THE CALIFORNIA COMMITTEE AND THE LOS ANGELES OFFICE
The Los Angeles office of Human Rights Watch was opened in 1989 to complement the work of the California Committee of Human Rights Watch-a group of concerned Californians who actively promote and participate in our work. The Los Angeles office is responsible for Americas Watch's research on Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border area. The office also is available to carry out research and campaign tasks for all components of Human Rights Watch and sponsors a series of community education programs on human rights issues. In 1992, the office assumed increased responsibility for litigation and other legal work to support cases in U.S. courts that raise international human rights questions within our mandate.
In the first half of the year, research attention focused on human rights abuses by the U.S. Border Patrol and other agencies of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (ins) during the arrest and detention of undocumented migrants. An Americas Watch report on ins abuses was released in May. (See section on the United States for a summary of the report's findings.) Following the release of the report, Los Angeles and Washington staff met with members of Congress to inform them of our findings and to press for the creation of an independent Board of Review to receive and investigate complaints of ins abuse. In July, the Los Angeles office prepared testimony on ins abuses that was presented to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on International Law, Immigration and Refugees.
In the second half of the year, research attention shifted to Mexico. Los Angeles office staff visited Mexico in November to meet with senior federal government officials and representatives of the National Human Rights Commission, attend a meeting of the nationwide nongovernmental human rights network All Rights for All, and participate in a press conference organized by the Planeta publishing house to promote the release of the first three Americas Watch reports on Mexico in a Spanish-language edition. The staffalso prepared articles for publication on human rights conditions in Mexico and the human rights implications of the case of United States v. Alvarez Machain, contributed to a forthcoming Human Rights Watch/Yale University Press book on human rights in Mexico, spoke at a conference for women leaders from Mexico and California, and conducted numerous press interviews.
With the assistance of two Middle East Watch research interns, the Los Angeles office conducted follow-up interviews over the summer with Palestinian families in Kuwait who were facing imminent deportation from Kuwait and assisted with the preparation of affidavits in support of asylum applications submitted by family members in the United States and Canada who would be at risk of persecution if returned to Kuwait. The office also followed developments leading up to Lebanon's first parliamentary elections in 20 years and has continued to assist Middle East Watch monitor developments there in the post-election period.
In 1992, the office took increased responsibility for litigation. It assumed significant responsibility for writing many of the amicus curiae briefs filed by Human Rights Watch and its regional divisions. In addition, the office successfully litigated the liability phase of the Sison v. Marcos litigation. (See chapter on the United States for a description of these cases.) It also coordinated efforts to ensure that human rights trial monitors were present during the deportation proceedings against two permanent residents who had made humanitarian contributions to a Palestinian organization. (See chapter on the Fund for Free Expression.)
As part of its public education program, the California Committee and Los Angeles office organized a series of well attended events featuring speakers from the Human Rights Watch staff. Presentations were made on the peace process in El Salvador, human rights developments in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, the work of the Women's Rights Project, and the connection between freedom of expression and the prevention of environmental, health, and human rights disasters. The California Committee also sponsored the Los Angeles premier of the Human Rights Watch film festival. In December, the California Committee hosted a celebratory dinner to honor 14 human rights monitors from around the world. The dinner is part of a ten-day nationwide series of events organized by Human Rights Watch to pay tribute to individuals who have dedicated themselves to defending and promoting human rights in their countries. This year one of the monitors comes from the United States, and is being honored for his work in combatting abuse by U.S. immigration officials along the Mexican border.