The Cardiff Amnesty International Group has been campaigning for the release of political prisoners and upholding human rights for many years. Our work protects and empowers people – from abolishing the death penalty to protecting sexual and reproductive rights, and from combatting discrimination to defending refugees and migrants’ rights. We speak out for anyone and everyone whose freedom and dignity are under threat.
There have many successes in Wales and some of our past campaigns are captured here. We hope that these posts will inspire you to join a movement of ordinary people protecting human rights.
Mae Grŵp Amnest Rhyngwladol Caerdydd wedi bod yn ymgyrchu ers nifer o flynyddoedd dros ryddhau carcharorion gwleidyddol a chynnal iawnderau dynol. Mae ein gwaith yn amddiffyn ac yn grymuso pobl – o ddiddymu’r gosb eithaf i amddiffyn iawnderau rhywiol ac atgenhedlu, ac o ymladd yn erbyn gwahaniaethu i amddiffyn iawnderau ffoaduriaid ac ymfudwyr. Codwn lais o blaid unrhywun a phob un lle mae eu rhyddid a’u hurddas o dan fygythiad.
Bu llawer o lwyddiannau yng Nghymru, ac mae manylion isod o rai o’n hymgyrchoedd o’r gorffennol. Gobeithio y bydd yr erthyglau hyn yn eich ysbrydoli i ymuno â mudiad o bobl gyffredin sydd yn amddiffyn iawnderau dynol.
Sunday 25th June 2017
Stand Up in the Park 2017
On June 25th Amnesty Cardiff in partnership with Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival are delighted to introduce a new theatrical experience to this year’s festival: Stand Up In The Park!
An evening of stand-up comedy from some of the best up-and-coming acts across South Wales, the event will be used to raise funds for Amnesty International and highlight the cause of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
You may have heard of Nazanin. A charity worker, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran Airport in April 2016 while visiting family in Iran with her daughter. She was accused of allegedly plotting to topple the government in Tehran, but the official charges against her have not been made public.
At only £10 a ticket and with our festival bar open from 6.30pm to get you in the mood, this is an evening not to be missed! You can book tickets here, and read more about the event here. If light entertainment in the open air is not your sort of thing, then why not offer a couple of tickets to someone you know who would like it? Why do that, you ask?
Because Stand Up in the Park is a partnership between Everyman Theatre and Amnesty International so, as well as promising a whole lotta laughs, it is in a very good and current cause. We really want to make this event a great success so encourage everyone to but as many tickets as possible!
Take a look at who we have appearing:
Award-winning stand-up, Clint is a regular co-host of the Rhod Gilbert show on BBC Radio Wales and supported Rhod Gilbert on tour. With numerous writing credits to his name, including Never mind the Buzzcocks (BBC2), The Apprentice: You’re Fired (BBC2), The Now Show (BBC Radio 4)and many more!
A legend on the UK comedy circuit and support act for Rich Hall on tour. A regular co-host for BBC Radio Wales live outside broadcasts and specials, guest presenter on Rhod Gilbert’s Radio Wales show and Lucy Beaumont’s BBC R4 comedy ‘To Hull & back’.
Having started in stand-up in 2013 via London’s improvised comedy scene, Jethro has since gone on to win the BBC Radio New Comedy Award 2016 and the Welsh Unsigned Stand-Up Award 2016!
Jasper Blakeley as Kockov!
Kockov is the outrageous leather-trousered Master magician and Mind-Reader from Monrokvia and he’s here to mess with your head! Kockov is the alter-ego of world-class Magic circle magician, Jasper Blakeley. Kockov is as funny as he is magically amazing!
Amnesty International Cardiff Group
Thursday, 19 November 2015
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Cardiff BookTalk have teamed up with Amnesty International Cardiff to bring a focus on human rights in fiction. On the day before Human Rights Day on the 10th December, BookTalk will be discussing The Kite Runner.
Afghan–American author, Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel focuses upon the friendship between two boys, Amir and Hassan. Moving from Kabul to California, this is a story concerning personal relationships set against a backdrop of conflict and migration that remains as relevant and poignant as when it was published in 2003.
The Kite Runner was a New York Times bestseller for over two years and has been translated into 42 languages for publication in 38 countries. It has been made into an Academy Award-nominated film and adapted into a graphic novel.
Cardiff Amnesty and Cardiff BookTalk are delighted to host a panel of expert speakers with interests related to the novel spanning the academic and the practical.
- Mari Lowe is Project Co-ordinator at the Oasis Refugee Centre in Cardiff and a PhD candidate in the Centre for Critical & Cultural Theory at Cardiff University. Her PhD focuses on race, diversity and cultural memory in the Cardiff Docklands.
- Radhika Mohanram is Professor of English and Critical & Cultural Theory at the Cardiff University of Cardiff. She is an internationally recognised expert on postcolonial theory, and her work has focused on gender, partitions and diasporas.
- Owen Collins is Vice-Chair of the Cardiff Amnesty International Group and Tutor of History at Cardiff University. His research interests lie in the field of community and oral history, alongside human rights activism.
Date: Wednesday 9th December (please note, the event is not taking place on Human Rights Day itself)
Time: 7.00pm – 9.00pm
Venue: Cardiff School of Optometry and Visual Sciences, Maindy, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ. Guests will be met in the ground floor reception foyer.
Further details: visit the BookTalk website at http://cardiffbooktalk.org/
Amnesty International Cardiff Group
Wednesday, 28 October 2015
Pakistan – Free Journalism Under Threat
Our November meeting looks at the daily threats facing journalists in Pakistan, as they face censorship and limits on their freedom of speech. Our guest speaker will be Muhammad Younas, an independent journalist, originally from Pakistan, and the meeting will be hosted at the Cardiff School of Journalism.
Journalists in Pakistan live under the constant threat of killings, harassment and other violence from all sides, including intelligence services, political parties and armed groups like the Taliban. Pakistani authorities have almost completely failed to stem human rights abuses against media workers or to bring those responsible to account.
Amnesty International has documented 34 cases of journalists being killed in Pakistan in response to their work since the restoration of democratic rule in 2008, but only in one case have the perpetrators been brought to justice. But these killings are just the most brutal statistic – many more journalists have been threatened, harassed, abducted, tortured or escaped assassination attempts in the same period.
7.30pm Monday 9th November
Cardiff School of Journalism
Room 0.53 Bute Building
King Edward VII Ave
Cardiff CF10 3NB
Amnesty International Cardiff Group
Sunday, 4 October 2015
Wales Cities of Sanctuary
Sorry, we’ve been quiet for a while! We are back with our next meeting on Monday 9th October with two speakers to talk about the Wales Cities of Sanctuary project and how we can get involved. They will also talk about the joint campaign with Oxfam, enccouraging councils across Wales to welcome refugees from Syria.
Elinor Harris, of Displaced People in Action (DPIA) is the Wales Cities of Sanctuary National Co-ordinator
Sion Edwards works for Oasis who provide support for refugees in Cardiff to help them integrate into the local community. He is also part of the Wales Cities of Sanctuary Project.
Please help publicise the event
Monday 12th October 2015 at 7.30pm
Quaker Meeting House
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/950843401621708/
Sunday, 31 May 2015
June meeting – experiences of Syria
We are very pleased to welcome two speakers for our June meeting, with very different personal perspectives on Syria.
- Ronahi Hasan is journalism student whose family have experiences life as Kurds under the Assad regime.
- Hussam Allahham is a doctor from Syria who has worked in hospitals within Syria as well as in a Red Cross refugee camp since leaving the country.
Each will talk about their personal experiences of life under Assad and give their views on the situation there today as it affects their families still in the country facing the twin threats of Assad and Islamic State.
Monday 8th June at 7.30pm
Quaker Meeting House
43 Charles Street
Thursday, 16 April 2015
Campaigning for the Human Rights Act is underway…
The Amnesty Cardiff Group has started contacting the local candidates, using e-mail, letters, Twitter and Facebook with the simple question
Where do you stand on the Human Rights Act?
On Tuesday we tweeted all of the Cardiff West candidates. Tonight was the turn of Cardiff Central. As we get tweets, e-mails or other replies we will share them here…
Neil McAvoy of Plaid Cymru was first of the mark with his tweet
James Taghdissian of the Conservative Party supports all of the rights in the European Convention (and in a subsequent e-mail highlighted the Conservative policy of repealing the HRA and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights. As he’s not seen the draft bill he couldn’t comment further on the policy but we are grateful that he took the time to reply)
We are still waiting to hear from the others…
Quick replies from Jo Stevens (Labour) and Martin Pollard (Plaid Cymru) with clear support for the HRA
Jenny Willott has also tweeted the LibDems support for human rights (but no mention of the Human Rights Act itself)
Ruth Osner from the Greens tweeted her support
Elin Walker-Jones (Plaid Cymru) and Mari Williams (Labour) gave favourited our tweets (and Mari gave us a retweet) – we’ll assume they support us!
A retweet of our photo from Ben Foday of Plaid Cymru.
Looking forward to hearing from the rest!
Tuesday, 14 April 2015
Where do you stand on human rights?
Stop TortureFor more than 50 years, Amnesty International has been fighting to stamp out torture. Torture is banned under International law, but all over the world people continue to be tortured.Over the last five years, Amnesty International has reported on torture and other forms of ill-treatment in at least 141 countries from every region of the world. The secretive nature of torture means the true number is likely to be higher still.Torture prevention is currently a priority for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The FCO’s Torture Prevention Strategy includes a campaign to press countries to sign up to international agreements such as United Nations Convention against Torture.There is no guarantee that our government will prioritise this issue. We need to get as much support from Prospective Parliamentary Candidates as possible to ensure this issue is a priority for the next UK government.Human Rights ActThe Human Rights Act is a UK law passed in 1998. It means that you can defend your rights in the UK courts and that public organisations (including the government, the police and local councils) must treat everyone equally, with fairness, dignity and respect.The HRA is an excellent example of human rights protection and has had a positive impact for many individuals and for UK society generally, in a number of ways. For example a couple who used the HRA to challenge a decision which would have separated them after 65 years together.The HRA brings human rights into all state decisions improving government and public authority actions and policies. If someone feels their rights are not being respected, they can challenge the government in court. But in the vast majority of HRA cases, the issue is settled out of court i.e. the government/public authority comes to an agreement about how to respect the individual’s rights and this can have a positive impact on policies affecting hundreds or even thousands of people.The HRA brings human rights home – it allows people to turn to UK courts and UK judges if they feel their rights are not being respected by the government. It gives us power to challenge the decisions made by politicians and Local Authorities here in the UK.And yet the Conservative Party and UKIP want to repeal the Human Rights Act. It begs the question – which of our rights do they propose are taken away?For some excellent background have a look at these articles from the Liberty website.
Our next steps will be to e-mail our local candidates (our April meeting had members living in 5 different constituencies across Cardiff and Caerphilly) and to use Twitter and Facebook to raise the campaign profile and using pictures (see right) to ask our candidates “Where do you stand on human rights?”
Tuesday, 7 April 2015
I Stand for Human Rights
Tuesday, 10 March 2015
March meeting review – Mama Telema
To celebrate International Women’s Day we were very pleased to welcome some members of Mama Telema Congolese Women’s Group (with one man too!).
Firstly Laurent gave us a quick guide to the Democratic Republic of Congo from its history as the Belgian Congo, then becoming Zaire and finally the DRC. The third largest country in Africa, four times the size of France, with its furthest parts 2 hours flight from the capital, the DRC has 60 million people. The country is rich in mineral resources of all kinds and across much of the country. We saw photos of Congolese food, fashion, dancing and music.
Sadly neighbouring conflicts, the natural wealth of the country and the greed of successive rulers has left the DRC prey to conflict and human rights abuses. In the east of the country killings and sexual violence are rife. Even those international forces tasked with preventing the abuses are accused of being involved.
We then came to Jackie, who talked about how she came to set up Mama Telema (“Women Arise”) Congolese Women’s Group. On arriving in Cardiff as a refugee speaking only French, Jackie started to attend courses, learn English and get jobs. She started to notice that, although she met many other African women, she was seeing very few Congolese women. Keen to find out why they weren’t integrating, Jackie set up a meeting and invited women from the Congo to come along. She discovered that many women were dealing with trauma, anxiety and persecution and so she decided to set up the group to take small steps to help them.
Mama Telema has now been running for a year, acting as a first point of contact for Congolese women, putting them in touch with training to give them skills and confidence, English lessons to help them integrate and CV/interview practise to help them find work. Over 100 women, including those from other countries such as Angola, and even some men have been helped by the group. The group also encourages the younger generation , sharing their values and culture, as well as respect for the UK which has welcomed them.
However, more than just supporting women here, Mama Telema tries to help women and girls in the DRC. Knowing they cannot solve the big prolems in the country, Mama Telema tries to take small steps. For example one group of young mothers in the DRC have asked for support to get a sewing machine so they can learn skills to suppor themselves. The group also sends funds for children to get an education.
The meeting ended with questions and answers and we all left feeling inspired and humbled by the work of such an amazing group. If you want to support them, why not attend their event this Saturday…
Wednesday, 4 March 2015
February meeting review – experiences of Rwanda
In just twenty years since the genocide, Rwanda is a vibrant growing country. 11 million people in a country the size of Wales; agriculture feeding most of the population; free primary education and a growing economy.The route to this has been partly be four home-grown solutions:Itorero – civic education to encourage people to uphold Rwanda culture and values as well as to train future leadersUmuganda – monthly community work on the last Saturday of the month. 80% of Rwandans between 18 and 65 years old take partGacaca Courts – part of a system of community justice, inspired by tradition. Rwanda has especially focused on criminal prosecutions, putting justice partially in the hands of the people. This has helped communities find justice for the victims of the genocide.Umunyarwanda – “I am a Rwandan”: the concept that Rwanda has no divisions along ethnic lines and any divisive actions (or even words) are punishable by lawTogether these have led to a peace, security and socio-economic development but Christiane ended with the question to open up debate – is the lack of certain freedoms a price worth paying for the advances Rwanda has seen? We came up with no clear answer but certainly an interesting discussion.We thank Christiane for a very interesting evening, all accompanied by some beautiful photos!
Wednesday, 28 January 2015
It’s been a while since our last post. Since then we’ve had our annual Write for Rights event in Chapter and held our January social in Zizzi in Cardiff Bay.
We are now back with an exciting programme for the coming six months including:
9th February – Rwanda
Long-term member of the Group, Christiane Merz, is back from volunteering with VSO in Rwanda and will be sharing stories of her time there
9th March – International Women’s Day
We are pleased to welcome members of Mama Telema, a group of Congolese women based in South Wales who stand up for women’s rights in Congo.
13th April – General Election
What human rights issues do Amnesty International want to be on the agenda in the election campaign and how do we ensure that our voice is heard?
27th April – Group AGM
Review of the past year and election of officers for the coming year
11th May – Syria (TBC)
We are hoping to get a couple of local speakers to talk about life for ordinary people caught up in the conflict in Syria
8th June – Experiences of an Amnesty International Schools Speaker
Stuart Cane will talk about what it’s like to go into a school or college and engage young people with human rights
11th July – Summer Social
Venue to be confirmed
All meetings at 7.30pm in the Quaker Meeting House, 43 Charles Street, Cardiff unless otherwise stated. We are usually also in Chapter on the fourth Monday of each month for a planning meeting – everyone welcome.
Friday, 21 November 2014
Write for Rights 2014
Come and join us at our next meeting when we will be taking part in the annual Write for Rights campaign, sending greetings cards to prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders around the world.
Also a great opportunity to meet the local Amnesty group over a coffee or a pint!
Monday, 3 November 2014
November meeting – Undercover with Rob Evans of The Guardian
Monday, 22 September 2014
Michel Palin in St David’s Hall
And now for something completely different: Our recent collection at Michael Palin’s show, Traveling to Work, raised £521 for Amnesty’s campaigns. We would like to thank St David’s Hall, Phil McIntyre Entertainments and Michael Palin for kindly agreeing to support this collection. It was great to hear Michael talk about his memories of appearing at the early Secret Policeman’s Balls. It was also fantastic to talk to the many people in the audience about their memories of Amnesty International. The organisation exists souly as a result of dedicated individuals – both on and off stage!
In particular, we want to say a BIG thank you to everyone who came to the Amnesty stand and signed our petition in support of Ghoncheh Ghavami. Ghoncheh, an Iranian-British woman, has been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison since June solely for taking part in a peaceful protest for the right to attend Volleyball World League matches.
Photo: John Swannell
Amnesty International Cardiff Group
Sunday, 14 September 2014
After a summer off, the Amnesty Cardiff Group is back open for business! Our forthcoming meetings will be:
Monday 22nd September (Chapter Arts Centre bar) – Planning meeting and review of Amnesty’s Draft Strategic Goals. Local groups have been asked to review and send comments.
Monday 13th October – Social night at Chapter where we are going to see the film Pride. Film starts at 8pm but we will meet at 7.30pm in the bar. Tickets available in advance at the box office or from http://www.chapter.org/pride-15
Monday 10th November – Group meeting in the Quaker Meeting House in Charles Street
Thursday 20th November (Cardiff Law School) – Cardiff Amnesty International and Cardiff University’s Law School are pleased to host a free event with Guardian journalist Rob Evans speaking about his new book and research uncovering the truth about secret policing operations in Britain.
Hope to see you at one or more of these!
Amnesty International Cardiff Group
Thursday, 28 August 2014
NATO event – male volunteers needed
We are still in urgent need of volunteers to help with a photo stunt next Wednesday. Could you please circulate this email to anyone you know that may be interested in helping out:
Amnesty International UK is planning a photo stunt to take place on Wednesday 3rd September and we are calling on men in the Cardiff area to support our campaign, Afghan women’s rights: protect the progress.
On the 4th and 5th September international leaders will discuss how they will continue to support the Afghanistan government, at the NATO summit in Cardiff. Currently, 1 in every 40 signatories of global peace agreements are women. We want to see Afghan women meaningfully participate in peace negotiations on Afghanistan and women’s rights incorporated into peace agreements.
Our Photo Stunt
We want to highlight the appalling ratio of men to women in peace negotiations using a live photo stunt to attract media attention.
The Image – 39 men in black suits stand in a horse shoe shape outside the City Hall in Cardiff. One Afghan woman stands in front of the crowd in bright colourful clothing holding a sign that says “Talk to me, not about me”. The stark contrast in colour and ratio will create a visually captive image for our campaign.
To make this stunt a reality we need 39 male volunteers!!
When: Tuesday 3rd September 2014 at 10.30am
Where: Outside the City Hall in Cardiff centre (King Edward VII Ave, Cardiff, CF10 3ND)
Dress: Black suits and white shirts
2014 is set to be a critical year for Afghanistan, and particularly for women’s rights. International troops will withdraw from the country by the end of the year and Presidential elections are scheduled for April. International pressure to reach a political solution to the conflict and negotiate with the Taliban and other insurgent groups is growing. Afghan women, who have already been side-lined from the peace process, have well-founded fears that their rights will be negotiated away at the expense of a peaceful transition. We believe there can be no peace without women.
For more information on our campaign please visit
Who to Contact
We would love you, or any of your male friends to come along and join in the fun. Please email Jennifer or Kerrie if you would like to help out. Title the email ‘Cardiff Volunteers’ with your name and contact telephone number.
Jennifer Bamforth – Jennifer.Bamforth@amnesty.org.uk
Kerrie Doogan-Turner – Kerrie.Doogan-Turner@amnesty.org.uk
Amnesty International Cardiff Group
Monday, 7 July 2014
Just a quick update on plans for the rest of the year and into Spring 2014. We had a well-attended and fruitful planning meeting in Chapter a couple of weeks ago and have a number of ideas that we are working on.
JULY – annual summer social (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for the venue)
AUGUST – no meeting but we’ll probably have an informal meet-up over a pint or a coffee in Chapter
SEPTEMBER to MARCH – plans we are working on include:
- Hearing the story of a Somalian refugee;
- Guardian journalist Rob Evans to talk about his book Undercover – with Cardiff Law School (www.guardianbookshop.co.uk/BerteShopWeb/viewProduct.do?ISBN=9780571302178)
- Cardiff Book Talk joint event for Human Rights Day
- Journalism in Pakistan – with Cardiff School of Journalism and the NUJ
- Stop Torture Campaign
- My Body, My Rights (hopefully with Mama Telema – jomec.co.uk/cjsnewsmaij/news/a-local-group-reaches-out-to-refugees-from-congo
- Wales One World festival – hosting a film at Chapter
Lots of ideas so please watch this space!
Amnesty International Cardiff Group
Monday, 16 June 2014
One Goal: No Violence – June Meeting Report
On 9th of June 2014, our theme was “Brazil World Cup 2014 & Human Rights: One Goal – No Violence”, led by Stuart, chair of the group.
The meeting expressed serious concerns on the excessive use of force, torture, inhuman conditions, controversial resolution on land rights, forced eviction, violation of right to freedom of expression,
increased police brutality and miserable women’s rights conditions in Brazil.
With regard to the demonstration, the Chair said that Brazil had seen large scale demonstration taking place since 2013 and shown great discontent with the poor quality of public services in the context of
the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
The Brazilian Police often responded to the protests with excessive force including the increased use of lethal weapons such as tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades and rubber bullets, which resulted in the deaths of two persons Douglas Rafael Pereira da Silva 26 years old and Edilson Silva dos Santos 27 years old.
Regarding torture and inhuman conditions, he mentioned the concern of the UN Subcommittee at the widespread use of torture. A recent worldwide survey by Amnesty International, cites Brazil as the country where the greatest number of people fear torture if arrested.
Stuart expressed his grave concern over the forced eviction of families in preparation for the World Cup in 2014 and the Rio Olympics in 2016 without giving residents full and timely information and further condemned the controversial resolution, which would allow the establishment of mining, hydro-electric schemes and military installations on indigenous land.
He also elaborated the miserable women’s rights situation in Brazil at length and expressed upset over women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Brazil.
At the end, all members wrote postcards to express their solidarity with Douglas Rafael Pereira da Silva and Edilson Silva dos Santos who were recently killed while protesting in Copacabana. Indeed the group expressed their grave concern over the wellbeing and political rights of protesters more generally.
The postcards will be sent to the Brazilian Embassy in London. Finally, photos were taken of Cardiff members holding placards proclaiming messages of solidarity with a newly established Amnesty International group in Brazil. It is hoped that sending these photos of support to the Brazilian group will help them in their courageous work.
Amnesty International Cardiff Group
Monday, 2 June 2014
Love Football. Love Human Rights.
As the Brazil World Cup approaches this month, millions of people worldwide will be preparing to join in with the celebrations. But as the celebrations are starting Amnesty is expressing serious concerns over the right to Freedom of Expression and increased police brutality in the context of protest in the country.
Come to our June meeting to learn more and to take action to show your support for human rights defenders in Brazil.
Amnesty International Cardiff Group
Wednesday, 7 May 2014
Amnesty Cardiff AGM
The Amnesty Cardiff group will hold its annual general meeting next Monday (12th May). The business section will be short, with a report of what we’ve done in the past year and the election of officers for the coming year. Most importantly we want to get your views on where the group goes next including:
- What do you want to see at group meetings?
- How do we expand the social side of the group?
- What do we want to do to raise funds this year?
- Do we want to arrange a campaigning event in the next year?
- How do we attract more people to meetings and events?
- How can we engage more people via social media?
- How do we work more closely with local university, college and school Amnesty groups?
Please come along and have your say at 7.30pm on Monday 12th May in the Quaker Meeting House in Charles Street. We’ll continue to a nearby pub for anyone interested.
If you can’t join us in person we would still welcome your views so please drop us an e-mail and let us know what you think.
Amnesty International Cardiff Group
Friday, 11 April 2014
Wales for Peace Project
Amnesty evening about Wales for Peace Project
Cardiff Amnesty International and the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) will host an open evening on Monday 14th April to give people a chance to influence the Wales for Peace project. We will meet in the Quaker Meeting House on Charles Street at 7.30pm.
The WCIA is planning a new project which will tell the story of Wales’ contributions to peace in the 100 years since the start of the First World War. Contributions will help the WCIA shape the final project plan that we will submit to the Heritage Lottery Fund later this year. This Open Evening is your chance as a member of Amnesty International to influence what will happen during the project. Alex Southern will be discussing the project and asking questions such as:
- What stories could you and your community tell about Wales and peace?
- What would you like to see at project events and exhibitions, and on the Wales for Peace website?
- What would make you want to get involved in this kind of project?
More information can be found at: http://www.wcia.org.uk/walesforpeace.html
Amnesty International Cardiff Group
Monday, 24 February 2014
Child Labour in Pakistan – February meeting report
Mohammed Younas gave a talk about Child Labour in Pakistan at our February 10th meeting in his capacity as a member of fair trade wales.
Child labour around the globe:
168 million children (defined by UN as anyone under 18 years of age) currently work all over the world, with 85 million of them working in hazardous conditions.
In Pakistan, the definition of a child is under 14 years of age, and the constitution of Pakistan (1973) states that anyone below this age may not be put to work in hazardous conditions
However, 0.2 million work in hazardous conditions in Karachi, and up to 500 child mine workers were found to be at work in Balochistan, some as young as 8 years old, despite UN ruling that no child under the age of 12 may now work.
12m children are working in Pakistan, and of 1.5 children working in Khyber-Pakhtunkwa province, 60, 000 are below 10 years.
There is cause for concern about the conditions many of these children are working in, as well as concerns about financial exploitation.
In Sialkot city, sports equipment is made in factories for many huge sports companies such as Nike, Adidas and Puma. Adults in the factories making footballs receive payment of 40-60p per football, and children, making on average 2 footballs per day, receive around 15p per football. The costs of these footballs when being sold in UK shops range from £7-£100.
What can be done?
Some proposals suggested by Younas:
- Amnesty International, as well as fair trade campaign groups can
- Lobby MPs to request that the UK parliament puts pressure on the Pakistan government to improve its child labour policy.
- Pressure to be put on the sports companies regarding what is paid to the people making their produce in factories in areas such as Pakistan.
- A memorandum to be given to the Pakistani embassy in London.
These may be discussed by the group as potential future campaigns.
Amnesty International Cardiff Group
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
January Meeting – Child Labour in Pakistan
Thursday, 21 November 2013
Cardiff Book Talk
Cardiff BookTalk have teamed up with Amnesty International Cardiff to bring a focus on human rights in fiction. Bringing into harsh focus the daily struggle for existence in a Soviet gulag, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a twentieth century classic, and a must-read.
This brutal, shattering glimpse of the fate of millions of Russians under Stalin shook Russia and shocked the world when it first appeared. Discover the importance of a piece of bread or an extra bowl of soup, the incredible luxury of a book, the ingenious possibilities of a nail, a piece of string or a single match in a world where survival is all. Here safety, warmth and food are the first objectives. Reading it, you enter a world of incarceration, brutality, hard manual labour and freezing cold – and participate in the struggle of men to survive both the terrible rigours of nature and the inhumanity of the system that defines their conditions of life.
Toby Thacker (Historian, Cardiff University), Ralph Fevre (Social Scientist, Cardiff University) and Roy Jenkins (BBC Thought for the Day) will be giving their responses to the book, as well as taking part in an open discussion with the audience. Join them and get involved as we discuss work, Gulags and freedom and more.
Date: Monday 9th December (please note, the event is not taking place on Human Rights Day itself) Time: 7pm – 9pm. Venue: Optometry Building Lecture Theatre.
Write for Rights
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
November meeting report – Human Rights in Pakistan
Our guest speaker was Muhammad Younas, a journalist from Pakistan but now based in Cardiff and an active member of our Amnesty group. Younas has campaigned widely for the rights of the Hazara community of Pakistan, notably alongside Alan Johnson MP who has taken up their cause in the House of Commons.
Younas started by giving an overview of Pakistan in political and religous terms. Pakistan is a strongly Muslim country with 80% Sunni Muslims, 15% Shia Muslims and 5% non-Muslims. The latter are often persecuted and even face the death penalty as a result of Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws. Many also suffer attacks from extremists. These minorities include:
- Christians (1.5% of the population) – on 22 September this year at least 85 were killed in an attack on a church service in Peshawar;
- Hindus – since Pakistan’s independence in 1947, 6 million of Hindus have left the country with the proportion of the population falling to just 1.3% today. Many Hindu women have been the victim of kidnap and coercive conversion to Islam.
- Ahmadis (2% of the population) – Ahmadis are Muslims, and are recognised as such in many countries in the world. However since 1974, Pakistan has legally declared them non-Muslims. As a result they face charges of blasphemy for preaching, praying or even sharing the traditional Muslim greeting.
Younas then went on to talk more from personal experience of life as a Hazara in Quetta City. The Hazara are a distinct Shia group, noticable for their different racial background and Mongolian features. As Younas pointed out, he looks very different from most Pakistanis, and this makes the Hazara a visible and easy target for religious militants in Pakistan who oppose Shia Islam. Since 1999, when the Hazara in Afghanistan supported Western forces against the Taliban, the community has faced persistent attacks, with around 1,300 killed and 3,500 injured. 276 have been killed this year already.
Quetta is a city of around 2.8 million people, including nearly all of Pakistan’s 500,000 Hazara. The city is largely segregated into distinct areas for different religious or tribal groups, with most Hazara living in Hazara Town and Mehr Abad. Attacks are now making travel outside these areas, and between them, increasingly dangerous. Nearly 100% of Hazara are educated but access to schools and colleges is curtailed by the threat of attacks. Traders are no longer able to safely reach the city’s wholesale markets and therefore face higher prices for their goods. Non-Hazara avoid shops for fear of being caught up in attacks by extremists.
While all this goes on, the regional and national governments have done very little to ensure the protection of Hazara citizens and thousands have fled the country. No one has been convicted of a single attack.
Amnesty International said earlier this year
“These attacks demonstrate Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s [terrorist group] utter disregard for human rights and basic principles of humanity,
“Also shocking is the continued failure of the authorities to bring to justice any of those responsible for committing these killings, or inciting others to carry them out.”
Amnesty International press release http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/pakistan-bombings-quetta-hazara-community-2013-02-18
Article by Younas in the Express Tribune http://tribune.com.pk/story/564437/quetta-bleeds/
Younas’s blog can be found at http://myounas.com/ and includes a range of articles on Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Hazara.
Thank you to everyone who supported our first Amnestea Party on Saturday – we raised £197.05 by eating cake and drinking tea!
The winners of our in augural Great Amnesty Bake Off were:
– Best Sponge – Megan
– Best (and only!) Chocolate Brownies – Maria
– Best (and only!) Scones – Maria
– Best Decorated Cupcakes – Lowri
Maria’s brownies also claimed Best Cake in Show!
Thanks to everyone who came along, brought cakes and everyone who helped on the day.
Special thanks go to Delyth Liddell for judging the cakes and Spillers Records for donating raffle prizes.
Our next fundraising event will be…
Featuring the Great Amnesty Bake Off!
Our next event is a fundraiser on Saturday 9th November. Come along to Cathays Methodist Church from 2.30pm and buy a cup of tea (or coffee or hot chocolate!) and a slice of cake to support Amnesty International.
We will also have a baking competion – the Great Amnesty Bake Off – please bring cakes along for judging at 2.00pm.
Categories will be:
– Best sponge cake (any flavour)
– Best plate of chocolate brownies
– Best scones
– Best plate of 6 decorated cup cakes
– Best student cake
– Best cake in show
There will also be a raffle to win the best cake in show and other prizes.
Amnesty International Cardiff Group
Thursday, 17 October 2013
Joint Meeting for United Nations Day – Thursday 24th October
Amnesty International Cardiff Group
Tuesday, 8 October 2013
We have a very exciting and busy programme of events in place for the next few months so we hope to see you at some of the following:
The Case Against Drones – Monday 14th October (next week)
7.30pm Quaker Meeting House, Charles Street
Rod Jones of the Palestian Solidarity Campaign will talk about the British involvement in drones, their use, particularly in Gaza, and a loo at some of the ethical and political objections to drone technology.
Human Rights in Sri Lanka and the role of the international Community – Thurday 24th October
Temple of Peace, Cathays Park
A joint meeting with the United Nations Association to mark United Nations Day
Fred Carver, Director of the Sri Lanka Campaign, will talk about the human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and the response of the UN and the Commonwealth, as we approach the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka
The Great Amnestea Bake Off – Saturday 9th November
2.00-4.00pm Cathays Methodist Church, Crwys Road
Tea, cake and fundraising for Amnesty! A joint event with the Cardiff University and University of South Wales Amnesty International Groups. Watch this space for details of the categories for the cake competition!
The Treatment of Minorities in Pakistan – Monday 11th November
7.30pm Cardiff University (room TBC)
Muhammad Younas, jounalist from Pakistan, will talk about the treatment of religous minorities in Pakistan, focussing on his own Hazara Muslim community.
Greetings Card Campaign – Monday 25th November
7.30pm Chapter Arts Centre
Come and join us for a coffee or a pint and send greetings cards to individuals at risk and human rights defenders across the world
Cardiff Book Talk – Monday 9th December
7.30pm Cardiff University (room TBC)
Cardiff Book Talk is a reading group with a difference, in that they have a panel of guest speakers to talk about various aspects of each book. In December, to mark International Human Rights Day, they are holding a joint event, where the book will be Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Roy Jenkins, presenter of Thought for the Day and founder of Christians Against Torture has very kindly agreed to speak on behalf of Amnesty.
Friday, 4 October 2013
Ruth Ellis – the last woman to be hanged in Britain
Wednesday, 25 September 2013
Calling all students!
Are you a new student just arrived at the Cardiff University or the University of South Wales? Maybe you’re back for the second or third year or studying as a post-grad?
The good news is that both universities have Amnesty groups, getting students involved in campaigning for human rights. Amnesty is a great way to meet like-minded people, learn new skills, raise money for our human rights work and, most importantly, take action on behalf of individuals and groups at risk of human rights violations.
The Cardiff University Group has been running for many years and has a number of events lined up for this term, including some joint events with our group. The University of South Wales group has started this term, with over 70 signing up at the freshers’s fair last week.
Good luck to both groups and we look forward to working with you this year!
Student Group’s Comedy Night
Thursday, 19 September 2013
Report from meeting Sept 8th: Social Media
Amnesty Cardiff were pleased to welcome Liz Rawlins and Will Barker to our meeting for a talk/ Q&A session regarding the use of social media.
They gave an outline of the social media they currently use (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram).
- Asking questions of the people who are looking at the page, encourage discussion.
- Look at hashtags # relating to Amnesty campaigns or related issues – audience already there and opportunities for debates and conversations.
- Get conversation going about events beforehand – use pictures and encourage participants to get in touch with their thoughts/pictures regarding the event. Ask them to search for events and tag themselves in photos.
- We can use this to share conversation with other Amnesty groups and discuss the events they are holding.
- Live conversations where possible and regular Facebook/Twitter updates will help publicise the group, it’s campaigns and upcoming events.
- Due to Amnesty’s letter writing tradition, the idea of people sending photos/statuses regarding this was discussed (for example people putting up photos of themselves posting their letters).
Summary of advice given at the end of the talk:
- Identify your goal (if you want a big discussion- link to facebook/blog)
- Know your audience (who supports amnesty, where might they want to look for discussion/updates etc).
- Choose your platforms
- Use your mobile
- Create/Collect your context (write down the things you want to share).
- Measure your progress
- Update your stakeholders- keep your stakeholders, keep people informed, especially those who have supported at various events, tell them what is going on and post about the event, what has happened as a result of the campaign or fundraising).
Thanks very much to Liz and Will for the very interesting talk and useful advice. This may be up for more discussion in the planning meeting on Monday. Please feel free to come along and join us in Chapter on Monday (23rd September) at 7.30pm.
Thursday, 5 September 2013
As part of the handover of secretary from Paul to Hannah I seem to have ended up with the infamous Amnesty “stuff” – boxes of leaflets, posters, magazines and other Amnesty resources. As Hannah has no room, these are starting their new life in my loft. Fortunately Paul has sorted and boxed everything so after one final cull I thought it would be useful to share what we have in case anyone needs anything…
Long Amnesty banners in English and Welsh with string attached
A selection of general Amnesty posters
50 Years anniversary poster set
Women’s Rights poster set
I Stand for Human Rights /Dw i’n Sefyll Dros Hawliau Dynol (x5)
In Solidarity, In Defiance (x4 English and x2 Arabic)
Free Burma’s Political Prisoners (x8)
Love is a Human Right (x1)
Set of 4 famous people with placards
Diogelu Dynolryw (x4)
Demand Human Rights, End Poverty (x1)
Get Involved (general membership leaflets)
Together We Are Powerful (student membership leaflets)
A Human Rights Revolution (Arab Spring leaflets)
Love is a human right (LGBT leaflets and stickers)
Back issues of Amnesty magazine and group news
Campaign briefings including:
– Sri Lanka
– Women in Afghanistan
– Poverty and Human Rights
– Human Rights Defenders in Russia
– Vedanta putting Human Rights at Risk in India
– 30 Years of Campaigning with Trade Unions
– Women’s Human Rights
My Rights Passports (bilingual)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights posters (English and Welsh)
Introduction to Amnesty DVDs (English and Welsh)
I Talk Out Loud (Youth Groups) DVDs
Poverty and Human rights pack (English 14+)
Learning about Human Rights in Primary Schools packs (English and Welsh)
Death Penalty pack (English 14+)
Your Street (human rights poster)
General resources for stalls and collections
Clipboards and pens
Blue tac, tape and pins
Candle and barbed wire
Greetings cards (for annual greetings cards campaign)
Protect the Human badges
A smaller carrying box for taking materials to events
Collecting buckets and tins
Anti-Drones Demonstration in Aberporth
On Monday 9th September the Drones Campaign Network Cymru is holding a peaceful demonstration against drone warfare at Aberporth in West Wales. Parc Aberporth is the main military drone testing, training and evaluation centre in Wales.
Tuesday, 3 September 2013
Hello everyone – the Amnesty Cardiff Group is back in action after a summer break. Our next meeting will be on Monday 9th September when we will look at campaigning with social media. Our guest speakers are Will Barker and Liz Rawlins who are PR and Digital Officers at Tenovus.
We have also invited other local campaigning groups such as Oxfam, Friends of the Earth and the UNA to join us to share ideas and experience.
Everyone is welcome so please invite anyone who may be interested.
Sunday, 25 August 2013
Côr Cochion 30th Anniversary
Hi folks, we have been invited to have a stall at an event for Côr Cochion’s 30th Anniversary on September 14th at 7.30pm The Gate, Keppoch Street, Roath. They have supported many human rights campaigns and raised huge amounts for various groups and causes including Amnesty so if you would like to volunteer to help at the stall please get in touch with us here, on facebook, or at email@example.com.
More information here: http://www.corcochion.org.uk/
Friday, 9 August 2013
We don’t meet in August so the blog may be quiet for the next few weeks until we return in September. We are planning an autumn programme of events including meetings on social media campaigning, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. We will also have our annual greetings card campaign evening in Chapter Arts Centre and a fundraising Amnestea party.
We are hoping to involve students from the Cardiff University group as well as the new University of South Wales group that will launch in freshers week!
See you in September!
Urgent Action Network – report from our June meeting
Our speaker in June was our very own Elizabeth Jenkins, talking about Amnesty’s Urgent Action Network, which celebrates 40 years of work this year. Elizabeth herself has been sending urgent actions for three quarters of that time!
Elizabeth is just one of thousands of Amnesty members who have signed up to take action by e-mail, airmail or fax when an immediate response is required where someone faces immediate danger, torture or execution or perhaps access to medical treatment. Volunteers sign up for as many as they want to do, with Elizabeth typically sending 16-24 per year. Currently the network has 165,000 members worldwide, 13,900 of them in the UK.
Many times you will get no reply. In other cases you may hear from the ambassador, minister or other official. In some cases you may even hear from the prisoner themselves (like the reply left from Taiwan).
Back in 1983, urgent actions came through the post and Elizabeth would then deliver them around Cardiff by bike to other volunteers in the group. Now actions are via e-mail or text messages (see further down how to sign up).
The first ever urgent action
Elizabeth’s talk focussed around individual cases, starting with the first ever urgent action for Brazilian professor, Luis Rossi in February 1973. Luis was taken by the security forces and was at risk of torture. Unable to leave the house, his wife Maria Jose threw a note into the neighbour’s garden who informed the local priest and eventually, via the bishop and a Belgian Catholic college, the news reached Amnesty in London. As the letters flooded in, Luis Rossi was released.
Elizabeth then moved on to talk about some of the more memorable urgent actions she had written. Her very first was in 1983 on behalf of 22 Iranian Baha’i followers facing the death penalty. Elizabeth received a reply from the embassy but 19 of the 22 were still executed.
Other memorable cases included:
• 1985 – writing on behalf of a Bulgarian pastor, Hristo Kulichev, detained for opposing the government interference with the church. Following his release, Elizabeth met him in Ebbw Vale when he came to speak
• 1990 – writing on behalf of a Kenyan opposition leader at risk of torture. In reply Elizabeth received a personal telegram from the Kenyan Attorney General
• 1992 – after writing to a South African newspaper about the Goldstone Commission into the shooting dead of 30 ANC demonstrators, Elizabeth received a personal reply from the (Welsh!) editor of the paper, Glyn Williams, with cuttings of supportive articles and editorials;
• 1996 – receiving a phone call from the Rwandan ambassador in response to her letter about the ill treatment of three journalists;
More recently Elizabeth has exchanged several letters and cards from a group supporting a Taiwanese prisoner, Chiou Ho-Shun, held on death row since 1999. These have been extremely colourful with hand-drawn cartoons by his cell-mate showing his dreams of a life in freedom.
Do you speak Russian?
The latest reply that Elizabeth has received comes from Uzbekistan, but being in Russian, she has no idea what it says. If you help with translation please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most memorably, Elizabeth described a visit in 1991 to El Salvador, where she met people who represented three links in the urgent action chain: nuns who forwarded information to Amnesty on human rights abuses; an army colonel who responded to appeals for individual prisoners; and a Baptist pastor, for whom she had sent urgent actions. He spoke of being shown, on his release, a huge pile of letters sent by supporters and being told: ‘We didn’t know you were so important.’ He responded, ‘I’m not. I just have a very large family!’
How can you get involved?
If you would like to sign up for the Urgent Action scheme, head to the website at http://www.amnesty.org.uk/ua where you can choose how many cases a month you would like to sign up to. Even if it’s only one a month, that’s 12 people in urgent need that you’ll be helping every year.
Alternatively Amnesty has a new new SMS campaigning network called Pocket Protest (www.amnesty.org.uk/pocketprotest) – sign up by text and get urgent actions sent to you phone for an immediate response. See some of the people that the network has helped already at www2.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/sms-action-network
Tuesday, 16 July 2013
Penarth Street Collection
Thanks to everyone who collected or donated at our street collection in Penarth. We raised £115.33
We are planning some new fundraising events for the next year including an Amnestea Party in the autumn and a pub quiz in the spring.
Watch this space or e-mail email@example.com to volunteer to help with our fundraising for Amnesty’s vital human rights work.
Tuesday, 16 July 2013
Afghanistan – Report from our July meeting
Our guest speaker in July was Chris Usher, Amnesty International UK’s Afghanistan co-ordinator.
Afghanistan is the size of Texas. It has a population of 30 million, 25% of whom live in urban areas. Afganistan is a landlocked country: to the north, the former Soviet central Asian republics like Uzbekistan and Tajikstan; to the west, Iran; to the east, Pakistan. So Afghanistan is at a crossroads: historically it has been a buffer state between major powers – Great Britain, Russia, the Soviet Union and latterly the US.
Afghanistan gained its full independence from Great Britain in 1919. Ironically, given present circumstances, women in Afghanistan gained the right to vote in 1919, ahead of universal female suffrage in Britain in 1928!
Present day Afghanistan has had no respite from war: the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, the Taliban in the 90’s, and the US invasion in December 2001 just after 9/11.
The place of women in Afghanistan
Today Afghanistan is a pretty desperate place for women, but this has not always been the case. Back in the 1960s the country was a haven for hippies. In those days women wore mini-skirts in Kabul. The country is said nowadays to be the worst place in the world to be a woman. Maternal mortality is 50 times greater than in the UK. The Taliban banned girls’ education when they ran the country. In present-day Afghanistan a girl receives 5 years of education compared with 8 for a boy. Life expectancy for a woman is 50.
Two case histories of Afghan women
(Fatama is not her real name; she was interviewed by an Amnesty researcher 18 months ago).
A poor woman, Fatama lived in Kabul with her husband and seven children before the Talban took over the country. He husband is mentally ill and is incapable of work, so Fatama has been the main family breadwinner.
When NATO invaded Afghanistan, the family fled to Pakistan, living in an UNHCR refugee camp. When the situation in Afghanistan improved, the refugee camp was closed and programmes of voluntary repatriation back to Afganistan were started. When Fatama’s family came back they could not return to their old home, so they moved into an empty shop in Kabul and set up a home there. But they lost this when the shop owner returned and claimed his property back.
Fatama tried to make ends meet by taking on laundering and cleaning. She built a house from mud and corrugated iron in a Kabul shanty town. Somehow by these means she supported the whole family. When AI researchers asked her what in a better life she would ask of the Afghan government in support of her family, she said on everything. As things stand her home periodically falls down. She has no help with school fees. She doesn’t have a fridge.
Her background is very different from Fatima’s. Fawzia’s family had a middle class lifestyle. Her father was an Afghan MP in the 1970s. He had several wives, so Fawzia’s mother was desperate to give him a son, but instead Fawzia was born. Fawzia’s mother was sidelined by her father because she failed to provide him with a son; so disappointed was the family that Fawzia was left out in the sun to die, yet somehow she survived.
She grew up in a big family of twenty children and several wives. She managed to persuade her parents to let her go to school. She wanted to become a doctor, but this dream evaporated when the Taliban came to power and closed down schools for girls. She was sent by her family to Pakistan where she did receive an education.
She was employed in Pakistan by the UN. Her marriage was arranged, but her husband died at the hands of the Taliban, like her father. She was left a single mother with two children.
Although from a middle class family, she had few resources. In 2009 she took a big step and stood as an MP. 27% of Afghan MPs are women – a larger % than in the UK. She was elected for a district in Kabul.
She is going to have an attempt to stand as President of Afghanistan in the 2014 election, even though there is strong resistance in Afghanistan to women having any role in its politics.
In 2012 no Afghan woman was allowed to speak at an international conference in Paris on the future of the country. Around 40-50 women MPs have gained some influence in Afghanistan.
The number of women in the Afghan police is small. There is a big drive to recruit more women: women in Afghanistan will not report instances of sexual assault or domestic violence to male officers.
Amnesty International’s efforts regarding the rights of women in Afghanistan
AI is pressurising the British Government to use its influence regarding proper provision for women’s rights in any negotiations about Afghanistan’s future. Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, has promised that DIFD will prioritise this issue.
Given that the Taliban don’t accept equal rights for women, AI in association with a number of NGOs has written ‘ Afghanistan: An Action Plan on Women’s Rights’, an action plan to protect women’s rights in the peace process. AI have emphasised that you cannot make peace by sacrificing women’s rights. It is now pressing the British Foreign Office and DIFD to ensure the plan is implemented.
1. What legal protections exist now for women’s rights?
There is notional equality. Some recent legislation to improve women’s rights was blocked in the Afghan Parliament.
The realities continue: 80% of Afghan women endure domestic violence. There is no recourse for women experiencing sexual assault: they just won’t report incidents to their local police station.
Generally women are in a better situation in non-Pashtun areas and in towns.
- Is the position of women the same across the whole of Afghanistan?
No, the position is worse in the Pashtun areas where there are very few women activists. But in other areas, for example in the Hazara and Tajik areas in the north the picture is much better.
- Could Afghanistan break up?
It is important to remember that over the last 200 years the Pashtun have dominated Afghanistan, although that has not been the case in recent years. At present they are not dominant in the Afghan army. After international combat forces withdraw from the country by the end of 2014, Afghanistan’s army could break up into tribal-based units.
A graphic portrayal of racism in Afghanistan is given in the novel ‘The Kiterunner’ by Khaled Hosseini.
- To what extent can AI influence the US Government re women’s rights in negotiations with the Taliban?
AIUS has more limited influence with the US Govt compared with that exercised by AIUK with the British Government. Kate Allen, AIUK Secretary meets William Hague about twice a year to discuss human rights issues.
Thanks were expressed to Chris for coming from London to give these illuminating insights into women’s issues in Afghanistan.
Friday, 12 July 2013
Zimbabwe Elections – Stop the Descent into Violence
President Mugabe has announced that Zimbabwe will hold elections on 31 July.
When the last elections were held – in 2008 – a wave of politically motivated violence spread across the country after the first round of polling. More than 200 people were killed, 10,000 injured and 28,000 forced to flee their homes.
In 2008 it took the intervention of Zimbabwe’s neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to stem the bloodshed. This time, we want them to use their influence to prevent the violence from happening in the first place, and send in human rights monitors so that human rights defenders and activists can carry out their work without fear.
Tanzania is chair of the group responsible for peace and security within the region. Help prevent the bloodshed returning in 2013 – sign our petition to the Tanzanian President, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.
Friday, 12 July 2013
Syria Petition – Response from the UK Government
On 18 May 2013, members of the Cardiff Amnesty Group took to the streets in Cardiff city centre to campaign for human rights in Syria. During the day we collected over 300 signatures to a petition to the British government which read:
“We the undersigned call on the UK Government to support human rights in Syria by working with the UN to ensure there is systematic documentation of abuses so that perpetrators can be brought to justice in the international courts.”
Last month we had a reply from the Minister responsible, which assured Amnesty supporters that the UK Government was committed upholding human rights and bringing those responsible for abuses before the International Criminal Court.
While the letter did not directly respond to our request for Britain’s support in the documentation of abuses, it is nonetheless worthwhile knowing that our concerns have been raised.
Wednesday, 10 July 2013
AGM – New group officers
At our recent AGM the following were elected:
Chair: Stuart Cane
Secretary: Hannah Pickard
Treasurer: Megan Mandizha
We extend special thanks to Paul Jeremy who steps down as secretary after two years of hard work. Particular mention must go to his excellent organisation of the large Burma and Algeria petition events that were held in 2010 and 2012.
We also welcome Hannah who brings youth and enthusiasm to the group!
There are also another half a dozen “regulars” who meet together monthly as an informal committee (which makes it sound far more formal that it is!) to help run the group. We will publicise meetings on this page and anyone is welcome to join us.
The Current Situation in Kashmir
7.00pm Temple of PeaceHear about the current situation in Kashmir, looking at the present human rights situation and the ramification of conflict on the daily lives of the 13 million people of Kashmir particularly children.Speakers: Professor Luke Clements (Cardiff Law School) and Shahid Ronga
Event organised by the United Nations Association.
Wednesday, 3 July 2013
It’s time to put Sri Lanka’s human rights in the spotlight
As Sri Lanka gears up to host a meeting of Commonwealth leaders in November, it’s time for the government to come clean about torture, unlawful detention and the countless other abuses that continue to plague the island unchecked – and stop them.
As the spotlight falls on Sri Lanka this year, Amnesty is detirmined that it shines on the human rights abuses in the country.
It’s time to tell President Rajapaksa that it’s time to stop. Sign the petition at: http://campaigns.amnesty.org/campaigns/security-with-human-rights/tell-the-truth
July Meeting – Human Rights for Women in Afghanistan
7.30pm Quaker Meeting House, Charles Street, CardiffWhat does the future hold for the women of Afghanistan? Will the advances made since the fall of the Taliban be under threat as a future is hammered out in negotiations?Come and hear about Amnesty’s campaign to protect and improve the human rights of women in Afghanistan with guest speaker Chris Usher, Amnesty UK’s Afghanistan co-ordinator.
All are welcome!
Welcome – we are trying something new and moving our newsletter online – that way it can be updated whenever there’s something new to share and it’s visible to anyone.
Our main site is at www.amnestycardiff.org.uk but, who knows, this may replace it soon!
For over 10 years the Amnesty Cardiff Goup has supported the campaign for a global arms treaty. Since 2003 we have sent letters, signed petitions and, in my case, worn a Rheolwch Arfau t-shirt (Control Arms in Welsh!) as part of the joint campaign by Amnesty, Oxfam and the other members of the Control Arms coalition.
Successive UK governments have been a strong voice of support and in April 2013, the United Nations finally voted in favour.
Now the battle is on to get 50 countries to sign the treaty to bring it into international law. It really feels like the home straight now!
Ian Cobain talk – February 2013
Our February meeting was jointly held with Cardiff University Amnesty Group and probably had a record attendance for a Cardiff Amnesty meeting, with over 150 people in Cardiff Law School to hear Ian Cobain, an investigative journalist with The Guardian.
His book, “Cruel Britannia: The Secret History of Torture” is the result of his enquiries into the UK’s involvement with torture since the Second World War. For his work on torture, Ian has been awarded the Martha Gellhorn Prize and the Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism.
Before responding to questions on his investigations into the involvement of the British state in torture, Ian gave the meeting some insights into how he had come to take an interest in this issue.
His interest in the subject began when The Guardian asked him to report on a terrorism trial at the Old Bailey in 2006-7 in which a number of British Muslims were accused of planning a bomb attack on the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London. Six men had been arrested in the South of England and one in Pakistan. Over a 10 month period the latter was repeatedly tortured by the authorities in Pakistan. It was claimed that two MI5 officers called Richard and Matt were asking the accused man questions between these torture sessions. Some of these questions became the focus of subsequent torture sessions.
Later, Ian learnt of another man with dual British and Pakistani citizenship enduring similar treatment. Ian then encountered the case of a Rochdale man held in Pakistan who had been subjected to an alternating regime of torture and questioning by MI5 officers – there was no suggestion of MI5 involvement in the interrogations involving torture itself.
Shortly thereafter Ian was asked to investigate the case of Rashid Rauf who was suspected of involvement in ‘the airline plot’ in which 12 planes were to be brought down over the Atlantic. Rauf had been born in Pakistan but raised in Birmingham. In 2006 he was arrested in Pakistan and subjected, so it was claimed, to torture over a long period; again there were claims that British intelligence officers had questioned Rauf in similar circumstances to the previous cases Ian had encountered. Quite extraordinarily, it was reported that Rauf had escaped from custody in late 2007, apparently from a mosque where he had been allowed to pray alone. This disappearance was extremely suspicious. Ian was in Pakistan at the end of 2007 and decided to investigate the Rashid Rauf case further. He went to see Rauf’s lawyer in Islamabad. When Ian asked the lawyer if torture was common practice in Pakistan the lawyer laughed, pointing out that torture is a matter of routine for anyone arrested by the Pakistani intelligence services.
Upon making further enquiries, Ian was told that four other British citizens were being tortured.
Ian started to consider whether these cases, if true, were random episodes, or whether there was a deliberate policy being pursued by the British authorities that condoned torture. He initially found this difficult to believe. Accordingly he decided to investigate whether the British state had been pursuing interrogation practices involving torture techniques in any other areas.
His first step was to look at the ‘London Cage’, a World War Two interrogation centre in Kensington. As a result of his research in the Collingdale Newspaper Library and examining declassified documents at the National Archives in Kew, Ian uncovered evidence of systematic torture of Germans POWs held in the London Cage.
Bad Nenndorf in Lower Saxony was another British interrogation centre found to be using systematic torture techniques between 1946-7.
As the story unfolded, Ian uncovered evidence of a network of British interrogation centres in Hanover, Keele, Berlin, Casablanca, Algiers, Brussels and Beirut etc.
After this early research Ian saw the value in trying to ‘join up the dots’. A picture soon emerged that gave ample evidence of the use of systematic torture in post-war colonial wars fought by the British State; abuses of suspects in Northern Ireland; and allegations arising from the 2003 war in Iraq. There were other common factors: the same individuals in the intelligent services seemed to link these abuses; the same interrogation techniques were being used in each instance; the same concealment methods were used to hide the truth concerning abuses of human rights.
Having explained the circumstances which led him to research and write the book, Ian asked for questions.
- What were the common strands uncovered in the use of torture by the British state in the Second World War and after?
In May 1940 Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. There was a pervasive fear that fifth columnists were active in the country and MI5 gave high priority to tracking them down. As a result the Home Office was persuaded to set up a secret interrogation centre in south-west London known as Camp 020.
This was run by a highly secret committee: its secretary was Kenneth Diplock, who produced the infamous Diplock Report in 1972. It was this report that led to the establishment in Northern Ireland of special courts where those charged of terrorist offences were tried before a single judge without recourse to a jury.
Another figure providing continuity was Sir Richard ‘Dick’ White who was involved in the management of Camp 020. White, who went on to be head of MI5 and MI6, was a firm believer in the utility of interrogation; for over thirty years he played a significant role in its use by the British State.
There was also continuity in the interrogation methods known as the ‘Five Techniques’. These techniques combined stress tortures: starvation; sleep deprivation; hooding; an incessant hissing noise (introduced later than the other torture methods); and ‘wall-standing’ in which the prisoner would be forced to stand with his or her legs spread wide apart, leaning forward with arms spread wide and high, with much of their weight supported against a wall on outstretched fingers.
In 1972 Edward Heath, the Prime Minister, banned the further use of these methods in Northern Ireland. In practice, however, these ‘integration techniques’ continued to be used following secret guidelines drawn up by the Ministry of Defence but left in ‘draft’ form. As these guidelines have remained in ‘draft’ form the British Government has always been able to deny their existence. Despite opposition from British Army lawyers, these techniques were resumed in the interrogation of Iraqi prisoners from 2003 onwards.
- Were women involved in these abuses?
Ian had found one instance where a main interrogation centre in south-east Iraq was run by a female British naval officer.
- What do we know about the use of torture during the Palestine Emergency?
Ian explained that the picture is unclear due to the lack of evidence. A lot of documents were destroyed when the British withdrew from Palestine in 1947. One detail he did note was that Sir Kenneth Newman was a member of the Palestine Police Force. Newman was later to become Chief Constable of the RUC in the later 1970s when the Five Techniques were being systematically used in Northern Ireland interrogation centres.
- Why did the British Government not destroy the documents which revealed these practices?
Sometimes records were forgotten. A case in point was an archive relating to the Mau Mau Emergency in Kenya that was discovered in an obscure country house in Buckinghamshire. Thanks to a historical consultant working for the Kenyan victims of British torture centres and to the good offices of William Hague, Foreign Secretary, these records were made public at the National Archives.
- Is there any evidence of British intelligence officers participating in the torture of detainees in Guantanamo?
No, they were not involved directly in torture, but British intelligence officers were in Guantanamo very often. Guidelines were updated which allowed intelligence officer to question prisoners, but not in the interrogation sessions where torture was being used.
- Were successive Governments unaware of what their security services were doing?
Despite the public ban he imposed on their use, Edward Heath knew that the Five Techniques were being used in Northern Ireland.
Today if a British agent thinks that someone is being tortured he or she must refer the situation up a chain of command. This chain ends with the Foreign Secretary for final resolution. David Miliband claims that sometimes he said no to further British involvement in such a situation – which means that at other times he gave his consent. There is no evidence that any effort was made by Miliband to investigate the fate of detainees where British officers were permitted to continue asking questions outside the torture sessions.
- Why have so few investigative journalists looked into the issue of the British state and torture?
It is difficult to say. In Northern Ireland there were Irish papers and The Sunday Times that took an interest. To its shame, The Guardian at that time published an editorial supporting the use of torture. ‘D’ notices became redundant years ago. One practice that does continue is that the heads of the intelligence agencies have cosy lunches with newspaper editors.
- Might it be the case that Ministers didn’t actually know what was going on at the time?
Northern Ireland Secretaries must have known about abuses taking place in the 1970s. Equally, Winston Churchill must have known of abuses regarding the wartime interrogation centres; Attlee likewise about Bad Nenndorf 1946-7.
- What, if anything, do we know about Jack Straw’s stance on these allegations?
As Foreign Secretary in 2005, Jack Straw appeared before the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee and stated that “there is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition, full stop, because we have not been.” He called the allegations a “conspiracy theory”. When subsequently the UK Government faced civil actions on behalf of Guantanamo prisoners, documents became available which showed that the UK had been involved in extraordinary rendition.
We now know that in 2002 Jack Straw had sent a telegram stating that no objection should be made to the transfer of British nationals captured in Afghanistan to Guantanamo. The only stipulation was that these British citizens should not be removed from Afghanistan untill MI5 interrogators had questioned them.
Ian Cobain has tried to arrange an interview with Jack Straw but without success.
We know that Jack Straw was Foreign Secretary at the time when MI6 were rendering Libyan dissidents into the hands of the Gaddai regime. This situation has come to light as a result of the recent publication of the ‘Tripoli documents’. In a recent radio interview Straw argued that a Foreign Secretary cannot know everything that the intelligence services are undertaking. This evasion did not go down well with the intelligence agencies involved in the Libyan renditions. Scotland Yard is currently looking into the allegations of the Libyan dissidents.
- Have you found any heroes in your researches into British involvement in torture?
Barbara Castle was vociferous in Parliament about abuses inflicted on Mau Mau suspects in Kenya. There was also a police inspector called Heywood who exposed abuses at Bad Nenndorf. In Northern Ireland a senior police doctor, Robert Irwin, exposed malpractice in interrogation centres. More recently Lieut. Colonel Nicholas Mercer, a senior army lawyer, repeatedly warned the British military in Iraq that prisoners were protected by the European Convention.
- Given that your book reveals how successive British governments have repeatedly broken international conventions, what should now be done?
There needs to be an absolute prohibition by the British Government on any involvement in torture. Those responsible for the post-9/11 abuses should be persecuted.
- Do you have a view about the apathy of the general public about these cases?
Ian wondered aloud whether the British public were apathetic or content that terrorists should suffer on the basis that ‘they’ve got it coming to them’.
On behalf of Amnesty International, Owen Collins thanked Ian Cobain for his introductory comments on why he had written the book and for responding to such a wide range of questions.
Cruel Britannia – A Secret History of Torture
Portobello Books 2012
Lend a Hand for Burma – March 2012
On Saturday 24th March 2012, volunteers from the Cardiff Amnesty Group, university and local schools groups joined forces to call for the release of Burma’s political prisoners. We did this by asking the public to give us a hand – literally – by drawing around their hand and signing our petition wall. Hundreds of people signed and our wall and many were photographed showing their support.
On May 31st Stuart, chair of the Cardiff Group, took the petition to London, where he met Costa (our former secretary) to present it to the Burmese Embassy. Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly) the embassy refused to accept the petition.
Fortunately we had come prepared with a camera and a letter explaining our visit, so we took some photos and left the petition and letter on the embassy doorstep.
Photos of the day are on our Flickr page.
Where is Djamel? – May 2010
For several years we have worked on behalf of Djameleddine (Djamel) Fahassi, a journalist and married man, with one daughter, who was just 4 months old when he disappeared in Algeria on 6 May 1995. He was arrested outside a café in the district of al-Harrach (suburb of Algiers) by 3 men with walkie-talkies. He was forced into a car and has not been seen since.
Our focus has been three-fold:
- to write to the Algerian authorities to try to get information about Djamel, what happened to him, and where he is now;
- to try to draw attention in this country to the situation in Algeria;
- to support Djamel’s family in their fight for the truth.
We are in regular contact with Djamel’s wife, Safia, who is a member of a group of people in Algeria who all have ‘disappeared’ relatives or friends. Her e-mails paint a picture of everyday life and tireless campaigning which remain a constant inspiration for those working on his case.
On 8th May 2010, to mark the 15th anniversary of Djamel’s disappearance, we held an event in Cardiff city centre to publicise his case. We collected over 650 signatures and 100 photographs of shoppers with a “Where is Djamel banner” which we sent to the Algerian embassy and to Safia to encourage her in her work. Even First Minister Carwyn Jones supported the petition and had his photo taken!
Before the event we received an e-mail from Safia saying:
“What you are planning to do for my husband is wonderful. I’ll be doing the same thing in Algeria. I appreciate your help in sending me the petition and all that you will be doing so far in the anniversary.”
Anas al-Shogre, “Disappeared” human rights activist in Syria
Syrian political activist Anas al-Shogre (born 24 October 1988) has been detained incommunicado since the night of 14 May 2011, when he was arrested, apparently for calling for and leading protests against repression of demonstrations in other parts of the country and calling for political reform and in the coastal city of Banias. He had been in hiding at the time, as a security operation was under way in the city.
The Amnesty International Cardiff Group has adopted the case of Anas al-Shogre and will be letter-writing and campaigning on his behalf.
One of Anas al-Shogre’s brothers, who is living outside Syria, told Amnesty International in October 2011 that the family had learnt from an apparently reliable source that Anas al-Shogre was held at the State Security branch in Damascus, that he was unwell and had “lost a lot of weight”. This has heightened concern that he may have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated. The source provided no further information.The authorities have not said where he is being held.
Another of his brothers told Amnesty International that the family learned from some former detainees, who were also arrested during the security operation in Banias but later released, that initially Anas al-Shogre had been held in solitary confinement at the Military Security branch in the city of Tartus, south of Banias, before being transferred to the State Security branch in Damascus. They also told Anas al-Shogre’s family that while in the Military Security branch they heard him scream, “I don’t want to live, let me die,” raising fears he was being tortured.
His family visited that branch and asked for him on a number of occasions. Military Security personnel confirmed that he was being held at a security branch, but told the family they had no right to ask about him while he was held in such an establishment, and refused to provide further details.