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Urgent Action Program Office
P.O.Box 1270
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June 1999 - November 1999

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 AIUSA 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 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

SRI LANKA: Kandasamy Sri Ram (EX 129/99 issued September 10, 1999). Amnesty International has received a letter from Kandasamy Sri Ram, who was tortured by police at Mirihana police station after his arrest on 25 August 1999.

In his letter, dated 15 October, he writes that he was given bail on 15 September. He goes on to say, “I wish to thank all of the members of Amnesty International” who wrote letters on his behalf.

GERMANY: FATHELRAHMAN ABDALLAH (EX 72/99 issued June 17, 1999 and re-issued June 22 and 28, 1999). Fathelrahman Abdallah, the Sudanese national detained in Nuremberg awaiting deportation, was released on 30 June 1999. His deportation has been postponed pending a later hearing. Amnesty International feared that Fathelrahman Abdallah would be imprisoned, ill-treated and tortured if he were deported to Sudan. On 30 June the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) in Karlsruhe postponed the deportation so that new evidence could be considered in his case. The court cited Amnesty International's urgent action campaign as evidence that Fathelrahman Abdallah would be at risk if deported.

RWANDA: LÉONIDAS NDIKUMWAMI, businessman from Burundi (EX 71/97 issued May 19, 1997 and re-issued June 2, 1997) . Léonidas Ndikumwami, a Burundian national who was sentenced to death in Rwanda after an unfair trial in January 1997, was acquitted by the Court of Appeal in May 1999. He was released on 7 July 1999. Léonidas Ndikumwami has since expressed his gratitude to all those who participated in Amnesty International's Urgent Action. He said that the knowledge that the organization was acting on his behalf had been a great source of comfort to him during his time in prison. He also wishes Amnesty International success in its campaign for an end to the use of the death penalty worldwide.

VENEZUELA: JOSÉ ASDRUBAL RÍOS ROJAS AND FAMILY (UA 127/99 issued June 2, 1999). José Asdrubal Ríos Rojas is no longer being threatened or harassed by the Policía Metropolitana (PM), Metropolitan Police. José Asdrubal Ríos Rojas was beaten and threatened by police officers after he witnessed a police raid on his neighbor's house in May this year. After he filed an official complaint police officers apparently stood outside his house threatening him. According to a local human rights organization, the Metropolitan Police and the officials directly responsible for the threats received a great number of appeals from Urgent Action network members, which had helped to end the harassment.

, student, Palestinian (EX 18/99 issued February 9, 1999 and re-issued March 15 and 22, 1999). Jihad Husni Mohammed Shehadeh was released on bail without charge on Tuesday 16 March 1999. He had been under interrogation by Israel's General Security Service (GSS) since 7 February.

Jihad Husni Mohammed Shehadeh was arrested in August 1997 under an administrative detention order, a procedure by which detainees are held without charge or trial for a renewable period of up to six months on the orders of a military commander. For years, Amnesty International has expressed concern that secret Israeli guidelines, authorized by the 1987 Landau Report, allow the use of torture or ill-treatment, which the report calls "moderate physical pressure". In October 1994 a special ministerial committee said that "increased physical pressure" could be used during interrogation. GSS officers have admitted in court to subjecting detainees to prolonged sleep deprivation and forcing them to sit, stand or squat in painful positions for long periods of time. Violent shaking (tiltul), which may cause brain damage, has also been used, but must be authorized by the head of the GSS. The Committee against Torture and a UN Special Rapporteur on Torture have described many of these practices as "methods of torture" as defined in the UN Convention against Torture. The Israeli government, however, denies they constitute torture.

Many thanks to all who sent appeals on behalf on Jihad Husni Mohammed Shehadeh. Your support was very valuable and boosted his morale.

UNITED STATES / OKLAHOMA: SCOTTY LEE MOORE (EX 56/99 issued May 4, 1999). We want to share an excerpt of a letter written by Scotty Lee Moore while he was in an isolation cell waiting for his execution date.

" I would like to say that the many letters, cards, telegrams and emails I have received and all the letters sent to Clemency Board members and the Governor have been a tremendous help and support to me. They have helped me maintain hope and connection to the rest of the real world. I am very grateful. Also, I believe that the impact of the international pressure placed upon US state and federal officials IS HAVING A POSITIVE IMPACT. In times past, we became discouraged with the letter writing campaigns, signing of petitions, etc hoping that this would bring relief to death sentenced people and seeing little result. But recently we have seen the tide beginning to turn. There are signs that the pressure, in whatever form, from the international community IS HAVING impact on the political leaders who have been so determined to kill in the name of 'Justice'. A particular example is of my clemency hearing, where Assistant Attorney General Bill Hume was irate, rude and vicious in his attack against Amnesty International and all international supporters of me. His fear was a signal that what you are doing is working!!! So my word to you is please do not become discouraged... We cannot expect to win them all. The harsh reality is more will be murdered by the state. We cannot allow these state sanctioned killings to overwhelm or defeat us. If we do nothing we can be sure we will get nothing. My hope and prayer is that regardless of the hard task ahead, those of you in the international community will continue in this struggle. I believe St. Augustine said it best: "An unjust law is no law". Please continue this battle and know how much your presence and your contact helps those of us caught up in this nightmare." Unfortunately, Scotty Lee Moore was executed by lethal injection in Oklahoma shortly after midnight, local time, on 3 June.

PAKISTAN: NAJAM SETHI, JOURNALIST. (UA 107/99 issued 14 may 1999 and re-issued 21 May 1999). Najam Sethi, editor of the national newspaper Friday Times was released 2 June 1999. He was arbitrarily arrested and charged with anti-state activities related to his work as a journalist. On his release, Najam Sethi told reporters that it was a great day for the freedom of the press in Pakistan. He also expressed his gratitude for the support extended by the press at home as well as international press and human rights organizations and all others.

(UA 212/99 issued August 18, 1999). Julio Cesar Mendivil Trelles was released on the evening of 25 August 1999. "It was an uncertain time, but thank God, I received support from my family and from international organizations," he told the press during an emotional reunion with his mother, son and family. He added, "It is my desire and hope that the judges will work with the same speed they worked on my case for the release of the other innocent prisoners".

(EX 119/99 issued August 27, 1999 and re-issued August 31, September 3 and September 9, 1999). The three men named above were released from detention on 8 September 1999. Amnesty International was concerned that their arrests were politically motivated to deny them the right to freedom of expression, and considered all three to be possible prisoners of conscience. The three men have expressed gratitude and appreciation to all those who sent appeals on their behalf.

(UA 151/99 issued June 29, 1999 and re-issued July 12, 1999). Kim Sen and Meas Minear are free today, after all charges against them were dropped. Their trial resumed this morning in Sihanoukville. After a senior military policeman had given evidence as a witness for the defense, the prosecutor withdrew all charges against Kim Sen, Meas Minear and the other eight defendants. The judge announced that the court had heard no evidence against the accused and the case was dropped. Amnesty International observers were present at both stages of the trial. We know that the international interest in this case was helpful, and the support of Amnesty International has been very important to the two human rights workers and their organization during the last seven months.

USA/ NORTH CAROLINA: JOSEPH TIMOTHY KEEL (EX 96/99 issued July 29, 1999). On 3 August 1999, the Supreme Court of North Carolina stayed the execution of Joseph Timothy (Timmy) Keel, who was scheduled for lethal injection on 6 August. He was sentenced to death at a retrial in 1993 for the murder of his father-in-law, John Simmons, who was shot on his hog farm in 1990. The prosecution, and relatives of John Simmons, had reportedly already met with Governor Hunt to urge that the execution should go ahead. The defense lawyers also met separately with the Governor to urge clemency. Before the stay was granted, the defense had obtained an affidavit from the psychologist who testified at the sentencing phase of Timmy Keel's original trial. In his affidavit, the psychologist stated that the defense had never asked him to testify at the guilt/innocence phase of the trial (see original EXTRA). He stated that if they had asked him to, he could and would have testified that at the time of the crime Keel's “thought processes were hampered by his cognitive dysfunction and he could not fully understand the consequences of his actions”. He further stated that technology that has since become available could help to determine the extent of Keel's brain dysfunction.

On 3 August, Amnesty International received the following message from one of Timmy Keel's lawyers: “I am pleased to inform you that the North Carolina Supreme Court temporarily stayed Mr. Keel's execution set for Friday. Hopefully we will obtain adequate time and funds to examine the issues that are presented in this case. I sincerely thank you for all of your efforts on behalf of Mr. Keel. I will keep you informed in the event that a new execution date is set.”

, journalist (UA 199/96 issued 8 August 1996 and re-issued 15 August 1996; 13 September 1996; 30 April 1997; 16 May 1997; 30 June 1997) Amiel Nkuriza, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Le Partisan and director of the newspaper Intego, was provisionally released from Kimironko prison on 18 August 1999, two weeks after his official release date. Amiel Nkuriza believes that protests by local and international non-governmental organizations and media may have been instrumental in his release.

(mother) (EX 86/99 issued July 15, 1999) . Robar, Omaed, Joanne and Gulbahar Yahia Latif al-Salihi were granted safe passage to Syria, and travelled by car to Damascus on 28 August 1999. They have reportedly been housed by the Syrian authorities, and Gulbahar Yahia Latif al-Salihi is said to have been given medical treatment. The UNHCR office in Damascus is also reported to have agreed to re-assess the family's application for refugee status. Their previous application had been rejected by the UNHCR office in Amman, Jordan. The family of eight was re-arrested by the Jordanian authorities on 23 August, and was apparently only saved from forcible repatriation to Iraq by appeals from Urgent Action writers and the wide media coverage of their situation. Robar Yahia Latif al-Salihi was released on bail on 25 August, and the family was given until 28 August to leave Jordan.

PERU: JOSÉ MERCEDES SÁNCHEZ TORRES, DULIO FLORIÁN PACHAS (UA 32/99 issued February 23, 1999). Prisoner of conscience José Mercedes Sánchez Torres was released without charge on 25 September 1999. In a letter to Amnesty International he thanked the organization's members for all their work on his behalf. José Sánchez, deputy mayor (teniente alcalde) for the district of Imperial, in the province of Cañete, Lima department, had been arrested by the anti-terrorism police, the DINCOTE, on 10 February 1999, and accused of terrorism. Throughout his political career José Sánchez had actively condemned the violent methods of the armed opposition groups Sendero Luminoso, Shining Path, and the Partido Revolucionario Túpac Amaru, Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Party, despite receiving numerous death threats from Shining Path. For many years he had been a member of the legally registered political party Izquierda Unida, United Left, which has publicly condemned the use of political violence by Peru's armed opposition groups. Dulio Florián Pachas remains in Castro-Castro Prison, Lima, and has been charged with terrorism-related offences. tribunal.

TANZANIA: SEIF SHARIF HAMAD, SHABAN MLOO, MOHAMED JUMA KHATIB, MUSSA HAJI KOMBO, MAULID MAKAME, JUMA OTHMAN, JUMA NGWALI, KHATIB HASSANM, NASSOR SULEIMAN AND SALIM YUSUF MOHAMED (UA 244/99 issued September 17, 1999). Amnesty International remains concerned that Seif Sharif Hamad and the others named above could be arrested at any time, and tried together with 18 CUF prisoners of conscience charged with treason. However, contrary to what the Attorney General told reporters on 16 September, Zanzibar police say that no warrants for their arrests have been issued. Thanks to all UA activists for your appeals, which successfully alerted the authorities in Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania to the continuing international concern about this serious human rights issue in Zanzibar. A.I. will be monitoring the case closely.

USA /MISSOURI: JAMES W. CHAMBERS, aged 47(EX 146/99 issued October 20, 1999). James Chambers, who was scheduled for execution on 10 November 1999, has received an indefinite stay of execution. On 5 November, the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay after James Chambers' lawyer argued that the Court had wrongly limited Chambers' appeals under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), signed into law by President Clinton in April 1996. The AEDPA, an attempt to speed up executions, seeks to restrict federal appeals and to force federal courts to give greater weight to state court decisions in capital cases. Although the AEDPA came into law a year after Chambers filed his appeals in the federal courts, the 8th Circuit applied the law retroactively in his case when it examined it in 1998.

The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a similar case from Nevada in which the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' retroactive application of the AEDPA is being questioned. The 8th Circuit Court's 5 November ruling stated that until that case is decided (probably in the first or second quarter of 2000), Missouri should not be allowed to execute James Chambers. The State of Missouri appealed to the US Supreme Court to lift the 8th Circuit stay of execution. On the afternoon of 9 November, this was refused by the US Supreme Court.

James Chambers, who had been moved to the holding cell next to the execution chamber in preparation for him to be killed, reportedly said “You can't imagine how happy I am. I knew it was a matter of hours before I was to die.” He is now back on death row.

COLOMBIA: PIEDAD CÓRDOBA DE CASTRO, human rights defender and Liberal Party senator (EX 63/99 issued May 24, 1999). Human Rights Defender Piedad Córdoba de Castro was released by the right-wing national paramilitary alliance, Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), United Self-Defense Forces on 4 June 1999, in the municipality of Necoclí, Antioquia department.Members of the International Red Cross, the Colombian Senate and the Colombian Attorney General's Office were present at her release. Piedad Córdoba de Castro, Liberal Party Senator and president of the Senate's Human Rights Commission, was abducted in Medellín on 21 May 1999 by a group of armed men. In a public statement issued the next day, the AUC claimed responsibility. She has frequently spoken out about the duty of the state to combat paramilitary groups and is a high profile supporter of legislative proposals to criminalize "disappearances" and reform the Military Penal Code.

The international attention on her case was crucial in securing her release.

" Over the time we have been members of Amnesty International we have grown to consider it one of the most important causes that we are involved in --- although your work is not frequently covered by the media it is a towering example of concern for the 'little people' who are frequently persecuted in the dark. It is with a great deal of eagerness and pride that we are willing to do the small amount that is possible for us." Urgent Action Network Activists, Clarence and Beatrice Kean, Portsmouth, New Hampshire