Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’


The latest monthly death penalty report is available here thanks to group member Lesley for doing the work to compile it.

Report

No to the death penalty

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The death penalty report for September/October 2017 is attached thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.

China remains the world’s largest executioner of its citizens but the statistics are a state secret.

Report (Word)


The DSEI arms fair starts in London

This bi-annual event held in London receives a considerable amount of opposition and is a place for protest against the arms trade.  The description of the event by the organisers is blandness itself:

World leading event that brings together the global defence and security sectors to innovate and share knowledge.

It paints a picture of people coming together in some kind of seminar format to discuss defence issues as though it is a think-tank.  The reality is a little different as it is a place where all kinds of weapons manufacturers can display and secure deals to a wide range of countries who come to visit.  If it is as benign as the description implies one has to ask why organisations like Amnesty are denied access?  The purpose is to sell arms and to quote the organising company:

It’s a model that works well in the Middle East…There’s a lot of money being spent here in the UAE on homeland security technology, so it’s a good market in which to roll out our brand

Among the invitees are countries with highly dubious and questionable human rights records.  These include according to the guest list: Brunei, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and UAE.  If we look at Bahrain in particular, a recent Amnesty report on the country published earlier this year concluded, inter alia:

Since June 2016, the Bahraini authorities have dramatically stepped up their crackdown on dissent. As a result, by June 2017, Bahrain’s formerly thriving civil society had found itself reduced to a few lone voices brave enough to speak out.  The majority of peaceful critics, whether they are human rights defenders or political activists, now feel the risk of doing so has become too high. Over the course of a year, the authorities increasingly resorted to a wide range of repressive tactics including arrest, harassment, threats, prosecution and imprisonment to silence peaceful critics.  Amnesty International’s research concludes that the security forces have even resorted to torturing or otherwise ill-treating human rights defenders, both men and women, a practice that has not been prevalent in Bahrain since the height of the crackdown that followed the 2011 uprising.

The report went onto to describe how Bahrain has backtracked on reform and noted that in the period June 2016 to June 2017, 169 critics or relatives have been arrested, summonsed, interrogated, prosecuted, imprisoned, banned from travel or threatened.  Freedom of expression is increasingly criminalised and the opposition party has in effect been dismantled.  The report was compiled after a large number of interviews were carried out including with 52 victims, 58 journalists, lawyers and others, and the investigation of 210 cases.

The British government has worked hard to promote our interests with Bahrain and a Daily Mail article in 2016 detailed the many links from the Queen down through the rest of the Royal Family.  Theresa May visited recently.

As far as the Arms fair DSEI itself is concerned, Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade which is helping to coordinate protests said:

DSEI will bring many of the world’s most appalling regimes together with the biggest arms companies.  Right now UK fighter jets and bombs are playing a central role in the destruction of Yemen; what will be the next atrocity they are used in?  War, repression and injustice are fuelled by events like DSEI.  It’s time to shut it down for good

DSEI was formerly part of the UK Trade and Industry Department but has now been moved to the newly formed Department for International Trade the minister of which is Liam Fox.

In an interview on the BBC today (11 September) Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition, said “[the UK] sells too many arms to countries which abuse human rights.”

The guest list shows several firms with a Salisbury link who are exhibiting at this fair.  They include Babcock, Chemring’s, QinetiQ and Cubic.

The government has got itself into something of a fix over the question of arms sales.  Whilst claiming to have a strict code and robust procedures, the sale of arms to questionable regimes has increased.  Thousands of jobs now depend on this industry and with future problems likely to arise connected with our withdrawal from the EU, from an economic viewpoint we can ill afford to reduce sales of weapons.  It is thus on a treadmill requiring it to support the sale of weapons to a range of unsavoury regimes who in turn use these weapons to intimidate their own people or to cause suffering of neighbouring countries such as the bombing of Yemen by the Saudis.  It is also important to bear in mind that it is not just weapons that are involved but also security equipment.  Autocratic regimes are keen to keep tabs on their citizens and need all the techniques of surveillance to do so.  This kind of equipment, although not lethal of itself, does enable individuals to be monitored, watched and harassed.

The position is indefensible and some of the arguments echo those used by the slave trade in the nineteenth century where large numbers of jobs were involved in its continuation.


If you are keen to join us then come to the next event we are holding on 18 September and make yourself known.

 

 

 


Latest Death Penalty report

The latest death penalty report for June/July is available thanks to group member Lesley for the hard work in compiling it.

Death Penalty report


If you would like to join the local group – because for example you have strong convictions against the use of the death penalty – you would be most welcome.  Or you can just write using one of the urgent actions in the report above.

China is the world’s leading executioner.

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Reggie Clemons (picture Amnesty USA)


The following piece was published in the Salisbury Journal (8 December 2016)

Each year thousands of people in the UK write letters or send cards in solidarity with those suffering humans rights abuses around the world pas part off Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign.

As a result, people have been freed after having been unfairly imprisoned, human rights defender who have been threatened and harassed by authorities have been able to live freely without intimidation and forced evictions have been halted.

Sending a message of support to those whose rights are being abused and also to the authorities on that person’s behalf is powerful.  Imagine drowning in thousands of letters of encouragement and solidarity – in fact, imaging the officials who will see and deliver thousands of cards to the victims and their families.  The effect on both is priceless.  It shows the authorities that that individual is not alone and that all over the world thousands of people are standing up for them.

People featured this year include:

  • Fomoseh Ivo Feh a young man in Cameroon who faces 20 years in prison for forwarding a sarcastic text message
  • a photojournalist from Egypt, named Shawkan who was beaten, arrested and then held without trial following a demonstration in Cairo
  • a British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who was arrested in April at Tehran

    Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Picture: Iran Human Rights

    airport as she was about to board a return flight to London with her 22 month old daughter.

Salisbury Methodist Church is hosting a Write for Rights event from January 4th to 15th and people are invited to see the exhibition and send a message of support.  The church will be open from 10 am to noon.

We hope local readers will be able to support this initiative and come along at some time on those 2 days and sign something.


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The latest death penalty report is now available thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.  Generally gloomy with several countries around the world reverting – or threatening to revert to – the penalty.

Death penalty report (Word)

No to the death penalty


Secretive Security and Policing Exhibition this week

This week, in Farnborough, the secretive Security and Policing Exhibition takes place behind closed doors.  On the face of it, the event, organised by the Home Office, is innocent enough.  It brings together firms providing security equipment with police and other security personnel who might have an interest in purchasing it.   The UK has a high-profile in this industry.

The first puzzle however, is why the taxpayer is funding this exhibition?  The current government is extremely keen on the private sector and in promoting free enterprise.  It has a distaste for the public sector and seeks every opportunity to outsource or privatise services previously provided by them.  So why, may one ask, is the Home Office organising and sponsoring this event?  Surely since these are profit-making enterprises – some hugely so – can they not organise their own event without subsidy from the taxpayer?

But the bigger concern is the use some of this equipment is put to and the customers being invited to the exhibition.  The list of countries include many well-known abusers of human rights and include Brunei; Indonesia, Saudi Arabia; Bahrain, Egypt, Israel and UAE.  The equipment being sold is likely to be used to violently and brutally repress individuals or groups of protestors who may be carrying out perfectly lawful demonstrations.  Once arrested, many will be tortured, mistreated and in some cases ‘disappeared.’  The UK will be complicit in this activity.

There is clearly some sensitivity around this exhibition – which as we’ve noted, is not open to the public – and its website says:

Established as one of the most important events in the security calendar, this unique event is aimed at police, law enforcement and offender management professionals who are tasked with security, civil protection and national resilience.
Security & Policing enables those with operational needs to meet companies with the relevant solutions. Exhibitors get the opportunity to display products that would be too sensitive to show in a more open environment. Visitors get to see the very latest products, services and technologies available – all within a secure environment. (emphasis added)

Reading some of the exhibitors’ websites is quite chilling with descriptions of real-time interception, harvesting millions of communications a minute and access to the ‘dark web.’  Clearly, if the public were to see some of the equipment it would be alarming so making the exhibition closed gets over that.

In addition to the Home Office, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will be attendance to show the delegates round and make them welcome.  John Glen MP is PPS to the Minister and will no doubt be taking part.  We look forward to his piece in the Salisbury Journal telling us about this.  UPDATE 17 March – no mention in the Salisbury Journal (17th March) so perhaps he didn’t attend.

We have previously commented on Britain’s role is supplying weapons and service personnel in various countries and in particular Yemen, where civilians and hospitals are being bombed using our equipment.  In addition to selling weapons, we sell repressive regimes the means to crack down on their citizens and we seem to be quite proud to do so as well.  Claims by the Prime Minister, other ministers and Mr Glen to be promoting human rights seem quite hollow in the light of these activities.


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Lobbying and business influence in government at a high level.  MPs receive millions for lobbying

We have frequently drawn attention to the issue of corporate influence on our political process and in particular, the role of oil and arms companies.  We have recently seen three leaders from China, Egypt and India, visit the UK and be given the red carpet treatment.  Each has – to put it mildly – a poor human rights record.

In the case of China it includes the use of torture, shutting down the freedom of speech and more executions than the rest of the world put together.  Egypt has been involved in mass arrests and torture and President Modi of India has a dubious record in terms of the treatment of Muslims.

It seems as though the ‘prosperity agenda’ is eclipsing all else and the only thing that matters seemingly, is the pursuit of business and contracts.  No one is arguing for boycotts but that the issue of human rights be brought up in discussion with these leaders.

A factor in this is the role of lobbyists and a recent analysis by Transparency International is worrying and should receive wider coverage.

Analysing the new UK Register of Lobbyists and data from Parliamentary registers of interests, their new research has found:

  • Less than 4% of lobbyists are covered by the Government’s new lobbying register – almost all lobbyists are completely unaccountable.
  • 8/10 of the most frequent lobbyists are from FTSE 100 companies – lobbying is dominated by the corporate world.
  • £3.4 million paid to 73 MP’s last year for external advisory roles – a significant risk of conflicts of interest.
  • Payments for Parliamentary advice is still allowed in the House of Commons, but prohibited in the House of Lords, Scotland and Wales – a major loophole in the rules (TI’s emphasis)

The findings come after detailed analysis of research across Westminster, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  The report can be read on their web site or can be accessed here[There is also a permanent link to their site at the bottom of our page under ‘Links‘]

With such a high level of corporate lobbying and with the substantial level of fees MPs are earning, it is perhaps not surprising that business interests get such a high profile and human rights issues so low.

It appears from the report that the situation has got worse under the new government.  There were some publications of meetings with lobbyists concerning the previous year but that now seems to have stopped.  Most of the lobbying it seems is around domestic matters for example, firms trying to get a slice of the health service.

Business is important and of course companies should be free to lobby.  But it should be transparent and registered.  More importantly, business interests should not trump all else.  The government is not after all some kind of selling operation for FTSE 100 companies.

UPDATE: 16 NOVEMBER

It’s not about human rights but as if to illustrate the point, it’s just been reported the ex Health Minister, Lord Lansley, is to take up posts with firms hoping to profit from the NHS. 

Andrew Lansley and the revolving door


We attach our latest report into the use of the death penalty around the world thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.

November

Correction: the Death Penalty Vigil took place on 17 October and not November as stated in the report

No to the death penalty


No to the death penaltyThe death penalty report for September is now available thanks to Lesley for compiling it.  Links to other blog posts and in particular the continuing correspondence with John Glen MP concerning the government’s policy change on the death penalty.

Death penalty report, September

Report on possible reductions in the use of the death penalty by India and China.  This is to be welcomed although we cannot verify the situation in the latter country because the numbers executed are a state secret.