Posts Tagged ‘Human rights’


Message from Forum 18

Supporters may know that we have a prisoner of conscience window in the Cathedral and one of our members posts up a new POC each week, something we have been doing for decades now.  We were gratified to receive this message from Forum 18 a member of which saw the latest POC and wrote to us concerning the plight of individuals in Kazakhstan and other countries in the region.  Kazakhstan is a country which does not receive that much attention:

Having visited Salisbury since I was a teenager, I’ve long admired the Group’s initiative in every month having information on a prisoner of conscience beneath the Cathedral’s Prisoner of Conscience Window. The combination of the window, the cathedral, and monthly updated credible verified information on a prisoner of conscience is very helpful.

As this month the prisoner of conscience chosen is from Kazakhstan, you might find it help to see information on some of the other prisoners of conscience in that country: http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2570 

The information comes from Forum 18, for which I work.  We provide truthful, original, detailed, and accurate monitoring and analysis of violations of freedom of thought, conscience and belief of all people – whatever their belief or non-belief – in Central Asia, Russia, Russian-occupied Crimea and Donbas, the South Caucasus particularly Azerbaijan, and Belarus.  We also publish occasional analyses on Turkey.  The name ‘Forum 18’ comes from Article 18 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

We publish articles by e-mail, on our website ww.forum18.org , and are on Facebook @Forum18NewsService and Twitter @forum_18 . If it would help, I’d be glad to arrange for any of the Group to receive the weekly news summary.  Anyone may free-of-charge use or reproduce material we publish with due credit to Forum 18.

Many thanks once again for the Group’s continuing work, including on the Prisoner of Conscience Window.

Another POC from Kazakhstan is featured on Amnesty International’s site.


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


We had a short meeting this month because the meeting date coincided with the Evensong at the Cathedral.  The minutes are attached with thanks to group member Lesley for preparing them.

March minutes (Word)

The two speakers from south America at the SW Regional conference (Pic: Salisbury Amnesty)

 


Annual Evensong held in the Cathedral

Update: 14 March.  Ben Rogers has kindly sent us the text of his talk which is attached at the bottom of this post.

The Salisbury group is grateful to the Cathedral for holding an Evensong once a year marking the work of Amnesty International and enabling us to nominate a speaker during the course of the service.  About 60 attended last nights service.  For many years the Cathedral has provided space for the group to display each month an appeal for a Prisoner of Conscience.  This month it is Ahmed Mansoor a human rights defender and POC who is in prison in Abu Dhabi.  The Cathedral has a window dedicated to the work of Amnesty.

We were delighted to invite Benedict Rogers (pictured) to speak who, among other things, has a particular interest

Ben Rogers at Salisbury Cathedral (picture, Salisbury Amnesty)

in North  Korea.  Ben is East Asia Team Leader of CSW, a Christian charity which promotes religious freedom around the world.

He said that the UN regards North Korea to be in a category all of its own as far as human rights are concerned.  It violates every single human right.  As a member of CSW, they were the first to call for a commission of enquiry and two years later in 2014, the UN did so.

The gravity, scale and nature of abuses has no parallel in the modern world he said.  The report found that:

North Korea had committed crimes against humanity and manifestly failed to uphold its responsibility to protect. These crimes entail “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.  Source, Wikipedia

In 2007, CSW produced a report A Case to Answer.  A Call to Act which concluded that the human rights situation in North Korea was a crime against humanity.   Although things seem bleak, he said there were some glimmers of light.  In a recent report, Movies, Markets and Mass Surveillance, it was noted that North Koreans were getting more information about the outside world.  They were beginning to realise that life south of the border was better.  There was anecdotal evidence that prison guards did realise the world was watching.

The regime saw Christianity as a particular threat.  Anyone caught practising it faced severe punishment or could be executed.  If a carol was allowed it would only be ‘We three Kims of Orient are!’

Those who did manage to escape to China were sent back to face severe punishment in the prison camps.  There were around 200,000 thousand people in the prison camps he said.  He ended with the famous quotation mistakenly attributed to Edmund Burke:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing

Ben Rogers talk (Word)

 

 

 


This is an extract of the HRW 2020 report for Europe focusing on the UK.  Seeing all the issues grouped together in this way makes for shameful reading.

The UK’s planned exit from the EU (Brexit) strained democratic institutions and put human rights and the rule of law at risk.  In September, the government was forced by parliament to publish a key planning document outlining potential impacts of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement (known as “no-deal” Brexit).  Its publication raised serious rights concerns including those related to access to adequate food and medicine, fuel shortages, interruptions to social care for older people and people with disabilities, possible public disorder, and the risk of increased dissident activity in Northern Ireland. The government accepted that a “no deal Brexit” would have the greatest impact on economically vulnerable and marginalized groups.

In September, the Supreme Court ruled unlawful the government’s five-week suspension of parliament earlier the same month, leading to parliament’s recall.  The government was forced by law adopted by parliament in September to seek an extension to the UK’s membership of the EU aimed at avoiding a no-deal Brexit.  Government sources criticized the Supreme Court ruling and threatened to ignore the binding law requiring an extension request.

The extension was granted by the EU27, and the Brexit date at time of writing was the end of January 2020 (now taken place).  Parliament was dissolved in November after opposition parties agreed to a December 2019 general election (which had yet to take place at time of writing).

In May, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty published a report on the disproportionate negative impact of austerity-motivated spending cuts, combined with social security restructuring, on the rights of women, children, older people, and people with disabilities living on low incomes.

Reliance on emergency food assistance grew.  The country’s largest food bank charity network, the (Salisbury based)Trussell Trust, reported distributing 1.6 million parcels containing a three-day emergency supply of food across the country.  The Independent Food Aid Network reported that, at time of writing, at least 819 independent centres were also distributing food aid.

The UK continued to detain asylum seeking and migrant children.

In October legislation passed by the UK Parliament to decriminalize abortion and provide for marriage equality in Northern Ireland in 2020 came into force when the region’s devolved government failed to reconvene having been suspended since January 2017.

More than two years after the deadly Grenfell Tower fire in London that killed 71, there has been little accountability for the deaths or the fire.   In October, the findings of the first phase of the public inquiry into the fire were published, focusing on the day of the fire.  A criminal investigation was ongoing at time of writing.

In February, a new counterterrorism law entered into force, including measures that criminalize viewing online content, overseas travel and support to terrorism and could result in human rights violations.  UK authorities continued to exercise powers to strip citizenship from UK nationals suspected of terrorism-related activity.

In July, the government refused to establish a judicial inquiry into UK complicity in the CIA-led torture and secret detention.  At time of writing, no one in the UK had been charged with a crime in connection with the abuses.  In November, a media investigation found evidence of a cover up by UK authorities of alleged war crimes by UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Human Rights Watch)