AIUK Annual General Meeting (Delegate Report)

AI AGM at Warwick, 18 /19 April 2015

Group delegate - Gareth Griffiths

An extremely inspiring weekend that commenced with a HR activist from the UAE lighting the Amnesty candle highlighting the plight of his colleagues and friends in the UAE.

Many informative group discussions and workshops took place and the interactive stalls from country coordinators and support staff were busy and buzzing with debate and useful information. Particularly important in the lead up to the May 7th election was a panel focussing on the Human Rights Act and what impact the election might have on its future.

Resolutions

WORKING PARTY A: (‘standard’ items concerned with Governance, non confrontational)

A1S. To move the provisions of the Memorandum AIUK Board - into the Articles of Association

A2S. To address the use of gendered terminology in AIUK Board - the Memorandum and Articles of Association

A3S. To update references to legislation AIUK Board

A4S. To clarify the decision making process for AIUK Board -removing a Director who fails to attend three consecutive meetings without good cause

A5S. To facilitate decisions being taken outside of AIUK Board - Board meetings

A6S. Nomination Committee co-option AIUK Board

A7S. Terminology AIUK Board A8. Constitution and Standing Orders Review AIUK Board

OUTCOME: ALL PASSED

WORKING PARTY B

INTERNATIONAL B1

B1. AI’s Strategic Goals 2016-2019 & priorities – ensure explicit reference to and balance between both “new” and “signature” issues". The AI Board is calling “for sufficient resources, including human resources at the IS, to deliver the plan of action"

AI’S STRATEGIC GOALS 2016-2019 Summary: Resolution to indicate priorities for AIUK’s delegation during ICM discussions on the Strategic Goals.

Proposer: AIUK BOARD

This AGM welcomes the emphasis on providing a clear sense of direction for the movement that is focussed on impact; welcomes the inclusion of women’s human rights, human rights education, human rights defenders and freedom of expression in the second draft of the Strategic Plan.

OUTCOME: PASSED

B2 - STRATEGIC GOALS 2016-2019 (TRADE UNION RIGHTS)

Summary: This resolution calls on AIUK to continue to advocate for union partnerships and workers’ rights to be acknowledged in our strategic goals and work plans for 2016-2019.

Proposer: BATTERSEA AND WANDSWORTH TUC

This AGM Notes the long and proud record of AIUK in collaborating with trade unionists to deliver substantial and impactful human rights campaigns & believes that our strategic goals should reflect opportunities for TU collaboration and partnerships. Calls on the AIUK Board to use its influence before, during and after the ICM to: Insert language into the strategic goals that makes explicit these opportunities.

OUTCOME: PASSED

B3 - AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S STANCE ON ABORTION - PRO - CHOICE

LONG DEBATE This was the most controversial of the day!

Summary: To re-consider Amnesty International’s stance on Abortion.

Proposer: Chris Bovis

Seconder: Amy Foster

This AGM INSTRUCTS the Board to:

1.1. Commission research within AIUK to determine the views of the membership concerning Amnesty International’s current stance on Abortion.

1.2. Determine whether the membership would support an action by the board to change the current stance from support of abortion in the cases of rape, incest, or when the life or health of the mother is threatened, to support in the case of choice (pro-choice).

2.1. That, following a positive response from 1.1 and 1.2. that the board would draft a motion for the next International Council Meeting in 2017 that would reflect the changes outlined in 1.2. - that Amnesty International’s stance on abortion should be one of pro-choice.

Proposer background notes: This AGM notes that in 2007 Amnesty International changed its stance on abortion: from a neutral stance to one supporting access to abortion in cases of rape, incest, and when the life or the health of the mother might be threatened. This AGM further notes that in 2013 a United Nations report by Juan E. Mendez was published that concluded that denial to abortion and abortion after-care was akin to torture; in section 46: ‘International and regional human rights bodies have begun to recognise that abuse and mistreatment of women seeking reproductive health services can cause tremendous and lasting physical and emotional suffering, inflicted on the basis of gender. Examples of such violations include abusive treatment and humiliation in institutional settings; involuntary sterilisation; denial of legally available health services such as abortion and post-abortion care; forced abortions and sterilisations; FGM; violations of medical secrecy and confidentiality in health-care settings, such as denunciations of women by medical personnel when evidence of illegal abortion is found; and the practice of attempting to obtain confessions of potentially life-saving medical treatment after abortion.’ This AGM finally notes that Amnesty International’s My Body, My Rights campaign seeks to reinforce that a woman’s decisions/ choices concerning the health, body, and sexual life, of the individual are a fundamental human right.

Lots of speakers for/against, amendments discussed & long debate.

OUTCOME: PASSED (just)

B4 - ADDRESSING IMPUNITY IN GUATEMALA

Summary: The violation of fundamental human rights of workers, activists and indigenous peoples in Guatemala is enormous.

Proposer: Giacomo Manca di Villahermosa

Seconder: Ellen May

This resolution wants AI UK to conduct a campaign addressing impunity for human rights abuses in Guatemala, including: the addressing of indigenous rights (socio-economic, land & cultural rights). We support the actions taken by AIUK to raise awareness of this issue through its May 2014 conference and its facilitation of a network of allied organisations for Guatemala, including the TUC. Over the last twenty years the ILO supervisory mechanisms have found detailed evidence of extremely serious and systematic attacks on the right to freedom of association. These include murder, death threats, attempted murder, torture, kidnappings, which have created a culture of fear and violence where the exercise of trade union rights becomes impossible.

Since 2007, there have been at least 64 documented assassinations of trade unionists. To date, only a small fraction of these incidents have been investigated and not a single murderer has been successfully prosecuted.

OUTCOME: PASSED

B5 - VIOLATION OF THE RIGHTS OF COLOMBIAN ACTIVISTS, INCLUDING TRADE UNION LEADER HUBER BALLESTEROS

Summary: The resolution calls for a campaign for the release of political prisoners in Colombia, and to adopt the case of trade union leader, Huber Ballesteros.

Proposer: UNISON

Human and labour rights in Colombia have long been under attack. Murder, death threats and false public accusations are all used to intimidate and silence activists. The practice of ‘false positives’, where the Army murders civilians and then dresses them in guerrilla clothing to bolster stats, has left thousands dead and continues to occur. Huber Ballesteros is one of Colombia’s most well respected trade union leaders, and has been imprisoned without trial since August 2013 accused of ‘rebellion’ and ‘financing terrorism’.

We call on Amnesty International UK to advocate for Amnesty International to: 1. Campaign for the release of political prisoners in Colombia; 2. Adopt the case of Huber Ballesteros; 3. Consider sending observers to the trial of Huber Ballesteros when it eventually takes place.

OUTCOME: PASSED

WORKING PARTY C

C1 - THE UNITED KINGDOM: RENDITION AND TORTURE

Summary: This Resolution seeks to raise awareness of the Justice and Security Act 2013 and also the need to have a judge-led enquiry into UK involvement in rendition and torture through increased campaigning, particularly by AIUK membership.

Proposer: COLWYN BAY GROUP (Roger Goldsmith/Maggie Towse)

This AGM DECIDES: that AIUK will commit staff and membership resources to ensure that British complicity in rendition and torture since 9/11 is subject to a fully independent judgeled inquiry which meets international human rights standards. AIUK will also seek to raise awareness of the Justice and Security Act 2013 and its implications for those seeking legal redress.

The UK has a well documented history of torture and rendition since WW2 (Ian Cobain, Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture, 2012). Some who have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere have alleged that UK officials knew of their ill-treatment (http://bit. ly/164TzmQ). This has been investigated amongst others by the Council of Europe (http:bit.ly/1KmGKD5) and suggests that the UK is not complying with international and domestic law including; the UN Convention against Torture 1984, the European Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, and the European Union’s Guidelines on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 2001. The Justice and Security Act 2013 means that anyone making a claim for damages for rendition and torture cannot see the evidence held by the State, nor cross-examine witnesses, nor even have the lawyer of his or her choice.

This resolution welcomes the considerable work that AIUK has already undertaken to try and bring the subject of torture and rendition to the attention of the membership, parliament, the press and others. However, in the light of Amnesty’s global ‘Stop Torture’ campaign, it is felt that renewed efforts must be made by AIUK, and particularly the membership, in more than ‘one-off’ campaigns, to try and ensure that the UK is held to account and prevented from further cover up of British complicity in rendition and torture.

This received no dissenting voices and passed very easily.

OUTCOME: PASSED

C2 - ASYLUM DETENTION IN THE UK

Summary: To highlight and take action against the denials of basic human rights resulting from the UK’s current practice of detaining asylum seekers for largely administrative purposes.

Proposer: OXFORD CITY GROUP

This AGM CALLS ON AIUK to strengthen its position on asylum detention and to work towards bringing about tangible changes in such practices by making representations to the UK government and calling for public campaigns by AIUK activists on the following:

• An immediate moratorium on the current expansion plans of the detention estate;

• A complete end to Detention Fast Track and Detained Non Suspensive Appeals Process;

• Widening implementation of the alternatives to detention as outlined in Amnesty’s 2009 publication Irregular Migrants and Asylum Seekers: Alternatives to Immigration Detention;

• Improved access to publicly funded legal support relating to the right and ability of detainees to challenge the legality of their detention.

This AGM further instructs AIUK to campaign for those directly experiencing human rights abuses in the UK detention estate through the adoption (where appropriate) of asylum detainees as Individuals at Risk.

OUTCOME: PASSED

C3 - ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE UK

Summary: Campaign against anti-Semitism in the UK.

Proposer: Andrew Thorpe-Apps

Seconder: Barrie Hay

LONG DEBATE

This AGM CALLS on AIUK to:

• Campaign against anti-Semitism in the UK.

• Lobby the UK Government to do more to tackle the rise in anti-Semitic attacks in Britain, whether physical or verbal, online or in person. The UK Government should monitor antisemitism closely and periodically review the security of Britain’s Jewish population.

The debate took almost 2 hours on the Saturday with a further debate on the Sunday. There were many speakers for and against and amendments put forward. The debate was concerned with definitions of anti Semitism and issues relating to the singling out of Jewish populations. An All-Party Parliamentary report into AntiSemitism found that there was a 221% increase in hate crimes directed at Jews during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Gaza, when compared with the same period in 2013.

Some felt that this could be covered under ‘discrimination’ and did not require a specific resolution. A catalogue of intolerance and abuse from anti-Semites was listed and reference was made to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris and the Jewish man shot outside Copenhagen’s main synagogue in February.

Following a recount this resolution was defeated by 8 votes.

OUTCOME: DEFEATED (just)

C4 - AIUK WILL UNDERTAKE RESEARCH INTO THE WRONGFUL DETENTION OF TORTURE AND TRAFFICKING VICTIMS IN BRITISH DETENTION

Summary: This AGM urges AIUK to undertake research into the frequency of wrongful immigration detention in the UK and assess the impact of the 2014 Immigration Act on victims of torture and trafficking.

Proposer: University of Kent

Following amendments this resolution was passed quite easily.

OUTCOME: PASSED

 

2014

Group Delegate Report - Alan McBrien

Our 2014 AGM took place from Fri 11 to Sun 13 April 2014 at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

Back in January at our group AGM I was given the task of attending the national AGM and conference. As I had only actively been involved with AI since February 2013 and joined Colwyn Bay Group in the April I was in the world of the unknown. It's a big organisation with democracy at the heart of how things are done, this is what Kate Allen, AIUK Director told us at the start of the conference.

Travelled from Colwyn Bay to Edinburgh by car, leaving 5.45am on the Saturday stopping for a very tasty cooked breakfast at Tebay Services M6 North, arriving at Heriot-Watt University Campus at 10.30am, a pleasant site with a lighthouse at the front of the conference centre (reminded me of the AI candle, unfortunately it was never lit).

Already quite a number of delegates had arrived, registered and was given details of my accomodation and a name badge to wear hanging from a lanyard, this became a bit of a joke as when ever I looked down to check if my name was visible the damn thing at swung round to the back.

There was a meeting titled "Get to know your way around the AGM", so as a first timer this drew my attention. We were given an insight into what to expect over the weekend and having a "mock resolution" on chocolate!

A cold buffet lunch was served that was quite acceptable, bit short on seating but enjoyed chatting with Andy from Leeds Group.

After lunch the conference was opened by the lighting of a candle by Reem al-Assil from Syrian Non Violent Movement (You Tube video of speech) with introductions from Alex Pool, AGM Chair; Sarah O'Grady, Chair of the Board and Kate Allen, AIUK Director. Dealt with some business of the AGM then broke off into smaller groups for workshops.

STOP TORTURE was the workshop I chose, as this global campaign was about to start in May. We were given the personal account of Perico Rodriguez from Patagonia, Argentina who worked as a town clerk in the 1970's and also presented with details of the five countries and the five specific cases that we would be concentrating on over the next two years.

Tea and coffee, then back together for our keynote speaker Mark Thomson, Secretary General of the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), the speech gave the conference more encouragement to tackle the Stop Torture campaign.

Working Parties was next, a new oxymoron that I had not come across before. We were divided into smaller groups to consider the proposed resolutions.

  • Working Party A: Sex Work
  • Working Party B: Campaigns
  • Working Party C: Governance
  • Working Party D: International Secretariat (IS) and Policy Issues

I attended Working Party C, chaired by David Ford. Governance may seem a bit of a dull subject to choose, but as newly involved with AIUK I thought this would help with how the organisation get things done. The methods we use to run the campaigns, policies, etc..

The Working Party finished a little sooner than expected, so I thought it was an opportune moment to book into my hotel the Edinburgh Marriott. The roads got a bit jumbled, and it took a lot longer than I expected, but after eventually finding the hotel and a quick change I returned to the conference for dinner, well just made it.

After dinner was the presentation of Awards for Outstanding Activism, presented by the very personable Dan Jones and his little helpers.

The day finished with a ceilidh (Scottish Gaelic cēilidh), I was now feeling a bit worse for wear after starting out so early from Colwyn Bay, so a glass of wine then home to bed, the hotel's bed was outstandingly comfortable.

Sunday started with a mammoth breakfast, which was very well received.

There were less delegates present for the Sunday session, more reports presented and then voting on the resolutions and amendments made at the Working Parties.

Full details of the resolutions passed are linked below. The Sex Work resolutions had the most controversy, as to be expected, Alex our Chair gave a warning prior to voting not to vote for opposing resolutions. His warning was not heeded as two opposing resolutions were passed, one of them a very close thing only five votes in it. Not a very acceptable position for the AIUK Board to provide the UK perspective to the global movement.

We were given a moving presentation of "Even if We Loose Our Lives" by Ice&Fire a script for use by groups within Amnesty to highlight the plight of women in Afghanistan.

The journey home usually always seems quicker, not on this occasion!

So a weekend of democracy, where not everything made sense, but overall a company of people who are here to advocate for Universal Human Rights. Long may we fight our corner.

The Annual Report 2013 gives details of work done by AIUK last year.

 

National Conference and Annual General Meeting 2014 documents..

 

Reports from others who attended the AGM.

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