for AIUSA activists, speakers and staff
Below is an informal collection of UA-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 firstname.lastname@example.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
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SUDAN : Rehab Abdel Bagi Mohamed Ali (EX 68/02 on September 5, 2002 and re-issued September 25, 2002). Amnesty International has learned that Rehab Abdel Bagi Mohamed Ali, aged 30, was released on 24 September. She is reported to be in good health. Appeals sent by Amnesty International members are said to have been instrumental in securing her release.
INDONESIA: Zulkarnain Ismail and Abdul Muthaleb Abdullah (UA 240/02 issued July 30, 2002). Zulkarnain Ismail and Abdul Muthaleb Abdullah, two fishmen, have been moved to the Pidie Police Resort (Polres Pidie) and have been granted access to a lawyer. The Commander of Polres Pidie informed a local human rights group that he had received appeals on behalf of the two men, including some from Amnesty International members. The human rights group believes that these appeals led to the men being transferred to Polres Pidie, and that the risk of further torture or ill-treatment has been greatly diminished.
JORDAN: Toujan al-Faisal (UA 175/02 issued June 14, 2002). On June 26, Toujan al-Faisal was released from the King Hussein Medical Center in the capital Amman. This follows a private amnesty by Royal Decree from His Majesty King Abdullah. Toujan al-Faisal expressed her appreciation to human rights activists and organizations whose work contributed to her release.
ISRAEL/OCCUPIED TERRITORIES: Shahir Mansur and Munjid Mansur aged 17 months (EX 51/02 issued July 10 and re-issued July 12 and 24, 2002). In a letter dated July 24, the Military Attorney General gave permission for the Mansur family to travel to the Allenby Bridge leading to Jordan and they were to be able to travel to the United States for Munjid Mansurs medical treatment. The Mansur familys lawyer expressed gratitude to all Amnesty International members who sent appeals on the familys behalf.
Good News from a former Amnesty International researcher:
Urgent Actions Play an Important Role in the Trial of two El Salvadoran Generals.
A July 23, 2002 newspaper headline reads :
FLORIDA JURY FINDS SALVADORAN GENERALS LIABLE FOR TORTURE,
AWARDS $54.6 MILLION TO VICTIMS
A West Palm Beach, Florida paper reported that a Florida jury in a federal civil trial awarded $54.6 million to three Salvadorans who proved they were brutally tortured by Salvadoran security forces between 1979-83. Juan Romagoza, Neriz Gonzalez, and Carlos Mauricio sued two Salvadoran generals who retired to south Florida in 1989. The suit is based on two federal laws that allow torture victims to seek redress in U.S. courts, even if the offenses occurred elsewhere.
Mike McClintock, a former Amnesty International researcher, and former staff member with Human Rights Watch, now with the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, testified at the trial of the generals. Now that the Romagoza trial is over, I wanted to make sure you knew that AI can claim some small share of credit for the verdict. He wrote to thank the Urgent Action Network and to share the news that the collection of 175 Urgent Actions issued on El Salvador by Amnesty International, detailing systematic torture of political detainees between 1979 and 1983 were compelling documentation that the generals had to have known what was going on during their tenure in the government of El Salvador.
The suit was brought under the Torture Victim Protection Act and the Alien
Tort Claims Act. The latter Act gives survivors of egregious human rights abuses,
wherever committed, the right to sue responsible persons in U.S. federal court. The
Torture Victim Protection Act, signed into law by President Bush in 1992, gives
similar rights to U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike to bring claims for torture
and extrajudicial killing. Under both laws, the perpetrator must be physically served with
the lawsuit in the United States in order for the court to have
On July 25, Dr Ling Kitui, the Director of the Independent Medico-Legal Unit
(IMLU) met with the Director of Standards in the Ministry of Health. At
the meeting Dr Kitui received written assurances that Dr Njue and Dr Gachie
would not be de-registered or transferred. The pathologists have not received any further
threats, and fears for their safety have subsided. Recent regulations requiring all doctors
working in the Civil Service, Parastatals (government hospitals) or Universities to ask their
employers permission before undertaking private or independent post-mortems, have also been lifted. IMLUs
work is beginning to return to normal, although it is still having some
difficulty conducting post-mortems in the City Mortuary in Nairobi. Dr Gachie is due
to meet the mortuary director soon to discuss these difficulties, and IMLU has
told us it is confident this will not be a significant problem. After
discussions with IMLU we feel there is a risk that further action on
this case could jeopardize IMLUs improved relationship with the government, and reduce the
willingness of the authorities to address other areas of concern. Both the pathologists
and IMLU wish to thank all who took part in this action, which
they really felt had a great impact on what could have been a
very damaging situation for independent post-mortem work and the investigation and reporting of
human rights abuses in Kenya.
USA/Pennsylvania: Brandon Brown (UA 17/02 issued Jan. 17, 2002). The District Attorney of
Northumberland County in Pennsylvania has announced that he has changed his mind and
will not seek the death penalty against Brandon Brown, aged 16, for a
murder committed when he was 15 years old. International law bans the use
of the death penalty against those who were under 18 at the time
of the crime. On January 21 the local newspaper, The Sunbury Item, published
an article noting that the case had "attracted international attention": "Letters condemning Rosini's
decision have been sent from as far away as New Zealand, the Netherlands
and the United Kingdom... All of them expressed sorrow about Jasmine's death. However,
they also said they do not want to see the state take the
life of a 16-year-old."
UZBEKISTAN: VALERY AGABEKOV AND ANDREY ANNENKOV (EX 31/02 issued April 19, 2002). Four
days after the Urgent Action on behalf of Valery Agabekov and his brother-in-law
Andrey Annenkov was issued on April 19, their death sentences were commuted to
twelve years' imprisonment. Their families had not been informed of the April 23
commutation of their death sentences by the Collegium of the Supreme Court. Andrey
Annenkov's wife Marina Annenkova told Amnesty International that she had nearly given up
hope after having heard from neighbors at the beginning of May that the
two men had been executed. It was only on May 10, when Valery
Agabekov's mother Nadezhda Agabekova saw her son at Tashkent train station - where
she had gone following rumors that the men would be transported to another
prison that day - that she learned that their sentences had been commuted.
The two men were taken to a prison in the town of Andijan
to serve their remaining prison terms. Tamara Chikunova of the group "Mothers Against
the Death Penalty" in Uzbekistan, told Amnesty International on May 30: "We later
found out that the hearing on April 23 was an extraordinary hearing of
the Collegium of the Supreme Court. I think it was set up as
a result of the mass protests from all over the world. We saved
these two men in the very last moment." Apart from "Mothers Against the
Death Penalty" and Amnesty International, there were interventions from the United Nations Human
Rights Committee and the International Helsinki Federation.
UZBEKISTAN: ALEKSANDER KORNETOV (EX 11/02 issued January 29, 2002). Aleksander Kornetov's death sentence
has been commuted. He was moved from death row on March 1. His
family learned of the commutation on March 14, when they received a letter
from the prison in the town of Andijan, informing them that he had
been transferred there. Today Aleksander Kornetov's mother received the first letter from her
son in Andijan prison. He wrote: "I still can't believe that this is
happening. I am still afraid they might come and say it was a
mistake and take me back to the death row cell... When the guards
led me into the cell in Andijan prison, I couldn't believe my eyes.
Nikolay Ganiyev [see below quote] is in the same cell. When he saw
me, he said: 'is it really true that we are alive?' ... The
prison cell is like a sanatorium in comparison with the basement where the
death row cell was. Yesterday I was allowed to walk in the prison
yard. It was so wonderful to see the sun...." Since the beginning of
this year, four prisoners have had their death sentences commuted after Amnesty International
campaigned on their behalf. Death penalty activist Tamara Chikunova told Amnesty International: "The
support we get from members of your organization is absolutely crucial. The fact
that this is already the fourth commutation in only two and a half
months shows that our joint work has a real impact. In January and
February we were very anxious that Aleksander Kornetov would be executed any minute.
But the urgent intervention from your side and the United Nations saved him."
UZBEKISTAN: Vazgen Arutyunyants and Armen Garushyants (EX 91/00 issued Dec. 13, 2000 and
re-issued Aug. 1, 2001). Both men, in their early twenties, have had their
death sentences commuted to 10 year prison terms. The commutation follows pressure from
local and international human rights groups, and an intervention by the U.N. Human
Rights Committee. On Jan. 15, both men were taken from their death row
cells in Tashkent prison to board a train for a prison colony in
the east of Uzbekistan. When Vazgen Arutyunyants's mother Irina met her son at
the train station in Tashkent that day, he still could not believe that
he would live. She told Amnesty International: "Vazgen could have been executed any
day. Whenever the guards opened the door of his cell, he was prepared
to be executed. When they led him out of the cell on Jan.
15, he thought they were taking him to the execution. When I met
him at the train station he was shivering. He still couldn't believe that
he would live. From now on we are going to celebrate Jan. 15
as his second birthday." In a letter to Amnesty International Irina Arutyunyants wrote:
"Thanks to you and your work the board of the Supreme Court passed
the decision about the commutation of my son's death sentence. I thank God
that you were with me and my son at such a difficult time
in our lives. My gratitude for that is boundless. Let God provide you
and your families with health and well being. You have saved my son's
life and life is invaluable. With love and respect, Arutyunyants Irina, the mother
of the saved Vazgen Arutyunyants, born in 1977." Arutyunyants and Garushyants had been
sentenced to death in May 2000, convicted of charges including murder. Vazgen Arutyunyants
maintained his innocence and stated that after he was arrested in July 1999,
police had beaten him severely in an apparent attempt to extract a confession.
When Vazgen's father came to see him shortly afterwards, he was reportedly severely
bruised and unable to stand. He also suffered from headaches and kidney pain,
and had blood in his urine. The investigating officer reportedly told Vazgen's father
that he would be executed. To spare his wife, Vazgen's father did not
tell her what he had seen and heard, and later committed suicide, apparently
because he could not live with the burden of knowing what had happened
to his son.
China: Ngawang Choephel (MA 2/00 issued February 14, 2000 and re-issued Octobter 9,
2000 and February 7, 2002). After sustained campaigning of several years by AI
members and others, Ngawang Choephel, mucicologist, was finally released on January 20, 2002.
He was released for health reasons and has been flown to the United
States for medical tests and treatment. He is thought to be suffering from
lung and liver illnesses contracted during his time in prison. Ngawang Choephel was
imprisoned for six and a half years. In 1996 he was sentenced to
18 years' imprisonment for "espionage and counter-revolutionary activities". At the time of his
detention he was gathering material for the production of a film documentary about
traditional Tibetan performing arts. His trial was held in secret and the authorities
produced no evidence linking him to these "crimes". Amnesty International considered him to
be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for exercising his fundamental right to
freedom of expression. His mother, Sonam Dekyi, was only allowed to visit him
in prison for the first time in August 2000.
On January 23, Ngawang Choephel made his first statement since his release: "First
of all I would like to say thank you to all the people
who helped me and worked so hard for my release. I am very
happy to be out of prison. I am grateful to all the Tibetans
who shared their folk music with me in Tibet during my two months
travel and even after my imprisonment. I am also grateful to all those
who have supported my mother in the struggle to free me during the
last six and a half years. Her suffering has been very painful for
me, and I am overjoyed at the thought of seeing her again. My
three primary concerns at the moment are my health, my mother, and my
fellow Tibetan prisoners. While in Washington DC, I am seeing doctors at Georgetown
Hospital and George Washington University Hospital, and so far I am encouraged by
my test results. As soon as I can I will travel to India
to be with my mother and the rest of my family. I plan
to return to the United States at a later date. I am especially
grateful to the American government for all its support, and I thank the
Chinese government for its ultimate response to the many appeals for my release.
I sincerely hope that my release is the first of many more to
come in the near future".
The sustained campaigning by members of AI and other organizations on Ngawang Choephel's
case won the support of several international public figures, including the UK-based singer-songwriter
Annie Lennox. She made the following statement when she heard the news of
his release: "I was thrilled and delighted to hear of Ngawang Choephel's release.
This is a true victory for his mother, Sonyam Deki, who initiated her
own solitary campaign to bring attention to her son's plight several years ago
on the streets of Delhi. This confirms my deeply held conviction that "grass
roots" level forms of protest can be immensely effective, especially in the field
of human rights abuses. As individuals living under the system of democracy and
free speech we personally hold the tools to assist those who would be
otherwise disempowered, tortured or imprisoned. We owe it to ourselves as human beings
with a conscience, not to abandon or neglect this power. If you are
not a member of Amnesty International or another such organization then you haven't
yet realised or understood what a difference you can make", Annie Lennox, Jan.
USA/NORTH CAROLINA: CHARLIE MASON ALSTON (EX 78/01 issued December 21, 2001). Governor Mike
Easley of North Carolina commuted the death sentence of Charlie Alston nine hours
before he was due to be executed at 2am on January 11, 2002.
Alston had been moved to a deathwatch cell and was eating his final
meal when the news came that he would not be killed. Charlie Alston,
black, aged 42, was sentenced to death in 1992 for the murder of
Pamela Renee Perry. He has consistently maintained his innocence of the murder and
was convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence. There was no direct evidence
linking him to the crime, such as fingerprints, physical evidence, or confession.
In the past week, the courts rejected appeals requesting a stay of execution
on the grounds that potentially exculpatory DNA evidence had gone missing. Fingernail scrapings
taken from Pamela Perry by the medical examiner on the assumption that these
might contain blood, hair, or skin cells that could identify the perpetrator, were
never tested by the state which later said that it had lost the
evidence. The Governor gave no reason for his decision to commute the death
sentence. His statement said: "After long and careful consideration of all the facts
and circumstances of this case in its entirety, I conclude that the appropriate
sentence for the defendant is life in prison without parole." This is the
second commutation granted by Governor Easley since he took office in January 2001.
The first was of Robert Bacon in October (subject of EXTRA 59/01 issued
October 3, 2001). Governor Easley has rejected clemency for five prisoners, who were
all executed during 2001. Charlie Alston becomes the 47th condemned prisoner in the
USA to have his or her death sentence commuted on humanitarian grounds, by
an act of executive clemency since the USA resumed executions in 1977. It
is the fifth time that a North Carolina governor has granted clemency in
a death penalty case since 1977. In that same period, 21 prisoners were
executed in North Carolina out of a national total of 751. Charlie Alston's
lawyer has sent the following message: "Thank you all for your prayers, your
e-mails, your letters, your phone calls, and your support".
Hi, if you are reading this then they killed me. I wanted to
thank you and Amnesty
Converted by Andrew Scriven