Monthly Archives: February 2012

TWO BULLETS: THE CALL FOR A GLOBAL ARMS TREATY

Standard

At the Exeter Amnesty Alternative Student Conference, we were shown two bullets. As dangerous a single bullet can be, they seemed small in comparison to all the weapons in the world. What harm can two bullets do? We were then told something startling. That for every single person on the globe right now, there are two bullets. That’s around 12 billion bullets, or almost twice as many as the 7 billion people on the planet. Enough for the entire global population to be killed twice over.

Every day, people are dying as a result of arms. Since 1989, 250,000 people die each year due to armed conflict, and 300,000 more are killed by armed individuals outside of conflict areas. In addition to these tragedies, 26 million people were displaced by armed conflicts in 2008. Yet at the same time, the UK remains one of the top players in the global arms trade, with only Germany, Russia and the US selling more.

Currently, the UK government claims that arms dealings are strictly regulated. However, this claim simply does not stand up to scrutiny. The UK has supplied arms to Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia and Syria, countries that have all been criticised for human rights abuses. A powerful example of this comes from the recent uprisings in the Middle Eats and North Africa. Human rights concerns were not enough to prevent the UK from selling arms to Libya, arms that were used by Gaddafi’s forces to commit acts of violent brutality towards peaceful civilian protestors. Bahrain and Yemen, both accused by international human rights organisations of horrific crackdowns against anti-government protestors, had arms sold to them by UK companies. And these were no small deals. In 2010, the value of the arms and ammunition licensed by the UK to Libya came to a total just over £7,000,000.

The UK is not alone in this. Nations such as Bulgaria, the US, China, France and Italy sold arms to governments involved in the Arab Spring, in spite of EU and other national regulations concerning the arms trade promising that human rights would be upheld. Without immediate tough international regulations, people will continue to suffer and die at the hands of weapons sold to governments and militia by nations that publically denounce such violence. And the deadline is approaching fast. There are now only just over six months to go before the July 2012 deadline, and we have to get it right. Human rights organisations now view this date as the final chance to achieve a truly worthwhile global arms treaty. Yet despite this hope, there are still points of concern. Control Arms, a global alliance of various organisations that support the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), demands that the treaty cannot be watered down. It must enshrine human rights law, be enforceable, include all weaponry and all forms of trade, be completely transparent and hold all nation states to accountability. If these factors are achieved, this treaty will prove the global community’s commitment to protecting the human rights of all people, wherever they live. Without them, it is just mere lip service.

AMY DEAKIN

Advertisements

IN DEFENCE OF HUMAN DIGNITY

Standard

We at Amnesty International Society of Exeter University stand in strong solidarity with the Egyptian people: you all stand not alone in your cry for justice, in your struggle for free and fair elections to bring into being a democratic government.

With the deepest impression of the revolution vividly experienced in the media, by eye witness accounts, on social networking sites and through video clips. We share your grief.

We deeply sympathise with Egyptians as the democratic process seems far-reaching and it saddens our hearts that human values have been eroded, civil liberties trampled upon and protesters met with violent crackdowns. Male and even female protesters have been clubbed heavily, dragged on the road half naked, snipers have shot of life rounds of ammunition and the police have become militarized. All this we know regrettably has either claimed lives or caused grievous bodily harm leading to permanent disablement.

We are neither in doubt nor in silence but we confidently speak in your defence, echoing your voices. We appeal to the military council in power, reluctant to quit the corridors of powers by quickening the electoral process. Military rule under international law and conventions is not acceptable and lacks legitimacy, because human rights abuses are inevitable.

We welcome the present development of accepting women to vote in the electoral process. However, the recent raid on a pro-democracy NGO depicts the anti-democratic ideals held by the current system which are highly unacceptable. Moreover, we urge the military council to speed the electoral process and ensure a free and fair election to usher in a new era of democracy in Egypt. This, the people of Egyptians long to have, while they are waiting, we urge the military government to halt any violent crackdown on civilians in particular by putting an end to the use of poisonous tear gas on protesters. We write in defence of human dignity and sanctity of human life.

OGAYEMI ABAYOMI

THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION

Standard

We all know that the trebling of university tuition fees has sparked anger, riots and a decline in university applications amongst current and prospective students but what does it mean in terms of human rights? The £9,000 cap is preposterous and has implications of extreme long-term debt for students starting university in autumn 2012 and will limit who can afford to apply to university in the first place. It is not, therefore, farfetched to suggest that the rise in tuition fees is denying some people’s right to higher education and this is exactly why two teenagers are taking action and bringing a judicial review to the high court against the government, on grounds of a violation of human rights.

Katy Moore and Callum Hurley, both 17, began their legal challenge on 1st November 2011 and aim to prove that the rise in tuition fees is a breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 and also violates the Race Relations, Sex Discrimination and Disability Acts. Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, who specialise in human rights cases, is representing the students in the judicial review. He argues that the rise of fees is in direct conflict to the right to education set out in the Human Rights Act 1998. Whilst the act does not concern itself directly with higher education, it does place infringements upon things that limit access to higher education, in this case the scandalous price that the government are putting upon students and the diversion of funds away from subsidising a university education. Secondly, Shiner argues that the promotion of equality of opportunity was not given sufficient “due regard” by the government, which is required under the aforementioned discrimination acts.

The right to an education is one of the most important as it can be life-changing and to deny it has serious implications. Higher education should not be selective and no one, of any age (as this fee rise will affect mature students as much as teenagers), should feel that they are being pressured into turning away from the possibility of further education. Knowledge is a powerful tool and the right to it, is vital. The very fact that the human rights lawyer bringing the case to court on behalf of Moore and Hurley needs a degree to do his job, proves what a university education can do in terms of the fight for human rights and contributing to the domestic and global community.

DAISY MEAGER

PROJECT THIKA

Standard

Be the Change’s ‘Project Thika’ is a project seeking to create positive change in the lives and futures of vulnerable and neglected children in Kenya. It is a volunteering project, which will work directly with Action for Children in Conflict (AfCiC) in Thika, Kenya. AfCiC is a charity organisation based in the United Kingdom and aims to help children affected by crises such as poverty, neglect, conflict, maltreatment and hunger.

The organisation works to break cycles of violence and despair amongst children and youth by supporting them through psychological, emotional and educational means. Their mission relates to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, as AfCiC works to give children and youth the right to protection against all forms of neglect, maltreatment and exploitation; the right to affection, love and understanding; the right to free education and to full opportunity for play and recreation; the right to learn to be a useful and significant member of society and to develop individual skills; and the right to a peaceful world. As a result of their work AfCiC has reduced the population of street children in Thika by over 60% since 2004. (Thika Street Census 2009).

Project Thika will focus on AfCiC’s School Holiday Clubs based in Thika, Kenya, which give disadvantaged children and youths informal educational opportunities. The children who attend the Holiday Clubs are aged between eight and eighteen years and are all from extremely poor and difficult backgrounds. It is aimed to give children and youths a safe haven in between school time where food, sports activities and learning opportunities are provided to them in order to prevent them from going back to a life on the streets. The volunteering project will take place in Kenya working directly with AfCiC’s local staff and children. It is a project which Be the Change supports as a result of its sustainability and continuous work in promoting children’s rights as well as creating positive change in the lives of children.

For more information on Project Thika or how to get involved please contact:

HELENA SANDESJO
Project Manager (2011-2012) Be the Change Society, hs305@exeter.ac.uk

AMNESTY ALTERNATIVE CONFRENCE

Standard

On the 16th of November we piloted the first Amnesty Alternative Conference. The idea was to give everyone the opportunity to experience some of what happened in the previous week’s National Student Conference. Sponsored by Teach First, the Alternative Conference opened with an interactive skills session focused on effective communication techniques. Exeter’s Teach First Graduate Recruitment Officer James Baxani* led an engaging session, a highlights being a simulation of Radio 4’s ‘just a minute’.

The remainder of the afternoon revolved around the five main areas focused on the National Student conference: Death penalty, Women’s Rights, Control Arms, Corporate Responsibility and the Arab Spring. Society President, Katherine Clissold, presented Amnesty’s next steps in the ongoing campaign against the Death Penalty. She emphasised how we must see the recent execution of Troy Davis must act as a motor to keep up the broader campaign, so that his voice and message continue to be heard. Collectively we devised possible follow-up ideas and ways that we can keep momentum up for the campaign.

Elizabeth Ackerley, Vice-President, then spoke about Women’s rights in Afghanistan highlighting Amnesty’s response to criticisms of imposing western values on Islamic societies. She quizzed us on our knowledge of women’s rights in the region, and explained Amnesty’s approach to the situation. Thirdly, Amnesty’s next steps in the Control Arms Campaign were introduced by Outreach Officer, Cordelia Wyche. Intensity on the campaign mounts we approach the 2012 deadline for the completion of the negotiations between 152 governments on development of an Arms Trade Treaty.

Following on, I presented the Corporate Responsibility campaign focussing the Niger Delta. Readers may remember the ‘Shell Hell’ campaign held in 2009 (which involved much white boiler suit wearing on campus and around town). This part of the conference updated members on Amnesty’s progress on the issue. This is a positive example of the results of effective campaigning as Shell has been called to account in a court case presented by London-based Law firm Leigh Day and Co.!

Campaigns Officer James Bartholomeusz concluded the Alternative Conference with a session focused on the next steps in the Arab Springs campaign. He highlighted both the direction of the campaign at national level and the plans for the 7th of December demonstration that Campaign Sub-Committee have been planning for us to implement on campus.

Other exciting news to report back from the National Student Conference was Katherine’s election onto this year’s Student Action Network Committee (STAN). Elected each year, STAN is a body of six Amnesty student activists from around the country which works to support Amnesty members and organise national events. It’s awesome to have our President on the committee this year, massive congratulations Katherine!

BRONWEN MOORE

*To find out more about Teach First visit http://www.teachfirst.org.uk or email James at jbaxani@teachfirst.org.uk