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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

February 2002 – October 2002

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 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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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 Mansur’s medical treatment. The Mansur family’s lawyer expressed gratitude to all Amnesty International members who sent appeals on the family’s 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 :

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 jurisdiction.

"This case sets an important precedent that commanders can be held responsible when they should know that their subordinates are torturing and killing civilians, and they give a green light for such abuses to continue by doing nothing to stop it," said Joshua Sondheimer, Litigation Director of the Center for Justice & Accountability(CJA), a San Francisco- based group which Amnesty International helped start. CJA initiated the lawsuit in 1999.

Plaintiff Neris Gonzalez said: "I am pleased that justice has been done. I joined this case to send a message of hope and to motivate people everywhere to continue the struggle for justice. This verdict provides an example of what can be done. " Another plaintiff, Carlos Mauricio, said : "This is a great victory. In order to prevent torture, we must fight impunity, and I hope this allows other accusations to be brought against those responsible for torture."

USA/COLORADO: SAMNANG PRIM - FORMER CHILD REFUGEE (EX 25/02 issued March 25, 2002). Samnang Prim, precise age unknown, is no longer facing the possibility of the death penalty at his forthcoming trial in Colorado. The District Attorney has said that he will not seek a death sentence against him. In a message to Amnesty International, Samnang Prim's lawyer has asked for his thanks to be passed on to all who sent appeals, which he said were "very valuable in this process". In his message, written "on behalf of Samnang Prim, his family, and our defense team", he said: "Thank all members and letter writers for us, and let them know that, in combination with the efforts of many other people, they were successful!!!!".

Kenya: Fear for Safety of Pathologists (MA 10/02 issued June 5, 2002). There have been some very positive developments both with regard to Dr Njue and Dr Gachie, the pathologists who received death threats and threats of de-registration, and restrictions on independent post-mortem investigations in Kenya.

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 pathologist’s 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 employer’s permission before undertaking private or independent post-mortems, have also been lifted. IMLU’s 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 IMLU’s 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/Louisiana: Joseph Ward (UA 268/01 issued Oct. 23, 2001). Joe Ward, aged 18, is no longer facing the possibility of a death sentence. On 28 January, the District Attorney's Office in Alexandria, Rapides Parish, Louisiana, amended the charge against him to one of second degree murder, which does not carry the death penalty. The local Alexandria newspaper, The Town Talk , reported in November that the case had become "the focus of an international campaign" and quoted from letters sent by UA activists. The newspaper reported that appeals were arriving "daily" in the office of Assistant District Attorney Mike Shannon, who was quoted as saying that he was receiving "a pile of them every day". Joe Ward's lawyer has asked for his thanks to be relayed to all who sent appeals, which are believed to have contributed to the prosecutor's decision.

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."

VENEZUELA: Luis Martínez, Marvin Rangel and Maiker Enrique Duno (UA 142/02 issued on May 10, 2002). Luis Martínez, Marvin Rangel, and Maiker Enrique Duno are well and the intimidation against them appears to have stopped. The three men had been detained without charge and beaten by police on 30 April in the municipality of Sucre. The police had threatened to kill them if they reported what had happened and harassed them following their release. Fiorella Perrone from the Red de Apoyo por la Justicia y la Paz, Support Network for Justice and Peace, has sent a letter to Amnesty International, in which she says the appeals sent in response to the original urgent action were a decisive element in resolving the situation.

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. 25, 2002

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".

OMAN: Dr Faiza Alani (UA 196/02 issued June 27, 2002). Amnesty International has received information that Dr Faiza Alani was deported to Sydney, Australia via Dubai on July 1. She is very grateful for all the support that she was given by Amnesty International and requests that we continue with our efforts against injustices.

USA/Texas: Robert Otis Coulson (EX 43/02 issued June 7, 2002). Robert Coulson was executed in Texas on the evening of June 25, 2002 for the murder of his sister and her husband in 1992. The bodies of five members of the Coulson family were found after firefighters were called to a housefire in Houston on November 13, 1992. Robert Coulson was tried for the murder of two of them. In his final statement he maintained his innocence of the crime. The UA office received a short letter from Bob Coulson the day after his execution. It reads:    

Hi, if you are reading this then they killed me. I wanted to thank you and Amnesty
for all your efforts on my behalf, I truly appreciate it. Please keep up the good work,

people still need your help. Thanks for everything.

Sincerely, Bob Coulson    
PS: You may lose some battles but in the end I think you will win the war, don't give up.

Converted by Andrew Scriven