Posts Tagged ‘“Human rights”’

Minutes of the March meeting are attached thanks to group member Lesley for preparing them.  The usual items plus a discussion on the major event we are planning in June.

March minutes (Word)


Happy Birthday Taner

On 6 June 2017, our friend and colleague Taner Kılıç, a human rights lawyer and the Chair of Amnesty Turkey, was arrested.  He has been in prison ever since.  Taner is currently on trial, charged with “membership of an armed terrorist organization”.  If found guilty he faces up to 15 years in jail.  He has done nothing wrong.  Taner is not a terrorist, Taner is a human rights defender and lawyer.  Taner was one of the first lawyers in Turkey to advocate for the rights of refugees and has spent his working life trying to better the situation of refugees who have fled to Turkey.

Members of the Salisbury group of Amnesty send birthday greetings to Taner.

Salisbury group, Taner

Members of the Salisbury group. Pic: Salisbury Amnesty

If you would like to join the local group you would be very welcome.  Come along to one of our actions and make yourself known.  Details will be posted here and on Twitter and Facebook – salisburyai

The Salisbury group meeting takes place tomorrow starting at 7:30 in Victoria road as usual and all supporters are welcome.

Minutes of the February group meeting

The minutes of our last meeting are now available thanks to group member Lesley for compiling them.  We were pleased to welcome a new member to the group.  We discussed the death penalty, the Celebration event (now looking doubtful), North Korea, the next film and more.

February minutes (Word)

New members always welcome.  Keep an eye on this site or Twitter and Facebook to see what we are doing and make yourself known.

Theresa May’s visit to China and human rights

The human rights situation in China is dire.  The list is long and includes excessive use of the death penalty.  The numbers are unknown because they are a state secret but are believed to be in the thousands.  China leads the world and may even execute more than the rest of the world put together.  Torture is common.  There is precious little freedom of speech and journalists reporting in China quickly find police arriving and stopping any interviews.  Under its current premier, repression has increased significantly.

The Great Firewall of China prevents contact with the outside world.  Lawyers and activists are monitored, harassed, arrested and detained.  Religions have a difficult time practising there.  Finally there is Tibet and the poor treatment of Tibetans.  China is a leading exporter of torture equipment including devices that one might have thought to be confined to the middle ages.  Altogether, China infringes nearly all international norms of good behaviour and it matters especially because they are one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

But they are a massive and growing economy and countries want to do business there.  None more so than the UK which hopes to increase trade following our departure from the European Union.  Hence the prime minister’s visit there this week.  As ever with these visits the question of human rights is brought up.  There is a kind of dance performed where the prime minister or her spokespeople claim the matter is brought up and the Chinese say nothing was said.  The Chinese are very sensitive on the subject and historical memories of the Opium wars and the resultant national humiliation are still keenly felt.

But China wants to be considered a modern country yet its dreadful reputation in the way it treats its citizens and minorities holds it back.

It’s not often we get an insight into what was actually said but after this visit, an editorial in the Global Times waxed lyrical over the visit and praised Mrs May for not mentioning human rights.  The prose is odd but the relevant passages are:


May will definitely not make any comment contrary to the goals of her China trip either.  For the prime minister, the losses outweigh the gains if she appeases the British media at the cost of the visit’s friendly atmosphere.

China’s robust development has instilled impetus for Europe to overcome its prejudices against Beijing.  David Cameron’s government gained Britain strategic initiative by joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Some European media pressed May and Macron on human rights, but the two leaders sidestepped the topic on their China trips.  This shows that the Sino-European relationship has, to a large degree, extricated itself from the impact of radical public opinion.  Leader 2 February 2018

The central problem is that China is a one-party state where dissent is not permitted.  Hence the crackdowns, arrests and suppression of free speech.  As time goes by however, more and more Chinese will travel the world and despite the great wall, gain access to the internet (we note some hits from China on this little site!).  As the country develops, more and more Chinese will look for freedom and to criticize the politicians.  So the Chinese authorities will find it harder and harder – and more expensive – to maintain the status quo.  The denial of human rights therefore is not some kind of esoteric luxury or the west seeking to impose its moral order on them.  It is a crucial part of their development and ramping up repression and arrests is taking the country in quite the wrong direction.

Failure – if failure it was – by Mrs May to bring up the issue of human rights would not have been just another lecture from a western liberal (if that term can be applied to Mrs May) but a crucial issue for the Chinese themselves as they develop into the world’s largest nation.






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
Amnesty International UK

The minutes of the group meeting in January 2108 are attached thanks to group member Lesley for preparing them.  We are pleased to see a further increase in the numbers following the Website – the biggest monthly rise ever.  New members are always welcome and our next meeting is on February 8th in Victoria Road but always check beforehand in case there is a change in venue.

January minutes


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Posted: December 12, 2017 in Libya
Tags: , , ,

Amnesty report alleges complicity by EU governments in torture

An Amnesty International report alleges that EU governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of refugees and asylum seekers in Libya.  The cause of the problem seems to be the payment of funds to authorities who are working with local militias and people smugglers.

The situation in Libya is chaotic as an Amnesty report describes.  There is widespread lawlessness and the country is deeply divided.  We may return to this story as it unfolds.  Amnesty say they have enough evidence to take governments to court.

Sources: Euronews; BBC; Guardian

Card signing this Saturday in the market.  Don’t forget to visit the refugee exhibition in the Library running during December.

Exhibition on refugees in the Library – 2nd to 29th December

Throughout December we will be hosting an exhibition in the Library with a display of 30 evocative panels entitled I Welcome.  There are 30 panels and they represent the experience of millions of refugees, people of all ages, faiths and walks of life.  The exhibition was first shown on the South Bank a year ago and attracted considerable media attention.  Refugees get a bad press in the UK and there is considerable hostility to them coming here.  Some of this hostility is whipped up by the media.












It will be on display upstairs (a lift is available) and is free.  All the photographs are by Magnum photographers.

The Library is open:

Monday:  10 – 7pm

Tuesday/Friday:  9 – 7pm

Wednesday/Thursday/Saturday: 9 – 5pm

The exhibition is FREE

Paradise Papers the latest to shine a light on the multi-billion pound avoidance industry

The publication of the Paradise Papers which have revealed yet more insights and names of those engaged in the murky world of massive tax avoidance, has so far stayed clear of discussing the human rights angle to this activity.  A letter in today’s Guardian newspaper, written jointly by Helena Kennedy and Hans Corel, draws attention to this particular aspect.  The huge outflow of resources from the developing world means governments are starved of the resources to tackle poverty, improve their health and education systems and to upgrade infrastructure generally.  A staggering $859bn was lost in 2010 and the cumulative loss between 2001 and 2010 amounted to $5.86trn *.  It often comes a surprise to people when it is pointed out for example that Africa, taken as a whole, is a net creditor to the rest of the world.  This is a combination of corruption, resource extraction and tax avoidance.  So while aid is paid into the country, more money flows out because of tax avoidance and criminal activity.

The Paradise Papers follows on from other leaks including the Panama Papers, Lux leaks and others which exposes the scale of the perfectly legal tax avoidance industry and names some of those involved.  These have included the Queen’s Duchy of Lancaster estate, Prince Charles and a slew of celebrities, media and sports people.  Several said they did not know this was being done in their name.

The letter draws attention to a report prepared by the International Bar Association in 2013.  This 262 page report examines exhaustively the nature of this activity and came before some of the recent revelations.  The key question for us is the link between this activity and human rights and the report discusses this in detail since it is not entirely direct.  In the report is says:

Most stakeholders tended to agree that there is an important distinction between labelling tax abuses as ‘legal violations of human rights’ versus stating that tax abuses have ‘negative impacts on human rights’.  Depending on the scope and scale of the tax abuses, they might have a significant impact on human rights.  As one tax authority expressed it: ‘What do we need to fulfill economic, social and cultural rights?  Resources including taxes.  Therefore, tax abuses are clearly a human rights issue when massive amounts are lost from State revenues.’ p96

To the extent that tax abuses have an impact on poverty and that poverty has an impact on human rights, as outlined above, it is possible to make a connection between tax abuses and human rights.  Most simply put, tax abuses deprive governments of the resources required to respect, promote and fulfil human rights. More dramatic examples of human rights impacts can be imagined when you juxtapose the billions of dollars that are said to be flowing out of developing countries with the comparatively small amounts that are required to lift individuals, families and communities out of the most extreme forms of poverty. p103

In a summary on p148  they say:

Human rights have not often been part of the global debate about tax matters. However, a human rights analysis can strengthen our understanding of poverty and development, as well as reinforce our determination to confront tax abuses.  In the recently adopted UN Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights describes how extreme poverty is connected as a cause or consequence of violations of numerous human rights, including all the key human rights principles − ranging from the right to life, the right to food, the right to health, the right to education, the right to social security and principles of non-discrimination, participation, transparency and accountability.

Simply put, tax abuses deprive governments of the resources required to provide the programmes that give effect to economic, social and cultural rights, and to create and strengthen the institutions that uphold civil and political rights.  Actions of states that encourage or facilitate tax abuses, or that deliberately frustrate the efforts of other states to counter tax abuses, could constitute a violation of their international human rights obligations, particularly with respect to economic, social and cultural rights.  p148  Our italics

It is important to recognise therefore that this is not a victimless activity.

The City of London is a key player in the avoidance industry and is surrounded by a worldwide network of islands which have secrecy in one form or another as part of their appeal to international corporations, rich individuals, criminals and despotic governments.  These include the Isle of Man, Jersey, British Virgin Islands, and several more.

The report also devotes space to non-state actors and in particular the international corporations such as Apple, Amazon, Starbucks and several others.  These are able to move funds between one jurisdiction and another employing various legal techniques such as ‘The Swiss Role’ ‘Going Dutch’ and Thinning on Top’.  Apple featured most strongly in the latest revelations.

For those who would like to read the report in full it can be accessed from this link.  Full report

*586 000 000 000 000 US dollars