Past Activities

Movie: The Reckoning

Group 178 (Irvine) partnered with Orange County for Darfur to show the movie The Reckoning, a documentary showing the work of the prosecutors of the International Criminal Court (ICC). We had a good turnout, including several people from Sudan who found out about our event after Peggy publicized it at the Genocide Intervention Network site. After the movie ended the audience stayed for a half-hour discussion of what people in the US should do and can do about these human rights violations.

The Reckoning, attendance

Synopsis: Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues arrest warrants for the rebel leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, puts 4 Congolese warlords on trial in The Hague, charges the President of Sudan with genocide and war crimes in Darfur, challenges the UN Security Council to have him arrested, and shakes up the Colombian criminal justice system.

In the movie we see scenes from the trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo who was arrested, delivered to the court in The Hague, and put on trial for forced conscription of children. Thomas Lubunga’s trial is the first trial by the ICC. The court has to decide on important rules of disclosure of evidence to the defense.

In Colombia, the court assists those investigating the cases of kidnapping and massacres by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerillas and the massacres committed by paramilitary organizations, with impunity for many of the perpetrators. The disarmament of the paramilitary groups was accompanied with promises of freedom from prosecution.

The ReckoningIn Uganda, arrest warrants for leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army are never served. We see the attempts by rebels to depict the ICC as a contributor to the continued state of war, as the rebels tell the civilian population that they will gladly lay down their arms as long as the ICC promises not to prosecute them for their past crimes, including murder, abduction, sexual enslavement, mutilation, and forced conscription of children.

And in March 2005 The United Nations Security Council refers cases in Sudan to the ICC (since Sudan is not a state party to the Rome Statute which established the ICC, the ICC only has jurisdiction in that country on the basis of a referral from any State Party, or from the United Nations Security Council). Arrest warrants are issued for Ali Kushayb, a leader of the Janjaweed; Ahmad Harun, Sudan's Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs; and, in a bold move, Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, president of the country!

Event Announcement | Event Page

Event date: 19 September 2009

Concert Tabling: Dave Matthews Band

Amnesty International is periodically invited to table at concerts for major bands touring the USA. Typically, the artists themselves contact Amnesty International and invite us to have a table there to spread the word about human rights. In September 2009, the Dave Matthews Band invited us to their summer tour.

Dave Matthews Band, Summer Tour 2009

Julie from Group 141 (Orange) reports:

I helped table at the Dave Matthews Band concert on 13 September [at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine]. The lead volunteer was Kelly Giles from Los Angeles. There were four petitions for people to sign:

  1. for Khaing Kaung San [a Burmese prisoner of conscience / political dissident working with ethnic Arakanese welfare organizations who was imprisoned in 2000 after being forcibly returned from Thailand where he sought—and was granted—political asylum]
  2. for Myo Min Zaw [English student in Burma, sentenced to 42 years imprisonment for distributing leaflets and arranging small student demonstrations]
  3. for Abdolfattah Soltani [arrested in Tehran on 16 June by four plainclothes security officials who did not have a search warrant, a summons or arrest warrant; A.S. is a member of the Center for the Defense of Human Rights]
  4. re Drapchi Prison [Drapchi Prison, located in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, has been a focus of AI work for the prisoners of conscience in detention there, and for the torture and ill-treatment to which inmates are subjected].

We got over a hundred signatures, not too bad for Orange County. We had a donation jar out, but only got a few dollars.

Event date: 13 September 2009 | Report by Julie Garner

Fund-raiser: Long Beach Group yard sale

Yard Sale

Group 175 (Long Beach) had a yard sale at Norma’s house to benefit their group.

Event date: 18 July 2009

Movie: Ghosts of Rwanda

Ghosts of Rwanda

Group 178 (Irvine) hosted a film screening of the Frontline documentary Ghosts of Rwanda at Irvine United Congregational Church, Plumer Hall, 4915 Alton Parkway, Irvine. The event was co-sponsored by Orange County for Darfur. (event flyer)

Event date: 16 April 2009

Great American Write–In

Great American Write-In attendees

As we have every year for as long as we can remember, Group 178 (Irvine) had a table at this highly recommended event, put on by Women For:Orange County. We were one of many, many organizations with letter-writing opportunities on a wide variety of social issues. (event page)

Event date: 4 April 2009

Presentation: Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force

At its March 2009 meeting, group 178 (Irvine) hosted Sandie Morgan, Administrator of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force who spoke to us about human trafficking.

Sandie Morgan is working to build a team that will educate and enlist our local community against the modern slave trade. Developing community grassroots awareness is critical to ending slavery. She partnered with other members of the OC Community on an awareness video, The Cost of Demand which was launched 11 January 2009.

The modern slave trade is a business fueled by demand. Consequently, to some degree we are all part of the problem or part of the solution. We contribute to demand by turning a blind eye to pornography and sex tourism or by making choices that reward companies that keep their bottom line under the rest of the market by the use of slave labor.

Sandie Morgan Sandra Morgan learned about human Trafficking in Greece where she also witnessed the activity of Amnesty International, and mentioned that the AI members she saw in Greece were very dedicated. In Sandra’s presentation we learned that human Trafficking is a very real problem in Orange County. Human trafficking is different from smuggling: in smuggling, the person is crossing a national border and consents to the illegal operation. In human trafficking, the victim either does not consent or the consent is rendered meaningless by the subsequent actions of the trafficker.

Human trafficking is one of the fastest criminal industries. The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, passed by US congress in 2000, defines the severe forms of trafficking as sex trafficking (commercial sex acts induced by coercion or in which the person is under the age of 18 years); and labor trafficking: involuntary servitude, debt bondage or slavery. Sandra Morgan also mentioned cases of marriage in which a spouse will bring someone from overseas but keep control of their documents and finances to prevent them from seeking independence.

One interesting point she mentioned is that, when you see an opportunity to purchase a good or service very inexpensively, you should stop and ask yourself: why is this so cheap? Am I profiting from the work of an indentured worker?

For any questions, or to report suspected cases of human trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-3737-888.

Event date: 26 March 2009

4Darfur Awareness Concert

Amnesty International local groups collaborated with high school groups in Orange County to organize a concert to benefit Darfur. 4Darfur Awareness Concert

Event date: 14 March 2009

Eve of Justice

Eve of Justice—Children Protesters

Amnesty International encouraged its members to attend the Eve of Justice vigils promoting marriage equality in California. Amnesty International has this to say about marriage equality:

Amnesty International believes that the denial of equal civil recognition of same-sex relationships prevents many people from accessing a range of other rights, such as rights to housing and social security, and stigmatizes those relationships in ways that can fuel discrimination and other human rights abuses against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The failure of a state to recognize these relationships has grave consequences for same sex couples and their children, these include:

  • Prohibiting a partner from making decisions on a partner’s behalf when she or he is sick;
  • Prohibiting a partner from visiting a partner’s child in hospital;
  • Preventing couples from sharing equal rights and equal responsibility for children in their care;
  • Preventing a partner and children from receiving employment-based benefits and being covered by health insurance;
  • Preventing inheritance from a deceased partner going to a surviving partner if he or she dies without a valid will.

Amnesty International members supported Eve of Justice Events in Orange County in March of 2009. These events were timed around the date of 5 March 2009 on which the California Supreme Court was to hear oral arguments on the issue of overturning California Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage in California. As the US Supreme Court said in its decision in the interracial marriage case of LOVING v. VIRGINIA, 388 U.S. 1 (1967),

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law.

It is time to grant this civil right to same-sex relationships.

Eve of Justice—Speakers

Update: On 26 May 2009, The California Supreme court did not find sufficient reason to declare that Proposition 8 was invalid, and same-sex marriage remains illegal in California.

Event date: 4 March 2009

Free the Slaves

Free the SlavesAt their February 2009 meeting, Group 175 (Long Beach) invited Sue Murat, a representative from Free the Slaves, to give a presentation on her organization.

Free the Slaves is a non–profit organization made up of people who don’t want to live in a world with slavery. They liberate slaves around the world, help them rebuild their lives and research real world solutions to eradicate slavery forever.

Sue Murat began by telling us a bit about her background. She began to see how the international community responds to crisis when she formed her own organization that delivered books to Croatia. She was distressed by the U.N. being hamstrung to help when obviously needed. Later, she met one of the founders of Free the Slaves, Dr. Kevin Bales, and was so inspired by his message and plan to end slavery, that she jumped in to volunteer her time to the organization. She has gone on missions to see how they work and told us about their different strategies. Sadly, as stated on the organization’s Web site,

There are more people in slavery today than at any time in human history—27 million. This growth in the number of slaves is driven by the population explosion, widespread impoverishment of people and their resulting vulnerability, and government corruption so that people are not protected from the violence of Event date:enslavement.

There are many ways to help out. Take a look at for ideas, make sure to work on ending slavery through Amnesty work as well. When buying gifts, consider supporting former slaves by purchasing their wares.

Event date: 18 February 2009 | Report by Norma Edwards

Film Screening: Violence Against Women in Darfur

Violence against women in DarfurIn conjunction with Orange County for Darfur, Group 178 (Irvine) hosted a screening of One Night, One Voice, a film which tells the personal stories of women who have survived attacks and sexual violence in Darfur

The event was a screening of a 12-minute movie about the usage of rape as an instrument of war by the Sudanese Militia against the women—and the whole community—in Darfur. It was from the point of view of the women, and contained a message of hope, in spite of the horrors. It was both horrific because of the nature of the crimes, but also uplifting because of the spirit and perseverance of these women.

After the screening the attendees participated in a discussion/talk.

Event date: 11 February 2009 | Report by Gila Wdowinski

City of Lost Children

City of Lost Children: Attendees

At their January 2009 meeting, Group 178 (Irvine) partnered with Living Ubuntu to host photographer Kent Treptow who wrote a fascinating series of articles (including narrated slideshows) on the plight of street children in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. (Go view his series now!)

Kent Treptow Kent Treptow (left) with one of the children

In 1990, Mongolia abandoned its one-party style of government and embraced democracy and private industry. Unfortunately, the withdrawal of Soviet support and a collapse of the economy has led to widespread poverty and unemployment.

The situation of these street children is worsened by the weather. Mongolia, a land-locked country, suffers from extremely cold Siberian winters lasting from October to April with persistent winds. As Kent told us, during the coldest days in the winter, it would be deadly to stay outside. The children therefore take refuge in maintenance holes under the street—small areas where they huddle together to stay warm at night. Many of the children he saw had huge burns on their arms and legs from the hot water pipes that cross their shelter. The children were orphans, had been abandoned by their parents, or had simply drifted away from their homes due to the extreme poverty of their family. One of the children was the son of one of the most popular singers in the country, and would see his father’s face plastered on the front of a record store every time he left his underground “home”—his father had rejected the boy upon remarrying.

The children survive by scavenging discarded food, working in open-air markets (one of the photos showed a small boy carrying three huge bags of flour), or petty thievery. They turn to alcohol for comfort. The girls are at risk of being forced into prostitution. Their future prospects are almost nil. It is likely that they will either die young, or, when reaching the age of eighteen, get arrested and spend much of the rest of their life in prison.

One of the groups of children that Kent worked closely with accompanied him to the airport on his departure after his month stay, some of them openly crying. (Kent told us that he was amazed at the capacity of tenderness he could see in even the toughest street kids.) As they said to him upon taking leave: “Don’t forget about us”.

This was a fascinating and extremely powerful presentation and we cannot urge people strongly enough to invite Kent Treptow to speak at your school, meeting or other venue. Contact us for more information, or you can e-mail Kent Treptow directly:

Christina Noble Children’s Foundation

The Christina Noble Children’s Foundation is one of the organizations that attempts to help improve their lives. When Kent left after his month spent documenting the story of these children (as young as six or seven) living underground in maintenance holes to escape the sub-zero winters, they asked him “Do you think that your article will help us get out of here?” He answered honestly “You personally, probably not, but maybe it will help future children.” Please find it in your heart to give a small donation to the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation to support their work in Mongolia.

Dignity Campaign

Amnesty International, originally formed as an organization to promote the rights of individuals, has tackled an increasing number of human rights issues throughout its 40-year existence and now campaigns for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) with its current Dignity Campaign. Amnesty International bases its work on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states

Article 25.
  1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Event date: 29 January 2009

December 10th Human Rights Day Write-a-thon


Norma Edwards of Group 175 (Long Beach) organized an annual Human Rights Day Write-a-thon event at Zephyr Cafe in Long Beach. (Zephyr Cafe, by the way, has some excellent vegan chocolate chip cookies.) As you may or may not know, the annual Write-a-thon is an event where Amnesty International challenges members and non-members alike to produce a large quantity of letters on one day. A dedicated group of people met at the location to sign letters and chat over coffee and desserts, and we exceeded our goal for letter-writing. Thanks Norma for making this event happen!

Event date: 10 December 2008

Walk For Hope 2008

Walk For Hope 2008—Quotation

We have participated in the Walk for Hope every year since its inception. The Walk for Hope is organized by Be the Cause. The Walk for Hope is a reflective journey that leads the walker along a park path decorated with handmade expressions of love and famous quotes, all selected with care for their insight and inspiration. In addition, there are several activity stations set-up along the path to give each walker the opportunity to pause, interact, reflect, and sow new seeds of change.

Walk For Hope—Tabling

Event date: 18 October 2008


Mini-Conference Attendees

Amnesty International conducts National and Regional conferences, where activists gather for educational workshops, participate in round-table discussions, and listen to inspirational speakers on a wide array of human rights topics. The Amnesty Southern California Mini-Conference was inspired by them and the desire to bring a version to those in Southern California who might not be able to attend the other conferences based on various circumstances.

It started when Harmon and Kris were attending an Amnesty Train the Trainer session in the summer of 1999 in San Francisco. One of the requirements to continue to be a trainer was to do at least two training sessions a year. At the end of one of the training days, during dinner in China Town, Harmon looked at Kris and said, “Why don’t we do a conference?” Kris got suckered in. The idea was brought back to the local groups in Southern California where it was warmly received and so the conference began.

Many Amnesty members and staff were involved who provided ideas for workshops and speakers as well as putting together workshops themselves. One of the major obstacles was finding a free venue. Ernie came through and was able to secure the facilities at California State University (Fullerton). The main theme of every conference was to learn and share with fellow activists and the community about human rights and the work to promote them.

We hope to have our next mini-conference in the spring of next year.

Slideshow showing activities at some of our past mini-conferences. 2003 photos courtesy of Ernie Solheid; 2007 photos from Harmon Tipton.

You can see past mini-conference programs in our archives.

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