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UA Quotes
for AIUSA activists, speakers and staff

Urgent Action Program Office
P.O.Box 1270
Nederland CO 80466-1270
email: uan@aiusa.org

October 2002 – February 2003

Below is an informal collection of Urgent Action-related stories with generally positive outcomes. We hope that some of the information found in UA Quotes might be used to complement an AIUSA presentation or just inspire your continued letter-writing. We are distributing this to the Urgent Action Network, 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 Quotes for others and if you would like us to put anyone else in AIUSA on our UA Quotes mailing list, just let us know. Email us at uan@aiusa.org if you would like a text version of this paper emailed to you. We issue UA Quotes whenever we have collected enough good news from Urgent Actions to fill these pages.
Ellen Moore, Natasha Nummedal and Scott Harrison
for the Urgent Action Network

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The Power of Amnesty International Pressure

Guy Patrick Massoloka, a journalist for the Pan African News Agency (PANA), was arrested in the capital of Gambia , Banjul, on July 19, 2002 by agents of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). He was held incommunicado detention but was not ill-treated.

He was released without charge on August 1, 2002 but no official reason was given for his detention. Guy Patrick Massoloka has passed on the following message to those who campaigned on his behalf:
"I would like to send my warm thanks to all those who have shared my pain and above all, to all those who, by one way or another, have contributed to my release. When I left the prison, I was very happily surprised by Amnesty International's pressure and other organisations devoted to human rights on the Gambian government." (UA 239/02 issued July 29, 2002)

UA Persistence Yields Success

The Bangladeshi Research Team at Amnesty International's International Secretariat have the following message for the UA Network:

'All sixteen individuals named in Bangladesh UAs since March 2002 were released by the end of 2002. We wish to thank the UA network for the great work it has done in recent months urging the government to respect human rights. This has given support and encouragement to lawyers seeking judicial redress for their detainees.

Our UAs have received regular coverage in the Bangladeshi media, and have helped to publicize and illustrate the patterns of human rights violations that have been taking place against members of the opposition and others who speak out against government policies and practice in Bangladesh.'

The Solidarity of Amnesty International Members

Zouhayer Makhlouf (©AI)
holding copies of the Urgent Actions issued on his behalf.

As part of an ongoing pattern of harassment and intimidation against Human Rights Defenders and alleged political opponents in Tunisia, the authorities arrested Zouhayer Makhlouf and Chadli Turki on September 4, 2002. They were detained at the Ministry of Interior in the capital Tunis and questioned by the State Security Department. The men were arrested without warrant and held in incommunicado detention for four days. Amnesty International member Zouhayer Makhlouf, was reportedly questioned about his activities at the Tunisian section and asked to give up his membership of Amnesty International. The detention of Chadli Turki, a former political prisoner who has been subjected to arbitrary measures and police harassment since his imprisonment in the early 1990s, may have been a renewed attempt to disrupt his professional activity as a physician.

Both men were released without charge on 8 February, two days after the initial UA had been issued. Members of an Amnesty International delegation met with Zouheyer Makhlouf during a research mission to Tunisia in September 2002 and were able to ascertain that there had been no further harassment of the two men. (UA 279/02 issued September 6, 2002)

UA Activism Yields Quick Results
An Urgent Action (EXTRA 87/02) on USA/Afghanistan was issued on November 22, 2002, on behalf of Mr. Baryalai, a telephone operator from Sharan, the capital of Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan. He was detained on November 12, 2002 and held in incommunicado detention at various locations by US military forces in Afghanistan. He was released in late December 2002 from the Bagram detention facility north of Kabul. He is now with his family in his village.

The following message has been forwarded on his behalf:

"Mr. Baryalai has asked me to convey his heartfelt gratitude and immense appreciation to all those colleagues at Amnesty International and its members world-wide who worked so hard to secure his legal rights and ensure humane treatment for him while in U.S. custody in various places of detention inside Afghanistan. To the day he is unaware of the places where he was held in detention. He believes he was held in THREE different places of detention from the time of his capture."

He wishes to congratulate you all and wants you to know he owes his freedom to you! Mr. Baryalai and his family are delighted to see such a happy and quick end to their ordeal. The often-time nerve-shattering experience would have proved unbearable, and all hope would have been lost had it not been for the excellent support and assistance Mr. Baryalai and his family received from colleagues at Amnesty International since the time of his detention".

Teenager Released!

Sixteen year old Andre West was released without charge on December 23, 2002 from Constant Spring Police Station, Kingston, Jamaica, three days aften a UA was issued on his behalf. He had been detained without charge during an arrest and curfew operation on 8 December.

Andre West was not identified in any of the three identification (ID) parades that were held after his arrest. A fourth ID parade had been scheduled for December 23, but was not held.
Andre West, his family and local human rights activists supporting them, have expressed their thanks and gratitude to UA members who wrote appeals on Andre’s behalf. (UA 372/02 issued December 20, 2002).

Illinois Governor Leaves an Abolitionist Legacy
On January 10, 2003, Governor George Ryan of Illinois pardoned four condemned inmates, and the following day commuted the death sentences of the other 167 prisoners on death row in the state. It was one of Governor Ryan’s last acts in office before the inauguration of Governor-elect Blagodevich on January 13.

Governor Ryan’s decision came three years after he imposed a moratorium on executions in Illinois because of its “shameful” record of wrongful convictions in capital cases. At that stage, Illinois had executed 12 prisoners and released 13 others on grounds of innocence.

In his speech, delivered at Northwestern University College of Law in Chicago, Governor Ryan said: "If the system was making so many errors in determining whether someone was guilty in the first place, how fairly and accurately was it determining which guilty defendants deserved to live and which deserved to die? What effect was race having? What effect was poverty having? Our capital system is haunted by the demon of error, error in determining guilt, and error in determining who among the guilty deserves to die. Because of all these reasons, today I am commuting the death sentences of all death row inmates."

Governor Ryan commuted the death sentences of 164 prisoners to life imprisonment without parole. Three men, Mario Flores, Montel Johnson and William Franklin, had their sentences commuted to 40 years in prison - to bring their sentences into line with their co-defendants and to reflect the other extraordinary circumstances of these cases.

Governor Ryan continued: "…To say it plainly one more time – the Illinois capital punishment system is broken. It has taken innocent men to a hair’s breadth escape from their unjust execution. Legislatures past have refused to fix it. Our new legislature and our new Governor must act to rid our state of the shame of threatening the innocent with execution and the guilty with unfairness. In the days ahead, I will pray that we can open our hearts and provide something for victims’ families other than the hope of revenge”.

The Director of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation expressed the organization’s support for the governor’s decision, saying: “Capital punishment does not heal the wounds of murder”.

Among those who had appealed to the Governor for a blanket commutation had been former South African President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the Vatican. (EXTRA 88/02 issued December 5, 2002)

A Simple Thanks
Javier Suarez Medina, a Mexican national, was executed in Texas on August 14, in violation on international law. After the execution, Javier's lawyer said: "Javier told me to be sure and express his profound thanks for the support of the Mexican government and the prayers of the Mexican people. I know that he was also intensely grateful for all of the efforts made on his behalf by the international community." (EX 54/02 issued July 18, 2002)

Helping Liberia's Human Rights Defenders
Human Rights defenders in Liberia have frequently been the target of arbitrary arrest and detention and have often been tortured and ill-treated. On October 2002, an Urgent Action was issued on behalf of several members of the Liberia Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, a coalition of 20 non-governmental human rights organizations. (UA 322/02 issued October 30, 2002)

Dempster Brown, Chairman of the Coalition, and Blamoh Sieh, National Coordinator of the National Human Rights Center were both arrested on October 29. Peter Nicholson, research and security officer at the National Human Rights Center had been arrested the previous evening. They were released without charge on October 30 and 31and November 1 respectively. None had been ill-treated while in detention.

They had been arrested in connection with activities by the Coalition to secure the release of two fellow human rights defenders: Hassan Bility and Sheikh K.M. Sackor who had been held in incommunicado detention without charge or trial since June and July 2002.

photo of Hassan
Hassan Bility © AI

Hassan Bility, a journalist with The Analyst newspaper, was held incommunicado and without charge or trial following his arrest on June 24, 2002. He was accused of supporting the armed opposition Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). The authorities initially threatened to try him under military jurisdiction. He was tortured, denied access to defence lawyers and not brought before any court, despite several writs of habeas corpussubmitted on his behalf.

Following months of national and international pressure, Hassan Bility was finally released by the Liberian government and handed over to the United States embassy officials on December 7. He was flown out of the country to Ghana and then on to the United States. Following his release he sent the following message to Amnesty International:
"It is with joy that I send you this first message after about six months in jail under the repressive Taylor regime in Monrovia. I must thank Amnesty International for all the efforts they exerted to secure my release. I feel really indebted to Amnesty International, and words are inadequate for me to express my gratitude. But I know that Amnesty International has [helped me] so many, many times. You are indeed a great rights advocacy group. Thank you so much."

On October 28, the government announced that Bility's fellow detainees Sheikh K. M. Sackor, Executive Director of Humanist Watch, Mohammad Kamara, Ansumana Kamara and others would be released. They are, however, still in detention and Amnesty International continues to campaign on their behalf. (UA 194/02 issued June 25, 2002)

Defending Freedom of Expression

Hassan Ahmad Al-Nahas of Lebanon was released without charge on December 20, 2002, 11 days after his arrest on December 9. He had been held at an interrogation center of the Internal Security in Saida. His arrest was reportedly related to some leaflets which were given to him at a mosque in Saida where he was praying. Hassan Ahmad Nahas extends his greetings and thanks to every one who wrote letters on his behalf. (UA 370/02 issued December 20, 2002)

A Series of Releases in Indonesia!

M Thalib, a fishmonger, was arrested by the military at Peunteut market in Blang Mangat Sub-district, North Aceh District, Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD) Province on June 21, 2002. He was allegedly arrested as members of the Special Forces Command (Kopassus) and Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) were checking the identity cards of people in the market. No reason was given for his arrest. He was released in late June 2002, having been held in detention at an unknown location for approximately one week. (UA 193/02 issued June 25, 2002)

Seventeen-year-old Zikrillah, a student and human rights activist with the People's Network for Human Rights Monitoring in Pidie Jaringan Rakyat Pemantau HAM, (JRP HAM) in Pidie District, NAD Province was taken from his home on July 6, 2002 during military operations to capture members of the armed opposition movement, the Free Aceh Movement, Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, (GAM).

Zikrillah was reportedly interrogated, tortured and forced to admit that he was a member of GAM. He is reportedly not however a member of GAM and may have been detained solely for his human rights advocacy. He was also reportedly threatened as a result of advocacy carried out by a local human rights group on his behalf. We have been informed that he was released on September 1, 2002.

Zikrillah was detained with a man called Nasrudin, who was granted access to his family but not to lawyers. Nasrudin was allegedly beaten during his detention at Meureudu Sub-district Military Command (Koramil) and was not released until sometime in September 2002. (UA 224/02 issued July 22, 2002)

Farmers Israfil and Ismail were arrested by members of the Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) on August 16, 2002. They were held in a warehouse in Trieng Gadeng Sub-district, Pidie District, NAD Province, where the troops who had detained them were stationed. There were concerns that the men were in danger of being tortured or ill treated, as members of their village had reportedly been beaten by the military. They were released in September 2002. (UA 264/02 issued August 27, 2002)

A shopkeeper known by his nickname, Toke Dan , from Aceh Besar District, NAD Province was detained by troops on August 20, 2002. He was held by members of the Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) at the Indrapuri Sub-district community center (UDKP) where he was reportedly beaten. We are happy to report the release of Toke Dan in early September. (UA 270/02 issued August 29, 2002)

The End of an Unlawful Detention

Sabahudin Fijuljanin was released from the custody of NATO-led Stabilisation Forces (SFOR) on January 30, 2003 approximately one week after we issued an Urgent Action on his behalf.. He was handed over to the Federation authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina and reportedly taken to the public prosecutor's office in Srebrenik.

Fijuljanin had been unlawfully detained without charge by SFOR since October 26, 2002. He was reportedly suspected of spying, although no charges were ever brought against him. During his three month's detention, he had been denied unimpeded access to a lawyer, had only been allowed one visit from his family, and had not been given access to a court in order to challenge the legality of his detention.

Sabahudin Fijuljanin remained in SFOR custody, despite an order by the Bosnia-Herzegovina Human Rights Chamber on January 13, that he be handed over to the Bosnia-Herzegovina authorities. Amnesty International got involved when concerns arose that Sabahudin Fijuljanin was in danger of being transferred to the US authorities, who may have detained him indefinitely in military custody at Guantanamo Bay. (UA 20/03 issued January 22, 2003)

Defending the Defenders in Nepal

Bishnu Pukar Shrestha (©Private)

Human rights activist, Bishnu Pukar Shrestha was released in Nepal on December 16 after his arrest by plainclothes security personnel at his apartment in Kathmandu on July 29. He was held in incommunicado detention in army custody. The authorities denied his arrest and would not disclose his whereabouts for the five months of his detention, during which he was reportedly blindfolded for most of the time. (UA 242/02 issued July 31, 2002)

Lawyer Raman Kumar Shrestha, was arrested by army personnel on August 23, 2002, on his way to his office in Kanuni Uddhar Kendra, Bagbazar, Kathmandu. He was reportedly held in army custody at the Chauni army barracks in Kathmandu, although the authorities denied he was in their custody for several weeks following his arrest.

A habeas corpus petition was filed on his behalf in the Supreme Court on August 28, 2002. Despite the fact that Raman Kumar Shrestha's relatives were permitted to see him while in detention at the army barracks, the authorities continued to deny he was in their custody.

The authorities only publicly acknowledged that they were holding him in detention a few days before his release on October 4, 2002 on the orders of the Supreme Court.

It is believed that Raman Kumar Shrestha was arrested on account of his work as a lawyer in a Legal Relief Center defending victims of social or political injustice. (UA 267/02 issued August 28, 2002)

Ending Impunity

Nandini Herat was arrested on March 8, 2002 by the police in Wariyapola, near Kurunegala, in the northwestern region of Sri Lanka. While in the custody of the police, she was reportedly subjected to sexual torture.

Herat was arrested in connection with the robbery of some religious artefacts from a local Buddhist temple. She was reportedly tortured and forced to sign a statement, after which she was informed of the charges against her. She denied any involvement in the robbery.

Three days after an Urgent Action was issued, Nandini Herat was released on bail on September 13. Five of the officers implicated in her torture were transferred out of Wariyapola police station, reportedly on the orders of the Sri Lankan Inspector General of Police. It is not known whether they have been suspended from duty.

The Attorney General instructed the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to take over the investigation of the alleged torture of Nandini Herat. He also directed the CID to arrange for her to be examined by the Judicial Medical Officer. Earlier medical examinations had been conducted by the District Medical Officer.

The CID was also directed to conduct a criminal investigation into alleged threats by Wariyapola Police against Nandini's lawyer, Priyantha Gamage, and Nishantha Kumara, a human rights defender who took up her case.

The CID has now finished its investigations and has forwarded its findings to the Attorney General’s Department, which will decide whether or not there is enough evidence to file a case against the police officers allegedly involved. (UA 281/02 issued September 10, 2002)

"Who Are You that the President of Turkmenistan is so interested in you?"

At the end of September 2002, Gulgeldi Annanyyazov was granted refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The former political prisoner had reportedly been in imminent danger of being forcibly returned to Turkmenistan, where he would have been at risk of torture or ill-treatment.

On October 1, the Russian news agency Interfax reported that the USA was prepared to accept Gulgeldi Annanyyazov once he had received medical treatment. He was flown to Norway on October 4, where he was receiving treatment for tuberculosis. He has reportedly been in poor health since his imprisonment in Turkmenistan between 1995 and 1999.

Gulgeldi Annanyyazov told Amnesty International: "Thank you for doing an action on my behalf. A criminal case was opened against me in Turkmenistan, and so I would have been detained if returned. The Turkmen authorities sent an official request to the Kazak authorities asking them to deport me to Turkmenistan. The director of the investigation-isolation prison where I was kept in Kazakstan said to me 'who are you that the President of Turkmenistan is so interested in you?' "

By not returning Gulgeldi Annanyyzov to Turkmenistan, Kazakstan acted in line with its obligations under international human rights law, not to return a person to a country or territory where they may be subjected to torture. (UA 275/02 issued September 3, 2002)

Free at Last!

Vasily Stetsik , a human rights activist, was released from a psychiatric hospital in the Russian Federation on November 6, 2002. He had been held in psychiatric hospitals since the end of 1998 without receiving information why he was held and without being diagnosed. In a letter to an Amnesty International staff member Vasily Stetsik wrote: "Many thanks to you and your friends from AI for taking an interest in my fate and the fate of my family. You supported us in a difficult time for us and now, in the end I have been released from the psychiatric hospital. Now I am free after all these years of imprisonment, ill-treatment, torture and scorn upon me. Thank you for everything." He also asked if he could join AI! (Medical Action MA #17/02 issued on October 2, 2002).

Families Return Safely to Guatemalan City

Roly Escobar, leader of Coodinadora Nacional Sindical y Popular (CNSP), the National Union and Popular Coordination, received anonymous death threats following his representation of approximately 80 previously landless families who had occupied an uncultivated piece of land in the suburb of Justo Rufino Barrios, in Zone 21 of Guatemala City, Department of Guatemala, from August 17, 2002.

On August 25, armed members of the Policía Nacional Civil (PNC), National Civil Police, and members of a local dwellers association reportedly raided the settlement. The families were forced off the land causing many to flee to nearby houses. Forty adults (21 women and 19 men) and children were allegedly forced into private buses and taken to an unknown destination.

The adults and children were returned safely to the capital on August 25. Roly Escobar told Amnesty International that the appeals sent in response to the original urgent action were a decisive element in resolving the situation. (UA 278/02 issued September 5, 2002)

Free From Harm

Honore Musoko, a lawyer and leading member of the Justice Plus human rights organization, was arrested on September 3, 2002 in Bunia, the capital of the Kibali-Ituri province of Northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He was held by the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie – Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML), Congolese Rally for Democracy – Liberation Movement, at the "Mont Hawa" military camp in Aru territory. Although he was threatened, he was not ill-treated but was held in poor conditions without being fed for a number of days.

He was released on September 10 and taken to the Ugandan frontier. From there he made his way to Kampala, where he was later joined by his immediate family.

Honore is very grateful for and touched by the appeals made on his behalf. He believes that the appeals, combined with direct pressure on the authorities by researchers at the International Secretariat and by other organizations, protected him from harm and secured his release. (UA 277/02 issued September 5, 2002)

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 5, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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