Europe Newsletter October 2023

Here is our latest Newsletter with updates and actions.  AIUK Europe Team:-

Ulrike Schmidt  (Central and Eastern Europe and Balkans),  Jovana Bosnjak (Western & Northern Europe), Chris Ramsey (Türkiye)


Letter Writing Action

On 27th August, after an anti migrant demonstration organised by the far right and supported by some local representatives, refugees, migrants and Cypriot citizens of colour were violently attacked by far right groups and their supporters.

 An anti-migrant demonstration took place in the village of Chloraka on 27 August, in which local political representatives participated. Later that day, and the following day, far-right groups attacked racialized people, including migrants and refugees, and their property. Two weeks before the attacks, authorities had decided to remove dozens of migrants and asylum-seekers residing in the “Ayios Nikolaos”, an abandoned residential complex, the use of which had been formally banned in 2020.

Similar protests and attacks took place in the city of Limassol on the evening of 1 September. Demonstrators, several of whom were masked, threw Molotov cocktails, chanted racist slogans, attacked and damaged shops owned by racialized people, and physically attacked at least five racialized people, including several delivery drivers. Local reports criticized how the Cypriot police, who were present at the scene, failed to intervene to effectively prevent the violence or protect victims.

Racist attacks have been documented in both Chloraka and Limassol in the past. In January 2022, similar racist demonstrations and attacks were carried out at the “Ayios Nikolaos” residential complex. Earlier this year, racist attacks were also carried out in Limassol.

Please read the full background of these shocking events and write a personal letter to the High Commissioner of Cyprus. It would be useful if Amnesty groups write a group letter signed by several people, You can also take a letter to a stall to have it signed by members of the public. Please see Ulrika’s sample letter below, keep the letter very polite assuming the Ambassador is on our side.

To the High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus His Excellency Andreas S. Kakouris

13 St James’s Square, St James’s London SW1Y4LB

Dear Excellency

I am deeply concerned about the violent attacks against migrants and refugees in Limassol and Chlorakas end of August- beginning of September, where people were attacked, and migrant owned shops destroyed. According to verified reports by Amnesty International racist rhetoric, hate speech and xenophobia promoted by the far right, but also supported by some politicians played a part in encouraging the violent pogrom-like attacks against people and property. I trust that by now there has been an investigation into the violence and the failure of the police to prevent and stop the attacks.

I would be very grateful if you could share the outcome of the investigation with us and the measures taken by the authorities to prevent such violence happening again.

Yours sincerely


Stop the Deaths at Sea! Safe and Legal routes for refugees! Seeking asylum is a Human Right! Refugees Welcome! Demonstration 14th December

On 14th of June 2023 the “Adriana” packed with an estimated 750 refugees sank off the coast of Pylos, Greece. Over 600 people, many women and children died at sea. Amnesty’s investigation points to the action of the Greek coastguard contributing to the sinking of the boat. The full report will be released on Thursday the 14th December. I am organising a vigil outside the Embassy of Greece for that day, with handing over the report to the Embassy.

After I am proposing a march to the Home Office, carrying a coffin enscripted with the Universal Right to Asylum, which has been buried with the Nationality and Borders Bill and the “Illegal” immigration bill.

Join the vigil and demonstration outside the Embassy of Greece on 14th December at 3pm, 1a Holland Park W113TP

 For further information on the demonstration and/ or if you want to get involved with planning, please contact Ulrike Schmidt


“Greece: Disparities in accounts of Pylos shipwreck underscore the need for human rights compliant inquiry

Starkly divergent accounts from survivors and Greek authorities around the circumstances of the deadly Pylos shipwreck, underscore the urgent need for an effective, independent, and impartial investigation, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.

The fishing vessel, Adriana, was carrying an estimated 750 people when it sank on 14 June off the coast of Pylos. In the aftermath, accounts from several of the 104 survivors suggest that the vessel was towed by a Greek coast guard boat, causing the fatal wreck.  The Greek authorities have strongly denied these claims.

“The disparities between survivors’ accounts of the Pylos shipwreck and the authorities’ version of the events are extremely concerning” said Judith Sunderland, Associate Europe and Central Asia Director at Human Rights Watch.

“The Greek authorities, with support and scrutiny from the international community, should ensure that there is a transparent investigation to provide truth and justice for survivors and families of the victims, and hold those responsible to account.”

A delegation from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch visited Greece between 4 and 13 July 2023 as part of ongoing research into the circumstances of the shipwreck and steps toward accountability. They interviewed 19 survivors of the shipwreck, 4 relatives of the missing, and nongovernmental organizations, UN and international agencies and organizations, and representatives of the Hellenic Coast Guard and the Greek Police.

The organizations’ initial observations confirm the concerns reported by several other reputable sources as to the dynamics of the shipwreck. Survivors interviewed by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch consistently stated that the Hellenic Coast Guard vessel dispatched to the scene attached a rope to the Adriana and started towing, causing it to sway and then capsize. The survivors also consistently said that passengers asked to be rescued, and that they witnessed others on the boat plead for a rescue by satellite phone in the hours before their boat capsized.

In a meeting with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, senior officials of the Hellenic Coast Guard said individuals on the boat limited their request for assistance to food and water and expressed their intention to proceed to Italy. They said the crew of the Coast Guard vessel came close to the Adriana and used ropes to approach the boat to assess whether passengers wanted help, but that after the first “negotiations”, passengers threw the rope back and the boat continued its journey.

Greek authorities have opened two criminal investigations, one targeted at the alleged smugglers, and another into the actions of the coast guard. It is vital for these investigations to comply with international human rights standards of impartiality, independence, and effectiveness.

To enhance the credibility of judicial investigations both in practice and perception, they should be under the supervision of the Supreme Court Prosecutor’s Office. Further, Greek authorities should ensure that the Greek Ombudsman’s office is promptly provided with information and resources necessary to carry out its functions as the National Mechanism for Investigating Incidents of Arbitrariness, in relation to any disciplinary investigation.

Several survivors said that the authorities confiscated their phones following the shipwreck but did not give them any related documentation or tell them how to retrieve their property. Nabil, a survivor of Syrian origin, told the organisations, “It’s not only the evidence of the wreck that has been taken from me, it is my memories of my friends who were lost, my life has been taken from me”.

The Greek authorities’ longstanding failure to ensure accountability for violent and unlawful pushbacks at the country’s borders raises concerns over their ability and willingness to carry out effective and independent investigations.

Lessons should be learned from the European Court of Human Rights 2022 decision about the 2014 [http://xn-- farmakonisi%20shipwreck-2s2nfb/]“Farmakonisi” shipwreck, in which survivors argued that their boat had capsized because the Hellenic Coast Guard used dangerous maneuvers to tow them towards Turkish waters. The Court condemned Greece for the authorities’ failures in handling rescue operations and for shortcomings in the subsequent investigation of the incident, including how victims’ testimony was handled.

In view of the seriousness and international significance of the Pylos tragedy, Greek authorities should seek out and welcome international and/or European assistance and cooperation in the conduct of national investigations as an additional guarantee of independence, effectiveness and transparency.

A full and credible investigation into the shipwreck should seek to clarify any responsibility for both the sinking of the ship and delays or shortcomings in the rescue efforts that may have contributed to the appalling loss of life. The investigation should involve taking the testimonies of all survivors, under conditions that guarantee their trust and safety.

All forensic evidence, such as traces of communications, videos, and photographs, should be collected, assessed and safeguarded to facilitate accountability processes. Any property, such as cell phones, taken from survivors for investigative purposes should be appropriately logged and returned within a reasonable amount of time.

All of those involved in or with knowledge of the incident, including the Hellenic Coast Guard, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), the captains and crews of the two merchant vessels, and others who took part in the rescue operation after the shipwreck should be invited or required to testify, as appropriate, and should cooperate fully and promptly with the investigations.

In parallel to the national investigation, the EU Ombudsman has announced that it will open an inquiry into the role of Frontex in search and rescue (SAR) activities in the Mediterranean, including in the Adriana shipwreck. This will pose important questions about the agency’s role, practices and protocols in the context of SAR operations and on what actions it has taken to comply with its fundamental rights obligations and EU laws during this and other shipwrecks.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are continuing to investigate the Pylos shipwreck and demand justice for all those harmed.

“This preventable tragedy demonstrates the bankruptcy of EU migration policies predicated on the racialized exclusion of people on the move and deadly deterrence,” said Esther Major, Amnesty International’s Senior Research Adviser for Europe.

“To ensure this is the last, and not the latest, in an unconscionably long list of tragedies in the Mediterranean, the EU should reorient its border policies towards rescue at sea and safe and legal routes for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.”


As part of their ongoing investigation, the organizations have sent letters requesting information to several key entities, including the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, the Prosecutors of the Supreme Court and of the Piraeus Naval Court and Frontex.

On 13 June 2023, Frontex said its surveillance plane spotted the Adriana at 09:47 UTC (12:47 EEST/in Athens) and alerted authorities in Greece and Italy. In the following hours, two merchant vessels and later a Hellenic Coast Guard vessel interacted with the Adriana. After the boat capsized at around 2 a.m. EEST on 14 June, only 104 survivors, including several children, were rescued.

The Prosecutor of Kalamata ordered the arrest of nine Egyptian nationals who survived the shipwreck on charges of smuggling, membership in an organized criminal network, manslaughter, and other serious crimes.

Following an order by the Head of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Piraeus Naval Court, a prosecutor is currently conducting a preliminary investigation into the conditions of the shipwreck and the potential punishable offences by members of the Hellenic Coast Guard. The organizations have sought information with the Greek Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy about any disciplinary investigation opened into the actions of members of the Hellenic Coast Guard.”



Support Justyna Wydrzynska

Support access to safe and legal abortion for women in Poland.

Join us Saturday 2. December 3pm outside the Embassy of Poland, 47 Portland Place, London W1B1JH abortion-offers-chilling-snapshot-of-future/

I am organising a demonstration outside the Embassy of Poland for Saturday 2. December to support Justyna and the right of women in Poland to have access to safe and legal abortions. Please join us! For more information and / or if you would like to get involved in the planning of the event, please contact Ulrike Schmidt


On 14th of March Justyna Wydrzynska was convicted and sentenced for helping a desperate women who turned to her for help, access abortion pills. Justyna Wydrzyńska is a doula — a trained companion who supports another person through pregnancy — and one of the four founders of Abortion Dream Team, an activist collective that campaigns against abortion stigma in Poland and offers unbiased advice on how to get a safe abortion following World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

Following the conviction and sentencing of activist Justyna Wydrzyńska to 8 months’ community service for helping a pregnant woman to access abortion pills in Poland, Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

Today’s conviction marks a depressing low in the repression of reproductive rights in Poland: a roll back for which women and girls – and those who defend their rights – are paying a high price.

Agnès Callamard, Secretary General, Amnesty International

 “The case sets a dangerous precedent in Poland, where abortion is nearly completely banned, and offers a chilling snapshot of the consequences of such restrictive laws.”

“Justyna should have never been put on trial in the first place because what she did should never be a crime. By supporting a woman who asked for help, Justyna showed compassion. By defending the right to safe abortion in Poland, Justyna showed courage. “ abortion-offers-chilling-snapshot-of-future/

Background Situation in Poland:

Background Poland

Since the PIS party (Law and Justice Party) has first gained power in November 2015, they have systematically attacked women’s rights, the right to protest and taken control of the courts.

In Autum 2016 the PIS controlled parliament voted for the total abortion ban. Even victims of rape and children would be forced to carry the pregnancy and give birth, and even if the foetus was severely damaged.

But they had not anticipated the reaction of Polish women. On Black Monday, 3rd October 2016 more than 100000 women in 60 cities dressed in black and went on strike. In the capital Warsaw 30000 women marched towards Parliament. In this case the government retreated and shelved the proposal.

They tried again in March 2017, voting for a law that would ban abortion in case of severe foetal abnormality (most abortions in Poland were carried out on these grounds) but again, the Polish government retreated in the face of widespread opposition of women.

Meanwhile though, the Polish government pushed through a number of laws that allowed them to take control of the courts. The position of Public prosecutor was merged with the post of Minister of Justice. He now controls which cases go to court. He also gained the powers to hire and fire all presidents and vice-presidents of common courts. During the first year of this law passing over a third were fired and replaced, and in December 2017 they forced 27 Supreme Court Judges to retire and established a Disciplinary chamber to keep judges in line. In October 2020, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled that access to abortion on the grounds of “severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’ life” are unconstitutional. The Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling means an almost total ban on abortion in the country.

Again, there was widespread protest across Poland, women and men came together in the largest demonstrations the country had seen in decades, but the Polish authorities were using a raft of heavy-handed measures to crack down on peaceful protests. Amnesty International has documented the authorities’ excessive use of force including pepper spray, the criminalization of peaceful protesters, detention, and incitement of violence against protesters by public officials.

2 years after the ruling of Poland’s discredited Constitutional Tribunal banning access to abortion in almost all circumstances took effect, it’s devastating impact on the lives of women and all those in need of abortion care continues. The ruling has increased the extreme barriers women seeking access to abortion face and has had tragic consequences for many of them and their families. Doctors who perform an abortion can be sentenced to five years in prison. Women’s health and life are put in danger, in 2021 a woman died because doctors were too scared to remove the dying foetus from her womb in time. Many desperate women try to access abortion in another country, even in war-torn Ukraine.


Gezi 7 – Upholding sentence against Osman Kavala and four other Gezi defendants, a devastating politically motivated blow

On September 28, 2013, Türkiye’s Court of Cassation, its top appeals court, upheldthe life sentence against Osman Kavala and 18-year jail sentences against Çiğdem Mater, Can Atalay, Mine Özerden and Tayfun Kahraman.

 The convictions of two other Gezi 7 defendants – Mücella Yapıcı and Hakan Altınay and a further defendant Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi (who was convicted in the same Gezi Park trial but not included by Amnesty in the Gezi 7 group because he had left the country9 were overturned. However the indictment relating to their cases will be returned to the lower court to be considered for a retrial. Thankfully Mücella Yapıcı and Hakan Altınay were released from prison pending the potential retrial.

Osman Kavala was sentenced to life in prison without parole, convicted of at- tempting to overthrow the government on false allegations that he organized andfinanced the 2013 Istanbul Gezi Park protests against a government urban development project. The other defendants were convicted of aiding him.

Responding to the decision, Amnesty International’s Campaigns Director for Europe, Ruth Tanner, said:

“This appalling decision is a devastating politically-motivated blow for human rights. Whilst it may effectively mark the end of the appeals process for Osman Kavala, it marks the beginning of a new phase of our campaign to demand his re-lease, and that of Çiğdem Mater, Can Atalay, Mine Özerden, Tayfun Kahraman.

The appeal court’s decision defies all logic given that the prosecuting authoritieshave repeatedly failed to provide any evidence to substantiate the baseless charges laid against them. It shows that the Gezi trial only ever served as an attempt to silence independent voices.”

With this judicial decision, this Turkish court has openly undermined the Council of Europe’s ECHR protection system and blatantly violated the Strasbourg Court’s rulings in favour of Osman Kavala’s release.

Osman Kavala has been arbitrarily imprisoned for more than five years for his activism. We cannot, and will not, be silenced in our call for Osman Kavala and the Gezi Park Prisoners of Conscience to be immediately released.”

Amnesty’s full response to the judgement can be accessed through the following link: kavala-four-others- needs-urgent-international-response/

Council of Europe debates Gezi 7 judgement

 On 12 October the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe held an urgentdebate on the Gezi judgement and by 44 votes to 18 resolved to reiterate the call of the Council for his immediate release. The report to the Parliamentary Assembly and the resolution, which I urge you to take time to read, can be accessed through clicking here

Key extract:

This truly exceptional case is undermining the basis of the Convention system as awhole. It is imperative that action is taken swiftly to secure the release of Osman Kavala and to ensure that Türkiye upholds the rule of law and human rights and implements the two Kavala judgments of the Court

  1. The Assembly calls on Council of Europe member and observer States and theEuropean Union to:


  • engage with the Turkish authorities at the highest levels to urge the immediaterelease of human rights defender, Osman Kavala;


  • undertake, as a matter of urgency, action to support improvements to the protection of the rule of law and of human rights in Türkiye;


  • apply, should Türkiye fail to release Osman Kavala, Magnitsky legislation” or other existing legal instruments to impose targeted sanctions against those officials,including prosecutors and judges, who are responsible for the unlawful and arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Osman


  1. This fundamental issue is also part of the dialogue between the European Union and Türkiye and, in this context, the Assembly calls on the European Union to take full account of this serious situation when determining its financial support toTürkiye so that priority is given to work that promotes pluralism in a society which respects human rights and the rule of


  1. If Osman Kavala has not been released from prison by 1 January 2024, this Assembly recalls its ability to challenge the credentials of the Turkish delegation at its first Part Session of


  1. For its part, the Assembly stands ready to work together closely with the Committee of Ministers, the Secretary General and Türkiye in ensuring the execution ofthe Kavala judgment and in securing the protection of the Convention system as awhole, and ultimately the credibility of the Organisation, in line also with the Reykjavík Declaration and the emphasis put on the execution of the Court

We now await further information from the International Secretariat as to how Amnesty intends to continue to campaign on behalf of the Gezi 7.  In the meantime, please continue with the solidarity actions I have set out in previous newsletters.

Western Europe

Sign the petition and demand your government to support a treaty to regulate the trade in policing equipment today.

Progress happens when we come together to demand change. We should be able to do this without fear of being harmed, hurt, or even killed by the misuse of policing equipment.  Demand your government supports a treaty to regulate the trade in policing equipment today to ensure it does not end in the hands of abusive police forces.

Across the Europe, peaceful protesters face waves of repression from police and military forces in deliberate attempts to crush dissent. While less lethal weapons like tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and batons are promoted as safer alternatives to firearms, all too often these weapons are used unlawfully to harass, intimidate, punish, or drive away protesters, undermining their right to peaceful assembly.

In France, 80-year-old Zineb Redouane was killed when, during a protest, a tear gas grenade struck her head. As long as there is no effective human rights-based controls more cases like Zineb will keep happening and the physical and psychological damage to individuals will continue.

 We need governments all over the world to vote yes on a Torture-Free Trade Treaty at the United Nations, an organization created to maintain peace and end wars.

Sign the petition and demand your government to support a treaty to regulate the trade in policing equipment today.;