Group Newsletter February 2017

Welcome our the latest newsletter.
Our next meeting is on Thursday 9th February 2017, 7.30 at Moordown Community Centre.
On the agenda – Planning 2017; Case file & campaign updates and letter writing.

Good news on cluster bombs

Just before the Christmas, the Government finally admitted that Saudi Arabia had indeed dropped UK cluster bombs in its bombing campaign in Yemen and in doing so, confirmed that Amnesty International research was entirely correct. When we alerted the UK government to this in May 2016, the Government strongly denied it, as did Saudi Arabia.
This is a major victory for our research work and campaigning to keep the government under pressure on this issue. Amnesty joined with 100s of other organisations around the world to campaign to ban cluster bombs because of the risks they pose to civilians. Cluster bombs scatter 100s of lethal bomblets that can continue to kill and cause horrific injuries long after the conflict has ended. The UK rightly banned these horrific weapons and their use in Yemen provides yet more evidence of indiscriminate nature of the Saudi Arabian led coalition’s bombing campaign.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe​​​​​​​

Last month we reported that one of the main Write 4 Rights (W4R) cases we worked on was Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. She is the British-Iranian dual citizen who has been detained in Iran since 3 April 2016. On September 10th, 2016 it was revealed that she was sentenced to five years imprisonment, although not clear on what basis. Her daughter is being looked after by her parents – but has had her passport taken away. Richard, her British husband, remains in Britain unable to communicate with his wife and frustrated by a lack of action from the Foreign Office.

Nazanin’s appeal last month has unfortunately led to her sentence being upheld. Whilst AI has designated her a Prisoner of Conscience, there are no updates on future actions now W4R has finished. In the meantime, you could write to your MP demanding the Foreign Office keep pressure on Iran and maintain contact with Nazanin – particularly if your MP is Tobias Ellwood, the Foreign Office minister for the Middle East!

Danilo Maldonado​​​​​​​

Not for the first time Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado had been arrested and held without charge. The group have often worked on his behalf and others detained in Cuba clearly for political reasons. But we are pleased to announce Danilo has been released after two months of detention – unsurprisingly without charge.

Leopoldo Lopez

The group are working on two case files at present; these are AI actions that focus on one individual or situation. This long term narrow focus ensures a constant pressure on authorities to take action.
Leopoldo Lopez – a 45 year old, a charismatic former mayor, he was labelled a “maverick” opposition leader in a BBC article. A long time thorn in the side of the Venezuelan Government, they referred to him as a coup leader and he was jailed for nearly 14 years for inciting violence during mass protests in 2014. He claims he was simply calling on his followers to protest against government policies.

Amnesty International was able to review all evidence presented by the Public Prosecutor’s office and there was no evidence to substantiate the charges that the Public Prosecutor’s office had filed against Leopoldo and on which he was subsequently sentenced. He has been declared a prisoner of conscience.

Leopoldo was also featured as part of the W4R campaign. We also had a petition which we have sent to AIUK. This will be presented to the Venezuelan Ambassador on 17th February. At the meeting this week we will send more letters and copy in the Ambassador, to ensure they don’t think the heat is off now W4R has finished. Unfortunately, the South American Newsletter (see below) reports Venezuelan authorties have cracked down even more on opposition parties.
We have sample letters for both of our Case Files in take action

South America Newsletter

The February edition of the South America Regional Newsletter is now on the blog. Our group has focused on South America since its inception, which is also reflected in our two case files. The 3 volunteers who run the network for AIUK – and produce the newsletter – do a huge amount of work on our behalf. This newsletter features the appalling deaths – over 150 this year – in Brazilian prisons.

Jorge Lázaro Samba Nunes dos Santos

We have been writing to authorities in Bahia State, Brazil on behalf of Jorge Lázaro, our second case file, for about 18 months now.

Two of his seven children have been murdered. Jorge Lázaro has been under huge pressure since the first murder in 2008 : he is seeking justice for the killings of his sons, trying to keep himself and his family safe, and providing necessary minimum living conditions such as a home and food.

To add to the tragedy of two murdered sons, on July 10th 2016 Jorge’s youngest son, Denilson was shot whilst walking home. Luckily Denilson survived and is currently recovering.
There are downloadable letters you can adapt on our “take action” page.There is also a link so you can send him a message of support via AIUK.

Christchurch Street Collection 2017

This is booked for May 13th. Hopefully it will be a bit warmer that last year!

Human Rights Act

You may have seen news reports that the government are not planning to repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA) until after the next election. Instead they are talking about committing in their next manifesto to going much further and leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The fact that it looks like they are not repealing the HRA as they had previous stated is great news, and testament to some amazing work from Amnesty members to show them how hard it would be to scrap the HRA – well done! But they haven’t guaranteed that repeal is off the table so could bring it back at any time and the threat of leaving the ECHR is incredibly concerning and would mean losing the HRA also. Watch this space….