Stop Torture campaign

The local group will be manning a stand on 15 November to highlight the #stoptorture campaign which was launched by Amnesty in May this year.  The practice is alive and well throughout the world and Amnesty has recently ramped up its campaigning to stamp out the practice with the Stop Torture campaign.

'Waiting for the guards'
‘Waiting for the guards’

Ahead of its launch, Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General said governments around the world are “two-faced on torture” – prohibiting it in law, but facilitating it in practice”.

He added: “Torture is not just alive and well – it is flourishing in many parts of the world.  As more governments seek to justify torture in the name of national security, the steady progress made in this field over the last thirty years is being eroded.”

Stop torture will be a key part of the Amnesty display as part of the Magna Carta events at the Cathedral next year.

European Convention on Human Rights

Dominic Grieve was sacked by David Cameron in the last reshuffle and it was widely interpreted as a clearing of the decks by the prime minister of supporters of the Human Rights Act #HRA.  Grieve has now spoken on the issue and below is a link to the interview in the Guardian newspaper.

In an earlier piece, Dominic Grieve expressed his dismay that David Cameron had narrowed the range of views held by his senior team. The attorney general sacked by David Cameron over his dogged support for the European convention on human rights (#ECHR) says he fears the prime minister will use this week’s party conference to dilute the UK’s commitment to the international treaty.

The Conservatives have misgivings about the act partly because of their distaste for things European.  There has been a concerted tabloid campaign against the act and the ECHR because allegedly it gives rights to criminals and terrorists.  The benefits of the act to ordinary people is rarely given a mention however. They also publish a great deal of misinformation which is seldom corrected.

Readers may like to look at an earlier post following a meeting the group had with the Salisbury MP, John Glen.  He has said he wants to see the HRA abolished but after some of the benefits of the act for ordinary people – including some of his constituents – were explained, he did agree to be more balanced in future.

Guardian article



Moses Akatugba
Moses Akatugba

On Saturday 11 October we shall be manning a stall in Salisbury market to highlight the human rights situation in #Nigeria.  In particular, the case of Moses Akatugba who was tortured by Nigerian police to secure a conviction.  He was 16 when arrested, shot in the hand, beaten, and hung in an interrogation room for hours.  Pliers were used to extract his finger and toe nails.  His alleged crime was to steal three mobile phones.  Unfortunately, this ill-treatment is now a commonplace in Nigeria and there are reported to be ‘torture officers’ in police stations.

Executions were resumed in June last year when four men were executed in Benin city.  The bodies were not returned to the families for burial nor is the location of the graves known.

Amnesty has serious concerns about the increasing use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment in Nigeria.  Recent research by Amnesty indicates that police and military personnel routinely use torture and other ill-treatment to extract confessions and to punish and exhaust detainees.

Nigeria fact sheet (pdf)

You can also read about corruption in Nigeria here: Human Rights Watch: Nigeria

We look forward to seeing you in the market place on 11th.

Film: Omar

Each year we team up with the Salisbury Arts Centre and host a film which has a human rights element to it.  This year the Oscar nominated film is #Omar which is set in the occupied territories of Palestine.  Omar is a freedom fighter who is used to dodging bullets to cross the separation wall to visit his girl friend, Nadia.  After he is captured after a deadly act of resistance he is tricked to act as an informant. The film is directed by Hany Abu-Assad.

The film will show in the evening of 4 December at the Arts Centre and early booking is advised.

Meeting: update

UPDATE: The full minutes are now available here

September minutes

We held our monthly meeting on 11 September and a number of items were discussed some of which will be separately posted [P].

  • the treasurer reported we had around £334 in the bank.  The funds promised from one of the school groups have not arrived
    Amnesty logo
    Amnesty logo

    however and he will chase this up

  • North Korea.  We have a speaker – Bona Shin – for the November meeting so we will hold it in Sarum College [P].
  • Lesley presented the death penalty report which will be separately posted.  Executions continue apace in Saudi Arabia, Florida and Texas [P].
  • Peter gave an update on progress with the Magna Carta celebrations next year and said that we have held our third meeting with Seif at the Cathedral and arrangements were proceeding well.  Caroline was hoping to prepare tapestry with all the regional groups contributing a panel each to illustrate an aspect of the Human Rights Act.  Fiona is working with S Wilts on the idea of a film.
  • Cathedral service.  Jonathan will liaise with the Praecentor about dates and a speaker.
  • there is to be a coffee morning on Saturday 20 September in St Thomas’s starting at 09:30.
  • the second Citizenship day is to be held next month on 23 October run on similar lines to last year.  There is to be a repeat of the competition with 3 prizes totalling £100 from a supporter.  Peter is to contact the sixth form colleges and schools in the area [P].
  • the forthcoming campaign against torture stall was discussed and will take place on 15 October in the Cheese Market [P].
  • the film will take place again on 4 December at the Arts Centre and will be on the subject of Palestine.  The speaker is Samiha Abdeljebar [P].

Full minutes will be posted soon.

#Saudi executions

Over the last two weeks there has been considerable outrage over the gruesome execution of the American #JamesFoley by beheading allegedly by a jihadist from the UK, possibly London.  That someone nurtured on these shores should go to another country and commit such a crime horrifies people in this country and of course the USA.  The execution has added to the degree of urgency in the government and there are plans to bring in legislation to confiscate passports and monitor the movement back to this country of jihadists from ISIS areas of Iraq.

ISIS forces
ISIS forces

The barbaric and medieval nature of the crime has shocked many in the west.

In the last three weeks – between 4 and 22 August – 23 people in Saudi Arabia have been executed by beheadings. These executions take place in public and frequently, the bodies are left on public display as some kind of deterrent. Around 2000 have been executed in this fashion since 1985.  Around half are foreign nationals.

The executions follow trials where confessions are read out.  Many or even most of the confessions are extracted following torture.  Defendants often do not have legal representation and may not be able to follow the trials such as they are.  You will have to look long and hard to find much about these executions in western newspapers.

How are the two connected?

Saudi Arabia, along with Qatar, are in receipt of considerable quantities of arms from western countries including the UK.  David Cameron visited the country to promote trade and arms sales.  The Campaign Against the Arms Trade #CATT has found out that we exported £113 million of arms to Saudi in 2013.

With American support, both countries were arming the Syrian rebels of which the Islamic State is one.  So we support and provide arms to countries which are in turn supporting the Islamic State and which carry out barbaric executions in public.  Almost nothing is said about this and it receives very little coverage.

We need to be more balanced in our policies and attitudes to some of these despotic regimes.  If we are going to say nothing about barbaric behaviour because it might upset an arms deal to Saudi or Qatar, it is then inconsistent to start making speeches when no arms deals are in the offing.



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