Tag Archives: human rights

Report from our September meeting

15 Sep

Our September meeting was as usual a virtual one.  Our speaker was Cherry Bird, the AI UK South West Regional representative. She spoke of how Amnesty has changed to keep abreast of the mood and demands of the times.  AI UK’s AGM later this month is a virtual one.

There is more emphasis on actions for human rights and prisoners of conscience than letter writing, and greater use of social media. Vigils are a useful tool for consciousness raising. Amnesty is keen to engage younger members – they have a Student Action network group – and to keep them engaged.  Where are those past members of University Groups?

But letter writing is still an essential tool.  For our actions this month we wrote to the Cambodian authorities on behalf of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a Thai activist in exile, who has reportedly been abducted from Cambodia where he was living.  Nine such activists have been abducted in recent years; two of them are known to be dead.

We emailed the Turkish authorities on behalf of Eren Keskin, a brave and principled human rights lawyer. She has faced repeated harassment over the years, and is now in danger of imprisonment.

We heard reports from members on the Death Penalty, the Middle East and North Africa, India and Amnesty Feminists, working on issues involving women. We heard again of the appalling case of Nasrin Soutedeh, Iranian human rights lawyer, sentenced last year to a 38 year term and 148 lashes; she is currently on hunger strike.  Letters were written on behalf of Egyptian human rights lawyer, Hoda Abdel Moneim, held for many months in pre-trial detention, and Moroccan journalist Omar Radi, harassed  for his political investigations. 

Our Book of the Month is Somerset Executions by A M Gould – ‘If history were told in the form of stories it would never be forgotten’ wrote Kipling, and this book is a case in point.

We meet online at 7.30pm on the second Tuesday of each month, and all are welcome.  Email amnestytaunton@gmail.com if you would like details of how to join the meeting.

Report from our July meeting

31 Jul

amnesty group (1)Our July meeting was held virtually – the new normal! We were joined by Helen Clarke of AIUK, Country Coordinator for Turkey, to describe her work, which is to keep abreast of all that is going on in Turkey from a Human Rights point of view and translate this into information and action.

She outlined some current cases in Turkey: Taner Kilic, the ex-head of AI Turkey was sentenced this month to 6 years in prison; Eren Kiskin, another human rights activist, one of Amnesty’s Individuals at Risk, threatened and victimized; writer Ahmet Altan who had emerged from prison after a sentence of some years, only to be re-arrested the following day on a different charge and returned to prison.

This month’s actions are all online.  We were asked to sign appeals on a variety of subjects: a call for social media companies to show more restraint and sensitivity in the images they show of violent events;  an appeal for urgent care for dual British-Iranian national Anoosheh Ashoori serving a lengthy prison sentence after a grossly unfair trial, and an appeal to Russia to vote at the Security Council for renewal of vital cross-border aid for refugees in north-west  Syria.

We heard reports from members of work on India, Egypt and the death penalty. Member Ben Grant had had a discussion with Taunton MP Rebecca Pow focusing on the Families Together campaign, and pointing out the contradictions in the Government’s position on child refugees.

Our Book of the Month is No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus prison by Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian journalist asylum seeker imprisoned for 4 years on Christmas Island by the Australian Government.

Our next regular meeting (still virtual) will be at 7.30pm on Tuesday 8 September. Email amnestytaunton@gmail.com if you’d like to join us.

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

 

To our supporters

31 Mar
Keep Calm and Support AmnestySelf isolation. Funny, isn’t it, how the expression has quickly become part of our everyday language?
But the isolation we, as Amnesty members, read about is of a different order. This is not isolation for the good of the community, with free access to our friends and family by phone, text, email, Facebook and Whatsapp. It is isolation in unsanitary conditions, with poor or little food, often with a ration of torture and no access to lawyers, doctors, friends or family.
So, while you – our supporters and followers out there – are coping with isolation, might you be able to go to the Amnesty UK website to read about Human Rights Defenders?
There are 3 cases you could help with: the Bhima Koregaon 9 (BK9) in India, jailed for fighting for the rights of the poorest in the country; three women in Iran facing 42 years in prison for unveiling; and the women in Saudi Arabia who, having campaigned for the right to drive – a right that has now been granted by the Saudi Government –  find themselves in prison.
You won’t need to write a letter. It is difficult to obtain the correct postage now, so please email or sign the petitions!
Thank you and stay safe.

Amnesty Taunton meeting: Tuesday 10 March

9 Mar

Keep Calm and Support AmnestyOur next meeting is at 7.30pm on Tuesday 10 March at the Quaker Meeting Rooms, Bath Place, Taunton. It will include a workshop on Amnesty and Climate Change led by our Amnesty Trainer Susan Mew.

We hope to see you there.

Families Together display at Taunton Library

16 Feb

IMG_5079Yesterday, Taunton Amnesty Group donated several children’s books about refugees to the Taunton Library (pictured). This donation accompanies a small display at the library to highlight the Families Together campaign.

More than half of the world’s refugees are children, many of them separated from their families as they flee war and persecution. But needlessly strict laws in the UK IMG_20200215_150336229mean many are prevented from being joined by their parents, brothers and sisters. These restrictive rules leave people isolated, traumatised and alone in the UK, knowing that the people they love still face untold dangers in other countries.

Amnesty International and many other organisations that form the Families Together Coalition are calling on the UK Government to expand the current refugees family reunion rules.

If you get a chance, please pop by Taunton Library to see our display and learn more. The display will be at the library during normal opening hours until the end of Saturday 22nd February.

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!

 

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