issue 244 - June 1993
U R G E N T
Building human rights
Robinson Lusitante Mendua was detained in Colombia by members of the armed forces and ‘disappeared’. He was press-ganged into working as a ‘guide’ for the Army (for guide, read pack mule). Within days, Colombia government officials, including the President, were bombarded with thousands of telexes, faxes, telegrams and airmail letters all appealing for the release of Robinson Lusitante. Against all the odds, he was released.
The messages that helped to save Robinson Lusitante’s life were generated by a powerful and effective technique used by Amnesty International — the ‘urgent action’.
A lawyer’s association in Colombia which had been working on behalf of Robinson wrote to Amnesty International: ‘We believe that the international urgent action was responsible for Robinson Lusitante’s reappearing alive’.
Urgent Action letter-writers regularly receive such testimonies to the effectiveness of their efforts. Several Urgent Actions received a letter from Glen Sonwabo Thomas who was released from detention in South Africa without charge or restriction in May 1990: ‘The pressure you exerted on the South African Government has been a great success. If it was not for your efforts, I would still be in detention.’
Others received a letter from Sanan Wongsuthi, a prisoner of conscience in Thailand who was released in 1988: ‘I would like to thank you for everything.. By help of Amnesty International I have got the freedom. I would like to thank you very much again.’
The Urgent Action network involves people like you who are prepared to send urgent messages to government authorities in different countries on behalf of prisoners who are in imminent danger.
Urgent Actions are often issued in an effort to save a particular prisoner from torture, death or medical neglect; from an unfair trial, judicial death penalty or extrajudicial execution. Swiftness of response is half the battle and Urgent Action letter-writers can not only receive case-sheets by first-class post but also by fax and electronic mail.
To join the Amnesty International Urgent Action network, or to find out the address of your local Amnesty group, contact your national Amnesty office (see below for address).
Amnesty International Reports
Prisoners of conscience
Despite hundreds of releases at the end of last year, thousands of political prisoners remain in Syrian jails, where many have been tortured and some have died.
Syria: political prisoners still detained and tortured despite mass releases, July 1992.
In the past three years 176 street children have been murdered in the Brazilian town of Aracaju alone. The killings continue in Brazil’s major cities.
Brazil: extrajudicial execution of street children in Sergipe, July 1992.
The Japanese Government is shirking its responsibilities towards Chinese asylum-seekers fleeing human-rights violations and threatens others with deportation.
Japan: inadequate protection for refugees and asylum seekers, April 1993.
Ill-treatment and racism in custody
A man from Benin living in France is knocked off his motorbike by a car then beaten up by the driver; in Portugal an African is kicked, then sprayed with a high-pressure hose; the cases often go unheeded by police.
Europe: racism and ill-treatment in custody, Feb 1993.
Governments around the world routinely ‘disappear’ innocent people for expressing their peacefully held beliefs. In Morocco hundreds are kept for years in secret detention centres in cruel and degrading conditions.
Morocco: breaking the wall of silence – the ‘disappeared’ in Morocco, 1993.
Prisoners in Malawi are subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions which in some cases amount to a protracted form of extra-judicial execution.
Malawi: prison conditions, cruel punishment and detention without trial, Feb 1992.
Torture occurs in every Indian state. Opponents of the Government are beaten, electrocuted, hanged and raped. Torture is also endemic in China, where the use of electric shocks and leg irons is widespread.
Torture in China, Dec ’92; India: time for change, Apr ”92.
Between July 1988 and Jan 1989, Amnesty recorded at least 2,500 executions of political prisoners. Reports of executions for religious belief continue.
Iran: executions continue unabated, Oct 1992.
Reports published in 1993
Australia: a criminal-justice system weighted against Aboriginal people.
Bosnia: rape and sexual abuse by armed forces.
Chile: torture and ill-treatment continue.
UK/N Ireland: the right of silence.
United States: human rights and American Indians.
World Conference on Human Rights: Facing up to the Failures.
Contact your national office of Amnesty International to buy copies of these reports.
Amnesty International, PO Box 793, Wellington 1. Tel: (04) 499-3349.
Council for International Development, PO Box 24-003, Wellington. Tel: (04) 4726-375.
Amnesty International, Private Bag 23, Broadway, NSW 2007. Tel: (02) 281-4188. Offices in all states.
Committee to Defend Black Rights, 195 George St, Redfern, NSW 2016. Tel: (02) 698-9826.
Amnesty International, 214 Montreal Rd, Suite 401, Vanier, Ontario K1L 1A4. Tel: (613) 744-7667.
Amnistie Internationale, 6250 Boulevard Monk, Montreal, PQ H4E 3H7. Tel: (514) 766-9766.
International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, 63 Rue de Bresoles, Montreal, PQ H2Y 1V7. Tel: (514) 283-6073.
Amnesty International, Sean MacBride House, 8 Shaw St, Dublin 2.
Amnesty International, 99-119 Rosebery Ave, London EC1R 4RE. Tel: (071) 814-6200.
Anti-Slavery International, 180 Brixton Rd, London SW9 6AT. Tel: (071) 582-4040.
Minority Rights Group, 379 Brixton Rd, London SW9 7DE. Tel: (071) 978-9498.
Rights and Humanity, 65 Swinton St, London WC1X 9NT. Tel: (071) 837-4188.
Article 19 (Tel: 071-403-4822),
Africa Watch (Tel: 071-378-8008) and Index on Censorship (Tel: 071-359-0161) can all be found at the same address: 90 Borough High St, London SE1 1LL.
Survival International, 6 Charterhouse Buildings LONDON EC1M 7ET
Tel: +44 (0)20 7687 8700. Fax: +44 (0)20 7687 8701
Amnesty International, 322 8th Ave, New York, NY 10001. Tel: (212) 807-8400.
Human Rights Watch (incorporating Africa Watch, Americas Watch, Asia Watch, Helsinki Watch, Middle East Watch and Fund for Free Expression), 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104. Tel: (212) 972-8400.
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