Chair: David Huband

Chair welcomed all to the meeting.

Minutes of last Open Meeting agreed

Matters arising from last Open Meeting

David Huband has written to the Norwich Law Society and the UEA Law School concerning legal training for dealing with asylum cases, but has not received a reply (maybe due to the time of year).

He has still had no reply from Clive Lewis MP to his letter about the inadequate arrangements for asylum seekers. It was suggested that we ask for a meeting with Mr Lewis in the Autumn, possibly about the Human Rights Act.

Jill has received a reply to her letter to Chloe Smith MP concerning the Parliamentary petition for the release of Shaker Aamer. She agreed that Shaker Aamer should be released but didn’t address the question of whether she would join the Cross-party Parliamentary Group. Jill will write again.

Campaigns

Monthly Action

There is no monthly action, so Joanna selected the case of Aster Fissehatsion of Eritrea from the summer edition of the Amnesty magazine. Aster Fissehatsion has been held incommunicado since 2001 with 10 others including her former husband, then Vice-President of Eritrea. They had written a letter to party members, proposing solutions to the ‘crisis of Eritrea’. In August 2001 they wrote an open letter calling on the Eritrean people to help solve the country’s problems and most of the signatories were arrested. Members were asked to write to the President of Eritrea and the Ambassador.

Full details are on Page 31 of the magazine.

News from Central Asia

David Ford reported that 10 MEPs (none of them British) have published a joint resolution calling on Uzbekistan to stop the use of torture.

The Azerbaijan government cracked down on opposition voices (lawyers, human rights activists etc.) before the recent European Games. Many journalists, including a delegation from Amnesty, were reused admittance and deported.

In Belarus, the LGBTI activist Ihar Tsikhanyuk, arrested in January 2013 has been beaten up.

Chloe Tennant, AIUK’s co-ordinator for Central Asia is moving abroad, so this position is now vacant.

The Stop Torture Campaign

There are still 112 countries using torture, but the Campaign is seeing successes.

Amnesty published detailed reports on the use of torture by six countries and these have been particularly successful. (However, Uzbekistan has not seen much change.) Each of these has made some positive responses. For example, Morocco has now introduced the video recording of prisoners. There have also been successes relating to individual cases. In Mexico, a prisoner has been released after 5 years. There are very many responses from prisoners thanking Amnesty for their work.

  • Nearly all Sections have participated, but especially the UK, France and Spain.
  • Over 1 million people have been involved
  • Amnesty has strengthened its links sympathetic organisations.

In summary, this has been a much more effective campaign than the one in 2000, because it has been much more focused on individual countries and cases.

Shaker Aamer

An article in the Guardian on August 18th Said that the US and UK had reached an agreement about the release of Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo in 2014 but that it is the Defence Secretaries in the Pentagon (whose approval is needed) who have rejected his release. According to the Guardian, the Special Envoy, Paul Lewis (to whom we have written) is marginalised and ineffective.

David H will ask Amnesty and Reprieve for advice as to how to proceed. Meanwhile, members took postcards of the group, holding the banner, to send to Mr Aamer.

AI news

The International Council meeting in Dublin.

This is a biennial meeting which agrees basic fundamental policies, strategic goals, resolutions for discussion and fundraising.

  • A revised system of fundraising is likely to ease the pressure on AIUK for its contributions.
  • The resolution that sex work should be de-criminalised) was passed and the Board will lobby governments to adopt this. There has been mixed reactions from sex workers. This was discussed by our Group last year and it was agreed that we believed the issue should not be one that Amnesty should adopt. When it initially came up we were told that it was unlikely that we will be asked to campaign for this.
  • AIUK was pleased that the issue of children’s rights was given positive support.

Palestine

A reply has been received from the Foreign Office in reply to our letter asking about the UK’s position on Palestine’s recognition by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The main points:

  • The UK is a strong supporter of the ICC
  • Palestinians CAN use the ICC
  • However the UK judges that Palestinian attempts to get ICC jurisdiction would make resurrection of the Peace process harder.
  • It’s now up to the ICC to decide how to progress.

Speaker

We were very pleased to welcome Shan Barclay from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign who spoke very movingly about the situation and the difficulties facing both Palestinians and Jews. He said that the claim that Palestinian involvement with the ICC would harm the Peace process is frequently used but untrue. He described the impact of the occupation, the use of military law, leading to detentions and the loss of rights.

Two future events were highlighted

  1. Film: On the side of the road. Stanley Cohen speaks about denial.
    Friday 11th September 7.00pm.
    Charing Cross Centre. Admission free, voluntary collection.
    The film will be followed by a question and answer session with the producer, Lia Tarachansky.
  2. Palestinian fundraising supper
    Saturday 31st October 7.00pm
    Chapelfield Methodist Church
    Ticket details from greenhousetrust.co.uk or phone 01603 631007

Past Events

Norwich Pride Day

This went very well. There were lots of signatures for the Edward Snowden whistleblowing petition. And over 100 letters and postcards signed. They have been posted in batches to keep down prices. Next year we will ask for donations to

Future Events

  • Save Shaker Aamer demonstration.
    Parliament Square 7th September 1-3pm.
  • Edward Snowden stall
    The Greenhouse 12th September 12-4.30pm. Helpers needed.

Joanna distributed some copies of an Action Pack “Save our Human Rights Act” published by Liberty.

Next Meeting – Wednesday 16th September 2015 at 7.30pm

Downloads

Download 19th August 2015 Minutes (Word)

Download 19th August 2015 Minutes (PDF)