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June 2022 Updates

Thank you to FL for these updates. If you would prefer, you can read them as a PDF.

Welcome & Introductions

Amnesty Meeting 2022-06-09

Attendees:

FL, JG, CA, CL, TP, MR, AM, SS, SN, MJ, HP, IH, JC, AM, KM, NH, S, AJ, AA-B

This month's updates

  • Welcoming Refugees in Glasgow: Ahlam Al-Bashiri and Dr Teresa
    Piacentini

  • Save the Human Rights Act Campaign

  • Local Group Update from AIUK

  • Pride 2022

  • Urgent Actions

Welcoming Refugees in Glasgow: Ahlam Al-Bashiri and Dr Teresa Piacentini

Thanks to Silvia for arranging for Ahlam and Teresa to talk to the group and writing the following bios.

Ahlam Al-Bashiri

Ahlam is a Community development student at the University of Glasgow, and an activist for the rights of people seeking refuge in the UK and Scotland.

She has been active in campaigning for the right to vote for New Scots. In February 2020, the Scottish Parliament passed a new law which extends the right to vote in Scottish elections to people who are over 16 and live in Scotland. This includes everyone with leave to remain, including people with refugee status.

Thanks to Ahlam, and many other people campaigning, refugees could vote in the last Scottish Elections in 2021.

Dr Teresa Piacentini

Teresa is a researcher, teacher and activist, and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Glasgow, at the School of Social and Political Sciences.

The focus of her academic career teaching and research are the experiences of people seeking asylum and refugees in Scotland. Prior to her PhD, she has worked as a community interpreter in the asylum sector and with a range of public sector and third sector agencies.

Teresa's interests lie in the broad field of migration studies covering the various aspects of social, cultural and political life affecting people's experiences of making Scotland their home. She researches and teaches about ‘settlement', belonging and a critical engagement with what we mean by 'integration'.

Ahlam gave us a personal and fascinating talk on her own experiences as a refugee escaping the war in her home country of Yemen. She explained to us the importance of having the right to vote for human dignity and empowerment. Ahlam outlined to us the actions she took in this successful campaign. Her new focus is the Lift the Ban campaign which looks to change the laws prohibiting asylum seekers from working in the UK.

Here are some links with more information on the Lift the Ban Campaign
and how to get involved:

https://www.refugee-action.org.uk/lift-the-ban/

https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/lift-the-ban/

Teresa gave us a fascinating history of the key events and policies regarding the situation for asylum seekers in Glasgow from 2000 when dispersal began to now. She explained the different community responses there have been over this period and what forms of campaigning have been most successful.

Want to find out more? Here are some useful resources:

Solidarity Gathering, George Square, Tuesday 14th June, 6pm

Stop offshore detention to Rwanda!

The Home Office scheduled their first flight to remove to Rwanda people
seeking asylum on 14th June.

Join other members of Glasgow West at this gathering. More information
contact Claire L
(candyclaire@hotmail.com).

Save the Human Rights Act Campaign

Thank you to Andrew for putting together this briefing note on the Human Rights Act Campaign.

/N.B. This paper is a first draft. Any comments, corrections or
suggestions from colleagues within the local AI Group would be very much
welcomed./

Purpose

This paper sets out some of the issues relating to AIUK's ‘/Save the Human Rights Act/' campaign. The purpose is to help focus discussion within the local AI group about potential actions that could be taken to help promote and deliver on this work.

Background on the Human Rights Act

The Human Rights Act (HRA) set out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to. It incorporated into domestic British law the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). 

The ECHR itself was founded in the aftermath of WWII, to help ensure that Governments could never again ‘dehumanise and abuse people's rights with impunity'. The ECHR is an international human rights treaty between the 46 states that are members of the Council of Europe (not to be confused with the European Union).

The HRA came into force in the UK in Oct 2000.

The Act has three main effects:

  1. Citizens can seek justice in a British Court;

  2. Public Bodies are obliged to respect human rights: and

  3. New laws require to be compatible with ECHR rights.

Prior to the HRA, UK citizens could only bring a legal challenge relating to their rights under the ECHR via the European Court of Human Rights. That process is typically lengthy and expensive. The HRA allows the rights guaranteed by the ECHR to be enforced in UK courts, thereby simplifying and improving citizen's access to justice within the UK.

AIUK has set out various examples of how the HRA has helped deliver justice over the past two decades. This includes in areas such as holding police to account for failings at Hillsborough, exposing shortcomings in Inquests relating to avoidable hospital deaths; requiring local authorities to provide essential care services and underpinning the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement.

Recent UK Government Activities relating to the HRA

The UK Government has sought to make a number of changes to the HRA in recent years, which many consider will undermine the duties and safeguards provided by the Act.

Concerns about ‘Human Rights impinging on the rule of law' has been a long-standing issue within some sections of the Conservative Party.

Intentions were set out in a 2014 paper Protecting Human Rights in the UK: The Conservatives’ Proposals for Changing Britain’s Human Rights Laws.

The narrative around this has been couched as replacing the HRA with a
"modern UK Bill of Rights". The Government's 2019 manifesto pledged to:

“… update the Human Rights Act and administrative law to ensure there
is a proper balance between the rights of individuals, our vital
national security and effective government.”

The changes proposed by the UK Government have been widely condemned by
a range of commentators. In its response to the UK Government's
consultation regarding the proposed changes to the HRA, the Law Society
(the independent professional body for solicitors) set out the
following:

“While we welcome the government's continued commitment to remaining a
party to the European Convention on Human Rights, we're concerned by the
proposals put forward which fundamentally change the framework of the
Human Rights Act and the protections it provides.

We do not believe there is a case for the sweeping reforms proposed.

We're concerned that the proposed reforms do not recognise the
significant benefits that have been achieved for British society through
the HRA, that is, improving access to justice and upholding the rule of
law.

We believe the proposals will:

  • damage the rule of law

  • prevent access to justice

  • reduce or remove rights

  • lead to more cases being taken to the European Court of Human Rights

  • impact devolution

  • damage the UK's international reputation

  • create legal uncertainty

  • increase costs and complexity"

Concerns raised in the consultation on the draft Bill included those
relating to data laws, privacy, rights of minorities, lack of detailed
impact analysis on the proposed changes, etc.

Separate legislation, such as the Police, Crimes and Sentencing Act 2022' 1 impact on issues such as holding protests. That Act
includes provision for protests to be banned or shut down on the basis
of them being too disruptive or noisy. The UK Government stated that the
new legislation was necessary due to new forms of protest, such as that
carried out by Extinction Rebellion, causing undue disruption. For many,
the right to protest is a seen as inextricably linked with wider human
rights and, it has been pointed out that some of today's accepted rights
only came into being as a result of protestors challenging and breaking
unjust laws.

AIUK Strategic Plan Priorities

The [AIUK Strategic Plan](https://www.amnesty.org.uk/files/2021-05/STRATEGY 2022-2030.pdf?VersionId=eJ.NKqmhU9vVI0m5_wFCBuc_Ii_MwL3q) 2022-30 includes Priority Issue 4 ‘Human Rights Frameworks'.

“Human rights frameworks are the bodies of law and standards that
describe our human rights, support their respect, protection and
fulfilment and offer access to remedy for abuses – in the UK and
globally. These protections are under significant threat and such
threats require us to be vigilant against attempts to dilute our rights
through amendment or scrapping of existing laws and to the introduction
of new laws that erode existing rights.

In the next strategic period, we will actively challenge the narrative
that seeks to undermine human rights protections at home and abroad.”

(AIUK Strategic Plan 2022-30, p.7)

AIUK also set out a summary of the key benefits that the HRA brings to the UK.

Potential Actions for local AI group

The undernoted are some initial ideas for potential actions that the
local AI Group might take to support AIUK's ‘Save the HRA' campaign.

  1. Improve awareness and understanding of the issues by group members reading information on the HRA and the potential implications of the current UK Government's changes, discussing these within the local group and considering useful actions that could be taken.

    (Linked to point 1., The Good Law Project is hosting a free online discussion event ‘Is the UK Shutting Down Dissent: Protest in the New Age of Policing Powers' with an interesting range of key speakers on Weds 15th June @ 5pm-6pm )

  2. Sign the AIUK petition to save the HRA: (https://savetheact.uk/#signup-form)

  3. Disseminate information on the changes proposed by the UK Government to the HRA and encourage others to sign the petition, e.g. via social media, etc.

  4. Link with other AI local groups within Scotland and with the Scottish AI office to undertake more co-ordinated action.

  5. Link with other like-minded organisations locally that have similar concerns relating to the UK Government's proposed amendments to the HRA office to undertake more co-ordinated action.

  6. Other potential actions? – to be discussed by local group

Conclusion / Recommendation

This short paper has attempted to summarise the context, main issues and
potential actions for the local group relating to AIUK's HRA ‘Save the
Act' campaign.

The local AI Group is asked to:

  • Consider the issues raised within the paper and discuss whether this area ought to be a priority action area for the local group; and

  • If so, to agree, prioritise and schedule actions that the local group will undertake.

Selected References and Links for Further Information

AIUK, Briefing on the European Convention on Human Rights, 2018.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/what-is-the-european-convention-on-human-rights

AIUK dedicated website relating to AIUK's HRA ‘/Save the Act'/
campaign

https://savetheact.uk/about/

AIUK, 8 Reasons Why the HRA makes the UK a Better Place', 2020

EHRC, website of the Equality & Human Rights Commission, including
information on the rights covered by the HRA, the work of the EHRC, etc.

https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/human-rights/human-rights-act

The Guardian, 3/10/14, 'Conservatives plan to scrap Human Rights Act',

The Guardian, 10/5/15 Michael Gove to proceed with Tories' plans to scrap human rights act

Good Law Project, Briefing on the Police, Crimes and Sentencing Bill
(The short article also includes a link to the detailed legal advice
obtained by the GLP
), 2021.

https://goodlawproject.org/news/return-of-the-policing-bill/

Liberty, ‘Right to Protest',

https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/right/right-to-protest/

UK Government, Protest Powers: Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, May 2022

Local Group Update from AIUK

Please follow the link to read the latest Local Groups Update:

http://email.amnestyuk.org.uk/q/1eWABBv7DfY4wYeK6l7YDGP/wv

Issues covered in this month's mailing:

  • Human Rights and Social Justice Film Night + Q&A organised by the Kingston and District Amnesty groups (recorded and available to watch online).

  • Standing against the government's Rwanda policy

  • Real Lives Magazine supplement available to read here.

  • Local group fundraising update

  • Upcoming online Amnesty UK events

  • Save the date: National Conference - Saturday 5 November 2022

  • Obituary for Amnesty member Denis Newbury and congratulations to Bob Dewick (marked 40 years as Group Secretary to the Bognor Regis, Chichester & District Group)

  • Refugee Week events

  • Amnesty UK campaign updates

  • New film on the campaign to ban killer robots (fully autonomous weapons systems)

Amnesty AGM and National Conference 2022

If you're a paid member of Amnesty International, you should have received information in the post regarding how to attend the online AGM and vote on the resolutions. The local group also has the right to vote. Please complete this poll (https://forms.gle/QVUvT4GgwUtLC4e1A) by Sunday 19th June and group secretary, Freya, will submit our votes by majority decision.

Pride 2022

Glasgow Pride March – June 25th – More info: https://www.facebook.com/prideglasgow

There will also be another Mardi Gla pride march on July 16th and Pride Hub on the 16th and 17th July - https://www.facebook.com/mardigla

Urgent Actions

Thank you to MR for sharing these urgent actions.

Colombia: Protect Environmental Defenders At Risk

On May 31st, four environmental defenders from the organization Federation of Santander Fishers for Tourism and Environment (FEDEPESAN) were victims of an attack with firearms by unknown people while assessing possible environmental harm in the Magdalena Medio region, an extensive inter-Andean valley in the central part of Colombia formed by the Magdalena River. We urge the Ministry of Interior to adopt immediate measures to guarantee the life and right to defend human rights of members of FEDEPESAN.

https://tinyurl.com/ua-colombia

Maldives: Maldivian Activist Faces Jail For Blasphemy

Mohamed Rusthum Mujuthaba, 39, a Maldivian religious freedom and human rights activist, faces five months in prison, if convicted, on charges of blasphemy. Accused of posting blasphemous contents on social media, he was detained for more than six months without trial under the Maldives' Penal Code, in violation of international human rights law. The Maldivian authorities must immediately drop the charges against Mohamed Rusthum Mujuthaba.

https://tinyurl.com/ua-maldives

You can download the full PDF or click Take Action at the top of the page for a link to a pre-prepared email/letter action.

Keep checking the Urgent Actions sites for actions you can take from your home:

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/urgent-actions

Next meeting

Thursday 14th July, Woodlands Methodist Church, Woodlands Road, 7.30pm. Full details on Facebook: https://fb.me/e/3eCBxbarN

Please contact Freya (freya_lyte@hotmail.co.uk) with any questions.

Footnotes

1 Whilst some of the legislative changes referred to do not relate specifically to Scotland, it is frequently the case that individuals and groups within Scotland will wish to protest on matters reserved to the UK Parliament, take part in protests held, for example, in London, etc.

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