Attached is the latest monthly death penalty report thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling it.  It is a little longer than usual as there seems to be a lot of activity on the DP front.  Please note that there is no reporting from China which executes more of its citizens than the rest of the world combined but the details are a state secret.

May – mid June (Word)


In our links at the bottom of the site page, we have just added Human Rights Connected https://humanrightsconnected.org/ a Washington DC based organisation

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Asia Bibi leaves Pakistan for Canada a free woman

Many people were outraged at the treatment Asia Bibi received in Pakistan and have written letters in support of her.  We have today (12 June 2019) heard that she has been acquitted.

Asia Bibi is a Christian farm worker, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010. After an eight-year ordeal, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted her of all charges and released her in October 2018.  Following the decision by the Supreme Court to uphold her acquittal on 29 January 2019, it was confirmed by the Pakistani Foreign Office on 9 May that she had left Pakistan and safely arrived in Canada to be reunited with her family.

We are extremely grateful to supporters who wrote appeals to not only acquit Asia Bibi but to also ensure her safe passage out of Pakistan.  Her wrongful death sentence has also helped bring more nuance into the discourse around the blasphemy laws and their rampant misuse.  Offered asylum in Canada, Asia Bibi can begin to live her life as a free woman.

We thank you, for standing with Asia Bibi during her ordeal. It’s a great relief that Asia Bibi and her family are safe. She should never have been imprisoned in the first place, let alone faced the death penalty.   Omar Waraich, Deputy South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

Source: Amnesty press release

 

Paul Mason talk

Posted: June 10, 2019 in Group news, Uncategorized
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CANCELLATION

We very much regret to announce that the talk planned by Paul mason on 24th June has had to be cancelled.  We have heard from Paul’s agent that he will be indisposed on that date.


Saudi Arabia: boy arrested aged 13 at risk of execution

Murtaja Qureiris was held in solitary confinement and subjected to beatings during his interrogation.  Murtaja Qureiris faces possible execution for offences which date back to when he was just ten years old.  CNN footage shows him taking part in bike protest with other young boys in Shi’a Eastern Province in 2011.

Amnesty International is calling for the Saudi Arabian authorities to rule out the use of the death penalty against a teenager arrested at the age of 13 for participating in anti-government protests.  CNN this week revealed he was facing the death penalty and published video footage showing Murtaja Qureiris participating in bike protests in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province as a young boy in 2011.

Amnesty has confirmed that Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution sought the death penalty for Murtaja Qureiris last August for a series of offences, some of which date back to when the teenager was just ten years old.  Qureiris, now aged 18, was arrested in September 2014 and detained in a juvenile detention centre in al-Dammam city.  He was held in solitary confinement for a month, and subjected to beatings and intimidation during his interrogation.  His interrogators promised to release him if he confessed to charges against him.  In May 2017, he was moved to al-Mabaheth prison in al-Dammam, an adult facility, even though he was still only 16.

Throughout his detention, Qureiris was denied access to a lawyer until after his first court session in August 2018. This was held at the country’s notorious Specialised Criminal Court, an anti-terrorism court set up in 2008 and increasingly used for cases involving human rights activists and protesters.

The charges against Murtaja Qureiris include participating in anti-government protests; attending the funeral of his brother Ali Qureiris who was killed in a protest in 2011; joining a “terrorist organisation;” throwing Molotov cocktails at a police station, and firing at security forces.  He is currently awaiting his next trial session.  Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said:

It is appalling that Murtaja Qureiris is facing execution for offences that include taking part in protests while he was just ten years old.
The Saudi Arabian authorities have a chilling track record of using the death penalty as a weapon to crush political dissent and punish anti-government protesters – including children – from the country’s persecuted Shi’a minority.
Instead of stepping up their use of the death penalty to silence critics.
There should be no doubt that the Saudi Arabian authorities are ready to go to any length to crack down on dissent against their own citizens, including by resorting to the death penalty for men who were merely boys at the time of their arrest.”

Persecution of Shi’as in the Eastern Province

Since 2011, the authorities have cracked down on successive waves of protests by the Shi’a minority in the country’s Eastern Province.  In April this year, Amnesty confirmed the execution of Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, a young Shi’a man arrested aged 16 and convicted of offences related to his involvement in anti-government protests.  He was among 37 men put to death in one day as part of a gruesome execution spree.  Three other Shi’a men – Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood al-Marhoon, who were arrested in 2012 aged 17, 16 and 17 respectively in connection with their involvement in anti-government protests – are at risk of being executed at any time.

Since 2014, more than 100 Shi’a Saudis have been tried before the Specialised Criminal Court on vague and wide-ranging charges arising from their opposition to the government, including peaceful criticism of the authorities.  Amnesty has documented that a number of these have involved grossly unfair trials, with defendants convicted and – in many cases – sentenced to death on vague charges that criminalise peaceful opposition, and on the basis of “confessions” extracted through torture or other coercive means.

Appalling record
Saudi Arabia has an appalling record of using the death penalty – including against children – after grossly unfair trials that rely on confessions extracted through torture. The use of the death penalty for offences allegedly committed by people under 18 is strictly prohibited by international law. Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all circumstances without exception.


Source: Amnesty press release.

Amnesty is hosting a talk by Paul Mason on 24th June.  If you want to join us, this would be a good time to make yourself known.  UPDATE: We regret to say this event has been cancelled.


We held our annual market stall in Salisbury yesterday and managed to sell over £200 of stuff.  We had plenty to sell, including lots of CDs, good quality clothes and a lot of nice jewellery.  We couldn’t help but notice however that spending was subdued despite the low prices.  Perhaps the effects of austerity really are being felt.

Many thanks to all those who gave us things to sell and also to those who spent the morning on the stall.  It was enjoyable.  The promised rain held off although it threatened at various times.

 

 

 


President Trump is due to leave the UK after a controversial visit in which all the normal diplomatic niceties seem to have been ignored.  Our concern naturally is with human rights and his tenure as president has shown a wilful disregard for the rights of women, minorities and immigrants.  Kate Allen, the Director of Amnesty, has written to the government arguing for a more vigorous line from them.  She said;

Trump has presided over two-and-a-half years of utterly shameful policies.  Locking up child migrants, imposing a discriminatory travel ban, decimating global funding for women’s rights and withdrawing from global human rights bodies – it’s been a roll call of shame under Donald Trump’s presidency.

We need to resist Trump’s trashing of human rights.  Within the Anglo-American relationship, we’d like to see the UK Government being far more vocal about human rights.  Our fear is that the Government’s desperate hunger for post-Brexit trade deals with the USA could mean we end up giving a free pass to the White House as this onslaught against human rights continues.

The full press release can be accessed from this link.


If you have come to this page seeking information about Paul Mason’s talk on 24th, details can be found here.


UPDATE: PLEASE NOTE THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED.  We have been informed today that Paul will be indisposed on this day and regretfully and unavoidably, he has had to cancel

Leading author and journalist coming to Salisburyclear bright future

We are delighted to announce that the famous journalist and author Paul Mason (pictured) will be speaking in Salisbury on 24 June at 7:30.  This is a free event but we do ask people to contribute to a parting collection to help with our costs.

Paul will be speaking about his new book Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being.  The book is about the triple threat we face: the rise of authoritarian politicians and the destruction of verifiable truth; the rise of intelligent machines which will threaten the human claim to agency, and a rising sense of fatalism and irrationality which has led many to become susceptible to the mythologies of the new right.

The book is an argument for a defence of the human being against the creation of the ‘neoliberal self’ in the past three decades or so.  To resist this Mason argues, means fighting for universal rights and for human centric institutions.

Paul Mason

Picture: C Juergen-Bauer

Paul will be speaking at the Salisbury Methodist Church starting at 7:30 pm and the event is free.  We are asking for a parting contribution please.


The evening will be a good opportunity for you to join us if you wish.  The issue of the power of the tech giants and the effect this has on our freedoms is an issue we are likely as a group to pay more attention to in the future.  This may be a topic of interest to you in which case we would like to hear from you.  It is free to join us locally.


A concert is being organised by Sarum Concern for Israel/Palestine on 27 June at Salisbury Methodist Church.  Tickets are £12 on the door or £10 in advance with students £5.  http://www.thelittleboxoffice.com/palmusic.  Also 01722 349740.

The performers are the Palmusic Ensemble and the aim is to raise money for Palmusic UK scholarships. Three out of four of these four talented young musicians are making a return visit to Salisbury at the end of June when they again will play a mix of Western classical and Palestinian music.

For those who were at Salisbury Methodist Church in February 2018, it was a very memorable evening.  Omar and Tibah are brother and sister
studying viola and cello respectively at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. They are Druze from The Galilee. In the past Omar was conscripted to serve time in the Israeli Army but as an Arab Palestinian refused, serving time in prison.  On this occasion they
are joined by Lourdina – another violinist – who has studied in Bethlehem (her home town), Paris and now at the Royal Birmingham Conservatory.

All three have been awarded scholarships through Palmusic, which is short for The Friends of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, a UK charity, which  supports them financially, so this is a fund-raising evening for them. Iyad who works with them is a Jordanian-Palestinian and already a professional pianist who has recently made a recording of Khachaturian’s piano music.  The concert will include Mahler Piano Quartet in A minor, Mozart Piano Quartet in G minor K.478 and Arabic folk songs.

Further details from http://www.sarumconcern.org or http://www.palmusic.org.uk


RightsInfo has published some research on the attitudes towards human rights of the known contenders for the post of Prime minister following the resignation of Theresa May

The general tone of the various contenders is to say they are in favour of human rights but their actions often belie these statements.  Of the eight known contenders so far (28 May), all at various times have generally voted against human rights issues and most have voted to abolish or scrap the Human Rights Act (HRA) and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.  Some have wanted to replace the HRA with a British Bill of Rights but after around 10 years a bill has shown no sign of appearing.  None of the contenders could in any way be described as a ‘champion’.

In a recent newspaper article, it was revealed that the UK government has relaxed its guidance on obtaining and using information gained from foreign intelligence agencies using torture.  Although this cannot easily be placed at any particular minister’s door, it is likely that Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt knew or should have known during their times as Foreign Secretary.   The consolidated guidance was revised in secret and has alarmed human rights groups.  It is extremely equivocal and provides copious loopholes for information obtained under torture, or by using inhuman methods, to be allowed.

The contenders are :

Boris Johnson

Professes to be in favour but the web site They Work for You shows that he has generally voted against human rights issues.  Human Rights Watch described his position ‘weak, inconsistent and often incoherent.’  Their review of his actions on arming the Saudis in their bombing campaign in Yemen, failure to press taking Myanmar to the International Court and his weakness in Egypt, make for grim reading.

Andrea Leadsom

Almost always votes against human rights issues according to They Work for You.  She also voted against retaining the European Charter.

Dominic Raab

Raab has been an outspoken critic of the HRA and has claimed that human rights have run riot and are flawed.  He has masterminded plans to replace the HRA.  In a debate with Shami Chakrabarti, some of Dominic Raab’s doubtful logic and thinking is revealed.

Rory Stewart

Has spoken in favour of Human Rights and RightsInfo say that he was ‘reportedly’ a professor of human rights at Harvard University.  He has criticised the ECHR saying it has ‘using the wrong principles to come to the wrong judgements.’ Has voted to scrap the HRA and the EU Charter in 2018.

Esther McVey

Has been an active campaigner to repeal the HRA and replace it with a British bill of rights.  Voted to scrap the European Charter.

Jeremy Hunt

Has supported the scrapping the HRA.  Created the post of roving ambassador and appointed Rita French into the post.  However if this is not supported by appropriate actions to support human rights in the UK it is unlikely to achieve much.  Reprieve has reported in a lengthy report that the UK is heavily involved in the training of torturers in Bahrain during Hunt’s time as Foreign Secretary.

Matt Hancock; Michael Gove and Sajid Javid have all sought to scrap the HRA and voted against human rights issues in parliament.

What comes across from looking at their records, speeches and comments is that they want to be seen to support human rights but that as soon as a particular issue arises, such as for example, deporting people back to a country which uses torture, their resolve weakens.  It is also not hard to see the influence of tabloid stories and obsessions in their comments, indeed, searching their names often brings up stories in the Daily Express or the Daily Mail.

Another common theme is that commercial interests are key.  This is particularly so with arms sales to the Saudis with a blind eye turned to the bombing and destruction in Yemen.  Whoever is appointed prime minister from the above list, we are unlikely to see a robust or principled defence of human rights.  Rather, a continuation of attacks on the European Charter and a policy of business first and human rights second.

The MP for Salisbury, Mr John Glen (not known to be a contender) is also generally voted against human rights.     He also voted against the retention of the European Charter.

 

 


The minutes of the group’s May meeting are attached and thanks to group member Fiona for preparing them.  There is a full programme of activities.

May minutes (Word)