Tag Archives: Amnesty International

Week 7 and 8 recap

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Apologies for the delay of this post!

In Week 7 we watched a documentary that was made by the Guardian on FGM (Female Genital Mutilation). If you didn’t make it to the meeting, I recommend that you watch it, as it really explains the cultural reasons for FGM in more detail:
http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/video/2011/apr/18/female-genital-mutilation-video

If you’re interested in reading more about it, here is an article by a Maasai woman, who went through FGM when she was 13 years old:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/06/alternative-to-circumcision-prevents-girls-suffering-kenya

We also discussed the meaning behind some of the My Body My Rights art by Hikaru Cho that Amnesty International has commissioned. Take a look here:
http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/hikaru-cho-story-2014-03-06

In Week 8 we looked at some of the My Body My Rights campaigns, specifically the abortion ban in El Salvador which you can read more about and sign the petition against here:
https://campaigns.amnesty.org/campaigns/end-abortion-ban-el-salvador?linkId=9771210

Abi and Georgie
HRU Editors

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The Death Penalty: A Case Study of State-Funded Slaughter

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In the UK, the death penalty was banned in 1965. Now a distant memory of a more brutal past, it rightly remains relegated to the pages of history books.

However, in many countries across the world, including the United States of America – a nation that prides itself on its supposed forward-thinking nature – capital punishment is still a possible ruling in a court of law. Currently 32 states of the USA still implement the death penalty, tainting more than half the 50 states on the Star-Spangled Banner.

In light of this, it is hard not to question how the self-proclaimed leader of the ‘free world’ can still carry out such a seemingly archaic form of punishment.

However, the death penalty is widely thought to be losing support across the United States, and for good reason. The recent execution in Oklahoma of Clayton Lockett on April 29th caught particular media attention and brought new scrutiny to the often mismanaged executions that are too common across the USA, causing many to question the ethics of the death penalty.

According to an article published by Time Magazine, Lockett was “injected with an untested blend of drugs obtained from an undisclosed source” and was confirmed to be unconscious by a physician, “only to then start moving his body, rolling his head from side to side and mumbling”.

Further describing the deadly torment experienced by Lockett, his attorney Dean Sanderford stated: “the writhing and twitching just got stronger and more violent. It looked like he was trying to lift his whole upper body off the table…he was mumbling things that were clearly words…his eyes opened at one point. It was the most gruesome spectacle I’ve ever seen in my life.”

After this harrowing ordeal from the cocktail of drugs, Lockett eventually died due to a heart attack after 25 minutes.

This execution was the state of Oklahoma’s first time using a new 3-drug mixture. Yes, while it is undeniable that these convicted criminals have done awful crimes and deserve punishment, it surely does not assign them the fate of a human guinea pig, as the government seems to play a version of Russian roulette with the drugs cabinet.

Alarmingly, Lockett’s suffering is not an uncommon occurrence – in fact, the USA has a history of morally questionable executions. According to a recent study by researcher Professor Austin Sarat, 7% of executions by lethal injection between 1890 and 2010 were botched, with the term “botched” alluding to executioners “depart[ing] from the official legal protocol or standard procedure – which can result in a prolonged or painful death”. With lethal injection often described as the most humane method of capital punishment, one has to question the ethical compass of these states if this inhumanely painful demise is a very possible side effect.

In reaction to the execution, Oklahoma recently announced that it plans to offer more training to staff and increase the prisoner’s sedative dosage by 5 times, whilst also intriguingly reducing media presence at executions from 12 witnesses to 5. One has to wonder whether the state has pondered if a complete abolition of the death penalty is the glaringly ‘right’ thing to do, rather than small alterations in the hope of what is effectively a more efficient slaughter.

The proposal for a decreased number of journalists allowed present is an interesting twist. Capital punishment is visibly shrouded in secrecy, as scandal and backlash are a constant threat. As Lockett’s execution began to go wrong, it is reported the curtain was lowered so witnesses could no longer see, while the audio feed was cut too.

Similarly, capital punishment is so shrouded in shame that even the drug companies themselves refuse to be associated with it, concerned by the possible backlash or boycott they could suffer. European pharmaceutical companies have banned the US from using their drugs in executions, causing a chaotic clambering for new drugs by prison officials and often blind experimentation with those acquired.

US public defender Dale Baich, who frequently represents death row inmates, recently drew light on this secrecy: “The prisoners still do not have access to information about the source of the drugs, the qualifications of the executioners, or how the state came up with the different drug combinations.”

President Barack Obama has publicly commented on Clayton Lockett’s botched execution, describing it as “deeply disturbing”, and calling for a review into the application of the death penalty in the USA. While this provides hope for change, the fight to completely ban the death penalty is still very much ongoing – although it is becoming something seemingly ever closer to our grasp.

James Pidduck

Unchosen: “Make Devon a Traffick-Free Zone”

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Unchosen is ‘an anti-trafficking charity raising awareness of human trafficking through film campaigns nationwide’.  Human trafficking has recently been in the news in the UK due to the proposal of the Modern Slavery Bill; http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/apr/08/modern-slavery-bill-sweeping-changes .  Unchosen, funded by Comic Relief, held “Make Devon a Traffick-Free Zone” in the Alumni Auditorium at the University of Exeter on June 4th. The event aimed to raise awareness about human trafficking in the UK and to encourage people to look out for trafficking in their local areas. 

The event consisted of three parts, an exhibition, a film screening and a Q&A panel.  Outside the Alumni Auditorium in the Forum there were Exhibition Stalls, where charities displayed the work they’re doing for victims of human trafficking.  The exhibiting charities were Amnesty International, British Red Cross International, Family Tracing, Devon Grapevine, Exeter Fairtrade Steering Group, Purple Teardrop Campaign, Refugee Support Group, Restore, and Exeter Anti-Slavery Group.  The exhibition was a good way for people to talk to members of the charities, to find out about some of the support available in Devon for victims of trafficking and to learn a bit about how to help their work.

Next Unchosen showed 3 short films in the Alumni Auditorium.  These short films were based on real case studies, which were very effective tools in making people think about victims of trafficking.  In our event packets we were given a list of trafficking myths.  Each of the short films debunked trafficking myths. 

MYTHS ABOUT HUMAN TRAFFICKING:

  • British Nationals cannot be victims of trafficking. British Nationals can and have been victims of trafficking.
  • Human trafficking only happens in illegal, underground industries. Trafficking happens in other industries such as High St nail bars, residential homes, agriculture and food processing.
  • Trafficking must involve physical force. Psychological abuse, withholding passports, harm or threat of harm to families, threats or deception may also be used to exploit victims of trafficking.
  • Trafficking must involve sexual abuse or exploitation. Many types of trafficking such as forced labour, organ harvesting and domestic servitude sometimes don’t include sexual exploitation.
  • Only women and girls are traffickedMen and boys ARE also victims of trafficking, and the figures are rising.

 

  • The first film was about Hung, who left Vietnam when he was sixteen years old after his parents paid a travel agent US$25000 to organise travel and a job for him in the UK.  Hung was taken to a house where he was forced to tend cannabis plants, using toxic chemicals without protection.  He never saw any money and he was fed one plate of rice a day.   Eventually he was found, but spent time in prison because he was too afraid to talk about his traffickers. This film demonstrates the problem of the distrust in the police felt by some victims of trafficking.  Due to the confusion of language barriers and the fear of traffickers hurting them or their families, victims of trafficking are not likely to defend themselves, resulting in their unfair imprisonment.
  • The second film showed Beatrise, a 24 year old who left Latvia to work as an au pair in Ireland.  The man that arranged it, a friend of her cousin, took her to Ireland, raped her and forced her to work as a prostitute.  After Beatrise was finally found, she was supported by the Dublin-based charity, Ruhama.  This film explored whether buying sex should be criminalised, which was discussed in more detail later in the Q&A.
  • The third film depicted Nicu, who was sold to a gang by his parents when he was 9, so that he could work in Spain and send money back to them.  He was taught to pick-pocket and to take money from cash machines while people were using them.  He was beaten if his employers thought he had not stolen enough.  Some months later, Nicu was taken to a house in London, where he lived with fourteen other people and slept on the floor.  The police broke into this house and found Nicu and placed him in foster care.  The local authorities contacted his parents and sent him back to Romania, but he has since disappeared and is thought to have been trafficked again.  This film raised the question of problems with retrafficking and how it can be prevented.

 

The final section of the event was the Q&A Panel which was chaired by Professor Nick Kaye, Dean of Humanities and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Education at the University Of Exeter.  The panellists were:

Camilla Brown– Chief Executive Officer, Unchosen

Kate Gambers, Co-Founder and Project Director, Unseen

Mr. Shaun Sawyer, QPM- Chief Constable, Devon and Cornwall Constabulary

Alexis Wright– Founding Director, Njenni Enterprise

Issues raised in the Q&A:

What are the signs of trafficking?

Shaun Sawyer:  The most important thing when looking out for trafficking is having an awareness of the society.  For example, how many people are living in a house? Are men always coming and going to a house?  It is important not to just blame the perpetrator of a crime- who’s behind it?

Camilla Brown:  Trust your instincts.  Is something wrong here?  Kalayaan, a charity promoting justice for migrant domestic workers, had a case where a piano teacher noticed that every time she came to teach her pupil there was a migrant domestic worker sitting on the floor to eat. She reported this to Kalayaan and it turned out that this lady was a victim of trafficking. 

What is currently happening with the Domestic Migrant Worker VISA?

Camilla Brown: In 1998, the Labour government started issuing the Domestic Migrant Worker VISA which allowed workers to change employers without becoming illegal.  In the last two years, under the Conservative government, this has changed.  If a migrant domestic worker leaves an employer due to abuse they immediately become illegal and risk being deported.

(This article in the Guardian goes into more detail about this: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/feb/29/new-visa-rules-domestic-workers )

Should the buying of sex be criminalised? The Modern Slavery Bill is not looking at criminalising the people that buy sex, unlike the Nordic model where criminalising men kills demand.
Kate Gambers: After reviewing the Nordic model it has shown that whilst it reduces sex sold on the street and in brothels, it has not had an effect on trafficking.

Alexis Wright: If we stigmatise the buying of sex but don’t criminalise it, it may move forward quicker.

Shaun Sawyer: Just criminalising men is not a convincing argument.  We need to change and educate a generation of how buying sex is totally unacceptable, i.e. restorative justice.  We also need to confront the issue of UK citizens exploiting those who have been trafficked- the UK government is trying to take a lead.

Is there representation of human trafficking in the crime plan?

Shaun Sawyer: There is a lack of representation of human trafficking in the crime plan and a lack of resources.  This year there were more than 20 known cases of forced labour in Devon in the first quarter, yet only 4 forces in the UK have a human trafficking/rights person on the force.  

Do the police have sufficient leeway in the system respective to the person’s background?

Kate Gambers:  It’s important to think about welfare before recognising a crime.  The crime is an issue for the police, whereas welfare is what charities like Unchosen, Unseen, Kalayaan and Njenni Enterprise are interested in.  There are so many types of trafficking and it is vital to think around the circumstances surrounding the crime.  There are also issues with the lengthof referrals at Crown Court after a Migrant Domestic Worker loses a VISA (for escaping/ leaving an employer)- The trial may take 18 months but there are only 45 days of cover for a non-UK citizen/immigrant without a VISA.  This leads to the issue of extradition and a trial under a completely different judiciary.  To fight human trafficking there needs to be more global co-operation, where evidence found in the UK could be used to prosecute overseas.

Are trafficked brides covered by the modern slavery bill?

Kate Gambers:  In the case of trafficked brides, marriage has been used as a shield.  Therefore, they are not under modern slavery bill but there is wider support for trafficked brides under the Domestic Violence Act.

Final comments on human trafficking:

Shaun Sawyer:  Slavery was supposed to have been wiped out, but here it is again.  It seems to be directly linked with global poverty.  The worse the poverty, the more human trafficking by people who want to make a quick buck however they can.

Camilla Brown:  It is the responsibility of the consumer to prevent human trafficking.

Alexis Wright: Through the empowerment of women and the education of women, human trafficking will be reduced.

 

Overall, I thought this event was organised very well.  It ran smoothly and was informative in different ways, detailing what trafficking is and allowing people to find out how they can help.

If any of you are budding film makers, Unchosen is running another film competition which you can read more about here: http://www.unchosen.org.uk/film-competition.html

If you want to do more research on human trafficking, here are a few resources:

http://www.unchosen.org.uk/

http://www.unseenuk.org/

http://www.kalayaan.org.uk/

Human trafficking is happening all around us.  This short documentary shows that consumers buying prawns in supermarkets such as Tesco, Aldi and Morrisons are supporting human trafficking in Thailand:

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/video/2014/jun/10/slavery-supermarket-supply-trail-prawns-video

This is an article about Circus Kathmandu, a circus which is formed of young victims of trafficking. They’re performing at Glastonbury, so be sure to check them out if you’re there! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-27989494

 

HRU

Letter Writing for Thao Moua and Pa Fue Khang

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Last Wednesday at our Amnesty meeting, we wrote letters to the Government of Laos, to ask them to give Thao Moua and Pa Fue Khang a fair trial.  Thao Moua and Pa Fue Khang were not given legal representation and their sentences were written before the trials.

If you are interested in writing a letter to the Prime Minister of Laos too, there is information about the case below and an address to send your letters to.

 

Thank you,

HRU

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Exeter University Fresher’s Week September 2013 – What’s going on (so far!)…

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Freshers week: 16th-22nd September 2013

Tuesday 17th:

‘Get involved with Campaigning and Volunteering’ — Collaborative event with other volunteering and campaign societies

Afternoon tea 2-5pm at Queens Cafe

Thursday 19th:

Film screening with an informal debate/discussion (and cake!) in Queens Building, LT1

Saturday 21st:

Exmouth Beach Trip (meet 11am at Cornwall House)

Sunday 22nd:

Freshers Fair 

Contact exeterhumanrightsupdate@gmail.com or visit our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2204550472/) for more details!