Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News Volume XI Number 3, March 2003 UPCOMING EVENTS Vigil for Iraq. At the outbreak of war, join us in Pasadena's Central Park or attend a vigil near you. Please see Kathy's column or visit www.icujp.org/home.shtml for details. Thursday, March 27, 7:30 PM. Monthly Meeting 414 S. Holliston, Caltech Y Lounge. Help us plan future actions for Tibet, Iraq, the abolition of the death penalty, and more. This month we have a special guest, Christina Vargas, Ralph Bunche Fellow in the Western Regional Office who will share with us her work with AI's "Mentors for Diversity" program and her plans for an up-coming conference at UCLA. Tuesday, April 8, 7:30 PM. Letter-writing Meeting at the Athenaeum. Corner of California & Hill in the basement recreation area. This informal gathering is a great for newcomers to get acquainted with Amnesty! Sunday, April 27, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers Human Rights Book Discussion Group. Vroman's Book Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena. This month we discuss A Sky So Close by Iraqi author Betool Khediari. Note that this is a week later than our usual meeting due to Easter (See inside for more information.) COORDINATOR'S CORNER I write this column with a heavy heart tonight after watching President Bush on TV giving Sadaam Hussein an ultimatum to leave the country or we will attack Iraq. We may be at war by the time you receive this. What can we do? If you are an Amnesty member, the web site ( www.amnestyusa.org ) has actions to send to Bush and Powell, info on writing letters to the editor, online discussions, background info on human rights in Iraq, guidelines for events, etc. Regardless of whether you are an official AI member, Amnesty encourages everyone to join in a peace vigil within 48 hours of any intervention in Iraq. The link for local vigils is: www.icujp.org/home.shtml. Remember also, there will be a vigil in Pasadena's Central Park (bordered on south by Del Mar, west by Fair Oaks) 5 pm the day of the attack and 5 pm the day after, if hostilities begin at night. I have also received an email from American Friends Service Committee's Pasadena Office stating if the attack occurs on a weekend, the vigil will be at 12 noon that day and 12 noon the following day in case of night attack. Amnesty has an Iraq Crisis Newsletter that you can receive updates on. To sign up, go to www.amnestyusa.org/cprsignup.html. On a lighter note, Group 22's booth at the Environmental Education Fair March 8th at the Arboretum in Arcadia was a great success-thanks to Veronica and Joyce who set the table up and to all who staffed the table throughout the day. We had lots of passers by, including over 100 kids who signed the petitions to the Mexican and Ecuadorian governments on behalf of environmental activists! See the Ecuador action in the newsletter to add your voice! I recently attended a conference at Loyola-Marymount University on criminal justice issues sponsored by the LA Catholic Archdiocese. There were so many different workshops, but I went to one on gang intervention and one on unaccompanied immigrant children in the US. I met a young man from Honduras who was granted asylum after spending 8 months in juvenile hall detained by the INS and the LA Times reporter who wrote the series "Enrique's Journey" about the boy who rode the trains 7 times from Honduras to join his mom in the US. I met people from the Catholic Worker movement in LA, and people whose children were murder victims. I was inspired by all the work that is being done to reform the justice system. Don't forget the book discussion (an Iraqi novel this month) is the 4th Sunday in April, because our regular date-the 3rd Sunday- is Easter. Kathy email@example.com USA: TORTURE Urge an Investigation of Torture Allegations Join Amnesty International in urging President Bush to make an unequivocal statement condemning torture, calling for an investigation into recent reports that the United States Government may condone and even commit acts of torture, and ensuring that anyone responsible for torture is prosecuted and punished in accordance with US and international law. Torture is immoral, illegal, and counterproductive. Background Information Amnesty International has campaigned against the use of torture for over forty years and has documented the use of torture in more than 150 countries. The organization has documented a continuing decline in torture, down to 73% of countries surveyed in 2002, compared with 90% in the 2000 report entitled Torture Worldwide: An Affront to Human Dignity. The two-year decline coincided with Amnesty International's international campaign against torture. The organization is concerned that continued progress is threatened because of the current geo-political climate. Torture is immoral, illegal, and counterproductive. When utilized as a means of interrogation it may result in false statements. In addition, mistreatment of individuals instills resentment and anger in the victims, their families, friends, and community, and thus is certain to generate embittered opponents. This hostility can translate into devastating consequences for those they consider enemies. In addition, the use of torture can be a detriment to the moral and legal principles on which society is based. Moral authority and the ability to pressure allies are lost when world leaders resort to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading practices. Statements made by US officials suggesting that that the Government condones the mistreatment of prisoners and their possible torture gravely concerns Amnesty International. These allegations raise the possibility of serious violation of international law, of jeopardizing any moral leadership, and of demonstrating disregard for human dignity that may place Americans in greater risk in the future. Torture serves no purpose but to harm human beings and create new enemies. Furthermore, the US Government has stated that approximately 3,000 suspected al-Qaeda members have been detained worldwide since September 11, 2001. Many of those individuals are believed to be held in nations known to employ torture. Approximately 625 are currently being held at US military facilities at Guantanamo. The treatment of all detainees is a concern for Amnesty International, as well as the whereabouts of those being held abroad. As a world leader, silence or indifference from the United States will be perceived as an indication that this country condones torture and other egregious abuses. The United States must make clear that torture is an affront to human dignity that can never be justified and must be opposed in every country of the world. Otherwise, those who wage war on human rights will have won the battle against freedom. Recommended Action Write a letter to President Bush urging him to make an unequivocal statement condemning torture, calling for an investigation into recent reports that the United States Government may condone and even commit acts of torture, and ensuring that anyone responsible for torture is prosecuted and punished in accordance with US and international law. Sample Letter Note: Because personalized messages carry greater weight, we strongly encourage you to add your own thoughts to the message. The Honorable George W. Bush The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. President: I am extremely concerned by recent reports that officials of the United States Government condone the mistreatment and torture of prisoners and detainees. Amnesty International has campaigned against the use of torture for over forty years and has documented the use of torture in more than 150 countries. The US should stand firmly against all forms of torture in accordance with US and international law and the values this nation holds dear. Statements made by US officials suggesting that that the Government condones the mistreatment of prisoners and their possible torture gravely concerns Amnesty International. These allegations raise the possibility of serious violation of international law, of jeopardizing any moral leadership, and of demonstrating disregard for human dignity that may place Americans in greater risk in the future. Torture serves no purpose but to harm human beings and create new enemies. Furthermore, the US Government has stated that approximately 3,000 suspected al-Qaeda members have been detained worldwide since September 11, 2001. Many of those individuals are believed to be held in nations known to employ torture. Approximately 625 are currently being held at US military facilities at Guantanamo. The treatment of all detainees is a concern for Amnesty International, as well as the whereabouts of those being held abroad. As a world leader, the US must make clear that torture is never justified and must be opposed worldwide. The tenets of human dignity must not be sacrificed in US endeavors to preserve freedom worldwide. I urge you make an unequivocal declaration expressing that torture is never acceptable, that it is counterproductive, and against US and international law. Furthermore, I urge you to investigate these recent reports and ensure that anyone responsible for torture is prosecuted and punished. During these trying times, the US must reaffirm its commitment to the principles of unalienable, universal rights. Thank you for your attention and I look forward to your response. Sincerely, GOOD NEWS! Urgent Action Program 30th Anniversary Group 22 members gather the second Tuesday of each month to write Urgent Actions (see Upcoming Events for details). Please join us! "The torturer aims to isolate you, to cut all your links with the outside world. But Amnesty International was able to break that isolation.....When I saw my wife, I knew that my case had become public. I knew they could no longer kill me." Professor Luiz Rossi, Brazil. Amnesty International will be marking 30 years of its Urgent Action technique on Wednesday 19 March this year. This very effective campaign technique mobilizes tens of thousands of Amnesty supporters world-wide to send urgent letters, faxes and e-mails on behalf of those in immediate danger of torture, execution, "disappearence" and other human rights violations. The first appeal for Urgent Action was issued in 1973, the inspiration of Amnesty researcher Tracy Ulltveit-Moe, who still works for the human rights organisation in London. Brazilian prisoner, Professor Luiz Rossi, was under threat of torture from the military government. It was not until the letters started to pour in that Rossi's relatives were allowed to visit him. Although many people taken into police custody and were never seen again, Rossi was eventually freed in October 1973. "My case proves this activity has a meaning, has an effect," Vaclev Havel, Czechoslovakia 1989. Vaclav Havel, one of the most famous subjects of an Urgent Action appeal, was arrested in January 1989. He was released four months later following a flood of letters and faxes from Amnesty supporters. However, most appeals are for men and women, sometimes even for children, who may not otherwise be known outside their families or communities. With nowhere else to turn, these victims of oppression depend on Amnesty members worldwide: "Thank you from my heart, I received your letters, a gesture of comfort and humanity, uniting strength to try and save our lives. The struggle has been difficult since I denounced the murderers of my son. We have suffered a lot of hardship and aggression, and have all been the target of much violence and threats. But thanks to the support of each one of you, I will carry on, in order that justice may be done, and that other children will not be killed and that such crimes will not go unpunished." Dr Elma Novais, Brazil, January 2003, who, with her two children, faced threats and intimidation following her work to bring to justice those responsible for killing her son. "Since the first one was issued in 1973 countless people from China to Chile, from Syria to Morocco, have told us that an Urgent Action helped save them. In over one third of cases we hear of some improvement in the situation of the people concerned," Amnesty International said. "Guards at the labour colony were overwhelmed with the amount of cards from supporters I received. The few cards that reached me directly in the colony brightened the greyness of my existence." Grigory Pasko, Russia 2003. In January this year, a Russian prisoner of conscience Grigory Pasko was released two-thirds of the way through his four-year sentence for filming nuclear waste being dumped in the Sea of Japan. Thousands of Amnesty supporters world-wide wrote tirelessly on Pasko's behalf . In 1973, Amnesty issued eleven Urgent Actions. Unfortunately Urgent Action is still needed and by 2002, the number had grown to 468 on behalf of people in 83 countries. Each case generating thousands of letters, e-mails & faxes to the authorities: a post-bag no government should ignore. RIGHTS READERS Human Rights Book Discussion Group Vroman's Bookstore 695 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena Sunday, April 27, 6:30 PM A Sky So Close by Betool Khedairi In this elegant, incisive debut, a young girl comes of age while aching for a sense of belonging. Daughter of an Iraqi father and an English mother, the unnamed narrator struggles with isolation both in the traditional Iraqi countryside where she's raised and at the Western school of music and ballet that her mother insists she attend. Though she finds some semblance of solace in dance, her trials increase when her family moves to Baghdad. Then comes the outbreak of war, which compels her to move with her mother to England, where her most pointed heartaches await. Gently poetic but emotionally unflinching, A Sky So Close is a daringly fresh look into the clash between East and West and into the soul of a woman formed by two cultures yet fully accepted by neither. "This novel is not just about Iraq; it is about childhood, racism, despair, the abyss between East and West, and, above all, how to succeed in surpassing these, using a crucial survival kit: love, the pursuit of freedom, art, resilience. All of this comes to us in a modern, captivating style from a fresh, new voice in Arab literature." --Hanan Al-Shaykh, author of Women of Sand and Myrrh and I Sweep the Sun Off Rooftops PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk Group 22 continues to work on behalf of our "adopted" prisoner of conscience(POC) Ngawang Pekar (naw-wan pee-kar), a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Pekar has been imprisoned since 1989 after being arrested by Chinese authorities for participating in a peaceful demonstration in the city of Lhasa in support of Tibetan independence. We've known for quite some time about the existence of two other Amnesty groups, one in Belgium and the other in Japan, that are also striving for the release of Ngawang Pekar. Although we've never succeeded in establishing contact with either of these groups, we recently learned of another AIUSA group in Miami that is also working on behalf of Pekar! Although as of yet we have not obtained any contact information for this group, it is hoped that in the near future we'll be able to join forces with them and organize some coordinated actions. Stay tuned! With all of the recent attention on "regime change" in Iraq, few people have taken note of two extremely important changes in leadership that just occurred in China. On March 15, Hu Jintao was officially appointed as the new President of the People's Republic of China (PRC), replacing Jiang Zemin, and on March 16 Wen Jiabao was named as the new Premier of the PRC, replacing Zhu Rongji. What effect this change in leadership will have on China in general, and on Tibet in particular, will have to be seen, and we can only hope that they consider human rights to be a matter worthy of their attention. With that said, let's welcome Wen Jiaboa to his new position and introduce him to someone who needs his help, Ngawang Pekar. Below is a sample letter you can either copy or use as a guide in composing your own: Your Excellency, I would like to congratulate you on your recent appointment as Premier of the People's Republic of China and trust that you will fulfill your responsibilities with wisdom and honor. With that in mind, I wish to bring to your attention a prisoner being held in Tibet Autonomous Region Prison No. 1. The prisoner's name is NGAWANG PEKAR (layname: Paljor). 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. 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. Especially in light of the fact that he has now completed his 14-year sentence, I respectfully urge you to request that Ngawang Pekar's case be reviewed and that he be immediately and unconditionally released in accordance with the international laws to which China is signatory. I further request that he be allowed access to independent non-governmental agencies so that his current state of well being may be determined and made known. 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. Sincerely, Address your letter to: WEN Jiabao Zongli Guowuyuan 9 Xihuangchenggenbeijie Beijingshi 100032 People's Republic of China Overseas postage for a normal letter is 80 cents, 70 cents for an aerogram. Should you receive a reply, please notify Group 22. LETTER COUNT Urgent Action 31 Just Earth Program 27 Total: 58 Want to add your letters to the total? Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org JUST EARTH: ECUADOR Safety of Indigenous Activists in Oil Zones Concerns for the safety of environmental and Indigenous activists in Ecuador's oil zones are well founded. Ecuadorian security forces have been cited for numerous cases of human rights abuses against the civilian population. These incidents point to the need for a preventive strategy to ensure that communities and activists who oppose the government's development policies and the irresponsible practices of the oil industry are safe from abuse. Recommended Action * Urge the Ecuador government to uphold Constitutional guarantees and ILO Convention 169 that protects the rights of Ecuadorian Indigenous peoples. * Ask the Ecuador government to take immediate steps to ensure that Indigenous communities, as well as environmental and human rights organizations, are included in an open dialogue with oil companies on the future of oil development in Ecuador. * Call on the Ecuador government to respect peoples' rights to freedom of association, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement as detailed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Ecuador has agreed to observe. * Call on the Ecuador government to respect the internationally recognized collective rights, including land rights of Indigenous peoples, and to support their right to free, prior, and informed consent for oil development activities on their lands. * Urge the Ecuador government to uphold international human rights standards including the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, when deploying security forces to protect oil facilities. * Urge the Ecuador government to ensure that all human rights defenders, including environmental and Indigenous rights activists, are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear for their safety, in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Write to: Lucio Gutierrez President of the Republic of Ecuador c/o Ambassador Ivonne A-Baki Embassy of Ecuador 2535 15th Street, NW Washington DC 20009 E-mail: email@example.com Occident Petroleum is leading the consortium developing the trans-Ecuadorian oil pipeline. Demand accountability from Occidental Petroleum: * Urge Occidental to respect the right of Indigenous and campesino communities to be consulted in a free, fair and impartial manner in order to give free, prior and informed consent before undertaking any oil development activities on their lands. * Urge Occidental to fully respect the rights of Indigenous peoples, as set out in ILO Convention 169, including the right to share in the benefits of development, in communities where oil development exists. * Call on Occidental to (1) disclose existing security arrangements with Ecuadorian military forces and private security forces; and, (2) disclose consultation processes with affected local communities. * Urge Occidental to ensure that any security firms used or employed by them are trained to respect and protect the human rights of the local population and are held accountable for any abuses. * Call on Occidental to cooperate with local communities and the Ecuadorian government to undertake an independent and verifiable audit to assess the environmental impacts of its operations and develop a plan for corrective action and environmental auditing. * Urge Occidental to ensure that just and fair compensation will be provided promptly for any land or other property acquired. Write to: Dr. Ray R. Irani Chair and CEO Occidental Petroleum Corporation 10889 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, California 90024-4201 While Chevron Texaco left Ecuador in 1992, local communities are still complaining about the effects of its irresponsible drilling practices. Demand accountability from Chevron Texaco: * Call on Chevron Texaco to address the environmental pollution in the Ecuadorian Amazon by fully cooperating with investigations into alleged environmental damages and related human rights abuses and working in good faith with the Ecuador government and the affected communities to develop and implement a plan to address pollution and compensate those affected as appropriate. Write to: Mr. David O'Reilly Chair and CEO Chevron Texaco Corporation 575 Market Street San Francisco, CA 94105 Editor's Last Word: Read us on line: www.its.caltech.edu/~aigp22 Martha Ter Maat, 626-281-4039 / firstname.lastname@example.org Amnesty International Group 22 P.O. Box 50193 Pasadena, CA 91115-0193 Amnesty International's mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.