Issue of Sportswash has emerged again with two Formula 1 races to be held in Bahrain

UPDATE 26 November

Guardian piece 

Sport and politics have never been too far apart.  During the Cold War, countries like East Germany and Russia spent enormous sums on their sports programmes in an attempt to demonstrate to the world how successful they were.  Recently, we have seen countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain use their vast wealth to secure favourable media coverage.  Earlier in the year, we featured the attempt to purchase Newcastle FC using Saudi money.

These countries are also able to pay large sums to public relations firms to massage their reputations.  Before we rush to condemn sporting organisations, sportsmen and women too quickly however, we need to look at the tangled web of influence and connections between a variety of people and the Bahraini regime.  One such is the retired Chief of Defence staff Baron, formerly General, Richards of Herstmonceux.  Despite the unrest,  crackdowns and multiple human rights violations in Bahrain, Baron Richards was able to advise them on a variety of areas using his company Palliser Associates and Equilibrium Global.  There are various connections to the former prime minister David Cameron.  Full details and further links can be found on a Daily Maverick piece.

The human rights situation in Bahrain is extremely poor.  Women do not have equal rights; many people are declared stateless; prison conditions are extremely poor with limited medical treatment for those detained; the death penalty is used and there is no free expression to speak of.  There is no independent media.  Amnesty’s report on the country can be read on this link.  Human Rights Watch’s summary says:

Bahrain’s human rights situation continues to be dire.  Courts convict and imprison prominent human rights defenders and opposition leaders for their peaceful activism.  Security forces ill-treat, threaten, and coerce alleged suspects into signing confessions.  Authorities have resumed executions, many after unfair trials marred by torture allegations, and fail to hold officials accountable for torture.  Courts have stripped the citizenship of hundreds, leaving many stateless, and deported dozens of dissidents, journalists, and lawyers as punishments for offenses that include peaceful criticism of the government.  Authorities in 2017 shut down the only independent newspaper in the country as well as opposition parties.  Members of dissolved opposition parties were banned from running in parliamentary elections in November 20.  Human Rights Watch

A full analysis of the political situation in Bahrain is provided by Freedom House.

Western governments, including the UK, have been extremely keen to establish good relations with the state because of lucrative defence spending.  We have also established a base there. It is seen as a ‘core market‘ for us.  The Daily Mail has published an article, with multiple photos, showing the many meetings between the Queen, and other members of our Royal family, and the King of Bahrain.  Lots of jollity on show. 

Sport and Sports Wash is thus just one part of the picture.  Bahrain is a wealthy and powerful regime well able via offers of money and contracts, to ‘buy’ political influence.  But things may be beginning to stir.  World Champion racing driver, Lewis Hamilton, has made statements highlighting human rights issues in countries seeking to sanitise their reputations.  Recently, he said:

We realise we’ve got to not ignore human rights issues in counties that we go to, not just 20 years, 30 years from now, but now.

In another development is that 30 UK cross party members of parliament have written to the Chief Executive of Formula 1, Chase Carey, to express their disquiet at plans to hold the Grand Prix races in Bahrain.

[They expressed] concern that the Bahrain Grand Prix is exploited be the by the Bahrain government to ‘sports wash’ their human rights record

The role of Marcus Rashford is also noteworthy in this regard.  It was his intervention which was key to changing the government’s position on free school meals.  Maybe we are seeing the stirrings of conscience among some sports people that they do have a role to play in the political arena.  With their vast followings and star status, they are in a prime position to speak to their public and highlight some of the terrible things that go on in countries like Bahrain.

Up till now, money, arms sales, and a cosy relationship with politicians, service people and the Royal family, has enabled these regimes to carry on the mistreatment of their subjects, with human rights organisations merely an irritant, a kind of background noise, who can safely be ignored. But sport has a mass following as the prime minister discovered to his discomfort earlier this month. If more sportsman like Hamilton and Rashford, begin to use their power to focus the minds of their fans onto what is going on in these despotic countries, maybe the political ground will shift.


Lisa Montgomery execution to go ahead in the dying days of the Trump presidency

The execution by lethal injection of Lisa Montgomery is now scheduled to take place at Terre Haute Federal prison Indiana on January 12 just days before president-elect Joe Biden takes office.  She is the first woman to be executed in almost six decades.

Lisa’s crime was truly awful and involved murder of a woman and the removal of her unborn baby.  The argument has been about her mental state and her background.  She was the victim of gang rape, incest and sex trafficking.  Her defence (defense) has argued that the balance of her mind was disturbed at the time of the murder.

It is some kind of fitting end to the President’s term of office to rush through a number of Federal executions including this one.  No other lame duck president has carried out more than one execution since Grover Cleveland’s first presidency in 1888 – 89.

This has been an administration that’s been historically out of step. Not just out of step with the views of America in 2020, but out of step with federal practices by administrations, Democratic or Republican, for the course of [a] century, Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Robert Dunham told The Washington Post.

The USA is the only country in the Americas to retain the death penalty.

China executes more of its citizens than the rest of the world combined but details are a state secret.

See our latest monthly death penalty report.

Further details of other executions being rushed through on the Death Penalty Information Center

Sources: USA Today; Fort Worth Star-Telegram; Washington Post; Guardian; US Dept. of Justice


Kris Maharaj remain in prison in Florida despite being found innocent

Today is Marita Maharaj’s birthday.

She is 81 years old – she’s now had 34 birthdays without her beloved husband Kris by her side.

It’s been a difficult year for the elderly couple. A judge found that Kris was innocent by “clear and convincing evidence” but still refused to order his release.

Marita worries about Kris, this year more than ever before – he’s 81 years old, in poor health and at risk of the worst effects of coronavirus in a crowded Florida prison.  And because of the pandemic, instead of a visit each week, she has not been able to see him since March.

Further details can be found on this link about this shocking case and miscarriage of justice in America.

Message from Reprieve


We attach this months DP report thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.  It is full report this month with a wide range of countries to report on.

Report (Word)

Welcome!

Posted: November 4, 2020 in Death penalty, Film
Tags: , , ,

If you come here following the film Just Mercy shown at Playhouse, welcome and the case we referred to can be accessed from this link.   It concerns a singer in Nigeria who is at risk of execution.  As was explained, Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all circumstances.  It is not a deterrent and mistakes which are many, cannot be rectified once someone has been executed.

The group produces a monthly report on cases and issues surrounding the penalty around the world and the most recent can be found here.  We have also published a review of a discussion organised by Amnesty concerning the World Day Against the Death Penalty, (which Amnesty themselves have used), and this can be found here.

There are concerns that there is a desire to resume the death penalty in the UK and some politicians have said so but in the case of the Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP, she has said she no longer supports that position.

You may have heard of Reprieve and the work of Clive Stafford Smith in USA.  Clive represents many people on death row some of whom were convicted on flimsy or circumstantial evidence.  Unlike in the UK, police in many US States are under no obligation to reveal evidence which points to the suspect’s innocence.  Clive’s fascinating book Injustice is reviewed on this page.

The Salisbury group is not just concerned with the death penalty but with human rights issue generally.  We are concerned at the government’s desire to abolish the Human Rights Act especially when we leave the EU and we shall be campaigning on this if it comes to fruition.

We are not doing any face to face activities at present for obvious reasons but new members are welcome and following this site or Facebook or Twitter @salisburyai is something you can do.  When normal times resume, we hope to get back to campaigning work.

Nazanin Ratcliffe

Posted: November 2, 2020 in Iran
Tags: ,

We have received the following post concerning the continuing imprisonment of Nazanin from our local MP:

Thank you for contacting me about Nazanin-Zaghari Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori.

Please be assured that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office continues to work hard to assist British nationals detained in Iran.  This must be an incredibly distressing time for Nazanin and Anoosheh and their families.  Like you, I want to see them both released immediately.

I am told that the UK Embassy in Tehran continues to request consular access to Mr Ashoori and has been supporting his family.  The UK regularly calls on Iran to release all British-Iranian nationals arbitrarily detained, including Mr Ashoori.

I recognise that Nazanin’s ongoing furlough does not represent the real objective of securing Nazanin’s permanent release.  However, I have been assured that the UK’s lobbying efforts remain focused on getting Nazanin home.  It is completely unacceptable that Iran has brought new charges against Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and she must not be returned to prison.

Iran must know the strength of the UK’s convictions regarding this, so it is encouraging that on 29 October, the Iranian Ambassador was summoned to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.  It was made clear to the Iranian ambassador that his country’s treatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is unjustified and unacceptable, and is causing an enormous amount of distress.

The UK continues to call on Iran to live up to its responsibilities under international human rights law and the Vienna convention and release dual nationals. Cases continue to be raised at the most senior levels, and discussed at every opportunity with Iranian counterparts.

[…]

Group statistics

Posted: November 2, 2020 in Uncategorized

For those interested in statistics might find this interesting.


Yahaya Sharif-Aminu at risk of execution

Nigeria has been in the news recently with disturbances in several cities concerning police violence.  This urgent action concerns a particular individual at risk of execution.  If you have time to write that would be wonderful.

There are serious concerns about the fairness of Yahaya Sharif-Aminu’s trial and the framing of the charges against him. Before and during the trail, he was not permitted legal representation. He was granted access to legal advice to prepare an appeal after human rights lawyers and activists pressured the court to respect his right to legal representation. Sharia law, which is practiced in many states in northern Nigeria, provides for the death penalty for blasphemy. The Hisbah, a Kano State-owned security outfit is the body that enforces the Shariah law in the highly conservative state.

The death penalty remains a legal sanction in Nigeria and continues to be imposed throughout the country. In 2019, over 54 death sentences were recorded. In total, over 2,700 people were under death sentence by the end of the year. In Nigeria, the 2004 National Study Group on Death Penalty and the 2007 Presidential Commission on the Administration of Justice both stressed that the Nigerian criminal justice system cannot guarantee a fair trial and called for a moratorium on the death penalty.

Details are available here.


Campaign Against the Arms Trade launches legal challenge

CAAT has launched a legal challenge after the UK government decided to resume arms sales to the Saudis for use in their bombing campaign in Yemen.  We discussed the flimsy grounds and shaky reasoning for this decision in a previous post.  The CAAT post can be accessed here.

Just Mercy

Posted: October 26, 2020 in Death penalty
Tags: , , ,

Film Just Mercy to be shown on 4 November at 7pm in the Playhouse with an introduction by a member of the Salisbury group. For further details and how to buy tickets see the Wiltshire Creative post.