21st August 2013 Minutes

11 people present

Chair David H welcomed the meeting.

Minutes of July open meeting agreed.

DH circulated a synopsis of the Secretary General’s Report to the 2013 International Council Meeting and drew our attention to:

  • Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)/Death Penalty/Slums
  • The ATT is an historic achievement and in addition, on 15 August Nigeria became the first African nation to ratify the treaty.

Updates

Syria

A report from American Association of Advancement of Science (AAAS) in collaboration with Science for Human Rights Programme of Amnesty International shows seven new satellite images taken between September 2012 and May 2013. These show the devastation in Aleppo. Risk cited a year ago has become reality. Analysis shows displacement of half the city’s population as a result of indiscriminate air bombardment by government forces. Six million have been forced from their homes, 4.25 million of those are internally displaced. Many receive little or no international aid.
A report from Avaaz (Global civil organisation launched in 2007 to promote activism on various issues, including human rights) says women are being forced to stand in front of tanks and act as a human shield before being raped by soldiers. Avaaz organised a publicity campaign before and during talks in Washington, between US and Russia. The aim was to confront both and pressurise to set a date for peace talks for Syria. Talks lasted 5 hours and officials agreed to convene a Syrian peace conference in Geneva, but no concrete plan or date set. They agreed to meet again before the end of August. Email petition remains active.

Egypt

AI report 16 August calls for

  • investigation into the violence in Cairo this week. UN rapporteur to be given access.
  • security for Christians and other minorities

Campaigns

Shaker Aamer

  • Hunger strike at Guantanamo – 14/7/13 81 of 166 prisoners were on hunger strike, 7/8/13 55 on hunger strike. Classification of ‘hunger strike’ varies but 39 were being force fed. High profile individuals went on a week’s hunger strike in support including Clive Stafford Smith, Julie Christie and Frankie Boyle.
  • President Obama has lifted the moratorium on returning detainees to Yemen and does not plan to reinstate it. Two Algerians were due to be released on 26/7 but the security situation in Yemen suggests returning detainees would be dangerous.
  • Shaker Amer (SA) claims that MI6 were present during his torture. New claims suggest that MI6 are trying to influence its US counterparts with false information to encourage the US to keep him detained or return him to Saudi Arabia but not to the UK. SA sees this as the US punishing him for speaking out. UK Metropolitan police spent three days investigating this accusation and have produced a 120 page report, not yet been made public.
    Action distributed to alert MPs to this new situation and threat to SA. (Details www.norwichamnesty.org.uk)

The cost of Guantanamo is 454 million $ per annum.
John Grisham wrote to the NY Times incensed at his books being banned at the prison.
Singer Polly Harvey released a song supporting SA on 7/8/13

Turkmenistan

Action letter to the Minister of the Interior distributed and can be sent as it is or used as a basis for personal letter.

Forced Evictions

Albania – 37 Roma families in Tirana have been evicted from land for redevelopment. There is no law preventing eviction but the landowner did not follow the legal process and find alternative accommodation or give the required notice.

Action letters circulated to Mayor of Tirana and Minister of Interior.

Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe received 2/3 of the total vote. Morgan Tsvangirai protested that the vote was unfair. Neighbouring countries haven’t made a judgement to its fairness.
Six women and children were forced to leave their home village because they refused to divulge their vote.
Action – Letter at www.amnesty.org.uk/zimbabwe

India

Urgent Action (before 30/9/13)
Three men face execution for their part in a bombing. Confession was obtained under police pressure. The President with no explanation, which he is obliged to give, has rejected mercy petition.
Action letter circulated and at www.norwichamnesty.org.uk

Events

  • Pride Day 27/7/13 – Flow of people throughout the day, 57 letters signed for a South African case, signatures collected for two petitions, Pussy Riot and the American Equality Bill against discrimination because of sexual orientation.
  • Roma genocide memorial 2/8/13 – This was held at the Peace Memorial in Chapelfield Gardens to commemorate the Roma killed in the Holocaust.
  • Hiroshima Day 6/8/13 – About fifteen people walked quietly to the Peace Pillar.
  • Richard Mythen and daughter began their sponsored cycle to Holland and back on 28/8/13 in aid of Amnesty. Sponsor money will be handed over at the September meeting.

AOB

Tom and Steph are leaving Norwich for six months but will continue with the Newsletter and forced evictions. They were thanked for all their work to date.

Jim has had a letter from someone claiming to be Akram Awan’s lawyer. With no verification Jim will not respond at present.

Paul Mason – Jono reports that he is willing to talk to our group when he has settled in to Channel 4

Next Meeting

Wednesday 18 September at 7.30

Lucy Atkinson British Red Cross will talk about ‘What we do, how we work globally, the term asylum seeker and refugee, the asylum process and the challenges along the way, dispelling a lot of myths’.

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