We are pleased to attach our monthly death penalty report for March – April 2022 thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling it. Singapore features quite strongly this month. Note that Chiana, which is believed to execute more of its citizens than the rest of the world combined, does not feature as details are a state secret.
Can nothing stop the F1 circus?
Despite the enormous scale of death and destruction taking in place in Yemen by Saudi Arabia, the F1 Grand Prix still took place there (Saudi). The Saudi regime is desperately keen to use sport as a means to whitewash its appalling human rights record. Not only is it causing misery in Yemen but it has recently executed 81 people in a single day in Saudi itself almost certainly after torture was used to extract confessions. Executions are usually carried out by beheading.
There was a time when sport was confined to the back pages of newspapers or at the end of news bulletins. It was about sport itself with reports of competitions, league tables or medals won. The use of sport to promote nations has a long history and in recent times we have seen enormous sums spent by regimes to secure medals at the Olympics. Recently, the notion of ‘sports washing’ has become established with Saudi Arabia a prominent player. In addition to boxing promotions, golf and Formula 1, it has poured a huge sum into Newcastle United football club.
A recent edition of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, CAAT, newsletter (Issue 262) provides an update on the destruction in Yemen. In November, the UN estimated that 377,000 will have died. This would be the total to the end of 2021. Unfortunately, they say, ‘the escalating death toll and overwhelming evidence of repeated breaches of international humanitarian law have done little to curb the arms dealers: to them it represent a business opportunity’. Since the bombing of Yemen began in 2015, the value of UK sales to Saudi Arabia amounts to £20 billion. Further details and background can be found on the Mwatana site.
CAAT reports that the UN failed to renew the mandate in October for the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen following intense lobbying of council members by the Saudi regime.
Human rights infringements continue in the country itself. Critics of the government or ruling family are routinely jailed. Prejudice against women and the LGBT community is practised. Many people are executed in barbaric fashion after wholly unsatisfactory trials. Reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty provide further details.
No impact on F1
None of this seems to have an impact on Formula 1. It is interesting to note however that, following the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, the F1 race due to take place in Sochi this year was quickly cancelled. It seems truly bizarre that they were able to act with great speed following the Ukraine invasion but prolonged death, destruction and egregious human rights abuses in Yemen and Saudi has not made any impression. Could it be the considerable publicity the war has attracted and the actions being taken against Russian oligarchs meant that any attempt by F1 to carry on as usual was simply not possible? Whereas, what is going on in Saudi and Yemen only rarely makes it onto the front pages thus enabling them to carry on with business as usual.
Saudi is spending billions on its campaign to improve its image and holding various sporting events and some sporting authorities seem immune to what is going on. It seems as though the lure of money – and lots of it – is too great. They exist, as one commentator puts it, in a vacuum. Perhaps we should not be too surprised at F1’s flimsy approach to human rights when its former boss Bernie Ecclestone was interviewed on Times Radio defending President Putin as an ‘honourable man’.
Sources: HRW; Amnesty; Daily Express; Guardian; al Jazeera; BBC
The Supreme Court in Moscow today (Tuesday, 28 December 2021) ordered the closure of the human rights group Memorial is a move which is seen as another step in the route to greater authoritarianism by President Putin in Russia. The group fell foul of the ‘foreign agent’ law, a law passed in 2016 to make life difficult for human rights groups to operate in the country. The prosecution accused the group of ‘creating a false image of USSR as a terrorist state’. Memorial sought to shed light on the horrors of the Stalin era when millions died in a vast network of gulags.
Amnesty International described the decision as ‘a grave insult to the victims of the Russian gulag’. With suppression of opposition parties – Navalny is imprisoned for example – and the intimidation or murder of journalists, Russia is living up to its sobriquet of a ‘gangster state’.
International Memorial is under threat of being dissolved
International Memorial – full name International Historical Educational Charitable and Human Rights Society is under threat of being dissolved by the Russian authorities. Based in Moscow, The Society investigates some of the terrible tragedies under the Soviet era and those being committed by the Russian government today.
We have today added a link to their website in the list of sites at the bottom of this site.
The worst human rights abusing nations set for seats on the UN’s Human Rights Council
The news that Saudi Arabia, Russia, Pakistan, Cuba and China are set to take seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council today has sent shock waves around the world. How can it be that the world’s worst abusers of human rights get to be in a perfect position to frustrate the work of the UN?
China is the world’s largest executioner of its citizens the precise numbers being a state secret. It is committing what amounts to cultural genocide with the Uighurs in Xinjiang. Around a million are incarcerated for what is claimed are programmes of re-education. Women are being forcibly sterilised. It is hard at work trying to stifle freedoms in Hong Kong. It’s activities in Tibet have drawn years of censure. Torture is common and many are held incommunicado.
Russia is another state with a dismal human rights record. Here in Salisbury we have experienced months of
disruption following the attempted murder of the Skripals. There are no free elections in the country and it looks as though there was an attempt on the life of opposition leader Navalny with Novichok. Many journalists have been murdered, simply gunned down in the street.
Freedom of association is severely restricted. Torture and mistreatment are common. Human rights defenders and NGOs are targeted. Corruption is on a massive scale aided and abetted by the City of London.
Saudi Arabia is almost in a league of its own. We have featured on these pages for many years the continuing bombing of civilians and civilian targets in Yemen and recently we have noted the disgraceful decision by the UK government to resume arms sales to the country. Torture is common, and they are one of the world’s worst executioners often in public displays of barbarity. Women’s rights are highly restricted.
These countries, under their despotic and dictatorial leaders, are simply not fit to be on a council for human rights. They have no intention of changing their laws and systems to improve matters, indeed it can be argued that all three are getting steadily worse.
The Council is supposed to ensure that all people know their rights and are treated fairly. It is supposed to ‘check what governments do to protect the rights of its people in their countries’. How it can do this with countries like this sat on the governing body is a mystery.
We have reluctantly decided to cancel an event – planned for June this year – which was designed to highlight the positive aspects of the Human Rights Act and the benefits we all receive from human rights legislation generally. It was to consist of a week of talks and other events in Salisbury with the overall theme of emphasizing how human rights have improved the lot of citizens in the UK. It was arranged during the anniversary week of Magna Carta.
The idea for the event was spurred by the negative press this legislation receives and the drubbing that European institutions get from our media. It is connected loosely to the Brexit debate where one of the guiding principles of those who wish to leave the EU is to be free of what they perceive as interference in our justice system by the European Courts.
In planning the event we had assumed that legal firms in Salisbury would be willing to support it and it was something of a surprise that none would. Indeed, the majority did not reply to our requests. One firm even hosts a human rights organisation but still did not reply. We did eventually secure some financial support (from Poole) but it arrived probably too late for us to be able to do the planning.
So it will not now take place which is a pity. Salisbury has recently become associated with the poisoning issue and allegations that Russia was to blame: highly likely in view of their previous behaviour and the nature of the attack. At base is the issue of human rights. Russia – if it is them – is a state in which lawlessness is now the norm. There is no free press and corruption is the order of the day. ‘Dirty’ money is looted by the Putin regime and much of it finds its way into the City of London. Journalists are murdered and anyone looking like they might be a threat is prevented from standing in elections.
In the UK, despite many unsatisfactory aspects in our political process and the revolving door corruption, we are still able to vote them out – a luxury the Russians do not enjoy. Ordinary people have more rights as a result of the Human Rights Act than previously yet they are constantly told that the act is a menace and needs to be got rid of. It is sad that we were unable to celebrate this fact.
This is an urgent action for Chechnya in the Russian Republic and concerns a concerted attack on gay people. The treatment of gay people in Russia is shocking and the police do little or nothing to prevent violence against them.
If you can find time to write that would be appreciated.
Please find below the minutes of the March meeting thanks to Karen.