Opposition shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy criticises government failure to condemn violence

Lisa Nandy MP said:

Britain is “absenting itself from the world stage” by refusing to show leadership over Hong Kong residents, confront China or condemn President Trump over his handling of the fallout from George Floyd’s killing, the shadow foreign secretary has warned.  Observer 7 June 2020

This statement was made during the violent events which have taken place across the US following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the continued unrest in Hong Kong over the concerns of the Chinese governments attempts to crack down on protest.

We will “lose all moral authority” to talk about police brutality in Hong Kong and elsewhere if we are not prepared to apply those standards equally to all parts of the world she said.  These comments were made following questions to Dominic Raab who declined to condemn the violence in either country.

It is becoming clearer by the day that the principle concern of the UK government is trade and nothing can stand in the way of that.  William Haigh tried to introduce a moral element to conservative party thinking when he was leader of the party but that seems to have been abandoned.  Now what matters is business and criticism of China or anyone else is not allowed it seems.  Similar reticence can be seen with other countries with dire human rights records such as Saudi, where a desire to sell arms trumps all moral considerations.

The Chinese Minister Chen Wen was interviewed on BBC’s World at One on 5 June and justified the imposition of tough new laws in Hong Kong are needed to create stability.  “Stability a prerequisite for prosperity” she said and that the new laws were only targeted at a handful of criminals, terrorists and those colluding with foreign forces.  This is far from the case and as Amnesty’s Regional Director Joshua Rosenzweig said the National Anthem law just passed is an “insult to free speech.”  Turning one’s back on the Chinese flag can result in up to 3 years in prison.

Sources: Observer; South China Morning Post; BBC; Amnesty International

 

 

Detention Action

Posted: June 6, 2020 in refugees
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We have added Detention Action to our links at the bottom of this site.  The organisation campaigns against the harsh detention regime operated in the UK which deprives people of their liberty often without reason at considerable cost to the Exchequer.


A 27 year old woman in Tunisia may be imprisoned for a Facebook joke

Emna Chargui shared a Facebook post that she found on social media of a humorous text that imitates the verses of Quran to make fun of the COVID-19 situation. The text is void of any incitement to hatred or violence. It is intended to be funny and it even includes a call for staying home and washing hands. Emna now faces up to three years in prison for this post. The Court of First Instance in Tunis charged her with inciting hatred between religions through hostile means or violence.

Further details of this and how to take action can be found on the Ammesty site or here.

 

 

 

 

 


Contrasting positions by footballers and supporters

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, there have been several photos in the sports pages of groups of kneeling footballers forming either circles (Liverpool) or an H (Chelsea) in support of black rights in the USA.  They are expressing their outrage at the killing of a black American by allegedly over aggressive policing and restraint, which led to Floyd’s death, the latest in a series of black people who have died at the hands of the police.

At the same time – as we have written before – the Premier League is currently debating the sale of Newcastle United Football Club to a consortium funded by Saudi interests to the tune of £300 million.  The litany of human rights abuses in that country are many: torture is common; women’s rights are highly restricted; the death penalty is frequently used, often in public and by beheading, and amputation is practised as a punishment for certain crimes.  There is no free speech and religious persecution is carried out.  Whatever one may think of heavy-handed policing in the USA and the problems over race in that country, it comes no way near the grim state of affairs in Saudi Arabia.  In addition to the human rights abuses there is the war being waged by Saudi in Yemen which is causing immense misery and suffering.

Despite this, supporters of NUFC are overwhelmingly in favour of the transaction taking place.  A poll showed 97% in favour of the sale.  This partly because the current owner – Mike Ashley – has failed to adequately invest in the club and the supporters want the club to do better.  The Premier League is currently debating the sale of the club and the sole consideration, as far as their statements are concerned, is whether broadcasting rights have been infringed:

Qatar broadcaster beIN Sports has also accused the Saudi Arabian government of facilitating the piracy of Premier League football rights in the Middle East through broadcaster beoutQ, although there is a long-running diplomatic row between the two countries.

Saudi broadcaster Arabsat has always denied that beoutQ uses its frequencies to broadcast illegally and has accused beIN of being behind “defamation attempts and misleading campaigns”.  Source: BBC

Newcastle fans bristle at the suggestion that they should not accept such tainted money.  They argue that the issues has only achieved this degree of salience because football is in the public eye.  They point to the sale of arms by the UK and USA governments with little concern for the use they are put or the misery and destruction caused.  They also point to other investments by the Saudi regime in the UK – Uber taxis, or the Independent newspaper – which haven’t received similar negative publicity.

When the widow of Adnam Kashoggi, who was murdered by the regime in Turkey, asked Newcastle to reflect on the funding and not to take it, she was rewarded with some unpleasant trolling on Twitter.

But the contrast is quite stark.  On the one hand an outpouring of sympathy and support for the death of an innocent man in the USA, and on the other, avid support for a takeover by a terrible regime committing far worse acts on its citizens who seek to purchase a football club as part of its sports wash programme.  Quite why there should be this disparity of interest is hard to say.  Possibly sharing the same language so that information from America flows around the world quickly.  The presence of a free press there will be another factor.

If we in the UK – including football fans – could see what is going on in Saudi, if the women were allowed to speak and mobile phone footage of public executions widely circulated, then it is to be hoped their views might be different.

Jonathan Lieu, writing in the New Statesman (22 – 28 May 2020) argues that fans have craved the departure of Mike Ashley and not prepared to get too squeamish about who might replace him.  He says the dissatisfaction with Ashley is not to do with his zero-hours contracts or compromised labour rights, but more to do with his parsimony and failure to splash out some of his wealth on the club.  He argues that the fan’s behaviour and attitudes to the deal –

… is an admission of where the fans sit in the order of things.  Shorn of any real influence, deprived of any meaningful stake in their club, shut out of their stadiums for the foreseeable future, perhaps it is no wonder that some many have simply plumped for the path of least resistance and maximum gratification.  New Statesman p40

This may be so.  But just as important is the power of money in this sport.  Success – other than a fleeting cup run – is almost entirely dependant on huge investment to enable the purchase of top players.  Since investment in football is a risky venture from a financial point of view, the big money comes from people with big egos to support or who are using the sport to launder a reputation.  The desire for success and the need for big money feed on themselves.  Any moral qualms are trampled under foot.  In that, the supporters share with the UK government – whose desire for money from weapons sales – lack any consideration for human rights or the plight of those in Yemen.

Sources: BBC; Premier League; Guardian; New Statesman; aljazeera

Kris Maharaj

Posted: May 30, 2020 in Florida, USA
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Justice denied again for Kris Maharaj in Florida

We have some bad news from Reprieve. Kris Maharaj’s request for a conditional medical release was denied by the Florida Department for Corrections. The DOC didn’t even bother to send a doctor to evaluate him, or include a reason for denying Reprieve’s request. And that’s why they have filed a challenge to their decision.

At the end of the day, the question is a simple one: is Kris a danger to others? No.

Kris never has been.  But the prison is a danger to him.  He is 81 and particularly vulnerable as COVID-19 sweeps through the prison system. He should be at home with his wife Marita right now.

When we have further news we shall publish it here.

 

 

 

 


The group’s monthly death penalty report is now available thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.  It contains link to the annual report produced by Amnesty International.  Note that China executes more of its citizens than any other country in the world but details and statistics are a state secret.

The group cannot meet or do any face to face campaigning at present for obvious reasons.  We hope to be back in action later in the year.

Report (Word)

Good News!

Posted: May 12, 2020 in "Human rights", Iran
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Good news from Iran

In these times of gloom and lockdown, it is good to have some good news.  Many Amnesty people have written on behalf of Kama Foroughi and it is possible that anyone reading this in the Salisbury area has signed a petition for us.  We have just received this letter via Amnesty which we think is worth publishing on this site.

I am writing to say a big thank you.

You may have heard that my 80 year old Dad Kamal Foroughi returned to London in March to see us his family for the first time in nine years – if not I am delighted to bring you the great news. Dad had been released from Evin prison in 2018, and had waited since then to receive his renewed Iranian passport to be allowed legally to leave Iran. The passport arrived this February, at a time when flights were very busy due to coronavirus and Iranian New Year so it took a few more weeks to get Dad home.

Nine years is an extraordinary time to be kept away from family. Dad was taken to Evin prison in early May 2011 – days after the marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Since then Dad has missed the growth of smartphones, the London 2012 Olympics, Andy Murray winning Wimbledon twice, Brexit, England winning the cricket and (more importantly for us) the primary school years of his two granddaughters – both of whom make our family so proud.

Your support gave us comfort and helped Dad return to London. Over 29,000 Amnesty Supporters, wrote Urgent Action letters, signed Amnesty petitions and wrote lovely birthday messages for Dad which were delivered to the Iranian embassy as part of peaceful protests. We are so grateful to you.

More generally, your public advocacy and standing up for human rights is so essential to bring an end to the plight of arbitrarily detained and powerless prisoners from all over the world. Maybe the coronavirus challenges will focus our leaders’ minds and encourage them to release more prisoners around the world to the love and care of their families, particularly where there are significant legal, medical and humanitarian concerns with their detention.

Thank you so much,
Kamran Foroughi

 


Letter from Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty, to the Observer

We have featured on these pages the continuing scandal of arms sales to the Saudi regime.  Not only the destruction of large parts of Yemen these weapons are used for, but the fact that the Saudi regime’s repression of its own people and denial of human rights.  After China, they are the world’s second biggest executioner often following unfair trials and confessions extracted through torture.  But no matter, there’s money to be made.

Kate Allen discusses these factors in her letter to the Observer newspaper on Sunday 10 May 2020:

It is, as you say, long over overdue that the UK government put its relationship with Saudi Arabia on a healthier footing (Now is the time to distance ourselves from an odious regime, editorial 3 May, 2020).  For years, the UK has claimed behind-closed-doors diplomacy with Riyadh has been better than “lecturing” the kingdom over its appalling humans rights record.  Yet repression has only worsened including under the suppose reformer Mohammad bin Salmon.  Now virtually every human rights activist in the the country has either been locked up, intimidated in to silence or forced the flee the country.

We have sole Riyadh plenty of weaponry, but the UK hushed policy on Saudi human rights has sold the country’s embattled human rights community shamefully short.

The weapons are used in the war in Yemen the bombing of which has caused appalling damage to the nation’s infrastructure.

Attacks by the Saudi-led coalition have destroyed infrastructure across Yemen. Saudi forces have targeted hospitals, clinics and vaccinations centres.  Blockades have starved the population and made it hard for hospitals to get essential medical supplies.  Source; Campaign Against the Arms Trade

The UK is complicit: many of the Coalition’s attacks have been carried out with UK-made fighter jets, and UK-made bombs and missiles – and the UK government has supported them with billions of pounds of arms sales.

 


Four journalists in Yemen face the death penalty, simply for telling the world the truth about suffering in Yemen

The news is so dominated by Covid-19 that events around the world do not get reported.  The treatment of journalists in Yemen is worthy of our concern however and we hope you will spend a few moments clicking on the link below to the Amnesty site and take the necessary action.

Akram, Abdelkhaleq, Hareth and Tawfiq were just doing their job when they were detained and charged with “spying” and “creating several websites on the internet and social media.” They have now been detained, alongside six other journalists, for five years.  Abdelkhaleq’s family say that other detainees have heard him screaming as he was being tortured. Every day, journalists around the world face intimidation, imprisonment and violence, for reporting on human right violations.  No-one should be sentenced to death just for doing their job.

The Huthi de facto authorities recently pardoned Hamid Haydara, a prisoner of conscience also sentenced to death.

If we pressure the authorities, the same can happen for Akram, Abdelkhaleq, Hareth and Tawfiq.

Call on the Huthi de facto authorities to immediately quash their death sentences, and release all ten journalists.

This is an Amnesty post.  You can go to the Amnesty site and get to the petition here

 


Supreme Court victory enables pension funds to divest from companies involved in the illegal occupation by Israel

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign won an important victory in the Supreme Court last week when it was ruled that pension funds such as the Local Government Pension Scheme, can divest from companies which are complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine lands.  It is seen as a major victory for the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement which is fiercely opposed by the prime minister Boris Johnson and the Conservative government.

The ruling will also enable divestment from the arms industry which is a major exporter to the region and whose products cause such mayhem in countries like Yemen.  In a previous post we discussed the activities of TripAdvisor and their role in the occupied lands.

Attendees at the Sarum Campaign for Israel Palestine SCIP, will have watched several films of what life is like in Palestine which is almost a prison.  We have seen footage of the hours spent at checkpoints, uprooting of olive groves and of course the enormous wall which carves the country in two.

Sources: CAAT; Middle East Eye