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You are warmly invited to view this pop-up exhibition, created by Amnesty Kirklees:

Silenced Voices: Turkey’s Human Rights Defenders

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1-5pm on Saturday 24th March 2018

at All Saints Church, 172 Herbert Rd, Small Heath, B10 0PR

The church will be filled with photographs of almost 300 Turkish journalists. These men and women have been persecuted in a clampdown by the Turkish state following the attempted coup in 2016.  The exhibition attempts to convey the impact of all these journalists being removed from society, and stopping their role of telling truth to power and the people they are meant to serve.

Drop in any time between 1pm and 5pm to see the photographs, read about these human rights defenders, and to write a short message of support to a detained journalist on one of our post cards.

All welcome to this free exhibition.

Photograph: the exhibition on display in Huddersfield, organised by Amnesty Kirklees.

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8th March is International Women’s Day, and on the nearest Saturday (10th March) we will be holding a stall in Birmingham City Centre to highlight Women’s Human Rights Defenders around the world, with action-cards for the public to sign.

As 2018 is the centenary of the first women in UK gaining the right to vote we will be creating some Suffragette-style sashes to wear whilst running the stall, to catch the attention of Brum shoppers.  You are warmly invited to join us for a craftivism session to make these sashes:

Suffragette-sash Craftivism Session

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Tuesday 20th February 2018 between 6:00 and 7:30pm

at Peace Hub, 41 Bull St, Birmingham, B4 6AF

We will provide the materials, simply bring yourselves and your creativity!

If you’re new to the group, why not drop us an email at amnestybrum@gmail.com so that we know to look out for you and to be extra friendly!

You are warmly invited to our February Meeting where the focus will be:

Spring into Human Rights

Thursday 8th February 2016 at 7:30pm

at Peace Hub, 41 Bull St, Birmingham, B4 6AF

Please note the venue, and that there are stairs up to the meeting room.  If you have any accessibility needs, please let us know at amnestybrum@gmail.com and we will make sure we can meet your needs.

We’ve got several exciting ideas for human rights activities coming up this Spring, including marking the centenary of the first women in the UK gaining the right to vote, an exhibition about human rights in Turkey, and activies at Birmingham Pride.

Everyone is welcome to join us – we look forward to seeing you there.

If it’s you first time, why not drop us an email at amnestybrum@gmail.com so that we know to look out for you and to be extra friendly!  If you’d  like to join us for a friendly chat beforehand we’ll be having  a pre-meeting from 7:00 on the ground floor of the Peace Hub,

Java Lounge Letters

Our first letters evening of 2018! As ever, at the Java Lounge café in Colmore Row, Birmingham City Centre.

This Tuesday, 23rd January, from 6pm for about an hour.

See you there!

NB: this is a personal reflection, not an official Amnesty statement

Conclusion

Rights are for all and they matter, as do any moves to undermine their validity.

The build-up to June 2016’s Referendum and its aftermath have brought great dangers to freedom and rights in the U.K.

The slew of hate crime and xenophobia, the personal attacks and shouting down of those who refuse to be silent and still express their right to freedom of speech; the extension of the Home Office / Theresa May policy of the existing cruelty of the “hostile environment” to citizens from the EU27 countries; all these have eroded, crassly at times, a sense of civil decency and the sense of a basic set of Rights being valid for all human beings within these shores.

The challenge to civil liberties in challenges by Government to the Human Rights Act, the threat to existing legislation protecting workers’ and other rights on leaving the EU, and not least the Government’s eagerness to override the principles of a representative parliamentary democracy, fuelled by the tirading headlines and naming and shaming of opponents to their extreme views by popular “news”papers; all have brought us to a very low point in national life.

Yet there is hope.

Hope in the fact that Conservative MPs can stand up to threats from their own party whips and hate campaigns by the media. Hope in the support for campaigns such as Stop Funding Hate and Hope not Hate. Hope in the courage of groups such as The3Million representing EU27 citizens in the U.K., or 1 Day Without Us for migrants’ rights, and those individuals and groups supporting asylum seekers. Hope in the continuing work of Grahame Pigney and Gina Miller in their concern for democracy, despite vicious threats.

Brexit and the movements it has engendered threaten the Rights of everyone living, working, residing in the UK.

Recently there has been discussion of the colour of older and newer British passports. If Britain leaves the EU, this passport will give its holders the right to live and work in one country – the U.K. (as currently stands). An EU passport, as held at the moment by British and EU27 citizens, entitles holders to life in any one of 28 countries. 17 million Britons have in effect voted to lose their Rights.

Rights can be saved, but only if they are valued and defended. Let us make 2018 the year to do so.

REFERENCES:

Allegretti, A. (2017) ‘Tory MPs hit back at Daily Telegraph over ‘Brexit Mutineers’ front page’, Sky News, 16 November. Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/tory-mps-hit-back-at-daily-telegraph-over-brexit-mutineers-front-page-11128533 (Accessed 17 December 2017).

Amnesty International (no date) ‘Human Rights Act FAQs’, Save the Act. Available at: https://savetheact.uk/faqs/ (Accessed 10 Dec 2017) .

Bail for Immigration Detainees (BfID) (no date) Frequently Asked Questions. Available at: http://www.biduk.org/pages/88 (Accessed 10 December 2017).

Berry, M., Garcia-Blanco, I. and Moore, K. (2015) Press Coverage of the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in the EU, a Content Analysis of Five European Countries. Report Commissioned for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (December 2015). Cardiff: Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/uk/56bb369c9.pdf?query=British%20newspapers (Accessed 18 December 2017).

Centre for Hate Studies, University of Leicester (2017) Tackling Hate Crime in the U.K., a briefing paper from Amnesty International UK. Available at: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/files/Against-Hate-Briefing-AIUK.pdf (Accessed 10 December 2017).

Collins, J. (2017) ‘So, what’s Henry VIII got to do with Brexit?’, Human Rights Info. Available at: https://rightsinfo.org/henry-viii-brexit/ (Accessed 17 December 2017).

Council of Europe (1950) Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and Protocol. Available at: http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Collection_Convention_1950_ENG.pdf (Accessed 6 January 2018)

Detention Action (2017) ‘FAQs’, Detention Action. Available at: https://detentionaction.org.uk/frequently-asked-questions (Accessed 10 December 2017).

Gentleman, A. (2017) ‘I can’t eat or sleep, the woman threatened with deportation after 50 years in Britain ’, The Guardian, 28 November. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/nov/28/i-cant-eat-or-sleep-the-grandmother-threatened-with-deportation-after-50-years-in-britain (Accessed 10 December 2017)

Greenfield, P. (2017) ‘Newspapers react to May’s Commons Defeat by Tory Brexit Rebels’, TheGuardian, 14 December. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/dec/14/newspapers-react-to-mays-commons-defeat-by-tory-brexit-rebels? (Accessed 17 December 2017).

Kent, M. (2017) ‘May’s migration target is cynical and irresponsible’, In Facts Stop Brexit, 20 May. Available at: https://infacts.org/mays-migration-target-cynical-irresponsible/ (Accessed 6 January 2018).

Liberty (2017) Save our Human Rights Act. Available at: https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/campaigning/save-our-human-rights-act-0 (Accessed 10 Dec 2017).

Migration Observatory, University of Oxford (2017) Immigration Detention in the U.K. Available at: http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/immigration-detention-in-the-uk/ (Accessed 10 December 2017).

Our Brexit Blog (2017) Available at: http://www.ourbrexitblog.eu/ (Accessed 10 December 2017).

Page, P. (2017) ‘The way asylum seekers are treated in the U.K. is a silent scandal’, The Guardian, 27 May. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2017/may/27/asylum-seekers-silent-scandal-home-office-legal-aid-cuts-refugees (Accessed 18 December 2017).

Payne, A. (2016) ‘People are furious at the Daily Mail front page branding the Article 50 judges ‘Enemies of the People’’, Business Insider UK, 4 November. Available at: http://uk.businessinsider.com/brexit-high-court-article-50-judges-mail-express-front-page-2016-11 (Accessed 17 December 2017).

Pigney, G. (2017a) People’s Challenge to the Government on Art. 50: a Parliamentary Prerogative. Available at: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/parliament-should-decide/?utm_source=sendinblue&utm_campaign=Update427onPeoplesChallengetotheGovernmentonArt50AParliamentaryPrerogativeDecember142017&utm_medium=email

(Accessed 17 December 2017).

Pigney, G. (2017b) ‘Democracy Strikes Back’, People’s Challenge to the Government on Art. 50, 13 December. Available at: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/parliament-should-decide/?utm_source=sendinblue&utm_campaign=Update427onPeoplesChallengetotheGovernmentonArt50AParliamentaryPrerogativeDecember142017&utm_medium=email (Accessed 17 December 2017).

Remigi, E., Martin, V. and Sykes, T. (eds.) (2017) In Limbo – Brexit testimonies from EU27 citizens in the U.K.. Great Britain:[CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform].

Rights Info (no date) The European Convention on Human Rights. Available at: https://rightsinfo.org/the-rights-in-the-european-convention/ (Accessed 10 December 2017).

Sands, P. (2016) East West Street. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson.

Sankey, B., Robinson, R. and Ogilvie, S. (2016) Liberty’s briefing on the Human Rights Act and the Government’s proposal for its repeal. London: Liberty.

Schindler, J. (2017) ‘Not so Great: Britain grows increasingly hostile to EU citizens’, Der Spiegel, 7 December. Available at http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/as-brexit-nears-harrassment-of-eu-citizens-in-uk-rises-a-1181845.html (Accessed 10 Dec 2017).

Stop Funding Hate (2017) Stop Funding Hate. Available at: https://stopfundinghate.org.uk/ (Accessed 10 December 2017).

The 3 Million (2017a) ‘#Brexitdeal we are not reassured’, The3Million,

8 December. Available at: https://www.the3million.org.uk/ (Accessed 10 December 2017).

The 3 Million (2017b) ‘The ‘Hostile Environment’ (and why the3million opposes ‘settled status’)’, The3Million. Available at: https://www.the3million.org.uk/hostile-environment (Accessed 10 December 2017).

Townsend, M. (2017a) ‘Brussels investigates U.K. over deported EU citizens’, The Guardian, 30 September. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/sep/30/brussels-uk-deported-eu-citizens (Accessed 10 December 2017).

Townsend, M. (2017b) ‘’Marcin was crying, begging for help’: crisis of EU migrants held in the U.K.’, The Guardian, 3 December. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/dec/03/marcin-gwozdzinski-immigration-centre-detention-death? (Accessed 10 December 2017).

United Nations (1948) Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Available at: http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html (Accessed 10 December 2017).

Walker, P. (2017) ‘Anna Soubry receives threats calling for her to be hanged as a traitor’, The Guardian, 15 December. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/dec/15/anna-soubry-receives-messages-calling-for-her-to-be-hanged-as-a-traitor-brexit? (Accessed 17 December 2017).

Warren, R. (2017) ‘Grenfell Tower and the Hostile Environment’, Countercurrents Critical Law at Kent, 3 July 2017. Available at: https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/countercurrents/2017/07/03/grenfell-tower-and-the-hostile-environment/ (Accessed 18 December 2017).

Part 3

NB: this is a personal reflection, not an official Amnesty statement.

Henry VIII and the bypass of Parliament.

The use of so-called Henry VIII clauses allow the mass transfer of European legislation into U.K. law in a way which then allow the U.K. Government the ability to make executive amendments to any legislation under these clauses.

However, sometimes the Government will add a Henry VIII clause into the bill, which allows them to repeal or amend it after it’s become an Act of Parliament – crucially without any further parliamentary scrutiny (Collins, 2017).

This means a potentially huge effect on legislation relating to everyday rights and protections for those in the U.K., a withdrawal of Members of Parliament’s powers as representatives of the people to debate and agree or otherwise to legislation affecting everyone’s lives.

It would affect laws brought over from EU into U.K. law as noted. The areas concerned are wide-ranging:

“employing the clauses would mean that neither House of Parliament would be able to consider amendments to laws that will impact some of our key rights – for example, trade, immigration and workers’ rights” (Collins, 2017).

There are continuing challenges to this mass takeover of powers by the executive, both in and outside Parliament. Campaign groups and organisations such as Grahame Pigney’s “People’s Challenge … “ against the use of Article 50 (Pigney, 2017a), and Gina Miller, seek to defend the sovereignty of Parliament, against this dangerous move to shortcut the chambers of debate where amendments can be made and checks and balances employed against abuses of power, as befits a democracy.

Thanks to the bravery of some Conservative MPs in particular in voting against the Government on 13th December 2017, a chink seems to have been made in the authoritarians’ armour (Pigney, 2017b).

Enemies of the People

Stop Funding Hate (2017) has run a determined campaign against the longstanding anti-migrant (effectively xenophobic) stance of key popular newspapers. A notable, significant and deeply disturbing feature of the progress or otherwise of Brexit moves pre- and post-referendum has been the same papers’ readiness to ‘name and shame’, or vilify, those who have stood against the party line or simply sought to exercise the Rule of Law. This was evident when the Daily Mail condemned Judges as “Enemies of the People” (Payne, 2016), the Daily Telegraph printed names and pictures of “rebel” MPs and amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill on its front page (Allegretti, 2017) and the Daily Mail in particular again gave the same treatment to Conservative MPs voting against the Government on 13th December 2017 (Greenfield, 2017), after which the said MPs reported death threats (Walker, 2017).

In casting this picture of “enemies of the people”, in ‘naming and shaming’ those who disagree with certain newspapers’ agenda, an atmosphere is created where those who speak out may feel less able to do so, and thus that freedom of speech itself – especially for the most vulnerable – is questioned.

Cut money, cut Rights

Access to Rights increasingly depends on access to the financial wherewithal to fight or go under. Massive increases in charges for immigration appeals, introduction of NHS charging up front for those without accepted immigration status, restrictions on Legal Aid – as effected by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 or support for Legal Aid lawyers in Civil Legal Aid Regulations 2014 (Page, 2017) – have serious implications on ordinary people’s ability to afford their Rights. All of this is on top of cruel austerity measures affecting those without independent means.

The desperate and avoidable tragedy of Grenfell Tower has acquired further pain in the uncertainties of numbers of people in the Tower at the time and anxieties over possible deportations due to undocumented status (Warren, 2017).

A conclusion and full set of references to this brief set of blog posts will appear shortly.