Archive for September, 2019


UPDATE:  Reprieve have sent through a request to send a message of support to Kris and this can be accessed here.  (24 September 2019)

We report – via Reprieve – the good news that a Briton held for 33 years in Florida, has gained the chance of release about 4 years after it was proved he was innocent.  We have received an email from them which is reproduced in full below:

I’ve [Clive Stafford Smith] just had some incredibly exciting news on the case of Kris Maharaj, the Brit who has already spent 33 unjust years in Florida’s prison system for a murder he did not commit. Kris will finally have an evidentiary hearing on October 17th.  The meaning of that might not be initially obvious, but I assure you it’s a very significant development. It’s one I have been pushing for, for a long time.  It means that Kris finally has the chance to prove in a US federal court that he should not have been deprived of his liberty for more than three decades, let alone have been sentenced to death.

I’ve been involved in more than 400 capital cases over the years, and Kris’ is the greatest injustice of them all.  Evidence uncovered in 2014 proved beyond doubt that Kris is not guilty of the murders for which he has been imprisoned.  The state trial court nevertheless refused to order a new trial at the time.  That’s why I’ve been pushing for a Federal evidentiary hearing.

When I took on this case back in 1993, I had no grey hairs.  Twenty-six years on, you’d be hard pushed to find a hair on my head that isn’t grey or white – and a fair number of them have been caused by the traumas of Kris’ case. But just imagine the impact of the last 33 years on Kris and his wife Marita.  It is hard to believe that we could get justice after all the crushing disappointments we’ve been through over the years, but perhaps – just perhaps – Kris will finally come home for his first Christmas in more than three decades.
The possibility of justice would never have arisen were it not for the kindness of all his supporters.  Both Kris and Marita have said their hope wouldn’t have lasted this long without the support they get from the Reprieve community.

It’s going to be a busy month ahead as I prepare for this hearing, but the Campaigns team at Reprieve will be in touch to update you in the run-up to the 17th October.  Thank you, as always, for your support of Reprieve so we can help many people like Kris and Marita.

We reviewed on these pages, a book, Injustice, on this case by Stafford Smith making the point how unsound the American system is.   So Kris is likely to walk free but it is important to bear in mind that he might have been executed by now.  The book goes into remorseless detail about the inadequacies of the American trial system.  We are conditioned by Hollywood films and TV about how heroic it is but for the poor, the system is rotten.  The police do not have to release evidence to the defence (defense) which helps the defendant, a situation which happened in the UK before PACE was passed.

This is an uplifting story but tragically, he has had to spend over 3 decades in gaol for a crime he did not commit.

A search of his name comes up with a photograph of him with the caption ‘Kris Maharaj, murderer’.

Piece by the Sun newspaper on this case.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The minutes of the September meeting are now available thanks to group member Lesley for compiling them.  A full meeting with a number of future events in hand.

September minutes (Word)

Group meeting

Posted: September 13, 2019 in Group news
Tags: ,

Septembers group meeting was held last night and the minutes will follow in a little while.  Main points discussed;

  • Death penalty report
  • Treasurer’s report and we have a healthy balance at present
  • Offer of someone to speak on Israel/Palestine and we will discuss with SCIP
  • Signing at the Cathedral and we may opt for a Sunday in December
  • Evensong to be held in the New Year
  • Carol singing: preparations under way
  • Film on 13 November at the Arts Centre
  • Agreed to submit a tree for the annual Christmas tree festival at St Thomas’s
  • Social media report: fairly quiet two months but a huge surge of interest in the Chemring post concerning the supply of CS gas to the Hong Kong police.

More details in the minutes


The latest death penalty report is now available thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.  It contains information on death penalty matters in Bangladesh, Turkey, USA and other countries.  The report, as ever, is unable to include any information about China where details of executions are a state secret.  It is believed to be the world’s largest executioner.

August – September Report 2019

No to the death penalty


Amnesty issues warning on the threat to human rights with Brexit

Amnesty has issued a press release setting out serious concerns with respect to Brexit.  Amnesty has no position on Brexit itself but it is pointing out some of the implications if we leave.  The issue of the border in Ireland is receiving a great deal of attention at present and the threat to the Good Friday Agreement is a concern.

An additional worry is that the attitudes of most of the cabinet and our prime minister concerning human rights is to say the least, ambivalent.

For example, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Chancellor Sajid Javid and the Salisbury MP John Glen have all, according to the ‘They Work for You‘ web site, generally voted against laws to promote equality and human rights.  They have voted against largely retaining the EU ‘Charter of Fundamental Rights’ and the Chancellor and Mr Glen have voted for the abolition of the Human Rights Act.  Being part of the EU combined with all the attention being devoted to the arguments about leaving, has limited the government’s ability to repeal the Act.  If and when we leave, one of these constraints will largely disappear.


Hong Kong withdraws from the DSEI arms exhibition.  Tear gas supplied by Chemring used by the police

The protests in Hong Kong have been going on since 9th June 2019 and we have seen regular incidents of violent police actions to quell the demonstrations.  There have also been what appear to be organised attacks by thugs wielding bars and clubs with no sign of any arrests or indeed of police at all.

A statement by Amnesty following the July events said:

The violent scenes in Yuen Long tonight were in part because Hong Kong police chose to inflame a tense situation rather than deescalate it.  For police to declare today’s protest unlawful was simply wrong under international law.

While police must be able to defend themselves, there were repeated instances today where police officers were the aggressors; beating retreating protesters, attacking civilians in the train station and targeting journalists.  Alarmingly, such a heavy-handed response now appears the modus operandi for Hong Kong police and we urge them to quickly change course.   Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong

The police have been using tear gas supplied by the UK company Chemring.  The firm has a factory outside Salisbury (pictured) although the cannisters are made by their plant in Derby.  It is still under investigation for money laundering, bribery and corruption by the Serious Fraud Office.

IMG_6942

Chemring factory near Salisbury.  The CS gas cannisters are not made here but in their plant in Derby.  Photo: Salisbury Amnesty

Following similar incidents in 2014 – the umbrella movement – it was thought that a licence to sell tear gas was withheld or at least under review but it seems as though the company was free to sell it to the Hong Kong police.  This is part of a wider government policy of allowing UK companies to sell weapons to all kinds of regimes whilst allegedly claiming to enforce a strict control policy.  Chemring were granted an open licence in 2015.  The former foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, recently withdrew the licence following the weeks of violence which makes inviting HKPF to the DSEI arms fair odd.  The firm’s human rights policy (2019) says:

[We will] seek to uphold all internationally recognised human rights wherever our operations are based.  para 3.14, 2019

Hong Kong police withdrew from the DSEI arms fare to be held this week having been invited by the Dept. for International Trade the minister for which is Liz Truss.  A statement by the department said:

an invitation does not imply that any future export licences will be granted to Hong Kong

Campaign Against the Arms Trade, CAAT said:

The UK government approved the export of an unlimited quantity of crowd control equipment to Hong Kong.  Police in Hong Kong have used tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon and batons to violently disperse protests opposing the new Extradition Bill.  At least six people have been taken to hospital after inhaling tear gas.

There have been many protests about this fair which invites a number of countries many of which commit a range of human rights infringements, use torture and in the case of Saudi Arabia are bombing civilian targets in Yemen.

The Omega Research Foundation established in 1990, provides rigorous, objective, evidence-based research on the manufacture, trade, and use of, military, security and police (MSP) equipment.  Such technologies range from small arms and light weapons to large weapon systems; from policing technologies and prison equipment to equipment used for torture, amongst others.  A recent tweet from them shows a photograph of a CS gas cannisters which appears to be made by Chemring.

The substance of the Hong Kong protests is that they do not want individuals to be extradited to China whose legal system is corrupt.  Britain has a delicate role to play in protecting the agreement with China for ‘one country – two systems’.  We wish to see essential freedoms in the ex colony to be upheld.  Our integrity is a key component in that.  As in so many other countries around the world, our willingness to sell arms and MSP equipment risks compromising that integrity.

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If you would like to join the local group you would be most welcome.  The best thing is to keep an eye on this site or on Facebook and Twitter, and make yourself known at an event.

 

 

 

 

Sources:  Financial Times; CAAT; Morning Star; Guardian; Fieldfisher; Omega Research Foundation; Chemring website

 

Coffee morning

Posted: September 7, 2019 in Group news, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

UPDATE:  very successful morning and we were kept busy from before 10 till noon.  Sold lots of cakes.  Thanks to all those who came or helped or provided cakes.

There is a coffee morning today – Saturday – in St Thomas’s church in Salisbury.  There will be lots of home made cakes (and some bought ones) and if you were thinking of joining the local group or wanted to know more, this would be a golden opportunity.

Coffee morning


UN Human Rights Council publishes a report yesterday (3 September 2019) on human rights infringements by Britain France and USA

The UN’s panel of eminent experts on Yemen has today published a damning report on the activities of the UK government and others into the atrocities being committed in Yemen.  They conclude that international human rights law has been infringed.  The most damning conclusion is:

The Experts found reasonable grounds to believe that the conduct of hostilities by the parties to the conflict, including by airstrikes and shelling, continued to have an extreme impact on civilians and many of these attacks may amount to serious violations of international humanitarian law.  The Experts further found reasonable grounds to believe that, in addition to violations related to the conduct of hostilities, the parties to the armed conflict in Yemen are responsible for arbitrary deprivation of the right to life, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, torture, ill-treatment, child recruitment, violations of fundamental freedoms, and violations of economic, social and cultural rights.  These amount to violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as applicable. Subject to determination by an independent and competent court, many of these violations may result in individuals being held responsible for war crimes.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade has waged a long legal battle with the UK government which was successful in June  persuading the Court of Appeal that the Secretary of State’s actions were ‘irrational and therefore unlawful.’

Further background on the UN report can be found in a Guardian article 3 September.

Another extract from the report details activities we have previously highlighted:

The report notes that coalition air strikes have caused most direct civilian casualties.  The airstrikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities.  Based on the incidents they examined, the Group of Experts have reasonable grounds to believe that individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition may have conducted attacks in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution that may amount to war crimes.
“There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties. I call on them to prioritise human dignity in this forgotten conflict,” said Kamel Jendoubi, chairperson of the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen.

The UN report can be accessed here.


If you live in the Salisbury, South Wilts/North Dorset area we would and would like to join us, you would be very welcome.  The best thing is to keep an eye on this site or our Facebook and Twitter pages and come to an event.