Tag Archives: group meeting

Report from our July meeting

28 Jul

Human Rights are at the very core of Amnesty’s existence. Anne Walker of AIUK spoke to our online meeting this month about the Human Rights Act. 

She gave a cogent account of its development from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, a direct reaction to the horrors of WW2. In 1953 came the European Convention on Human Rights, one of the chief drafters being Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, a Nuremburg prosecutor. Stemming from this the European Court of Human Rights was set up by the ten founding members (now 47) of the Council of Europe. The UK was at the heart of its foundation.

In 1998 this was given additional force in the UK by the Human Rights Act, which places obligations on the state to respect the rights of individuals.  This has had an unjustifiably bad press in the UK which has attempted to trivialise it, despite its many instances of helping the individual – for example re-enforcing the rights of elderly couples to stay together in care homes. Amnesty believes the British public needs better information on human rights and the Act.

AIUK are very concerned about proposed weakening of the Act and are committed to us remaining a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights.

We discussed other issues: excessive confinement to the cells in UK prisons during the pandemic; continuing repression of the Uyghurs in China; and a pressure for a quicker provision of covid vaccinations for the Nepalese population.

Our Middle East co-ordinator has written to President al-Sisi of Egypt about the plight of 12 men at risk of execution because of their involvement in protests in 2013 about then President Morsi; we discussed other cases in Egypt.

Our co-ordinator on India continues to monitor the case of the BK16, a group of jailed academics and activists; a twitter storm was organised last month to rouse the Indian authorities. One of the group, Father Swamy, aged 84, has died in prison of Parkinson’s disease and covid, a direct result of the inhumane way in which the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is being implemented to lock up activists without trial.

The month’s chosen media is a TV documentary, The Violence Paradox, its contention that we are – ironically – living through one of the most peaceful eras of human existence.

Report from our June meeting

19 Jun

14 to 20 June is Refugee Week, looking at the plight of refugees world wide. Its theme is ‘You cannot walk alone’, remembering Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech of 1963.

Amnesty are highlighting a few of its many aspects, continuing ‘Football Welcomes’, something we have been discussing here in Taunton.  On World Refugee Day, 20 June, there will be a vigil outside the Danish Embassy in London protesting against Denmark’s plan to deport refugees from Syria back to Damascus,  where they will be at high risk of arrest and torture. We were asked to write messages in support.

An ever-present stain on the world’s conscience is what has happened to Rohingya refugees who have fled from Myanmar (Burma) to Bangladesh.  We were asked to sign a petition urging the Bangladesh Government to ‘protect, respect and fulfill their rights’ and ensure their participation in the decisions that affect them.

Our North Africa co-ordinator has been writing letters on behalf of journalists, lawyers and other human right supporters in Egypt and Morocco, countries which stand out for their disregard of human rights.  Our India co-ordinator reported on online actions taking place via Twitter last weekend for the BK16 prisoners of conscience.

We were asked to put pressure on the US after the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Territories. ‘As Israel’s closest ally, the US has a responsibility to pressure Israel to end and redress its systematic violations against Palestinians’.

Five of our members took part in the ‘Kill the Bill’ vigil on 5 June, to protest about the proposed powers to be given to the police under the planned Police Crime Courts and Sentencing bill, which it is feared will aim to silence protest.

Our Books of the Month are by human rights lawyer Philippe Sands – East West Street and The Ratline.

Our next online meeting is at 7.30pm on Tuesday 13 July – all are welcome.  Email amnestytaunton@gmail.com for details.

Report from our April meeting

21 Apr

Dana Kamour of Women Living Under Muslim Law gave a cogent and informative talk to our virtual meeting this month. Her particular focus was Afghanistan, but she emphasised that WLUML is a trans-national women’s organisation; it started in 1984.  There are complex political and cultural laws shaping women’s lives in Afghanistan, and policies are justified by invoking Muslim law.

The Taliban are opposed to women’s education, their rights tightly controlled. 28% of the Legislature are now women, but many women in public life have been assassinated. In ongoing negotiations women’s rights are at the mercy of agreement between the Taliban and other parties –  there are just four women among the 51 peace negotiators.

WLUML uses social media, webinars, lobbying and petitions which aim to educate public opinion –  but ultimately change has to come from within Afghanistan itself.  For more information check their website, www.wluml.org.

We heard reports on Amnesty campaigns – there is much concern about the proposed Immigration Bill, currently under consultation. There’s a wide-reaching Festival of Social Justice in the Midlands, promoted by Amnesty, and a Football Welcomes [Refugees] Campaign underway.

Reports too from our own members:  letters have been written on behalf of Prisoners of Conscience in Morocco, and we are combining with the Tiverton Group to write postcards of support each month to jailed human rights lawyer Azza SolimanAmnesty Feminists are encouraging us to sign petitions on behalf of Iranian lawyer Nazreem Sotoudeh and women in Belarus who are suffering abuse and reprisals for legal anti-Government protests.

Our Book of the Month has turned into two films and a book:

The Assault on Truth by journalist Peter Oborne, featuring Johnson and Trump

The Mauritanian, about Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi

and Clemency, about US Death Row warder Bernadine Williams

Our next online meeting will be at 7.30pm on Tuesday 11 May. Newcomers are most welcome.  Email amnestytaunton@gmail.com for details.

Report from our June meeting

30 Jun

As with so many of us at present, all our actions and meetings have been at a distance.  Our June meeting was again a virtual one.

EJ4r7LCXkAAldlcThis month’s action was for Pakistani human rights defender and researcher Muhammad Idris Khattak (pictured) who was ‘disappeared’ in November 2019.  Nothing has been heard of him since, and his family is extremely concerned for his well-being – he is a diabetic needing daily medication, and at risk of course from Covid-19. The disappeared are at risk of torture and even death. If they are released, the physical and psychological scars endure. Disappearances are a tool of terror that strikes not just individuals or families, but entire societies. Enforced disappearance is a crime under international law and, if committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack, they constitute a crime against humanity. We emailed Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on his behalf; his government promised to criminalise enforced disappearances, but nothing has been done.

We were asked to sign petitions highlighting the 120% increase in reports of  domestic abuse under lockdown; the difficulty accessing abortion under lockdown for women in Northern Ireland, and the gross 38 year sentence and 148 lashes imposed on Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh for her work defending women’s human rights.

We heard reports on the Middle East and North Africa, the Death Penalty and India, and discussed the Black Lives Matter protests.

Our Book of the Month is Ratline: Love, Lies and Justice on the Trail of a Nazi Fugitive by human rights lawyer Philippe Sands.

Our next meeting will be a virtual one on 14 July at 7.30pm; Helen Clarke of AIUK will talk on the human rights situation in Turkey. Email amnestytaunton@gmail.com if you would like to join us.

Report from our May meeting

22 May

Taunton AI virtual meeting - MayIn tune with the times we held our second online virtual meeting this month, and followed up several Monthly Actions, influenced by the current crisis.

Covid-19 is exacerbating a domestic abuse crisis in the UK. Lockdown has seen a huge surge in calls (up 120%) to domestic abuse services and a reported increase in domestic abuse killings. We wrote letters and signed a petition on the Government’s duty to protect all its citizens as the Domestic Abuse Bill passes through Parliament.

We discussed and resolved to write letters on the case of Russian journalist Elena Milashina, who has received death threats from Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov after publishing an article about the spread of Covid-19 in Chechnya.

In India the crackdown on dissidents continues. Meeran Haider, Shifa-Ur-Rehman and Safoora Zargar, who is three months pregnant, have been arrested for peacefully protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a law that legitimises discrimination on the basis of religion and stands in clear violation of the Constitution of India and international human rights law. Detained under the repressive Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the three can be held without charge for up to 180 days or even more, a duration far exceeding international standards. We were urged to write on their behalf to the Minister of Home Affairs.

We listened to detailed reports on the Middle East and North Africa (Ali Aarrass of Morocco has finally been released after 12 years) and on the Death Penalty.

The Death Penalty file makes wretched, depressing reading.  We were asked to email on behalf of Hew Yoo Wah of Malaysia, arrested at the age of 20 for drugs offences, and awaiting execution 14 years later. Likewise for Billy Joe Wardlow of Texas, arrested for murder at the age of 18, and still on death row 27 years later.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 9 June and will also be online.  If you would like to join us, please email amnestytaunton@gmail.com for details.

Report from our April meeting

24 Apr

Distant_but_together_-_web_copyDespite the current lockdown measures we were able to hold a virtual meeting from our own homes, and, thanks to the system set up, managed to communicate successfully.

Amnesty UK have suggested a number of supportive remote actions we could take. Solidarity is at the heart of much of what Amnesty does, and they are calling for our support in getting the Government to protect those at particSUMW_-_placardsular risk from Covid-19: women who are victims of domestic abuse, refugees and migrants, and, crucially, essential workers who need proper support and protective equipment.

Ben Grant gave a presentation on “Families Together”, based on the exhibition in Taunton Library (illustrated with drawings by children from Parkfield School), based on the premise that Refugee Children should be allowed to sponsor their families to join them in the UK. In 2018 a Bill to achieve this was passed by a resounding majority of 131; Taunton’s MP, Rebecca Pow, took part but, sadly, filibustered against it.  The Bill was lost in the Brexit manoeuverings, but there is now a simple Bill to rectify the position in the House of Lords. The UK’s current position is in contravention of international law.

We heard reports on the Middle East and North Africa, the Death Penalty and Amnesty Feminists.

Alun gave a report on India; the BK9 (9 activists fighting for the rights of the poorest and most marginalised communities in the country) have become the BK11; letters and emails have been written to the authorities on their behalf.

Driven by events, “La Peste” by Albert Camus was chosen as Book of the Month. Many have interpreted it as an allegorical representation of French Resistance to Nazi occupation in WW2; today we may have another take on it – surely the hallmark of a great work of art.

Our next meeting is at 7.30pm on Tuesday 12 May via video link. If you would like to join us, please email amnestytaunton@gmail.com

 

Report from our January meeting

28 Jan

Write for Rights: our stall in St Mary’s at the end of November generated interest among the plethora of other events going on that day.  We collected nearly £80 for AI, and received a generous donation from Taunton School as a result of our visit to them – we hope to maintain that contact.

At our January meeting our coordinator for India filled us in on the Kashmir issue, and the protests about the new citizenship changes and restrictions on Muslims.

Our North Africa coordinator had written a letter for us to sign on behalf of Assa Mohammed in Egypt, asking that his sentence be quashed.

Amnesty International had also asked her to keep up the pressure on behalf of Ali Arras of Morocco, who should be released on 2 April. She reminded us that Ali, a Belgian-Moroccan national, was forcibly returned to Morocco in 2010 from Spain, where he was caring for his ageing father. He was tortured for 12 days in a secret detention centre and afterwards confessed to using weapons illegally and supporting a terrorist group. He has been in prison since then.

We discussed future actions, particularly an event on ‘Families Together’ to highlight the plight of refugee children in this country who are again (contrary to the Government’s previous undertaking) being denied the right to re-build a family life.

Our selected Book of the Month is First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung on her experiences in the Cambodian killing fields.

We meet at 7.30pm on the second Tuesday of the month in the Friends’ Meeting House, Bath Place, Taunton (next meeting 11 Feb). We’re always delighted to welcome visitors.

Amnesty Taunton meeting Tuesday 14 January

9 Jan

Keep Calm and Support Amnesty

Please join us at our first meeting of 2020, at 7.30pm on Tuesday 14 January in the Friends Meeting House, Bath Place, Taunton.

The meeting will include a short talk by Alex Melbourne providing an introduction to the humanitarian and human rights situation in South Sudan.

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Report from our October meeting

15 Oct

Amnesty_1200x628_0FAMILIES TOGETHER  We discussed how best to bring this campaign home to people.  More than half of the world’s refugees are children;  Amnesty is asking that child refugees in the UK have the right to sponsor their close family to join them, so they can rebuild their lives together, and be helped to integrate in their new community.  Family and togetherness are at the heart of this campaign.

We heard reports on the Death Penalty. We signed letters to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his Ambassador in this country on behalf of a father and son, Ali Nasser Ali Jarallah and Abdulhai Ali Nasser Ali Jarallah who were forcibly disappeared on a journey through Saudi Arabia.

We signed letters to President el-Sisi on behalf of Aser Mohamed of Egypt, 14 when arrested in 2016 and tortured into a ‘confession’; he’s still in pre-trial detention, and on behalf of Ramy Shaath, a political activist arbitrarily arrested this July and still untried.

The time for Amnesty’s Write for Rights is approaching. Sometimes a letter can change someone’s life: that’s the premise of Write for Rights, Amnesty’s global letter and card writing campaign on behalf of those whose human rights are being attacked. This year our focus is on children and young people.

With the kind permission of the Church, Amnesty Taunton will be at St Mary’s, Hammett Street on 30 November (10am-2pm) with cards for you to sign.  There is plenty going on there that Saturday: a Tower Open Day, an Advent Fair in the Church and a Christmas Festival in Hammett Street.  We hope to see you there!

Our chosen book of the month is “Trials of the State: Law and the Decline of Politics”, Jonathan Sumption’s 2019 Reith Lectures, a book very pertinent to our times.

We meet at 7.30pm on the second Tuesday of the month (excluding December) at the Friends Meeting House in Bath Place. Visitors are always welcome. 

Report from our July meeting

17 Jul

June19 stall.jpgTaunton Amnesty had a stall in the Town Centre on 29 June to raise awareness of LGBT rights and the Death Penalty. We discussed these issues with passers by, handed out leaflets and collected signatures for an LGBT petition defending Pride marches in Turkey. We were very glad to welcome the Mayor, Francesca Smith, and Federica Smith-Roberts, the Leader of the District Council to our stall (pictured); our MP, Rebecca Pow, had planned to visit but sadly had to decline due to her recent bereavement.

We heard reports from our group co-ordinators for the Middle East and North Africa, and for India. We signed a letter to the Egyptian authorities urging the release of Aser Mohamed, a prisoner of conscience, who had signed a confession under torture in 2016 when only 14 years old in defiance of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

For India, Amnesty has an Urgent Action Campaign to support Dalit Human Rights Defenders the ‘Bhima Koregaon 9’. These are nine people committed to the causes of the poorest and most marginalised communities in the country, like Dalits and Adivasis. Far from being anti-national as they have been branded, the Bhima Koregaon 9 are for many, national heroes.

Much of the meeting was spent discussing the 5 Big Questions that Amnesty believes we must look at to consider how we should develop in the future. Check this out at nextstrategy.amnesty.org.

We don’t meet in August, but at the 10 September meeting Cherry Bird of the Minehead Group will talk on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. We are always delighted to welcome visitors to our meetings; we meet on the second Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm in the Friends Meeting House, Bath Place.

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