Tag Archives: take action

Report from our April meeting

22 Apr

At our April meeting our first thoughts were again with the Ukraine crisis. ‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a manifest violation of the United Nations Charter and an act of aggression that is a crime under international law’ said Amnesty, as it called for all those involved in this crime to be held accountable for these violations.

There were online petitions and actions to take (see the April Local Groups newsletter or amnesty.org.uk for this and all other actions mentioned), and a call to the UK government, among other things, to fulfill its commitment to provide sanctuary to 200,000 Ukranian refugees in the UK by providing safe travel routes and a temporary visa waiver.  Currently the Government’s  ‘Homes for Ukranians’ scheme is not going smoothly.

This is a concern which fed into our discussion of the Nationality and Borders Bill, recently given a rough time in the House of Lords, where the Government has lost 12 of 13 votes taken. Amnesty describes it as a ‘piece of legislative vandalism which will wreck the UK’s asylum system, undermine international law and criminalise people for attempting to reach a place of safety’. The Commons is ignoring the Lords’ amendments.

A problem for AIUK is that its planned campaigns for 2022 are in danger of being squeezed out by the Ukraine crisis, but we discussed moves to end Israeli Apartheid and the campaign to save the Human Rights Act (threatened by the so-called British Bill of Rights).

One piece of wonderful news was being able to welcome back Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori from Iran – news somewhat damped by the continuing arbitrary detention of Morad Tahbaz and Mehran Raoof – we were urged to continue lobbying for them.

Two new cases to act on: Marfa Rabkova, a volunteer network coordinator for the Belarus human rights group Viasna, detained since September 2020 for exposing the Belarusian police’s brutality against peaceful demonstrators after the disputed Presidential election in that year. She faces a possible 20 year goal sentence – we’re asked to write to her and to the authorities.

Secondly, imprisoned French-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hammouri, a field researcher for Palestinian NGO Addameer, persistently harassed by the Israeli authorities since 2002.  A guide was provided for actions to help his case.

The Taunton Group is continuing a rolling action of letters for imprisoned Egyptian housing officer Ibrahim Ezz El-Din.  Our North Africa co-ordinator had written a series of protests about Egypt’s breaking of its own laws in handling his case – photographed for display on Twitter and our own blog.

Some members ran a Football Welcomes Refugees stall at Huish Tigers youth matches this month – lots of  positive interest from leader Gavin and uptake of stickers and badges.

Our India co-ordinator brought in cards to send to imprisoned members of the BK15.  We had an update on the Death penalty and discussed future stalls and publicity

Our chosen Book of the Month is The Conservative Human Rights Revolution by Marco Duranti; it gives an account of post-war Human Rights and the ECHR, driven by conservatives concerned about controlling left-wing politics.

Join us for our next meeting at the Quaker Meeting House, Bath Place in Taunton – second Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm.

Report from our March meeting

19 Mar

The mood of our March meeting was inevitably dominated by the conflict in Ukraine. The situation is moving so fast that the comments made by AIUK at the beginning of the month have been overtaken by further developments in this human tragedy.

Internationally AI has formally declared a Crisis Response; an Urgent Crisis Coordination Team on Ukraine has been established, with work under way on the human rights situation and refugees, but also on evidence gathering, advocacy and security planning.

The invasion of Ukraine is a clear violation of the United Nations Charter and an act of aggression under international law. When the Local Groups newsletter came out at the beginning of the month Amnesty was verifying the use of cluster munitions in a strike on a nursery;  since then such acts have been repeated again and again.

The Ukraine crisis has highlighted Amnesty’s concerns with the Nationality and Borders Bill.  The Government claims it will break the business model of people smugglers, but instead of targeting them, this bill targets their victims.  It fails to provide safe and legal routes into the UK, meaning more and more people seeking asylum will be forced, out of desperation, into the hands of smuggling gangs.

We discussed the campaign, initiated by two of our group, for imprisoned Egyptian housing worker Ibrahim Ezz el-Din.  A blitz of daily letters to officials, to him and to his family is planned for the next three months – see here for more details of how you can help.

The Government’s consultation period on planned changes to the Human Rights Act has now ended.  Some members submitted their comments, and wrote to Taunton’s MP, Rebecca Pow, amid concerns that the proposed reforms will gut the Act and limit not only what rights are but who gets them.

We heard reports from our co-ordinators on North Africa, India and the Death Penalty.  A letter was sent to the President of the Tunisian Republic on behalf of former Tunisian MP Yassin Ayari imprisoned in absentia for criticism of the regime. 

Our Media of the Month is ‘Munich – the Edge of War’ a Netflix drama about the 1938 Munich Conference based on the novel by Robert Harris.

Meetings are now firmly back in person; the next will be on 12 April at 7.30pm at the Quaker Meeting House, Bath Place, Taunton. All welcome!

Ibrahim Ezz el-Din

11 Mar

An Appeal to our Amnesty Supporters

Taunton Amnesty Group have taken on the case of Ibrahim Ezz el-Din, a young Egyptian researcher specialising in housing at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedom. He was arrested in June 2019 and was ‘disappeared’ for 167 days until November 2019. He alleged he had been tortured. Charges were made with no evidence and in January 2021 a judge decided to release him. He was sent to a police station awaiting release where he was interviewed by the state security force (NSA) who decided to charge him with new offences. He is back in prison. This pattern is common in Egypt. He had twice attempted suicide but has been refused medical help.

Our first action as a group is to attempt a 3-month blitz of letters, each volunteer agreeing to write a letter (rather than an email), on the same day each month, for 3 months (3 letters in all). WOULD YOU HELP US? We would like to cover every day of the month with a letter. Please click here for more details or contact us at amnestytaunton@gmail.com

February meeting and AGM report

13 Feb

We met in person for our AGM. Our Chair reported on another year shaped by the pandemic. However, he reflected that we had nonetheless managed to host a number of speakers on a good variety of topics: the Calais Jungle, Women living under Muslim Law, the Human Rights Act.  There were some notable initiatives, for example contacts with Taunton Town Football Club who joined forces with members of Amnesty Taunton to raise awareness about refugees.

Write for Rights was marked by resilient members of the Group running a stall in Taunton High Street during Storm Arwen – we have a photo taken after the gazebo cover had blown away!

No meaningful fund-raising has been possible during the pandemic and it has been hard to get publicity in the local press, which appears (due to its own pressures admittedly) to have given up on reporting on the activities of local groups.

We had a full Agenda for our regular meeting. After intensive research and legal analysis Amnesty has launched a new campaign to highlight Israel’s ‘crime against humanity of apartheid in its treatment of Palestinians’: ‘Demolish Apartheid, not Palestinian Homes.’

A new online action is planned against the Nationality and Borders Bill. ‘Amongst the many other areas of concern, the Bill seeks to largely shut down the UK’s asylum system and criminalise and punish refugees.’

A new activist-led campaign on Human Rights in Afghanistan is being launched; one  particular aim is to ensure that Afghan women’s rights remain in the public eye.

The Human Rights Act is under threat; the Government has launched a consultation and invites public comment. Amnesty is anxious its members should voice their views, and will shortly have a link on its website.  Links to all the above topics (and many others) are also available amnesty.org.uk

A steady stream of Urgent Actions for North Africa continues.  As a group we are focusing on one particular case, Ibrahim Ezz El-Din, with the aim of blitzing the Egyptian authorities with letters, underlining that they are breaking their own laws in this detention.

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 8 March at 7.30pm in the Quaker Meeting House, Taunton.

Report from our October meeting

19 Oct
Rob Wenham of Taunton Town Football Club joining forces with members of Amnesty Taunton to raise awareness about refugees.

AIUK is extremely concerned about the assault on human rights – in our own country. A week of action for Human Rights in the UK is planned. The very restrictive Policing Bill is being drafted; the Human Rights Act is under review,  and the Nationality and Borders Bill is now back in the House of Commons – ‘a cruel piece of legislation which, if enforced, would largely shut down the UK asylum system…’.

But here in Taunton we do have some reasons to be glad, as Amnesty’s Welcome Refugees has been actively endorsed.  Taunton Town Football Club’s Community Engagement Project kicked off in September.  “It has a variety of aims which include promoting and encouraging health, fitness, and well-being, and forming community links with individuals and groups within the immediate local community and across the wider Taunton area.” One of those groups is Amnesty; two of our members were invited to last weekend’s game and we’ve been greatly encouraged by the positive and welcoming atmosphere of the project.

Demand justice for the El Hiblu 3! We signed a petition to the Maltese Government asking for the release of three African teenagers from Libya, falsely accused of hijacking a rescue ship, the El Hiblu.

We heard reports from those responsible for our Campaigns: the usual tide of wretched treatment for political prisoners in Morocco and Egypt; two men executed in the US, one having been in a Texas gaol for 28 years; 246 executions in Iran last year; a student anti-monarchy protester, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul jailed and on hunger strike in Thailand.

Our Media of the Month is ‘Ridley Road’, a BBC drama about the fight of the Jewish community against the resurgence of English fascism in 1960’s London. 

Our next meeting will be on 9 November at the Quaker Meeting House in Bath Place.  Follow us too on Facebook and amnestytaunton.com.  Visitors are always welcome.

Report from our September meeting

28 Sep

A landmark meeting – after 18 months we dared to meet in person, and it did give a much better feeling than Zoom or Teams!

Aser Mohamed, then a child of 14, was first arrested, tortured and imprisoned in 2016 in Egypt.  He has since been sentenced to 10 years for membership of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. We asked for his immediate release and an investigation into his treatment.  We signed letters and created doves of peace to send on his behalf to the Egyptian Ambassador to London, and to President Al Sisi of Egypt.

The general situation in Egypt remains threatening.  12 men are facing the death penalty for actions in 2013; women influencers are being convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.  However a major piece of good news is that all charges against Human Rights lawyer Azza Soliman have been dropped, and her travel ban lifted.

We discussed the dangerous situation in Afghanistan, and how to mobilise opinion and effective action from the UK Government in rescuing and giving sanctuary to Afghans in danger.

In India there have been no developments in the BK16 human rights defenders, but a heartening message has come to the mid-Devon group from one of them, Vernon Gonsalves, a 61 year old writer, professor and trade union activist:

“Heartfelt thanks for the cards and letters of solidarity you have been sending. Words are indeed powerful means of support – and don’t we all need support always – though I must say we have never, through these 3 years, been allowed to feel alone. It’s persons like you who keep reminding us that the path towards justice may be long, but won’t be lonely.”

The 3 part ITV series on the Stephen Lawrence case was recommended  – ‘Stephen’, a drama about Doreen and Neville Lawrence’s crusade to achieve justice for their son. 

We meet on the second Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm in the Friends Meeting House in Bath Place – visitors always welcome. Email: amnestytaunton@gmail.com for further details. Follow us too on Facebook  and at amnestytaunton.com

Report from our July meeting

26 Jul

DSCF3275Brazilian Jorge Lazaro has seen two of his children, Ricardo and Enio, murdered in the last 5 years and has been fighting for justice ever since. Ricardo and Enio were young black men. Every year thousands of young black men are murdered throughout Brazil – killed by military police, by death squads and militias with links to the police.

We wrote to the State Governor, Jacques Wagner and to Joaquim Barbosa, President of the National Council of Justice calling on them for a fair and timely investigation into these killings, and support for Jorge Lazaro and his family.

We were pleased to get a letter from Rebecca Pow MP supporting our stall on Castle Green on 16 July, highlighting the issues of Female Genital Mutilation and Early Forced Marriage, with particular reference to Burkino Faso and Sierra Leone. The event was very successful, raising £178.90 in donations from the public; this has since been doubled by the UK government and so the sum of £357.80 has been sent to Amnesty International UK to support its work in this area. We are very grateful to everyone who made donations and also signed a petition concerning these issues.

We remembered Jo Cox MP, a supporter of Amnesty, murdered in a hate crime last month, and wrote to our local District Councils urging them to make a stand against recent rises in racism and xenophobia.

There is no meeting in August so our next meeting will be Tuesday 13th September at the earlier time of 7.30pm at the Quaker Meeting House, Bath Place, Taunton. We look forward to seeing you there.

Reminder: Amnesty stall this Saturday

14 Jul

amnesty_graphic

If you are in Taunton this Saturday (16th July) please drop by our stall at Castle Green (near the museum). We are raising awareness about and fundraising for one of Amnesty’s key campaigns on Women’s Rights, focusing on Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone.

The Department for International Development will be doubling any money raised by Amnesty to support projects to prevent cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Early Forced Marriage (EFM) in Burkino Faso and Sierra Leone.

Please come along to make a small donation (which will be doubled by the UK government) and sign our petition calling on Burkino Faso’s government to protect girls and young women from forced marriages.

We’ll be there from 10am until 2pm. Hope you can pop along!

Report from our June meeting

23 Jun

The Tunisian Penal Code criminalises same-sex sexual relations between adults. It also includes articles that criminalise acts and expression that are ‘offensive or undermine public morals and decency’ and which are used to prosecute people based on the expression of their gender identity. These laws put LGBTI people at risk of arrest and prosecution and create a climate of abuse from the police and the community with little accountability. Activists and organisations that call for LGBTI rights to be protected in law are also threatened and harassed.

We wrote messages of support on balloons as part of a solidarity action by Amnesty International members worldwide, the photos of which will be used on postcards and posters and shared with LGBTI activists and organisations in Tunisia. We also signed a letter to the Tunisian authorities.

Tunisia action_crop.jpg

Diary date: On Saturday 16 July (10am–2.30pm) we will be holding a fundraising stall by Castle Green, Taunton, to raise awareness about the issues of Early Forced Marriage (EFM) and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Any money raised will be doubled by the Department for International Development to support a project to prevent cases of FGM and EFM in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone. We hope you can come along and show your support.

Our next meeting will be held at the Taunton Quaker Meeting House, 13 Bath Place, TA1 4EP at 8pm on 12 July. All are welcome.

Save the date! Taunton Amnesty stall Saturday 16th July

6 Jun

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On Saturday 16th July we will be holding a stall event from 10am until 2.30pm at Castle Green in the centre of Taunton. We are aiming to raise awareness about one of Amnesty’s key campaigns on Women’s Rights, focusing on Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone where discriminatory attitudes and high costs create barriers to women accessing contraception and sexual and reproductive services and information.

From 18 April to 18 July this year, the Department for International Development will be doubling any money raised by Amnesty to support a project to prevent cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Early Forced Marriage (EFM) in Burkino Faso and Sierra Leone.

Please come along to make a donation (which will be doubled by the UK government) and sign our petition calling on Burkino Faso’s government to protect girls and young women from forced marriages.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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