Nineteen-ninety was the first full year of operation for the Los Angeles office of Human Rights Watch. The office, which opened in May 1989, grew out of the efforts of the California Committee of Human Rights Watch -- a group of concerned Californians who, since 1987, have actively promoted and participated in our work. The office and volunteer members of the California Committee provide research and campaign support to all five regional divisions of Human Rights Watch by undertaking tasks that are best performed from California. Key elements of this support are their responsibility for Americas Watch's research on Mexico and for examining violations of human rights by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) along the US-Mexico border. They also seek to enhance local awareness of and support for international human rights by sponsoring public educational programs in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
During 1990, research on Mexico was the cornerstone of the Los Angeles office's work. The office released the first comprehensive report on human rights conditions in Mexico by an international nongovernmental organization. That report generated substantial press interest in both Mexico and the United States. In September, a representative from the office testified on human rights in Mexico before a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on the Western Hemisphere and on Human Rights and International Organizations. A report on prison conditions in Mexico and a critique of the first six months of Mexico's new governmental National Human Rights Commission will be published in early 1991.
In the fall of 1990, research began on abuses by the US Border Patrol and by other agencies of the INS during the arrest and detention of undocumented aliens in the United States. That report, too, will be published in early 1991. In December, a staff member published an op-ed article in the San Diego Union regarding the shooting of a Mexican youth by the Border Patrol. The office also submitted an amicus curiae brief to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit regarding human rights violations committed by those acting at the behest of the US government in the course of the abduction and transport to the United States of Mexican gynecologist Humberto Alvarez Machaín.
In January, on behalf of Asia Watch, a member of the California Committee participated in a mission to the Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand to interview refugees about human rights violations by all sides to the Cambodian conflict. Findings from that mission were published in an Asia Watch newsletter and incorporated into Asia Watch's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Since her return, the Committee member has spoken several times about human rights conditions in Cambodia.
Work on China was also a priority of the California Committee. Two California Committee members made numerous presentations about human rights conditions in China. Much of these efforts were part of a drive for the release of Wang Ruowang, a Shanghai writer who was detained following the events in June 1989; he was released in October. In January, a Los Angeles office staff member spoke at a press conference promoting a review of guidelines for granting visas to Chinese students in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre and continuing widespread human rights violations in that country. In April, she also participated in a press conference announcing the passage of a California Assembly Resolution denouncing continuing human rights abuses in China.
In June, a member of the California Committee served as a delegate to the International Helsinki Federation Conference on Human Rights in Moscow. She then traveled to Kiev to meet with local human rights leaders and to explore human rights issues created by rising secessionist movements and ethnic tensions, as well as by the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.
Since the invasion of Kuwait, the Los Angeles office has helped disseminate Middle East Watch newsletters on the human rights situation in Kuwait, the humanitarian aspects of the international embargo against Iraq, and related issues.
As part of a public education series, the California Committee and the Los Angeles office hosted several human rights monitors as well as members of the Human Rights Watch staff and boards. In January, the California Committee hosted Carlos Escobar, a Peruvian lawyer who had gained international attention for his efforts to prosecute those responsible for military atrocities in Peru -- efforts that required him to leave Peru for his safety. In October, the Committee and the office organized a statewide speaking tour for Gibson Kamau Kuria to draw attention to the declining human rights situation in Kenya. Kuria, a leading Kenyan human rights lawyer, was imprisoned in 1987 for representing a political prisoner; in July, again facing detention, he was granted refuge in the US embassy in Nairobi, where he remained until he was allowed to leave the country. In the year's final forum, Mariclaire Acosta, director of the nongovernmental Mexican Commission to Defend and Promote Human Rights, joined a member of the Los Angeles office in discussing human rights in Mexico.
Forums involving Human Rights Watch staff and board members included a discussion in February of human rights in El Salvador three months after the murder of six Jesuit priests and their two associates, one in April on human rights abuses in Iran, Iraq and Israel, and one in September on emerging human rights concerns in the Soviet Union. In addition, in May, Lawrence Weschler spoke about his recently released book, A Miracle, A Universe, which documents the extraordinary efforts made by human rights activists in Brazil and Uruguay to confront and overcome the legacies of repression and torture in their countries.
In 1990, the California Committee successfully raised its operating budget in California through a combination of private contributions, foundation support, and a fund-raising dinner to honor co-chair, Stanley Sheinbaum, on his 70th birthday.
Jane Olson and Stanley Sheinbaum are co-chairs of the California Committee. Its Executive Committee also includes Raquel Ackerman, Mike Farrell, Paul Hoffman, Joseph LaBonte, Daniel Levy, Lynda Palevsky, Clara A. "Zazi" Pope, Francis Wheat and Diane Wittenberg. The remainder of the California Committee is comprised of Lynn Alvarez, Edward Asner, Geoffrey Cowen, Dolores A. Donovan, Sandy Elster, Brenda Freiberg, Jonathan M. Gordon, Arthur N. Greenberg, Kristin Hubbard, Lucy Hubbard, Rosanne Keynan, Clifford L. Klein, Sharon Lloyd, Abraham F. Lowenthal, Beatriz Manz, Felicia Marcus, Hon. Dorothy W. Nelson, Hon. James F. Nelson, Steven A. Nissen, Lucille Polachek, Claire Pollack, Cruz Reynoso, David W. Rintels, Vicki Riskin Rintels, Ramona Ripston, William Rothbard, Orville Schell, Hon. Phillip R. Trimble, Nancy Wheat, Stanley Wolpert and Zohreh Zarnegar.
Ellen Lutz is the director of the Los Angeles office and Larry Siems is an associate.