wan Yanhai has been missing since around 24 August;
á urging the Chinese authorities to immediately investigate and clarify his whereabouts;
á if he is being detained, urging the authorities to release him immediately if he is not to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence;
á urging the authorities to ensure that Wan Yanhai receives full access to his family, lawyers and medical treatment if he is in custody;
á calling on the authorities to ensure that all human rights defenders in China can carry out their work without fear of detention without charge, or other human rights violations.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China
TANG Jiaxuan Buzhang
2 Chaoyangmen Nandajie
People's Republic of China
Salutation: Your Excellency
Minister of Public Security of the People's Republic of China
JIA Chunwang Buzhang
People's Republic of China
Salutation: Your Excellency
Minister of Public Health of the People's Republic of China
ZHANG Wenkang Buzhang
People's Republic of China
Salutation: Your Excellency
Pre-emptive action for Louisiana Juvenile!
A brief update on the death penalty actions in our last newsletter. Gregory Lott was granted a stay of execution pending action of the Ohio legislature on a mental retardation statute. However, Toronto Patterson was executed by the state of Texas. This month we seek to pre-empt a juvenile death sentence in Louisisana.
At a retrial scheduled to begin on 16 September in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, the prosecution is intending to seek a death sentence against Lawrence Jacobs (m), black, aged 22, for a crime he is accused of committing when he was 16 years old. International law, respected in almost every country in the world, prohibits the use of the death penalty against people who were under 18 at the time of the crime.
Nelson Beaugh, aged 45, and his 75-year-old mother, Della Beaugh, were shot dead at Nelson Beaugh's home on 31 October 1996. Lawrence Jacobs was charged with their murders and sentenced to death at a trial in 1998.
The conviction and death sentence were overturned by the Louisiana Supreme Court in 2001. This was on the grounds that Lawrence Jacobs had been denied his right to an impartial jury by the inclusion of jurors who displayed a strong predisposition to imposing death sentences. Having found this, the Court did not need to rule on the merits of the other claims raised in Lawrence Jacobs's appeal about the fairness of the jury selection. However, the Court noted that 'the prosecutor's alleged racial discrimination in the selection of jurors... also appears to raise serious questions regarding the propriety of the jury selection process in the case'. The prosecution had dismissed four of the five African-American jurors in the jury pool by using peremptory strikes (the right to reject jurors without giving a reason). The prosecution had also tried to dismiss the fifth African-American juror, but had been prevented from doing so by the trial judge. Lawrence Jacobs is black. Both the murder victims were white.
There is an unequivocal international legal prohibition on the use of the death penalty against people who were under 18 at the time of the crime. The Geneva Conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the American Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty, all have provisions exempting this age group from the death penalty. The prohibition stems from the recognition of the immaturity of young people and their capacity for rehabilitation.
When the USA ratified the ICCPR, it filed a 'reservation' purporting to exempt it from the prohibition on the execution on child offenders. The UN Human Rights Committee, the body established by the ICCPR to monitor that treaty's implementation, has stated that the reservation is invalid and should be withdrawn. It has confirmed that the prohibition cannot be derogated from, even in times of emergency, and has 'deplored' the USA's continuing execution of child offenders. The USA is the only country apart from Somalia not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In May 2002, Somalia signed the treaty and indicated its intention to become the 192nd country to ratify it.
In 2000, the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights affirmed that the imposition of the death penalty against people who were under 18 at the time of the crime violates customary international law, binding on all countries regardless of which treaties they have or have not ratified.
Since January 1993, 15 child offenders have been executed in the United States. In the same period, Amnesty International has documented eight such executions in the rest of the world combined - three in Iran, two in Pakistan, one in Nigeria, one in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and one in Yemen. Yemen and Pakistan have now legislated to abolish such use of the death penalty. In 2001, the death sentences of five child offenders in DRC were commuted and there is currently a moratorium on executions there. China, which accounts for most of the world's executions each year, nevertheless in 1997 abolished the use of the death penalty against defendants who were under 18 years old at the time of the crime.
The United Nations Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors state that prosecutors 'should be made aware of... human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized by national and international law'. The Guidelines also require prosecutors to 'perform their duties fairly, consistently and expeditiously, and respect and protect human dignity and uphold human rights'. Prosecutors 'must carry out their functions impartially and avoid... all discrimination', including racial discrimination.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in your own words:
- acknowledging the seriousness of the crime and the suffering it will have caused, and explaining that you are not seeking to excuse the manner in which Nelson and Della Beaugh died, or to comment on the guilt or innocence of the accused;
- expressing concern that the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office intends to seek another death sentence against Lawrence Jacobs in violation of international law respected in almost every country of the world which prohibits the use of the death penalty against people who were under 18 at the time of the crime;
- explaining that this prohibition stems from the recognition of a young person's immaturity and capacity for rehabilitation;
- pointing to the immense damage being done to the international reputation of the United States by its continuing resort to this use of the death penalty in the face of an overwhelming global consensus against such use;
- urging the prosecutor to rule out the death penalty as an option in this case.
If you wish, you may also express concern at allegations of racial discrimination during jury selection at the original trial, and cite the UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors.
District Attorney Paul Connick
Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office
200 Derbigny Street
Gretna, Louisiana 70053
Fax: 1 504 368 4562
Salutation: Dear District Attorney
PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk
Members of Group 22 have written many, many letters to Chinese President Jiang Zemin in behalf of Ngawang Pekar, an imprisoned Tibetan monk who is our group's adopted POC. This may well be our
last chance to write to Jiang Zemin, if he steps down from his post as expected at the next Party Congress in early November. Next month he is scheduled to visit President Bush for a one-day summit that he would like to go smoothly, since it will be one of his last diplomatic trips.
Chinese-Tibetan relations may be entering a new phase. As reported in our last month's newsletter, this year China released six Tibetan political prisoners before they had completed serving their
sentences. Currently two close associates of the Dalai Lama, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, are visiting Beijing and Lhasa. Although the Chinese claim that they are on an unofficial tour, the fact that their visit was permitted at all is significant because the two men have long been very critical of China's rule over Tibet. Let's hope that these encouraging developments lead to some real progress.
Here's a letter that you can copy or use as a guide.
President of the People's Republic of China
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 important matter.
(Your name and address)
Postage for a letter to China is still just 80 cents. Or save a few pennies and mail your letter to President Jiang Zemin, c/o Embassy of the People's Republic of China, 2300 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008. As always, please notify Group 22 if you should receive a response.
AI Press Release: Not in the Name if Human Rights
September 12, 2002. In his speech to the UN General Assembly today, President George Bush made reference to the serious human rights violations perpetrated upon the Iraqi people by their government. In the background paper distributed to the media, several references were made to Amnesty International's reports published over the years on the human rights situation in Iraq.
" Once again, the human rights record of a country is used selectively to legitimize military actions." Amnesty International said.
" The US and other Western governments turned a blind eye to Amnesty International reports of widespread human rights violations in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, and ignored Amnesty International's campaign on behalf of the thousands of unarmed Kurdish civilians killed in the 1988 attacks on Halabja.'
" As the debate on whether to use military force against Iraq escalates, the human rights of the Iraqi people, as a direct consequence of any potential military action, is sorely missing from the equation."
" Life, safety and security of civilians must be the paramount consideration in any action taken to resolve the current human rights and humanitarian crisis. The experience of previous armed intervention in the Gulf has shown that, all too often, civilians become the acceptable casualties of war."
" In the event of military action there is a serious possibility of large flows of refugees and the internal displacement of thousands of people. A humanitarian crisis can emerge caused by difficult or impossible delivery of basic supplies leaving shortages in food, medicine and the destruction of civilian infrastructure and institutions."
Please visit the AIUSA website (www.amnestyusa.org) for more information about Iraq.
(695 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena)
Note: If you plan to purchase the book at Vroman's look in the Fiction section or request it at Will Call..
By Moses Isegawa
At the center of this unforgettable tale is Mugezi, a young man who manages to make it through the hellish reign of Idi Amin and experiences firsthand the most crushing aspects of Ugandan society: he withstands his distant father's oppression and his mother's cruelty in the name of Catholic zeal, endures the ravages of war, rape, poverty, and AIDS, and yet he is able to keep a hopeful and even occasionally amusing outlook on life. Mugezi's hard-won observations form a cri de coeur for a people shaped by untold losses.
"As Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children was for modern India, Abyssinian Chronicles will likely prove to be a breakthrough book for Uganda." -- Time Out
"This briskly paced comic epic [is] an ironical bildungsroman that's also a full-scale portrayal of a traditional society in flux and in crisis . . . Overall, one of the most impressive works of fiction to have ever come out of Africa." -- Kirkus Reviews
Read us on line: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22
Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 / email@example.com
From the 210 exit on Lake Avenue, head south, turn left on Del Mar
From the 110 continue on Arroyo Parkway north, turn right on California
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Amnesty International Group 22
P.O. Box 50193
Pasadena, CA 91115-0193