Minutes for the October meeting are attached and thanks to group member Lesley for preparing them.  We discussed the death penalty, North Korea, urgent actions, and future events.

October Minutes (Word)

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European Court rules against UK government in a landmark case

In September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the UK government’s surveillance activities acted against the human rights of its citizens.  It said the ‘UK mass surveillance programme violated human rights and had no real safeguards in place’.  British intelligence agencies – principally GCHQ – violated the right to a private and family life because there was insufficient oversight over which communications were chosen for examination.

As the Independent newspaper puts it:

Under the guise of counter terrorism the UK had adopted the most authoritarian surveillance regime in Europe corroding democracy itself and the rights of the British public.  13 September

A number of human rights organisations, including Amnesty and Liberty, have been pursuing this case and the result is to be welcomed.  Amnesty were particularly concerned because they themselves were penetrated by GCHQ.  In view of the sensitivity of Amnesty’s work and the contacts with vulnerable people around the world, to find that a government agency was calmly monitoring its work is alarming.  The wholesale nature of the Tempora programme was a shock to many.

What is also alarming is the lack of oversight of the agencies.  Despite, as the New Statesman puts it, an ‘alphabet soup’ of organisations which are meant to be overseeing and monitoring what they are up to, it was the work of journalists and human rights organisations which finally brought the government to account.

For many people this is a matter of little interest.  People often say they are unconcerned if their emails are being monitored and their movements tracked.  ‘If I have done nothing wrong, so what?’ is a common response.  Likewise, the discovery that people were being manipulated using Facebook over the Brexit vote has evoked little real interest.

For those who have lived in an authoritarian state on the other hand, and have experienced first hand what it’s like to be subject to constant and intrusive surveillance, the reaction is likely to be different.

When Britain leaves the EU, the current government was determined to remove us from the aegis of the court and to abolish the Human Rights Act.  This was a manifesto promise.  That position has shifted during the Brexit negotiations and we will continue to be subject to its jurisdiction.  This has infuriated that section of the Conservative party who do not wish to be controlled by ‘foreign courts’ as they put it.

This ruling emphasises how important it is that we stay within the ECHR.  Clearly, parliament, MPs and various oversight agencies failed in their basic duty of oversight.  There is a legitimate desire to detect terrorists and those who wish to do harm to the country or individuals within it.  This is written in Salisbury where the attempted murder of two Russians by agents of the GRU is a case in point.  We rely on the various state agencies to keep watch over individuals with malign intent.  But is has to be targeted and subject to oversight.  We give up a bit of our liberty and freedom because we want to be safe.  It does not mean giving a free hand to collect any information that GCHQ feels it needs in a kind of fishing expedition.  We also rely on parliament to keep and eye on the executive and its agencies to see that they are properly monitored and behaving responsibly.  They fail in that.

This ruling is welcomed and we now need to hear from government what measures they are going to adopt to put matters right.  We also rely on the opposition to ask questions of the government and to keep their feet to the fire.

Sources: the Independent; the New Statesman; the Guardian; Amnesty International 

September minutes

Posted: September 16, 2018 in Group news
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September meeting minutes attached thanks to group member Lesley for compiling them.  We discussed future plans including the Christmas tree, an event to mark the 70th anniversary of the UDHR, the death penalty and North Korea.

September minutes (Word)


The death penalty report for August – September is now available thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.

We would also like to draw your attention to a relatively new death penalty campaigning organisation called the Death Penalty Project

AUG-SEPT

 

 

Meeting

Posted: September 11, 2018 in Group news
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Minutes available shortly.

We shall be holding our monthly meeting this Thursday in Victoria Road at 7:30 as usual.  Supporters welcome.  We shall be reviewing the death penalty; follow up from the Tree of Life street action; forthcoming film,s and a possible event to mark the 70th anniversary of the UN Declaration in 1948.  Also the Christmas tree in St Thomas’s.


The fate of Palestinians and Gaza is in the news a lot recently and there is shortly to be a film shown called From Balfour to Banksy: Division and Vision in Palestine.

This will be shown at Sarum College on 27 September at 7:0 for 7:30.  It is free but there is a retiring collection.  The speaker will be Miranda Pinch.  Further information can be obtained from sarumconcern.org


Tree of Life signing against death penalty in Japan

Tree of Life. Pic: Salisbury Amnesty

We held our tree of life signing in Library passage this morning (1 September 2018) and collected over 40 signatures.  People were asked to sign small labels which we attached to a small tree to mimic the Japanese custom.  There were several people who were surprised that the methods the Japanese employ – solitary confinement, decades of incarceration and no notice of the execution itself – were still employed by a supposedly civilised country.

All the labels will be gathered up and sent to Amnesty for a combined presentation to the embassy in October.  Our thanks to all those who signed and to group members who spent time on the stand.


If you would like to join the local group, keep and eye on this site or on Twitter or Facebook (accessed on the left) and make yourself known at one of our activities.

Every month, the group publishes a brief report on the death penalty around the world.  See the latest edition here.


[Event now over]

Signing in Salisbury on Saturday 1st

On Saturday, members of the group will be taking part in the national Amnesty campaign to persuade the Japanese to end the death penalty in their country.  We will be asking people to sign labels which are then attached to a small tree.  Amnesty will be collecting these up from around the country and delivering them to the Japanese Embassy on 10 October, the World Day Against the Death Penalty.

This action is inspired by a long standing Japanese tradition.  In the summer, people across Japan write their wishes for the year on small strips of paper (called tanzaku 短冊) and tie them to bamboo branches.  Tanabata 七夕, or the ‘Star Festival’, is believed to be a 2,000-year old tradition to celebrate the day when Orihime and Hikoboshi, two lovers driven apart, are able to be together.

At the same time, people sit in solitary confinement on Japan’s notoriously secretive death row.  At the end of 2016, at least 141 people were under the sentence of death by hanging.  As a family member, you’re unlikely to find out your loved one has been executed until afterwards.  One of Amnesty’s long term cases, Matsumoto Kenji, has been on death row for 25 years and suffers from a delusional disorder as a result of his prolonged detention.

If you can spare a moment to sign, it would be appreciated.  We shall be in the Library passage or the cheese market outside depending on conditions.


If you are interested in joining the group please come along and make yourself known.

Annual barbeque

Posted: August 19, 2018 in Group news
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The group held its annual barbeque on Saturday 18th and although overcast, it was warm and we were able to stay outside until the sun went down.  Thanks to all who contributed.  The next meeting takes place on Thursday 13th September in Victoria Road as usual.

Barbeque in full swing.


We are pleased to attach the latest death penalty report thanks to group member Lesley for the work in putting it together.  Note that China executes more of its citizens than the rest of the world put together but details are a state secret.

There is an action taking place in Salisbury on 1 September between 9:00 and noon.  It will be in the Cheese market or in the Library passage.  Details are in the above report.

Potential new members are invited to come along and make themselves known during this event.

July – August report (pdf)