Accusation of Human Rights Violations by Rev. James Warren Jones Against Our Children and Relatives at the Peoples Temple Jungle Encampment in Guyana, South America

TO: REV. JAMES WARREN JONES

From: Parents and relatives of children and adults under your control at “Jonestown”, Northwest District, Cooperative Republic of Guyana

Date: April 11, 1978

I. INTRODUCTION

We, the undersigned, are the grief-stricken parents and relatives of the hereinafter-designated persons you arranged to be transported to Guyana, South America, at a jungle encamp­ment you call “Jonestown”. We are advised there are no tele­phones or exit roads from Jonestown, and that you now have more than 1,000 U.S. citizens living with you there.

We have allowed nine months to pass since you left the United States in June 1977. Although certain of us knew it would do no good to wait before making a group protest, others of us were willing to wait to see whether you would in fact respect the fundamental freedoms and dignity of our children and family members in Jonestown. Sadly, your conduct over the past year has shown such a flagrant and cruel disregard for ­human rights that we have no choice as responsible people but to make this public accusation and to demand the immediate elimination of these outrageous abuses.

II. SUMMARY OF VIOLATIONS

We hereby accuse you, Jim Jones, of the following acts violating the human rights of our family members:

1. Making the following threat calculated to cause alarm for the lives of our relatives: “I can say without hesitation that we are devoted to a decision that it is better even to die than to be constantly harrassed [harassed] from one continent to the next.”

2. Employing physical intimidation and psychological coercion as part of a mind-programming campaign aimed at destroying family ties, discrediting belief in God, and causing contempt for the United States of America.

3. Prohibiting our relatives from leaving Guyana by confiscating their passports and money and by stationing guards around Jonestown to prevent anyone escaping.

4. Depriving them of their right to privacy, free speech, and freedom of association by:

a.  Prohibiting telephone calls;

b.  Prohibiting individual contacts with “outsiders”;

c. Censoring all incoming and outgoing mail;

d. Extorting silence from relatives in the U.S. by threats to stop all communication;

e. Preventing our children from seeing us when we travel to Guyana.

The aforesaid conduct by you is a violation of the human rights of our loved ones as guaranteed by Article 55 of the United Nations Charter, and as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted by the U. N. General Assembly on December 10, 1948). It is also a violation of their constitutional rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana (adopted May 26, 1966).

III. THREAT OF DECISION TO DIE

On March 14, 1978 you, Jim Jones, caused to be written on Peoples Temple stationery a letter “to all U.S. Senators and Members of Congress” complaining of alleged “bureaucratic harassment” and ending with this chilling threat:

“[I]t is equally evident that people cannot forever be continually harassed and beleaguered by such tactics without seeking alternatives that have been presented. I can say without hesitation that we are devoted to a decision that it is better even to die than to be constantly harassed from one continent to the next.”

A copy of your letter is attached as Exhibit A.

We know how exact you are in choosing your words, and there is little doubt that this letter was dictated by you personally since it has been your policy over the years to dictate all letters sent to governmental officials on Temple stationery. Your letter seeks to mask, by the use of irrelevant ideological rhetoric, its real purpose, which is to divert the attention of U.S. Governmental agencies towards your abuses of human rights by putting them on the defensive.

The “1,000 U.S. citizens” you claim to have brought to Guyana include our beloved relatives who are “devoted to a decision that it is better even to die.” We frankly do not know if you have become so corrupted by power that you would actually allow a collective “decision” to die, or whether your letter is simply a bluff designed to deter investigations into your practices. There is supporting evidence for our concern in the affidavit of Yolanda Crawford, attached hereto as Exhibit B, which shows that you have publicly stated in Guyana that you would rather have your people dead than living in the United States, and that you have solicited people to lay down their lives for your cause. You certainly have been successful in making us fearful as to your intentions.

We hereby give you the opportunity now to publicly repudiate our interpretation of your threat. If you refuse to deny the apparent meaning of your letter, we demand that you immediately answer the following questions:

1. When you refer to “a decision that it is better even to die than to be constantly harassed”, has this “decision” already been made or is it to be made in the future? If made, when and where? Were our relatives­ consulted? Did anybody dissent? By what moral or legal justification could you possibly make such a decision on behalf of minor children?

2. When you say you are “devoted” to this decision, does that mean it is irreversible? If irreversible, at what point will the alleged “harrassment” have gotten so great as to make death “better”? Would it be an International Human Rights Commission investigation, or an on-premises investigation of your operations by the U. S. Government? Who besides you will decide when that point “to die” is reached?

We know your psychological coercion of the residents of Jonestown to be so “totalitarian” that nobody there, including adults, could possibly make such a decision to die freely and voluntarily. The evidence is that our relatives are in fact hostages, and we hereby serve notice that should any harm befall them, we will hold you and Peoples Temple church responsible and will employ every legal and diplomatic resource to bring you to justice.

IV. MIND-PROGRAMMING AND INTIMIDATION

The affidavit of Steven A. Katsaris, attached hereto as Exhibit C, is a personal account of his experiences in Guyana. It reveals the terrifying effect of your mind-programming on his daughter, a bright 24-year old, which has caused her to deny belief in God, to renounce family ties, and to manifest symptoms of sleep-deprivation and a serious personality change.

Yolanda Crawford’s affidavit (Exhibit B) is an eye-witness account of your activities in Guyana by someone present with you. The affidavit shows that you, Jim Jones, preach there the following doctrines: a) that you are God and there is no other God, b) that the United States is the “most evil” nation in the world, c) that allegiance to your cause must replace family loyalty and that parents should be handled at a distance for the sole purposes of collecting inheritances for the cause and of getting them not to cause trouble.

The evidence also shows that you have instituted the following practices in Guyana: a) a centralized chain of command whereby all decisions of significance are to be made by you and once made, must be followed by Temple members under threat of punishment; b) the stationing of guards around Jonestown to prevent persons from escaping; and c) the use of degrading punishments (for example, eating hot peppers), sleep-deprivation, food-deprivation, hard labor, and other coercive techniques commonly used in mind-programming.

The evidence also shows that you, Jim Jones, confiscate the passports and monies of people upon their arrival in Guyana, prohibit individual contacts with “outsiders”, censor incoming and outgoing mail, prohibit telephone calls by Temple members when in Georgetown, and require Temple members to travel in groups. Ms. Crawford’s affidavit also shows that you have publicly threatened that anyone who tries to leave the “cause” will be killed.

The aforesaid conduct by you is a wanton violation of the human rights of our loved ones. It is also a violation of their constitutional rights. The physical intimidation is a violation of the penal codes of the United States and the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.

V. THE HUMAN RIGHTS BEING VIOLATED

We hereby bring to your attention, Jim Jones, the particular provisions which guarantee human rights and constitutional rights that you are violating:

1. Confiscation of Passports. Your systematic confiscation of passports and all of the monies of Temple members upon their arrival in Guyana is for the purpose of preventing them from leaving and returning to the United States. You are thereby violating Article 13, Section 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads:

“Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

Your conduct is also a violation of Article 14 (1) of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, which reads:

“No person shall be deprived of his freedom of movement, that is to say, the right to move freely throughout Guyana,. the right to leave Guyana..”

2. Prohibiting Telephone Calls. You systematically tell all Temple members upon their arrival in Georgetown, Guyana that they are not permitted, under threat of punishment, to make any telephone calls to family members in the United States or elsewhere, your purpose being to prevent negative information being imparted to relatives in the U. S. Your additional purpose is to overcome the bonds of family which might induce a Temple member to wish to return to his home in the U. S. This conduct is a violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

This conduct is also a violation of Article 12 (1) of the Guyana Constitution, which reads:

“Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference and freedom from interference with his correspondance [correspondence].”

3. Prohibiting Contacts With Outsiders. You systematically require that all Temple members, while in Georgetown, not communicate or visit with “outsiders” and not leave the communal headquarters (41 Lamaha Gardens) unless in association with other Temple members. You follow the same policy in Jonestown, enforcing your edicts with guards. Your purpose is to prevent anyone going to the U. S. Embassy and causing them to ask questions how you treat people. Your additional purpose is to discourage Temple members from being exposed to other religions or philosophies, and from viewing their lives independent of communal obligations. Your conduct is a violation of Article 20, Section 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

“No one may be compelled to belong to an association.”

It is also a violation of Article 18 of the same Declaration, which states:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Your conduct is also a violation of Article 13 (1) of the Guyana Constitution, which reads:

“Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say, his right to assemble freely and associate with other persons.”

4. Censoring Mail. You systematically require that all of the incoming mail and all of the outgoing mail of Temple members be censored by your staff. Your purpose is to discourage negative information being “leaked” to people in the U. S. and to prevent facts about the “outside” world reaching Temple members which are at variance with your “party line”. This is shown by the affidavit of Ms. Crawford with respect to the Ku Klux Klan marching in the streets. Because mail is the only means of contact available to our loved ones once they are transported to Jonestown, you have thereby effectively cut off all free expression and correspondance. Your conduct is a violation of the right of our relatives to privacy, family, and correspondance under Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondance ***. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference.”

Your censoring of mail is also a violation of Article 12 (1) of the Guyana Constitution, which is quoted above.

5. Extorting Silence From Relatives. You systematically require that Temple members who write to their family members in the U. S. threaten in their letters that they will stop all further communication if any criticism is made of you or Peoples Temple. For example, Donna Ponts is a 15-year old girl taken to Guyana in July 1977 without her father’s knowledge and in violation of a court order requiring her to remain in California unless he gave permission. Attached hereto as Exhibit D is a letter from Donna to her grandmother which starts out saying: “Grandma, Hi! How are you doing? I hope you and everyone else are doing good”. It ends as follows:

“I am sorry to hear that you called the radio station but since you did I will not be writing you any more.”

Those of us who receive letters from our relatives in Jonestown find them standardized and unresponsive, as if written by machines. But since it is all we have, these letters are very precious to us. You have placed us in the agonizing dilemma of watching helplessly while the rights of our reIatives are violated or losing all contact. We have chosen, however, not to yield to your extortion, which is a violation of Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, quoted above, and of Article 13 (1) of the Guyana Constitution, also quoted above.

6. Prohibiting Our Children From Seeing Us. Five of the parents who have signed this accusation have travelled from San Francisco some 5,000 miles in order to see their children since you took them to Guyana. The evidence is clear that you have instituted a most pernicious campaign to discredit us in our children’s eyes, as can be concluded from the following experiences:

a. Steven A. Katsaris. On September 26, 1977 Steven A. Katsaris arrived in Guyana and attempted to meet with his daughter, Maria. She was prohibited from meeting with him, duress being employed by you to force her to lie to the U. S. Embassy that she did not wish to see her father because “he had molested” her. Mr. Katsaris had with him a letter from Maria inviting him and saying, “I love you & miss you.” On November 3, 1977 Mr. Katsaris returned to Guyana to see his daughter, after first obtaining a promise of assistance from the Guyanese Ambassador to the United States. After days of waiting, Maria was allowed to see her father but only in the presence of three other Temple members. Maria gave evidence of sleep deprivation and a behavior pattern extremely hostile and different from that ever manifested before. For the details of these two visits, refer to Exhibit C.

b. Howard and Beverly Oliver. On December 19, 1977 Howard and Beverly Oliver, together with their attorney Roger Holmes, arrived in Guyana in order to see their two sons, William S. Oliver (age 17) and Bruce Howard Oliver (age 20). In July 1977 both boys had told their parents they were going to Guyana “for two weeks.” The Olivers had a court order from a California Superior Court for the return of William. They also had in their possession letters from each son saying “I love you”. After spending eight days without success trying to see their sons, they were told that “Jim Jones had a council meeting” and the decision was that “it was best that we did not see or talk to our sons.” Attached as Exhibit E is a handwritten account of Beverly E. Oliver, together with a copy of a letter from each son.

c. Timothy and Grace Stoen. On January 4, 1978 Timothy and Grace Stoen arrived in Guyana in connection with habeas corpus proceedings commenced the preceding August. Although they had a California Superior Court order which ordered you to deliver their six-year old
child, John Victor Stoen, to them, you refused to let either parent even see their child. The evidence also shows that you have falsely accused Grace as being “unfit” (see Katsaris affidavit) and that on January 18, 1978 three Temple members surrounded Timothy at Timehri Airport in Guyana and threatened his and Grace’s lives if they did not drop legal proceedings (see Crime Report made to Guyana Commissioner of Police Lloyd Barker on January 18, 1978).

The aforesaid conduct on your part constitutes a violation of Article 12 (l) of the Guyana Constitution, quoted above, and Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states as follows:

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his…family….”

VI. DEMANDS FOR RELIEF

We hereby demand that you, Jim Jones, immediately cease and desist from the aforesaid conduct and that you do the following additional acts immediately:

1. Publicly answer our questions regarding your threat of a collective “decision…to die”, and publicly promise U. S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Guyana Prime Minister Forbes Burnham that you will never encourage or solicit the death of any person at Jonestown, whether individually or collectively, for any reason whatsoever;

2. Remove all guards physically preventing our relatives from leaving Jonestown;

3. Return all passports and money taken from our relatives to them for their permanent possession;

4. Permit and encourage our relatives a one-week visit home, at our expense. (Because our relatives have been in Guyana for months (and some, for years) and because it is our belief that they do not know the full Peoples Temple story and have been prejudiced against their families, we demand you demonstrate in practice your contention that they are their own agents by permitting and encouraging our relatives to visit their families in the U. S. for one week, with our guarantee that we will provide them with round trip air fare and not interfere with their return at the end of the family visit should they so choose.)

5. Permit our relatives to write letters to whomever they wish, uncensored and in private.

6. Permit our relatives to read letters sent to them in private and without censorship.

7. Abide by the orders of the courts in the United States which you have heretofore ignored.

8. Notify us within three days on your radio-phone network of your full acceptance and compliance with these demands by contacting: Steven A. Katsaris, Trinity School, 915 West Church Street, Ukiah, California 95482; telephone (707) 462-8721.

Originally posted on February 17th, 2013.

Last modified on December 30th, 2020.
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