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for AI speakers, staff
Urgent Action Program Office
Nederland CO 80466-1270
December 1999 - July 2000 best,
Below is an informal collection of UA-related stories with a positive slant. For the horrible details, you can read the Urgent Actions and UA Newsletters themselves. We are constantly asked for UA success stories, thank-you quotes from prisoners, and other unique stories reflecting not only prisoners situations but also AI volunteers activism. We hope that some of the information found in UA Notes might be used to compliment an AI presentation, either on paper or a talk from behind a podium. We are distributing this to regional office directors, our executive director, the development staff, and to anyone who asks to receive it. You are welcome to copy any part of UA Notes for others and if you would like us to put anyone else within AIUSA on our mail list just let us know. Email Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a text version of this paper emailed to you. We issue UA Notes whenever we have collected enough good news from Urgent Actions to fill these pages.
Scott Harrison and Ellen Moore
Co-directors for the Urgent Action Network
CAMEROON: 53 prisoners, including: Ebenezer Akwanga , 26, Fon Peter Fonyam, 50, Bika Iderisu,
22, Ndifet Zacharia Khan, 56, Grace Yaya Kwei, 38, Wilson Che Neba, 19,
Fidelis Nyankwe, 40, Ndum Anoh Robertson , 68 , Ndifon Joseph Tangu, 58, Salifu Tanko,
80 , Philip Tete , 59 (UA 113/98 issued 15 April 1998 and re-issued 15
April 1998, 14 August 1998, 10 September 1998, 29 October 1998, 18
December 1998, 26 February 1999, 2 August 1999). On 27 October 1999, Grace
Yaya Kwei, who was one of those released on 8 October and Stanley
Nseke, who was released on bail last year, sent the following message to
Amnesty International on behalf of their group of prisoners:
We write to appreciate your commendable support for us during our long period of detention. We understand that as soon as you became aware of our arrest, you mobilized your members all over the world, in order to pressurize our government...
It was comforting to know that people were talking about us out there. Some of us spent long months in the hospitals and either got well or died. On their behalf too, we write this appreciation.
Although we have been released we still face numerous problems, especially as we have been forced to restart our lives. Our farms, jobs, businesses were all lost, and some of us even lost homes. Also we continue to think about our brothers, husbands, fathers and children who have been sentenced...
Again, thank you for your support and for the support of others...
LONG LIVE AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Grace Yaya Kweis husband and son were sentenced to life and 10 years imprisonment respectively.
COLOMBIA: Diana SALAMANCA MARTÍNEZ (EX 158/99 issued November 11, 1999 and re-issued November
15, 1999). Human rights worker Diana Salamanca Martínez was released on 13 November
1999, three days after she was abducted by paramilitaries. However, it is now
known that three peasant farmers were abducted with her. Work continues on their
behalf. Diana Salamanca works with the non-governmental human rights organization Intercongregational Commission for
Justice and Peace. The organization issued a statement thanking international non-governmental organizations and
others for their support in securing her release.
IRAN : Morteza Amini Moqaddam and Hamed Nazari (EX 183/99 issued December 23, 1999).
On 3 January 2000, Morteza Amini Moqaddam narrowly escaped being hanged after the
father of the man he was found guilty of murdering appealed for clemency.
The Azad newspaper reported that Morteza Amini Moqaddam was brought to the site
of the execution at the scheduled time but that after the death sentence
was read out and the noose placed over his head, the father of
the victim, present to initiate the death sentence, asked the judicial officials to
grant him clemency. Morteza Amini Moqaddam reportedly stood with the noose over his
head for around half an hour while his fate was decided. Associated Press
later reported the father of the deceased as having said: When I saw
his hands cuffed behind him and the noose around his neck and everyone
was waiting for my order, I thought that... if this boy is dead,
it will not bring back my son.
The father was apparently applauded by the crowd and hoisted to shoulder-height by
a number of young people. About 3000 people had turned up to witness
the hanging. Morteza Amini Moqaddam has since been transferred to Qasr prison while
the judicial authorities decide his sentence. Latest reports indicate that he may not
yet be 18 years old. On 3 January, the Azad newspaper reported that
Morteza Amini Moqaddam had expressed his regret to the family of the deceased,
acknowledging his past errors and vowing to be a useful individual to society
until the end of his life. It is not known if the sentence
of 74 lashes passed on Hamed Nazari, charged in connection with the same
case, has been carried out.
ISRAEL/ SOUTH LEBANON: Inmates of Khiam Detention Centre (UA 03/98, UA 130/98, UA 268/98, UA 186/99, UA 247/99, EXTRA 128/99, EXTRA 130/99, EXTRA 142/99, UA 21/00, UA 51/00, UA 66/00, UA 89/00, UA 96/00 and UA 123/00 issued during 1998, 1999 and 2000). All the 144 Lebanese men, women and even children who were detained as hostages in Khiam Detention Centre were freed on 23 May. Khiam Detention Centre was the main detention and interrogation centre in Israeli-occupied south Lebanon, run by the South Lebanon Army (SLA), Israels proxy militia. Detainees held there without charge or trial for up to 15 years were subjected to systematic torture, relentless interrogation through beatings, dousing with water and torture with electric shocks. For the past seven years detainees were cut off from the outside world, their families and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) denied access to them. Amnesty International was told that after Israeli forces started to withdraw from South Lebanon, the people of Khiam town went to the detention centre demanding that the prisoners were released. The SLA jailers, after negotiating a safe passage, left to join other SLA members streaming to the border to seek refuge in Israel.
The detainees, hearing shouting and shooting in the air, at first feared that people were being executed. One of those now free told an Amnesty International team in Khiam: "We got close to the window in our cell to try to hear better as we did not understand what was happening. There was shouting and we heard shooting. Then we saw a boy out of the window. He said 'where is the door'? We knew then we were free". The people of Khiam then broke down the doors using what tools they could find.
While in Khiam, Amnesty International delegates were able to show the freed prisoners
some of the hundreds of letters from Urgent Action network members that the
Israeli authorities had claimed they could not deliver to the SLA. This international
solidarity will be essential as those detained in Khiam start to rebuild their
lives. Amnesty International has already seen how this solidarity does have an effect
as prisoners learn that people from different countries, including countries they associated with
their tormentors, had been campaigning on their behalf for many years.
MALAYSIA: Tian Chua, Parti Keadilan Nasional (PKN) Vice-President, Roslan Kassim, PKN Information Chief,
Mohd Ezam Mohd Nor, PKN Youth Chief, N. Gopalankrishnan, PKN Supreme Council member,
Abdul Malek Hussain, Mohd Hafiz Hashim, aged 17 and at least 46 others
(EX 41/00 issued April 17, 2000). All those arrested in connection with
the 15 April demonstration in support of imprisoned former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar
Ibrahim were reportedly released on police bail by 24 April. PKN Vice-President Tian
Chua has been charged with illegal assembly, in connection with a peaceful demonstration
in March against restrictions imposed on an opposition newspaper. The newspaper was ordered
to publish only twice a month, rather than twice a week. He faces
several similar charges in connection with previous demonstrations. The Malaysian human rights
organization SUARAM recently sent Amnesty International the following message: We would like to
thank all our friends, supporters and NGOs who had mobilized support and protests
on this latest round of unjust detention.
January 4, 2000
Dear Ms. Lemman,
Greetings from one of your adopted prisoners of conscience from Malaysia. I am finally free after spending one year in jail for trying to defend an underage girl who was raped and instead of being protected by the law, was punished and detained for three years.
The girls rapists were never jailed because of the Malaysian governments attempt to cover up the scandal as the rapists allegedly included a senior government minister. I find a certain satisfaction that a man can go to prison for womens rights.
During these bleak days in prison, your letters brought me much cheer. Coming from foreign lands, it gives a whiff of exotic places far away that makes you forget the dismal situation one is in for a while. Even the stamps lend promise of a much better world outside, one that we can escape to if we can endure he adversities of prison life. These little things matter when you are a prisoner with nothing much to look forward to.
I can never say thank you enough to all of you who wrote, whether in English or languages I did not understand, especially little notes and crayon drawings from children. Your cards and messages of support give hope not only to a better future but also personal comfort when I am ill that I am not alone.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that one gets abandoned by friends when in prison even for a just cause. I never lost faith for I know that I have friends in Amnesty International. That is the magic of AI, its ability to gather a community of peoples all over the world for the common cause of humanity and dignity of man and womannot only to lend hope to prisoners of conscience but also give human fellowship and warmth.
From the scriptures, we learn the value of serving others, of raising the soul by diminishing the self. In AI, we have seen its practical application.
I wish to share some of my experiences inside my prison where I learnt a great deal of the sorrows of fighting injustice. Such sorrow endured by my family and me, painful though it may be, is expected. What is not expected though is that sorrow can help to strengthen my resolve to endure all these adversities. Struggling on despite our sorrow serves to affirm and reaffirm the commitment to our cause and the rightness of our principles.
Even though I have lost almost everything, I am thankful for the love of my family and the moral support you all have shown. I will still continue my struggle to bring justice, freedom and humanity to people. Prison bars may break our backs but they can never break our spirit to demand nothing less than equality for women. Together we can overcome, whether in Malaysia or other parts of the world. May God bless you.
-Lim Guan Eng
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: Dr Abd al-Sattar Qassem, 50, Professor of Political Science , Ahmad Shakr
Dudin, 58, retired teacher , Dr Yasser Fayeq Abu Safieh, 45, physician , Dr Afif
Suleiman al-Judeh, 45, physician , Dr Abd al-Rahim Kittani, 47, Dr Adel Samara, 57,
economist , Ahmad Qatamesh, 46, writer and political activist and Adnan Odeh, director of
the research unit of the Palestinian Legislative Council (UA 319/99 issued December 15,
1999 and re-issued December 20, 1999. Dr Abd al-Sattar Qassem and Ahmad Shakr
Dudin were released on 6 January 2000. They were both required to sign
an undertaking to appear in court if requested, and to pay 50,000 Jordanian
Dinars (about $US 75,000) if they failed to do so. Dr Abd al-Sattar
Qasssem thanked Amnesty International for campaigning for his release. The Palestinian Authority had
arrested them and the other six academics and writers named above in November
1999, after they signed a statement criticizing the Palestinian political leadership. Amnesty International
considered them to be prisoners of conscience. The other six were released on
19 December 1999.
PARAGUAY: Francisco CARBALLO FIGUEREDO (15), Ruben Dario ALCARAZ (17) and other detainees at the 'Panchito Lopez' juvenile detention center (UA 52/00 issued February 28, 2000 and re-issued July 19, 2000). Some 200 minors are still held at the Panchito Lopez juvenile detention center, although the government has maintained for several years that all the inmates were shortly to be transferred to a new purpose-built facility. Amnesty International considers that conditions of detention at Panchito Lopez amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and continues to work on behalf of the inmates there. A local NGO, Defensa de los Ninos Internacional (DNI), International Children's Defense, have thanked Amnesty International for the Urgent Action appeals:
"The work that Amnesty International has done in supporting us has been really
important to the children deprived of their freedom, as the pressure from more
than a hundred letters... made the authorities take action...Once again our thanks to
Amnesty International for the help that you have given us and that was
apparent in the actions of the national authorities."
SYRIA: Randa Ayyubi, 40, housewife (UA 48/00 issued February 24, 2000 and re-issued
March 21, 2000). Randa Ayyubi has been released, eight months after she was
arrested. She was detained after she made an anti-government remark in the street.
The family expressed great gratitude for the work of the Urgent Action network.
She was reportedly freed on 17 May. Her husband and eldest son, who
were arrested with her, had been released at the end of February.
TUNISIA: Abdelmoumen Belanes, Fahem Boukaddous, Taoufik Chaieb, Sadok Chourou, Samir Dillou, Fathi Karraoud,
Abdellatif Mekki, Fathi al-Ouarghi and dozens of others (UA 130/00 issued May 23,
2000 and re-issued June 7, 2000). Abdelmoumen Belanes and Fahem Boukaddous were released
on 10 June, after they were granted a presidential pardon . Abdelmoumen Belanes immediately
called Amnesty International to thank all the organisations members for their support and
help. He said that he would end his hunger strike, which he had
kept up for 33 days, under medical supervision. Taoufik Chaieb stopped his
hunger strike after he was given the dental care he needed. Fathi al-Ouarghi
also reportedly stopped his hunger strike at the beginning of June. Some of
the other political prisoners are reported to have stopped their hunger strikes for
medical reasons, while others have decided to continue. As their families are not
allowed to visit prisoners on hunger strike, it is very difficult for Amnesty
International to check these reports.
TUNISIA: Human rights defenders and their relatives (UA 98/00 issued April 28, 2000
and re-issued May 4 and May 9, 2000). Human rights activists Fathi Chamkhi
and Mohamed Chourabi, and photocopy shop owner Iheb el Hani, were released from
Mornag prison on 8 May. Jallal Zoughlami is still in prison, reportedly continuing
the hunger strike he began on 30 April. On 9 May Fathi
Chamkhi told Amnesty International: "We are so happy about all the support we
received. We want to thank all those who supported us, anonymous or famous
people. [The Tunisian authorities] released us reluctantly, because of all the international pressure.
We will keep on fighting until our organization is authorized."
TURKEY: Ali Gülmez, Ganime Bozlu (name corrected), Erol Gültekin, Namik Yüksel and
Hayriye Yüksel (EX 23/00 issued March 10, 2000 and re-issued March 13, 2000).
Hayriye Yüksel was released on 15 March, while Ganime Bozlu, Erol Gültekin and
Namik Yüksel were remanded to Ümraniye prison. The charges against them have not
yet been announced. Ali Gülmez was remanded to Tokat prison on 15 March.
During interrogation he was charged with being the secretary general of the leftist
armed organisation TKP/ML-TIKKO. He rejects this charge. Unlike other prisoners held in
similar circumstances, they were not tortured in police and gendarmerie custody. Security officers
told them: Amnesty International is making a big fuss about you. We wont
do anything to you. They were ill-treated, however. At the Gendarmerie in Tokat
Ali Gülmez told his lawyer, who was allowed to visit him on 13
March only with two soldiers present, that he had been prevented from sleeping,
forced to stand for long periods and constantly interrogated. Ganime Bozlu, Erol Gültekin
and Namik Yüksel reported similar treatment at the Anti-Terror Branch of Istanbul Police
USA/ Oklahoma: Cornel Cooks (EX 152/99 issued October 29, 1999). They are extremely impressed with the UA Network in Oklahoma. Cornel Cook's legal team are really grateful for the response to the Urgent Action issued on his behalf. Here is a message from one of them: "I am amazed as to how many people indicated they would respond. That is wonderful! I visited Cornel for 3 hours on Friday and he is holding up well. He was glad to know about the support coming in from all around. I think it really lifted his spirits."
We are grateful for all your work over the past months. The members
of the Agrupación de Detenidos-Desaparecidos, Association of Relatives of the Disappeared, and other
Chilean NGOs have expressed their gratitude for your work.
USA /Virginia: Steve Edward Roach, aged 23 (UA 316/99 issued December 13, 1999).
Steve Edward Roach was executed in the state of Virginia on 13
January 2000 for a crime committed when he was 17 years old. International
law bans the use of the death penalty against child offenders -- those
who commit crimes when under 18 years old. Steve Roach was sentenced to
death in 1995 for the murder of his neighbor, 70-year-old Mary Ann Hughes,
on 3 December 1993. She was shot at her home in the small
rural town of Stanardsville in Greene County.
The following is the full statement given by Steve Roachs lawyer after he
was executed on 13 January:
Steve Edward Roach was put to death tonight by the Commonwealth of Virginia. He died at 9.04pm, Eastern Standard Time, on January 13, 2000. He was 17 years old when he committed the crime that led to his execution, and 23 when he died: the youngest person to be executed by the Commonwealth in modern times. As his lawyer, I witnessed his death. Steve asked me to make this public statement, which we discussed earlier this week at length, on his behalf.
As Steve faced death, his thoughts were first of his wife, now his widow. They were then of Mary Hughes, his neighbor and friend, and of her family and community. They were of other young people, very like Steve himself, who might have been saved from the consequences of broken youths by his participation and his example. He sincerely wished that James Gilmore, Governor of Virginia, had found it in his heart to spare his life, so that he might have been able to make some small effort to help to save the lives of others.
But the Governor chose not to intervene. So be it. Steve wanted to be certain that the reports of his death at the hands of the Commonwealth also reflected four of the beliefs that he carried with him to the very end: his love for and gratitude toward those who selflessly tried to prevent this from happening; his genuine remorse for the terrible act he committed; the confidence that in life he had secured the forgiveness of his God, even if he never quite persuaded himself that he was worthy of that forgiveness; and the certainty that the deliberate, methodical killing of children is inconsistent with the values of any civilized society. He knew that his apology, however heartfelt, would not fill the void left by Mary Hughes, but neither will his death.
Steve died without bitterness, but with a great deal of regret. He never understood what really happened in the instant in which he took the life of someone who loved him. And he was unable to grasp, even to his last breath, why we kill people to teach other people that killing people is wrong. The principal lesson he wanted his own death to communicate is that this makes no sense. Killing kids makes no sense, and it must be stopped. It is too late to save Steve Roach; it is not too late to save the life of the next young man or woman who, in a moment of bewildered rage or utter confusion, commits an act totally out of character in its violence and awful in its result, yet which does not place its perpetrator forever beyond the power of redemption in this life.
After the execution, his attorney released a statement on behalf of the 23-year-old:
It was important to Steve Roach to be remembered not just as the teenager who committed a horrible crime, but also the adult who accepted responsibility for it and begged the forgiveness of those he caused to suffer. And not just as someone who ended a life for no reason, but also as someone whose own life was ended to no-ones benefit. Steve Roach wanted us who live after his death to know that he was not a monster: He was a human being, a young man, with flaws and with promise who deserved to live. The principle lesson he wanted his own death to communicate is that this makes no sense. Killing kids makes no sense, and it must be stopped.
USA /South Carolina: Leroy Joseph Ricky DRAYTON, aged 44 (EX 160/99 issued November
Ricky Drayton was executed by lethal injection at 6pm local time in the Broad River Correctional Institution, Columbia, South Carolina. He had been sentenced to death for killing Rhonda Darlene Smith, white, in 1984.
Ricky Drayton made no final statement before his execution. The state Governor denied clemency at 5pm. His legal advisor had met with Ricky Draytons lawyers in the morning to hear their plea for clemency. Ricky Drayton becomes the 85th prisoner executed in the USA this year. This is the highest annual total since 1951. A total of 585 prisoners have been executed nationwide since the USA resumed executions in 1977. We have been asked by a member of the defense team in South Carolina to thank all those UA participants who were able to send appeals into the Governor at such short notice.
USA /Texas: Odell Barnes Jr. (UA 20/00 issued March 2, 2000). Odell Barnes
was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas, on 1 March 2000. He
maintained his innocence to the end. He was sentenced to death in 1991
for the 1989 murder of Helen Bass in Wichita Falls. According to recent
investigations by his lawyers, the physical evidence against him has been exposed as
unreliable, and key prosecution witnesses have been implicated in the crime. Neither Governor
George W Bush, who was away campaigning to become Republican candidate for US
President, nor Texas Lt Governor Rick Perry, who was standing in for him,
used their power to grant a 30-day reprieve. According to reports, when asked
what he wanted for his final meal, Odell Barnes replied: Justice, equality and
world peace. In his final statement before being executed he thanked those who
had worked on his behalf: I thank you for proving my innocence, although
it has not been acknowledged by the courts. May you continue in the
struggle and may you change all thats being done here today and in
the past. Among those that appealed to Governor Bush to stop the execution
was Pope John Paul II, who urged compassion for Odell Barnes. Governor Bushs
bid for the presidency has been run under a banner of compassionate conservatism.
UZBEKISTAN: Arsen Albertovich ARUTYUNYAN, aged 20 and Danis Vladimirovich SIRAZHEV, aged 24
Danis, left and Arsen, right
(EX 178/99 issued December 14, 1999 and re-issued December 21, 1999, April 19 and
May 9, 2000). Danis Sirazhevs death sentence has been commuted to 15 years
imprisonment, according to unofficial sources. Arsen Arutyunyan had his death sentence commuted in
the same way in March. The two men were transferred from their death
cell in a prison in Tashkent to a prison colony in the town
of Andizhan last week. The families of the two men thank you
all for your work. Arsen Arutyunyans sister writes: |
"Had it not been for the work of your organisation, your approaches to the media, your persistent work, we couldnt have hoped for a good outcome. When I first turned to you, my whole family and I were desperate and, to tell the truth, didnt think that anything or anybody could help. But the miracle came true, a miracle worked not by God but by people. My brother Arsen learnt of the decision through his lawyer and couldnt believe it. It took 15 minutes for him to realize that he would stay alive. He kept repeating Ill live, and Im going to write new songs."
Amnesty International has received reports of death threats made by high ranking government officials against members of the MDC, notably against the MDC Member of Parliament (MP) David Coltart. In light of the pre-election violence, during which at least 30 MDC members were killed, David Coltart and other members of the MDC are taking these threats very seriously. Letters sent by the Amnesty International membership have been very well received in Zimbabwe. The Amani Trust, a Zimbabwe human rights organisation, asked us to pass on their thanks: "We write to you in response to the many copies we received from you of letters to high government officials of Zimbabwe in which you condemn acts of violence committed in the wake of the recent parliamentary elections here. THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of you!"