Amnesty report on apartheid in Israel


Amnesty joins Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem in declaring Israel an apartheid state

Israel works hard to present itself as a modern, pluralist state and enjoys close links with its diaspora particularly in the USA. It enjoys favourable coverage in the UK with the majority of media who are either silent about these issues or are quick to condemn criticism of the state.

We have previously reported on two other reports by respected organisations which came to the same conclusions: one by Human Rights Watch and the other from within Israel by B’Tselem. Both reports go into great detail with many examples of how the apartheid system works in Israel.

The introduction to the Amnesty report says:

There is no possible justification for a system built around the institutionalized and prolonged racist oppression of millions of people. Apartheid has no place in our world, and states which choose to make allowances for Israel will find themselves on the wrong side of history. Governments who continue to supply Israel with arms and shield it from accountability at the UN are supporting a system of apartheid, undermining the international legal order, and exacerbating the suffering of the Palestinian people. The international community must face up to the reality of Israel’s apartheid, and pursue the many avenues to justice which remain shamefully unexplored.

From the Amnesty Report

The response by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs was ‘[the report was a] collection of lies, biased claims, and recycled reports from other anti-Israel organisations’.

The report (pdf) details the bases of the apartheid claim:

  • massive seizures of land and Palestinian property
  • unlawful killing
  • restrictions on the right [of Palestinian’s] to political representation
  • drastic movement restrictions
  • denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians.

Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights.

It is interesting to note the difference between how the treatment of Palestinians in Israel contrasts with things like the Berlin wall. There were regular features of the wall with film of people attempting to scale it and footage of border guards shooting at those seeking to escape East Germany. Film of the Israeli wall by contrast are rare. During the apartheid regime in South Africa, there was considerable coverage of civil disturbances and many companies decided to cease trading there. There is precious little sign of that in the UK media’s coverage of Israel. Indeed, in the Telegraph – a right wing newspaper in the UK – the coverage led, not on the report itself and a summary of some of the conclusions, but with the Israeli government’s response: Israel labels Amnesty International ‘anti-Semitic’ over ‘apartheid’ report leaving minimal coverage of what Amnesty said to a few short sentences at the end of the piece. They also featured a 6 minute video interview with the President of the Zionist Federation of Australia with no balancing footage [accessed 2 February]. Labelling any criticism of Israel as ‘anti-Semitic’ is an automatic response and is unjustified with any of the three reports mentioned.

Dr Agnès Callamard the secretary general of Amnesty said in response: “Amnesty International stands very strongly against antisemitism, against any form of racism, we have repeatedly denounced antisemitic acts and antisemitism by various leaders around the world.” Source: Times of Israel.

The report makes a large number of recommendations. With three detailed reports now published it is hard for Israel to ignore and deny the accusation of apartheid.

We have come across this video of a young girl who has made several videos and this one is worth watching. Janna Jihad video – Amnesty

Message from Amnesty


We are posting this message from Amnesty HQ concerning the pandemic crisis and human rights:

[I] hope you’re well and coping with the changes to daily life the Covid-19 crisis has brought.

It’s more important than ever that we look out for our family, friends, neighbours in these difficult times, and that we show appreciation and stand up for the rights of those most at risk during this crisis. In this email there is a solidarity action to support the workers who are keeping the country going at this time of national crisis, which we hope the whole family can get involved in. We’ve called on the government to ensure that health workers have appropriate protective equipment and are looking at how best to support and advocate with and for groups most affected by the crisis over the coming weeks and months.

We are concerned about the likely increase in domestic violence during this period as people are required to stay in their homes. Migrant women are at particular risk, as they are often unable to access the safety and support they need. Together with the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, we have written an open letter to the Home Secretary calling for emergency support for migrant victims of domestic abuse, and there’s a template letter below on this issue that we hope you’ll be able to send to your local paper.

We are monitoring the international situation carefully – Syria recently officially confirmed its first case of the disease. In a country in which only 64% of hospitals and 52% of primary healthcare centres were fully functional at the end of last year, and with thousands in detention in appalling conditions, the impact of an outbreak there would be catastrophic. Meanwhile, in Colombia, we have called on the authorities to implement a strategy for the prevention of COVID-19 infection in its dangerously overcrowded prisons. Have a look at the website for more on how we’re responding to the crisis https://www.amnesty.org.uk/coronavirus

There are many reasons to be anxious right now, but recent weeks have also seen incredible acts of kindness and humanity in communities all over the world. Showing solidarity with those in difficult circumstances is what Amnesty has been doing since the beginning, and it’s needed now more than ever. By looking out for each other, coming together in our communities to support people most at risk, we can help each other to get through these difficult times, and continue to build a stronger movement for the future.

Action to protect and promote human rights is vital right now. Please do stay in touch with each other and continue to hold group meetings, via video call or telephone conference. Please see below for instructions on how to use Zoom for meetings. It’s a video conferencing app but you can also dial in as a phone call. If you would like to use our teleconferencing service, please let us know and we can send you the details.

We plan to send email updates every two weeks during this period – they will contain a variety of campaign or solidarity actions, links to online courses, suggestions of things to do to keep busy at home and more.


With best wishes to our supporters and followers.

 

South West Regional conference


The SW Regional conference was held in Exeter on Saturday 7 March 2020

Four members of the Salisbury group attended the regional conference in Exeter yesterday, a truly

Some members in front of Exeter Cathedral

uplifting event.  We had four excellent speakers and we had a photo opportunity in front of the cathedral.

With all the talk from the current government, echoed in large parts of the press, of getting rid of the Human Rights Act and their desire to pull away from the ECHR, it was good to be among people who believe in the importance of these rights.  They are not there to help terrorists go free and to help hardened criminals escape justice which is the common refrain now, but to protect all of us in our everyday lives.  This is especially so as we do not have a constitution.

But one of the high spots was a young woman, Geraldine Chacón (below right) from Venezuela who is a human rights defender who was arrested by around 10 armed men and spent 4 months in prison before being released.  She has not been tried however so can be arrested again if and when she goes back.  The rights we take for granted were denied her.  No warrant for her arrest; no access to a lawyer; constant interrogations; never brought before a judge; no access to her family, particularly her mother who came every day but was not allowed to see her; and no charges brought. She was labelled a terrorist and her release was used to present the government in a positive light ‘look, we’re releasing terrorists’.  Calling anyone a ‘terrorist’ is the standard claim by nearly all authoritarian regimes for people who campaign for democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The two speakers from south America

She became an Amnesty ‘prisoner of conscience’ POC case and thousands of letters were written.  She said they made a difference.  She was feeling vulnerable and abandoned she said and the letters made her realise ‘you are not alone’.  The letters ‘made me brave because I knew I had you with me’.  She only knew there were letters as news of them had to be smuggled in: she was allowed no correspondence directly.  It was a very uplifting talk.  In all this denigration of human rights by sections of our media and some of our politicians, it was good to know the basic business of Amnesty’s work, did and does make a difference.

One of the other speakers was Laíze Benevides Pinheiro from Brazil (left).  She spoke of her work in Brazil and the threat and risk from the most dangerous police in the world.  In 2019, they killed 1810 young men most of whom were black.  The murder of Mariella Franco has polarised opinion but she said a network had been created to help people who were the victims of violence.

There was another talk on climate and its link to human rights which may be the subject of a future post.  Kate Allen (Director of Amnesty) also spoke about the future direction of Amnesty and the worries about the attitudes towards human rights by some in the current government.  This is a worry expressed on this site in previous posts.

A really worthwhile day and congratulations to the Exeter Amnesty group for organising it so well.


There will be an Evensong this Thursday 12 March starting at 5:30 in the Cathedral.

 

 

US Embassy protest


The US is the only country in the Americas which still has the death penalty.

There is an opportunity to join Amnesty members for a protest outside the American Embassy on the continued use of the penalty.  They will be gathering signatures for a petition and, to illustrate the barbarity of the practice, you can also tweet a picture of yourself sitting in our mock electric chair.

Meeting at 1:30 in the small park opposite the US Embassy on 30 June.

See our death penalty report

Amnesty Statement


Following some negative press articles, the Chair and Director of Amnesty UK have responded in detail and this is their statement below.

We both wanted to write to you directly in the light of the recent negative media coverage about Amnesty International. This is a difficult time for our movement and we hope that it is helpful for us to explain what has happened, how Amnesty International UK is affected and how the issues raised are being handled.

There have been two areas of recent media attention:

– the first has been culture and management practice at the International Secretariat
– the second has been allegations of caste-based discrimination at Amnesty India.

Taking each of these in turn:

1.Culture and management practice at Amnesty International, International Secretariat (IS)

In Summer 2018 Amnesty’s International Secretariat (IS) commissioned independent reviews following the tragic suicides of two International Secretariat staff members.
The reports produced describe a very difficult working culture at the International Secretariat and unacceptable management practices, attitudes and behaviours. There has been coverage of all or some of these reports in The Times, The Guardian and The Daily Mail.

We have both been shocked by what we have read in the reports about some of the management practices, and the culture at the IS, and it is absolutely right that the new Secretary General of Amnesty International, Kumi Naidoo, deals with this as a matter of priority. He has our utmost support in doing that.

Kumi has said:

“The tragic deaths of our beloved colleagues Gaëtan Mootoo and Rosalind McGregor have triggered important questions here at Amnesty International about staff-wellbeing.

We accept and welcome the findings and criticisms of all three independent reviews that have been commissioned into these tragic events.

While the review into Rosalind McGregor’s death concludes that her working situation at Amnesty International did not play a significant, if any, role in her tragic decision, what all three reviews make clear is that we have a difficult but necessary journey ahead of us in improving wellbeing.

As I have reiterated to staff, I have made it one of my priorities to address instances where individuals have been found wanting, in our senior leadership team or elsewhere. Unacceptable management practices, attitudes and behaviours cannot and will not be tolerated at any level in the organization.

However, the issues highlighted go beyond the question of individual accountability. It is clear we need radically to rethink our approach to staff wellbeing and culture and we are in the process of establishing and rolling out credible and effective wellbeing measures. The recommendations of this review complement current approaches and identify concrete steps towards delivering a comprehensive commitment to staff wellbeing and health. I will be making this one of my core priorities from here on in.”

It is important to make it clear that the reports are not referring to Amnesty International UK. They refer only to our International Secretariat, which is in a different part of London. AIUK has our own building, board of trustees, charity number, senior management and staff team.

However, we are all one Amnesty family, and there must be lessons that we can learn at AIUK from the report, and we too will prioritise work on staff wellbeing and welfare. We completely share Kumi’s commitment to put wellbeing at the heart of our work across the Amnesty movement and his view that we need to look after each other and develop compassion and mutual care to help Amnesty International become the uplifting community it needs to be.

We hope this can give you reassurance that Amnesty, across the movement, is taking these issues very seriously and is committed to improving the way we work together in order to create an environment which allows us to flourish and effectively deliver the important work we do.

We have had some feedback from supporters in response to the media reports. To date we have had 10 membership cancellations. We do hope that your campaigning is not directly affected by this, and please do get in touch if we can help you respond to feedback that you receive.

2. Allegations of caste-based discrimination at Amnesty India

An article relating to allegations of discrimination at Amnesty India was published online in the Guardian on February 15th. The article alleges that staff were discriminated against because of their caste.

Amnesty India has a long-standing policy of promoting diversity through affirmative action in recruitment and tries to ensure the workplace reflects the diversity of India across gender, caste, religion and disability. Over 40% of the current workplace identifies as – using Indian government definitions – Dalit, Adivasi or ‘other backward class’, according to a staff survey in 2018. Across their six offices, there were two formal complaints about discrimination and harassment in 2018. Both were dismissed after thorough investigations.

Amnesty India has commissioned a review by an independent committee whose report has just been published. The committee was headed by Dr. Syeda Hameed, an eminent activist and writer.

The report has now been shared with staff at Amnesty India and is available with responses from the board and management on the Amnesty India website.

Aakar Patel, Head of Amnesty India, has said in response:

“We are grateful to the Syeda Hameed Committee for their report, whose release was delayed because of disruptions caused by the Enforcement Directorate raid on our offices. It reassures us that we’ve made our workplace diverse in many ways and followed due process in dealing with complaints, but also reminds us that we have a long way to go to address discrimination in all its forms.

We accept all the findings of the committee, and we will ensure that we implement the recommendations made by it and the board to protect employee well-being. We will reinvigorate our efforts to show our staff, members and partners, that respect and dignity are not just things we campaign for externally but are values at the heart of our organization.”

It is critically important that discrimination of any sort is not tolerated within Amnesty International. Amnesty UK will support our new Secretary General’s commitment to tackling this.

In conclusion, we are very sorry to see Amnesty in the media in this way and we hope that it doesn’t negatively impact on the important campaigning and fundraising work that you are doing, and on overall our effectiveness as a section.

Most importantly, it is vital that the IS and the Amnesty movement as a whole learns from the findings of these reports, and our experience over the past year. We need to take the steps required to make Amnesty a better place to work and so become a more effective force for human rights change. We are both committed to that and we have both been impressed by Kumi’s commitment to make the changes needed. We are very pleased that he will be at our AGM and National Conference this year to speak and take questions. We hope you will be able to join us there.

Ruth Breddal and Kate Allen

End


If you are reading this in the Salisbury, Amesbury, Wilton or Downton areas, we would be pleased to welcome you to our local group.  The best way is to keep an eye on this site or on Facebook or Twitter and come along to one of our events.  We are hosting a film this Friday, 8 March at the Arts Centre and we shall be in evidence then.

Tree of Life: Japan


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.

April Minutes


April minutes now available

Attached are the minutes of the last group meeting thanks to group member Lesley for compiling them.  We discussed the Celebration event (now cancelled); a summary of the death penalty report; North Korea; the film at the Arts Centre and future events generally.

April minutes (Word)


If you are interested in joining the group then either the film or the market stall are both opportunities to come along and introduce yourself to group members.  See the minutes for details of forthcoming events.  Also follow us on Facebook or Twitter – salisburyai

Turkey human rights defender rearrested


Message from Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty

“Yesterday, it was announced that Taner Kılıç had finally been released after eight gruelling months in jail.  Taner was inches away from freedom.  But while Taner’s wife and daughter excitedly waited for him to walk out of prison and into their arms, he was re-arrested and taken back into custody.  This is hugely upsetting and disappointing – and completely unacceptable.

“Now we need to come together, to show our strength and power.  Please will you join us in sharing this urgent action for Taner’s freedom and demand the Turkish Minister of Justice release Taner?  Let’s be clear – Taner is not a terrorist.  He is a lawyer and human rights defender whose brave work threatens Turkey’s oppressive regime.  That’s why he’s been targeted.

“The news of his re-arrest is not only heartbreaking, it is hugely alarming.  This latest news exposes the crisis in Turkey’s justice system that is ruining lives.  Turkey ignoring the overwhelming evidence of his innocence and his re-detention only deepens our strength to continue to fight on Taner’s case.

“Taner should now be home and reunited with his family. With you on our side, hopefully we can still make that happen. We won’t give up. Thank you again for you on-going support during this difficult time.”

Kate Allen
Director
Amnesty International UK

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