10 January 2022 Meeting Highlights
Two very short films featuring our Prisoner of Conscience, Dr Mohammed al-Roken were shown. Everybody agreed that seeing him talking made a personal connection which we hope will galvanise our campaigning. What came across was his humanity, calm reasonableness and commitment to help others in his capacity as a lawyer.
The videos, which can be seen on Sutton Amnesty’s YouTube channel were:
The group discussed a strategy for Dr al-Roken involving a 100 day letter-writing campaign addressed to the UAE embassy in London. Those present were keen on an approach involving both emails and letters.
Our Secretary went through the Urgent Action cases for the January meeting - draft emails having been sent out that week. The four were:
Javier Tarazona (Venezuela) - a human rights defender arbitrarily imprisoned on charges of 'terrorism'. We covered his case during 2021 and were encouraged to continue doing so by Geraldine Chacon (who spoke movingly at our November meeting about her own imprisonment in Venezuela).
Refugees being returned by Polish police at the border with Belarus - we had written previously about Afghan refugees in this situation and now other nationals have become pawns in a political game instigated by Belarus (and perhaps elsewhere). This 'push-back in spite of the refugees' mistreatment by Belarus forces and their right under international law to claim asylum in Poland. A large number are now effectively trapped in freezing conditions near the border and there have been many deaths.
Lilia Chanysheva (Russia) - a former regional manager of Alexei Navalny's organisation and the first of his supporters to be targeted. She has been charged with 'establishing or leading an extremist organisation' and is in pre-trial detention in Moscow.
Sultana Khaya (Morocco) - a defender of both womens' rights and the right to self-determination of her Sahrawi people. Sultana, under arbitrary arrest as a result, was subject to a brutal assault by security forces. We asked for this to be investigated and that she be released from house arrest.
The Chair gave an update on the group’s social media statistics. Given our relatively recent entry on social media the number of tweets and posts is impressive.
- Twitter 184 tweets (18 followers, following 56 accounts)
- Instagram 37 posts (64 followers, following 29 accounts)
- Facebook 104 posts (6 followers, following 20+ accounts)
A short Time to Care video was played to the group, featuring members of the Sutton Amnesty Group shown on ITV in the 1990s. The video emphasised the success flowing from the Group's activities (and more widely across Amnesty). At that time, Sutton AI was the AIUK’s 'go to' group when the TV media wanted to film members meeting and letter-writing.
There was a preliminary discussion on how to reach out to churches, schools and other organisations.
Mark and John attended an Amnesty protest outside the Polish embassy on 15 January. A number of speeches were given including from Jeremy Corbyn, and a report directly from the Poland/Belarus border.
Group members were thanked for the continuing support they give to Amnesty International.