19th March 2014 AGM & Meeting Minutes
Chair: David Huband
Apologies: Carl Grint, Sue Mackey, Bill Albert.
Chair welcomed all to the meeting
Minutes of last meeting agreed
Matters arising: None.
David Ford reported that Amnesty has recently published a report on the human rights situation in Turkmenistan. This has been copied to each of this region’s 7 MEPs and enclosed with a letter signed by all at the meeting giving details of our campaign on behalf of the relatives of Ogulsapar Muradova. The letter urges the MEPs to raise our concerns with the EU Foreign Minister and asks them to insist that the human rights situation in Turkmenistan should be included as part of any dialogue with its representatives.
25th March will be the anniversary of the Supreme Court hearing in Uzbekistan in which Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. David F circulated letters to be sent to John Mann MP, the secretary of the Parliamentary Group on Central Asia. The letter asks that the Group might raise the case with the Uzbekistan authorities and urges them to release this prisoner of conscience immediately and unconditionally.
- Shaker Aamer
No further news, but Jim reported that another prisoner, Ahmed Ben Bacha, has been returned to Algeria from Guantanamo Bay. He also referred to the arrest of Moazzem Begg, a former detainee at Guantanamo, on charges of aiding terrorism in Syria.
- Monthly Action
Saturday 13th March was the 3rd anniversary of the uprising in Syria. Amnesty has encouraged groups to sign petitions and hold candlelight vigils to highlight the appalling situation for Syrian civilians trapped by the fighting. At the end of the meeting Roz organised a group photo of members holding candles to add to the publicity campaign. Please refer to the Amnesty website for details of the associated email action.
Group AGM Annual Reports
Chair’s Report: (The full report will be in the next newsletter.)
- Amnesty had a major input into the Arms Trade Treaty which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2013 – a truly significant achievement. It was signed by 116 States and has now been ratified by 12. (It will enter into force when 50 States have ratified.)
- At each meeting the Group has campaigned for the monthly action.
- Throughout the year, Roz has presented information and actions about Women’s Rights – mainly concerning the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. She reported that the main concerns are for women Human Rights defenders at a time of military withdrawal and declining economic development aid. 2014 will be a critical year. 9 women human rights workers have been attacked and murdered. Troop withdrawal will lead to economic insecurity which de-stabilises and worsens situations for women. The Afghan Parliament is already working to weaken legislation protecting women and women’s quotas in regional assemblies have been reduced. The campaign continues.
- Two prisoners for whom we campaigned in Turkmenistan were released in 2013 but the Group continues to campaign for an enquiry into the death in custody of Ogulsapar Muradova.
- In Uzbekistan the group continues to campaign for the release of journalist and prisoner of conscience Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov.
- The Group had a stall at Pride Day, with 57 letters signed for the case of a lesbian human rights worker who was raped and murdered in S Africa and signatures collected for two petitions: Pussy Riot and the US Equality Bill against discrimination because of sexual orientation.
- We also had a stall at the Peace camp.
- In December, our Write for Rights event in the Appleyard Café resulted in 20 letters and 89 cards being posted to prisoners of conscience and their families.
The Treasurer’s Report
This has been a successful year for fundraising, with money raised from the annual street collection, Christmas card sales, a sponsored cycle ride from Norwich to Holland and back again by Richard Mythen and his daughter Laura, the Quiz and Dips and a collection from the Octagon Chapel.
Joanna reported that she no longer posts newsletters. Debbie asked whether we ought to send more to AIUK, but David Ford said that although we could, we needed to retain a large sum (it might be c.£900) to purchase Christmas cards in the autumn.
David reported that the Group had switched its banking to The Co-op earlier in the year.
Treasurer’s Report 2014
The Regional Conference in Ely, attended by David H, Jonathan Cox and Sue Mackey focused on migrant workers in East Anglia and was both informative and useful.
- 12/13 April: AIUK AGM in Edinburgh. (David H and David F.) David F will exercise a proxy vote for the Group.
- 26th April: A stall, campaigning for the release of Shaker Aamer. Millennium Plain – St Peter Mancroft railings.
- 5 July: Street Collection.
Election of Officers
- Chair: David Huband. Proposed by David F, seconded by Sue Mills.
- Treasurer: David Ford. Proposed by David Yates, seconded by Debbie Campbell.
- Minutes Secretary. Sue Mills. Proposed by Jonathon Cox, seconded by Joanna Kinnaird.
The Committee membership comprises David Bissonet, Roz Cadwallader, Debbie Campbell, Joanna Kinnaird, Jonathon Cox, Tom Reed and David Yates.
Carl Grint has resigned from the committee for health reasons but will continue to work on our website. The Chair expressed his great thanks to Carl for all his work on our behalf.
Hate-Free Norfolk Pledge
This is a campaign to support laws against hate crime in Norfolk. We would be joining many other organisations in Norfolk in pledging our support.
The motion was proposed by David Yates, seconded by Jonathon Cox and unanimously passed.
De-criminalisation of sex workers
- The European Parliament has passed legislation making the purchase of sex a criminal offence (the Nordic Model).
- An all-party parliamentary committee in Westminster has recommended adopting the Nordic model.
- Amnesty International is in favour of total de-criminalisation of sex work but is consulting other Sections. If this were agreed, the policy will be international.
- The UK Section has no position on this issue and is consulting its members.
The three possible positions for us to debate were:
- Total de-criminalisation of sex work
- Partial de-criminalisation – i.e. The Nordic model
- That we take no position at all
Committee members presented information on the following subjects to inform the subsequent discussion and vote:
- The views of sex-workers (Joanna )
- The situation in other countries (David F)
- The effects of de-criminalisation (Sue)
- The case against de-criminalisation (David B)
- Why Amnesty should not take a position on this. (David Y)
A lively discussion followed with a range of views:
- There is no concrete evidence that would help us reach a conclusion.
- Partial de-criminalisation has different effects in different societies and the law of unintended consequences is bound to feature.
- Other organisations are better placed to campaign for this.
- It seems wrong that there are many more people in Amnesty researching this than are, for example, researching HR abuses against children and young people.
A vote was taken, with a clear majority for the proposal that we should take no position. Chair will record this and send the information to AIUK.
Wednesday 16th April at 7.30pm