21st May 2014 Meeting Minutes

Chair: David Huband Chair welcomed all to the meeting. Minutes of the last Open Meeting agreed.

Campaigns

  • Turkmenistan: David Ford reported that Joanna had received a reply from Andrew Duff MEP to her letter urging MEPs to raise our concerns concerning the case of Ogulsapar Muradova with the EU foreign minister. He has tabled a question for 11th April. Meanwhile members signed and addressed letters to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the President of Turkmenistan and the Ambassador.
  • Uzbekistan: 27th May will be the birthday of Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov and a photo was taken of members holding greeting posters – to be forwarded to the minister of Foreign Affairs and Mr. Abdurakhmanov’s family. Members also signed and addressed two letters, to the President and the Ambassador. Postage (now nearly £1) will be paid from Group funds.
  • Shaker Aamer and Guantanamo: David Huband reported that there had had been a very good turn-out for the Shaker Aamer stall on a cold and windy day. Nearly 200 signatures were collected. The response from Simon Wright MP enclosed a letter from Hugh Robertson, Minister of State in the Foreign Office, who wrote that Mr Aamer had only been cleared (by the US) for transfer (presumably to Saudi Arabia) rather than for release (presumably to the UK). David Ford had written to Reprieve earlier this year, asking for the difference between ‘transfer’ and ‘release’, but has received no reply. He will write again. Although we have no specific news of Mr Aamer, Reprieve reports that prisoner challenges to forcible cell extraction and force-feeding are being heard in US Courts – though individually rather than as a group action. On 16th May the judge ordered that video footage of the process should not be destroyed. On 19th May the same judge ordered that forced cell extraction and force feeding should be stopped.

Events

  • Street Collection: This is to be held on Saturday 5th July. The collection will be based in the All Saints Centre on Westlegate, opposite John Lewis. Joanna passed round a schedule of time slots and members signed up. She will ask Carl to put the details on the Group web site.
  • Ely Group Jazz: This will be held on June 22nd at the Old Fire Engine House Restaurant Garden, 25 St Mary’s Street, Ely CB7 4ER.
  • Mustard Theatre Group: June 6th – a performance of Death and the Maiden at Wingfield Barns.

Planning

Future Campaigns

At the last Committee Meeting, Members discussed whether or not the Group should adopt the following campaigns this year and their opinions were submitted to the meeting for discussion.

  • Women’s Rights in Afghanistan – including support for local HR groups, pressurising UK and Afghanistan governments. (Roz Cadwallader & Sue Mills)
  • Stop Torture – This new campaign will be launched at our June Meeting and will include work on Uzbekistan. (David Ford)
  • My Body, My Rights – Sexual and reproductive rights, including the rights of LGBT people. ( David Yates)
  • Tactical campaigns – centred on forced evictions in Brazil linked to the World Cup and summer Olympics and workers’ rights in Qatar linked to the World Cup. (David Yates)
  • Individuals at Risk. We continue to campaign for Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov and Shaker Aamer. (David Ford and David Huband)
  • Syria – we don’t opt in but may pick out actions during the year.

These proposals were all accepted. Tom Reed spoke about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, currently being negotiated between the US and the EU. He highlighted the fact that, if passed, companies will be able to sue governments if government policies might harm their profits. He also spoke about mass arrests of people protesting about the TTIP in Brussels. ‘38 Degrees’ have already highlighted it as a potential campaign but it was felt that, without knowing more, we should not get involved. David Ford will write to the campaigns Office of AIUK to enquire if Amnesty is considering any involvement.

Shaping Amnesty International’s future – Amnesty’s long-term goals and Strategies.

AI has asked all Sections to consider current trends which might contribute to the organisation’s planning for 2016-2019. Groups have also been asked to consider where Amnesty should focus / focus less in its work.

At the last committee meeting, Members identified these trends and made the following points.

  • Amnesty is working and should continue to work collaboratively with other organisations where their expertise would be useful.
  • Large, ill-defined topics such as “Eradicating poverty” should be avoided. The acceptance of torture as legitimate is increasingly widespread and AI should continue to campaign for its abolition.
  • LGBT rights are now largely accepted within the UK but have far from world-wide acceptance – we should continue to campaign.
  • AI does little for the rights of children and young people. There are no dedicated researchers in the International Secretariat. We should campaign and ‘Children and Young People’ should become a campaigning ‘category’.
  • Technological changes, especially the use of the internet, are an important tool but opinion is divided over the effectiveness of on-line campaigns.
  • War, economics and climate change will continue to make the problem of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants a world-wide one and Amnesty should continue to address this.
  • The growth of extreme nationalism and the far right often leads to persecution of minorities – a growing trend in Europe.
  • As a group we have little contact with other groups in the UK or abroad. AIUK should facilitate contact – for example between groups working on the same project.

There was good discussion about these themes which were all accepted by the meeting. David Ford had attended a workshop on this at the AIUK AGM and reported that the conclusions his group reached were similar to ours but also included ‘inter-ethnic religious conflict’ and ‘the shift of power from the West to the BRIC countries’. They thought that Amnesty should not campaign on issues of corporate responsibility (such as Shell in the Niger Delta).

AOB

Peace Camp: This will be held in the Forum on Saturday 7th June. David Yates passed round a rota for members to sign up.

Lynn Holt, from the Octagon chapel asked about Amnesty’s writing campaign. We will send details and material in time for the next Write for Rights campaign in December.

Wednesday 18th June at 7.30pm

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