Arman Abdolali was due to be executed today but it has now been scheduled for Saturday. We ask that you spend a few moments to send a message to the Iranian Embassy to ask them not to do this. Full details are in the link below.

Arman was just 17 when he was arrested. He was held in solitary confinement and beaten regularly, before “confessing”. He says this “confessions” was obtained under torture and there are serious concerns about his trial. 
 

Take action by calling on the Iranian Embassy in the UK to ensure the execution on Saturday does not go ahead. 

http://email.amnestyuk.org.uk/q/11mqIvSAxHoACoGGucijZqv/wv


We are pleased to attach this month’s DP report thanks to group member Lesley for her work in compiling this. A mixture of news as ever with the situation in the USA becoming more troubling in some states. France’s action in trying to achieve a world wide ban is encouraging. As ever there is no information from China where executions are a state secret and are believed to be the worst in the world.


World Day Against Death Penalty

The death penalty in Ghana has been frequently used in violation of international law and standards, affecting predominantly those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, as shown by research carried out by Amnesty International. It is high time the authorities of Ghana acted to fully abolish it.

In Ghana the death penalty has been imposed mainly as the mandatory punishment for murder, meaning that judges were unable to consider any mitigating factors relating to the case, the circumstances of the offence or the background of the defendants at sentencing, when they imposed the death penalty. This has meant, for example, that some women on death row could not have their experience of being subjected to prolonged domestic violence at the hands of their husbands or partners taken into account when they were convicted of their murders.

The widespread concerns on the lack of effective legal representation and appeals described by many on death row is also greatly alarming, including as these are critical safeguards to protect the rights of those facing the death penalty and avoid miscarriage of justice. Around three-quarters of the 107 people on death row interviewed by Amnesty International in preparing its 2017 report, had a state-appointed lawyer at trial level, with only around 15% able to hire a lawyer of their choice with help from their families. Three men stated they did not have any legal representation during their initial trial; of the three women on death row at the time of the interviews, two said they did not have a trial lawyer. Several others said that their lawyers had not attended all the hearings; and many said that they did not have a chance to talk to their lawyer and prepare their defence during trial.

As appeals are not mandatory in Ghana, the majority of those on death row told Amnesty International that they had been unable to appeal their convictions and death sentences. Most did not fully understand their right to appeal or how to pursue this process, and believed they needed to have sufficient money to hire a private lawyer in order to appeal. Figures provided by the Ghana Prison Service (the Prison Service) in March 2017 indicated that only 12 prisoners on death row had filed appeals since 2006. None of the three women on death row had been able to file an appeal due to lack of money. One woman told Amnesty International that at the time a lawyer asked for 60 million Old Ghana Cedi (more than US$12,000) to file an appeal.

It comes as no surprise that in a legal system with so few built-in safeguards those who end up carrying the burden of the death penalty have disadvantaged backgrounds. The majority of the 107 people interviewed came from outside of the greater Accra region, had minimal educational levels and were from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, with children left in the care of others. Against international safeguards, six people on death row at Nsawam Prison were considered to have mental (psychosocial) or intellectual disabilities and were not supported through specialized care.

Conditions for men and women on death row do not meet international standards. Both men and women reported overcrowding, poor sanitary facilities, isolation, and lack of adequate access to medical care and to recreational or educational opportunities available to other people in detention. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception.

This post is reproduced from Amnesty

Amnesty briefing


Today is World Day Against the Death Penalty
This Amnesty report highlights the effects of the penalty on women

The use of death penalty has further impacts on women relatives and supporters of those on death row, as existing structural socio-economic inequalities, stigmatization and discrimination have been deepened by the sentencing to death of their loved ones. The campaigning briefing highlights some of the prevailing human rights concerns associated with the impact of the death penalty on women and calls for action to end the injustice and arbitrariness of the death penalty. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, as a violation of the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Amnesty International is a founding member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which coordinates this global day of activism against the death penalty every 10 October.

The effect of the death penalty on women

Available as a podcast


The next meeting will be on Thursday 14 October starting at the earlier time of 6:30 (please note) and will be in Attwood Road (just off Castle Road) in Salisbury. There will be lots to discuss and in particular a report from three group members who had a long meeting with Mr Glen (MP for Salisbury) to express our – and over a hundred other organisations’ concerns – about a raft of legislation currently before parliament. Mr Glen has promised to reply so that will feature in a future post.

We hope to welcome some new members who came to our stand at the People in the park event a few weekends ago.


The news today of the Saudi takeover of Newcastle United is condemned by Amnesty

It was announced today (7 October 2021) that the Saudi Public Investment Fund has agreed a £300m takeover of Newcastle United Football Club. This has resurrected the argument about ‘Sportswash’ and countries with poor human rights records using sport to try and create a better image for themselves. Saudi Arabia has a particularly dire human rights record with the routine use of torture, capital punishment often by primitive means and in public, the poor treatment of women and the silencing of opposition to the regime.

The takeover has been welcomed in Newcastle and it was suggested by a reporter in the City that the fans were jubilant as it will mean the end of Mike Ashley’s ownership and the poor record by the club in the league during his time. Newcastle Chronicle has considerable coverage and photos of large numbers of jubilant fans. The newspaper describes the atmosphere as ‘electric’. On Twitter a tweet said it was about ‘returning a sense of pride’.

Newcastle is not the only football club or sport to accept money from dubious regimes so it would be unfair to single them out. Saudi’s human rights record is particularly dubious however. The list is long and includes the likely murder and dismemberment by Saudi agents of Jamal Khashoggi, the repression of dissidents and human rights defenders, several members of the royal family are still held incommunicado and there is no freedom of religion other than Islam.

Yemen is also a stain on the country with nearly 8,000 killed in air raids including 2,000 children. There is a blockade in place adding to the misery in the country.

Newcastle supporters can also claim that our own royal family and senior ministers have frequently visited the country and are on visible and seemingly good terms with Mohammed bin Salman. The UK is also a major supplier of weapons to the regime, despite evidence of the harm done in their use. To condemn the deal is, they might argue, hypocritical. The Saudis also own considerable real estate in London.

While all this is true, there is no escaping the reality of a terrible regime buying a famous football club to enable it to enhance its image in the world. Although the fans seem delighted with the decision, it remains the case that the money is tainted and from a particularly dire regime.


Action to take on 10 October

While in India for his wedding in November 2017, Jagtar Singh Johal, a British Sikh (pictured), was arrested and accused of involvement in terrorism and in the assassination of a number of Hindu leaders in the Punjab.  He is alleged to have faced torture and been forced to sign blank statements and record a video.  This ‘confession’ was broadcast on national television, where the political nature of his ‘crimes’ was stressed.  He has had no actual trial but faces the death penalty. 

Mr Johal’s brother, Gurpreet, who lives in Scotland, says his brother was a peaceful activist and believes he was arrested because he had written about historical human rights violations against Sikhs in India.  He has appealed to the British Government to seek his brother’s release and to bring him home.

Picture: BBC

In February of this year, almost 140 MPs wrote to the then Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, asking him to

seek Mr Johal’s release, and a debate was held in Parliament with calls for him to be declared a ‘victim of arbitrary detention.  In June, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, wrote to Mr Raab, urging him to seek Mr Johal’s release.  Gurpreet Singh Johal is grateful for her support, but believes direct intervention from the British Government is essential.

Mr Johal is supported by the organisations Reprieve and Redress.  He has made numerous court appearances, but his trial has been repeatedly delayed at the request of the prosecution and basic information denied to his defence counsel.

Mr Raab said he was  doing all he could and had been in touch with the Indian authorities, but his response was criticised as ‘weak’.  With the appointment of the new Foreign Secretary – Liz Truss – there is an opportunity to bring Mr Johal’s situation to her attention, and to call for a more positive and pro-active response.

Action

Please write to:

Ms Elizabeth Truss

Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of the

                                                                                                                        United Kingdom

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

King Charles Street

London SW1A 0AA                           Email: fcdo.correspondence@fcdo.gov.uk

and ask her to intervene in Mr Johal’s case, and to secure his release and return home.

Please date your letter 10th October 2021, calling attention to the fact that it is the 19th World Day against the Death Penalty.


Members of the Salisbury group will be meeting the MP for Salisbury on Friday

In common with well over a hundred organisations, Amnesty is extremely concerned about several of the bills currently on their way through parliament. These are the enormous Police, Crime and Sentencing bill, the Justice and Courts bill and the Nationality and Borders bill. Together with the expected review of the Human Rights Act, they amount to a concerted attack on our freedoms. The group wishes to express our concerns to the MP. We will report on his reactions after the meeting.

The views of the Justice Secretary Dominic Raab were discussed in our last post.


Dominic Raab appointed Justice Secretary last month: should we be worried?

It is not often that we can read the thinking of a cabinet minister and rarer still for an MP to write about a topic which becomes central to his ministerial appointment. Dominic Raab, the new Justice Secretary after the recent reshuffle, has written about human rights in a book The Assault on Liberty: What Went Wrong with Rights, (Harper Collins, 2009) and was co-author with Kwasi Kwateng, Priti Patel, Chris Skidmore and Elizabeth Truss of Britannia Unchained: Global Lessons for Growth and Prosperity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

The latter book became famous (infamous?) for the much quoted passage accusing British workers for ‘being among the worst idlers in the world’ and for Britain being what they termed a ‘bloated state with high taxes and excessive regulation’. The book was criticised for its slipshod research. Four of the authors have achieved senior positions in the Johnson cabinet.

Raab’s book is devoted to a demolition of human rights as expressed in the Human Rights Act. There are several key themes in the book the main one being that it is an attack on British Liberties. The act he claims has led to a proliferation of rights beyond the original intention caused by the court in Strasbourg widening the net with each new case.

This has led to confusion by those dealing with the law, police and local authorities he claims. Teachers can no longer keep control in class because of the act. Professionals have ‘their judgement trumped by being fettered by the diverse and onerous burdens dictated by human rights’.

Claims by individuals can now ‘select from an arsenal of new rights’ by which the individual can ‘force the state to prioritise the interest of the individual claimant over the claims of other individuals and the rest of society’.

There are interesting passages on torture. He says ‘[A] whole range of comparatively minor mistreatment is now covered by the wide ban on torture and inhuman treatment, well beyond the original intention of the convention’. No evidence is given to support this.

Significantly, a number of references are quotes from the Daily Mail which has maintained a steady stream of stories critical of the act and of human rights generally. Curiously, Raab quotes one concerning a man under siege who demanded Kentucky fried chicken as it was his ‘human right’. This made headlines in the tabloids but it turned out not to be true. Police routinely accede to reasonable requests in these circumstances in an effort to diffuse the situation and has nothing to do with human rights. Raab acknowledges this but explains that ‘if officials got it wrong it only serves to demonstrate the pervasive confusion’.

His history is not on sure ground either. He claims that the huge rise in prosperity between 1800 and 2000 was due to liberty. The argument seems to be that liberty is under threat from human rights and hence it will harm our prosperity. He rather ignores the influence of slavery and the slave trade which provide enormous wealth enabling the financing of the industrial revolution: hardly an example of liberty at work.

The entire book is a kind of peon of times past. We lived in a country which enjoyed liberty, trial by jury and a parliamentary system which is now threatened by a proliferation of rights ‘conjured up by human rights lawyers and campaigners’ he states. Conor Gearty refers to the ‘myth of the glorious past’ in his book On Fantasy Island (Oxford University Press, 2016). There was no glorious past. Women for example, then as now, could not look to the law for much in the way of protection. Ferocious laws were enforced against ordinary people to protect the interests of the wealthy and the landowners. Working conditions were atrocious for millions who died early deaths from industrial accidents or from the conditions they worked under. People were deported for the merest offence. It took decades of struggle to achieve basic sanitation and clean water in our towns and cities. And let us not forget that the judiciary are drawn from an extremely narrow section of society with 70% of them educated in just a handful of public* schools.

Raab’s book is thus based on the dubious proposition that we all enjoyed halcyon days of liberty and then along came the Human Rights Act which is slowly and surely destroying it. We can ask ‘liberty for whom?’ The wealthy, the elite, the well connected and the products of elite schools did enjoy the fruits of liberty. But the vast majority of citizens (actually subjects, we are not citizens) had little recourse to the law even if they could afford it. They were unlikely to get a fair hearing even if they did.

Perhaps one of the facts about the Human Rights Act is that it gives every person a list of basic rights. Everyone can in principle at least, use these rights to achieve justice, something they could not do before.

Dominic Raab’s book is worrying since it reveals reasoning which is feeble, flawed and far from historically accurate. Together with his contribution to Britannia Unchained it also reveals someone who seems to have both a low opinion of his fellow citizens and a somewhat disdainful attitude to their rights.

He is now our Justice Secretary.


American readers. Since we have many USA readers we should explain that ‘public’ schools are not public at all. They are extremely expensive private schools.

Podcast


Man with intellectual disability to be executed in Missouri

Saudi Arabia is not the only country to flout international law when it comes to the death penalty.  The same is true in the US when it comes to executing people with intellectual disabilities.

Ernest Johnson faces execution on 5 October 2021. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1995 for the 1994 murders of three employees of a convenience store in Missouri. A jury sentenced him to death despite a claim of intellectual disability in violation to international law. Johnson had surgery in 2008 to remove a brain tumour which has left him with seizures. Medical experts testified that the lethal injection drugs may trigger violent and painful seizures. State and federal courts have denied his claims for relief. We urge Governor Parson to halt the execution and commute his sentence. 

Please take action on Earnest Johnson’s behalf. There is no address but you can access the appeal form here.

Further background details