16th October 2013 Minutes
Chair: David Huband
Apologies: Roz Cadwallader
Chair welcomed all to the meeting, particularly the Amnesty Representative from Norwich School.
Minutes of September’s Open Meeting agreed.
- Monthly Action
The Commonwealth Heads of Government meet in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 15-17 November. Torture and Disappearances continue in Sri Lanka where there is a human rights crisis. 15 Journalists have been killed since 2006.
Carl Grint circulated copies of letters to Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Commonwealth Secretary-General which urge that the Commonwealth should publicly condemn Sri Lanka’s failure to ensure justice for those civil society activists who have been and are being attacked. And point out that to allow Sri Lanka to chair the meeting is in effect giving the Commonwealth seal of approval to these human rights abuses. (All details may be found on the AIUK website – monthly mailing.)
David Ford reported that there had been no reply to last month’s letters to the President of Uzbekistan demanding the release of Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov – a prisoner of conscience, arrested in 2008 on a fabricated charge, probably because of his work as a defender of human rights and an independent journalist. A letter to the Procurator of Uzbekistan (to be copied to the Ambassador) was distributed.
- Urgent Action
Carl Grint distributed information about Anas Barghouti, a Palestinian lawyer, arrested on the 15th September and charged with ‘membership in the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine’ and ‘leadership of a committee to organise demonstrations’. He denies both charges. Amnesty considers him to be a prisoner of conscience. Please write before 14th November. (All details and background information are on our website.)
Joanna Kinnaird explained that The Women’s Group in AI had sent an update on the March 2013 campaign for improved women’s rights in Afghanistan in order to put pressure on Justine Greening who has said that women’s rights in Afghanistan are a strategic priority. There is active campaigning in the House of Commons, with particular support from Baroness Varsi. The next major event is an AI reception in Speaker’s House, hosted by John Bercow, on 6th November from 6-7.30pm. And there will be a backbench debate on women’s rights in Afghanistan at the beginning of December. Joanna distributed a letter to be sent to our MPs describing the current situation and calling for them to both attend the reception and also take part in the debate. (All details may be found on the AIUK website – monthly mailing.)
- Shaker Aamer
Jim Massey has stood down from his work on this case and we have very much appreciated his tireless efforts to get information from many sources.
A very moving animated film with actors voicing the words of Guantanamo prisoners (including Shaker Aamer) was shown – highlighting the force-feeding of hunger strikers and the inhumane treatment of the prisoners. David Huband reported some good news about Shaker Aamer – a letter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office saying that all agencies (FO and MI6) are working together to obtain his release. However, David Ford has received a letter from Alastair Burt (passed on by MP Richard Bacon) saying that Mr Aamer has been cleared for transfer rather than release. David Ford will contact Reprieve for clarification. There has been no reply from Simon Wright asking him to sign the Early Day Motion questioning the involvement of the Metropolitan Police.
US Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel has appointed a new officer to work towards the closure of Guantanamo Bay, who begins work on 1st November. It was agreed that our next letter should be to him.
Issues and Events
- Current Issue – The so-called Lobbying Bill
David Huband said that it was very difficult to get hard information about the impact of this bill on charities, but read a document written by Greenpeace. This pointed out that the rules about expenses were very bureaucratic and unworkable. It implied that small and large charities will be hit, but that professional lobbying firms will still be able to function.
There is to be a public meeting on the subject at the Friends’ Meeting House with Simon Wright on Friday, October 25th at 7.30
and at Christ Church Centre, New Catton with Chloe Smith on Friday, October 25th at 5:30pm
- Richard and Laura Myther’s Sponsored Bike Ride
Richard and Laura returned safely (complete with photos) and presented the Group with a cheque for £550 for which we are very grateful. We will pass the money to AIUK. Our thanks to both of them – Richard says that they are planning another sponsored ride next year! Meanwhile, if there is still sponsor money to come in from members, please make cheques payable to ‘Amnesty International Norwich Group’.
- Write for Rights
This event will be held in the Appleyard Café on Exchange Street on Sunday 15th December from 11-3 o’clock. David Yates emphasised the importance of publicity. There is a colour poster on the Group website which members can print and display.
- Christmas cards
This year the Charity Christmas Card Shop has moved from the Assembly House to new premises at 23 White Lion Street. It is between Holland and Barrett and Primark and opposite Moss Bros. The shop is open daily from 9-5 o’clock (11-3 o’clock on Sundays). There is a good selection of Amnesty Christmas cards there. There will also be Christmas cards on sale at the next meeting.
Wednesday 20th November at 7.30pm