Southampton Group AMNESTY NEWS

www.amnesty-volunteer.org/uk/southampton-city September 2012

Human rights in Burma Presentation by Carol Barnes and Ashin Htavara
Shortly before the July meeting, Carol Barnes, a Burma activist, got in touch with the group to tell us that Ashin Htavara, a Buddhist monk who had been heavily involved in the saffron revolution in 2007, was visiting the UK. Ashin Htavara had to flee the country after the crushing of the saffron revolution and has now obtained refugee status in Norway. Carol asked us if it would be possible for Ashin Htavara to meet the group and talk about Burma. We were very pleased to accept her offer and took the opportunity to invite neighbouring groups to the meeting. The meeting was packed (see photo on p. 4). First, Carol introduced herself. She has had a lifelong interest in Burma: during WW II her father spent time in Burma testing an aeroplane that could land in the jungle. In 2003 she had a job in Burma as a teacher for the Arakan liberation party [Arakan is the former name of Rakhine state, a part of Burma on the border with Bangladesh, recently in the news for clashes between Buddhist and Muslim communities. The Arakan Liberation Party and its associated army, the Arakan Liberation Army, have been fighting for many decades against the Burmese authorities.]. In 2008, while she was in Bangladesh in route India to visit Arakan friends who had sought refuge there, she met Ashin Htavara, who had recently escaped from Burma. The border between Burma and Bangladesh is very poor and very dangerous, with many Burmese spies. For safety, Ashin Htavara had to hide in the jungle until he managed to pass into India. As there were fears that the Indian government would start repatriating Burmese refugees, Ashin Htavara moved out of the country and has now, finally, obtained refugee status in Norway.
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WELCOME BACK Welcome back to a new year of events and activities. The programme for next year includes monthly speakers, who will bring us up to date on the many human rights crises world-wide, e.g. Syria, and fund-raising events, e.g. a pub quiz, a sponsored walk and, possibly, a concert. One of our aims is to raise awareness of human rights in Southampton: we will invite the local community to our meetings, organise the third Human rights lecture at the University and hold greeting cards events in various venues across the city. The group is only as healthy as its members are active: please renew your membership, come to meetings, bring your ideas, volunteer to organise events. I am looking forward to seeing you all. Giampaolo

AI’S VISION is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international standards.

AI’S MISSION is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom and conscience and expression and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.

AI’S CORE VALUES remain those of international solidarity, effective action for the individual victim, global coverage, the universality and indivisibility of human rights, impartiality and independence, and democracy and mutual respect.

Action of the month
Italy: protect rights for migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers
Torture in detention is systemic for migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers in Libya - many of whom have fled conflict and persecution and need international protection. Yet in April this year, the Italian government signed a new deal with Libya, agreeing to provide technical assistance to Libya's border-monitoring practices, and return feeling migrants to Libya. Effective human rights safeguards are completely absent, and no mechanism is envisaged to deal with those with international protection needs. Call on the Italian authorities to safeguard human rights of migrants, refugees and asylumseekers fleeing Libya. You can do this either by email through the Amnesty web site or by sending a letter to the Italian Ambassador to the UK [Sig. Alain Economides, Italian ambassador to the UK, Italian Embassy, 14, Three Kings Yard, London W1k 4EH]
Dear Ambassador, I am writing to share my concerns about the disturbing migration control policies recently enacted by the Italian Government. Despite substantial public evidence that migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers are still subject to serious abuse in Libya on 3 April this year Italy signed a new agreement with the Libyan authorities. The Italian authorities still seek support from Libya in stemming migration flows, while turning a blind eye to the fact that migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers are at risk of serious human rights abuse there. Through the April agreement, Libya has committed itself to strengthening its borders so as to prevent the departure of migrants from its territory. Italy has committed itself to providing training and equipment to enhance border surveillance. However, effective human rights safeguards are completely absent, and no mechanism is envisaged to deal with those with international protection needs. The policy of push backs at sea was clearly condemned by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Hirsi Jamaa and Others v Italy, last February, and that the Italian Government gave a public commitment to implementing it. The Libyan authorities still do not recognise the right to seek or enjoy asylum, have not signed the UN Convention on Refugees, and to date no official agreement with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is in place. I am joining Amnesty International's calls asking the Italian Government to: • • • • Set aside any existing migration control agreements with Libya Make public all migration control agreements negotiated with Libya or any other country Disclose details of past and current cooperation projects with Libya, including those funded by the EU, as well as information on provision of official resources, staff and equipment Commit itself only to entering into further agreements on migration control with Libya once Libya can demonstrate that it respects and protects the human rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants and has put in place a satisfactory system for assessing and recognising claims for international protection.

We ask you kindly to urge your government to take these recommendations into consideration, so as to ensure that Italy’s migration control policies and practices do not cause, contribute to, or benefit from human rights violations.

GROUP NEWS
At the group AGM the following officers were elected unopposed: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Chair: Giampaolo D'Alessandro (replacing John Williams); Secretary: Valerie Oswald; Treasurer: Cheryll Pitt; Parliamentary and Outreach officer: Veronica Tippetts; Newsletter editor: John Williams (replacing Giampaolo D'Alessandro); Press officer: Brenda New.

Please get in touch, if you interested in taking a more active role in the group, by leading or taking part in one of the subgroups, organising an event, or shadowing one of the officers. 1. We wrote messages of support for the Peace Community of Apartado, continuing the action that had been started at Mary's garden party. Valerie attached the flowers to a banner that she had prepared (see photo on p.4) and sent it to the Peace Community. 2. We also signed a letter to the Minister of Home Affairs in Myanmar challenging ongoing abuses in the criminal justice system there. The petition was launched to coincide with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s first trip to Europe for 24 years. 3. Finally, we wrote to the Serbian authorities on behalf of Roma families that had been relocated to an abandoned warehouse, where they had no access to water, electricity or sanitation. After the meeting we learnt that the authorities had finally switched on the water after pressure from Amnesty members – three months after the families had moved in.

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Carol then passed the baton to Ashin Htavara, who spoke with the help of an interpreter, Nay Winswe. After a slide show of photos of the Saffron revolution, Ashin Htavara gave a brief overview of an educational project he is currently involved with, the Myanmar Open eyes Social Action (MOSA). The aim of this project is to train teachers (mainly monks and nuns) to teach not only basic education, but also democracy, human rights and peace. We have to keep in mind that concepts like democracy and human rights are not widely known or understood in Myanmar, a nation that has been subjected to decades of brutal military dictatorship. Moreover, MOSA would like to spread its activities away from the main towns, where most government funded schools are, to the countryside, where most people reside. A long series of questions and answers followed Ashin Htavara's presentation. The main points were:

(a) The situation in Myanmar is improving, but there are still approximately 300 political prisoners, of which roughly 80 are monks and 20 nuns. Moreover, 75 monasteries in Rangoon have been closed since the Saffron revolution. (b) Aung Sang Suu Kyi is opening schools to teach what democracy and human rights are. Even though the political situation is evolving in Burma, there is still no rule of law, as the government can change laws at it wishes. (c) Foreign investment – Money from foreign investment goes to the government and not to ordinary people. For example, electricity is exported to China, even though many people in Myanmar have only limited access to electricity. (d) Ethnic strife – There are negotiations going on between ethnic groups and the government, which has taken their resources and given them nothing. Even though a federal state may be a solution to Myanmar's ethnic problems, there is considerable danger that outside interference will destabilise the country.

NEXT GROUP MEETING
Monday 10th September Human rights in Algeria Hugh Sandeman (AIUK Algeria Country Coordinator) Avenue St Andrew’s United Reformed Church The Avenue, Southampton

DIARY
September 2012 Monday 10th – 7.30pm Group meeting: Human Rights in Algeria; Speaker: Hugh Sandeman (AIUK Algeria Country Coordinator) Friday 21st – International Peace Day October 2012 Monday 8th: 7.30 pm Group Meeting: The human rights crisis in Syria. Speaker: John Williams. Wednesday 10th - World Day Against the Death Penalty Wednesday 17th - International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

ALL WELCOME

The July group meeting: in the front row, starting from second on the left, are Nay Winswe, Ashin Htavara and Carol Barnes. The banner prepared by Valerie for the Peace Community of Apartado.

SOUTHAMPTON GROUP - WHO’S WHO
Group Officers Chair Giampaolo D'Alessandro Secretary Valerie Oswald Treasurer Cheryll Pitt Outreach and Parliamentary Officer Veronica Tippetts Press Brenda New Newsletter John Williams Subgroups Women’s Human Rights Mary Brown Death Penalty John Williams Central America Rubén Sánchez-García Poverty & Human Rights Mary Brown Security & Human Rights Giampaolo D’Alessandro