Since it was established in 1979, Amnesty International Group #175, Long Beach, has taken on long-term cases to work for the release of more than a dozen prisoners of conscience (POCs) in Myanmar (also called Burma), Vietnam, Chile, Czechoslovakia (later the Czech Republic), Bulgaria, Romania, and Kosovo. Among our better-known POCs were Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, Václav Havel of then-Czechoslovakia, and Nguyen Dinh Huy of Vietnam.
Our latest adopted POC was Ye Htut. Ye Htut was a student and a member of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar when he was arrested on September 27, 1995, in Rangoon. Military intelligence personnel reportedly arrested Htut in 1995 for corresponding with a person who worked for an opposition journal outside Myanmar. Ye Htut was sentenced to seven years but was not released until 2008.
Group #175 has also worked on these additional areas:
- regional human rights campaigns focusing on West Africa, Central Europe, and Southeast Asia
- campaigns to end torture, the death penalty, violence against women, and abuses in the global War on Terror, as well as working for children’s rights and the rights of indigenous people
- writing thousands of letters, postcards, and petitions to governments on behalf of individuals at risk around the world, in addition to our regular work for our assigned individual prisoners of conscience
- providing speakers to local organizations and schools
- engaging with government officials, including our mayor and three members of Congress
- dialogs with a major oil firm about the impact of its operations on human rights in Myanmar
- research on conditions of detention of asylum seekers—assisting some to validate their claims of asylum and help them receive needed medical care
- persuading a local business to stop selling and exporting to military and police organizations a device known as thumb cuffs, which could be used as an instrument of torture