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7 June 2021 Meeting Highlights

The Group were pleased to welcome Abigail Tuxworth-Grant (‘Abby’) a member of the AIUK Main Board, who sits on the Activism sub-committee and who also chairs the Kingston Amnesty Group. Topics covered were:

(i) Impact of the Movement

This was originally scheduled to run until 2023 but has now been extended to 2025. It has three envisaged outcomes:

  • organising and mobilising intended to give local activists power to initiate action and work more closely with each other
  • moving Amnesty closer to the ground in the UK entailing increased visibility, partnering with other organisations and more empowerment
  • building a larger more visible, diverse and inclusive movement in the UK

UK issues that would be addressed included the elderly (e.g. the risks the elderly were exposed to in care homes during the covid pandemic), the arms trade, human trafficking and modern day slavery. Consistent with the above strategy new ‘activist areas’ addressing Racism and Disability would be introduced. The target is to double membership from its current level of about 150K in the UK. Abby also mentioned another measure of engagement (‘supporters/activists’), defined as those responding to two or more petitions/actions in a year, which she believed to be much higher at 500K to a million.

The strategy therefore entailed a much wider focus but more UK based. Earlier ‘Own country rules’ had prevented a domestic focus in order to maintain a ‘non-political’ stance, although changes in UK legislation and education on human rights were allowed.

Abby confirmed that Amnesty groups that wanted to adopt a more traditional approach (largely focussing on human rights violations overseas) were free to do so, and would continue to be supported.

(ii) Governance

There have been concerns about tension between Volunteers and paid staff and in particular recent reports of racism from Amnesty head office staff. Abby emphasised that an independent investigation on the latter issue was pending and that she was unable to comment further until that report had been received. Abby agreed to respond to the group on UK staff and volunteer numbers. Abby mentioned the appointment of Sasha Deshmukh as Interim Chief Executive of AIUK.

(iii) Kingston group

Abby had taken over chairing the Kingston Group in January 2021 when meeting were not possible because of the pandemic. Their ‘membership’ (those e-mailed about meetings) stood at about 30 to 40. She was not sure whether the Kingston Group would return to physical meetings when that became possible. She saw herself as a conduit enabling and empowering sub-groups. The Kingston Group used social media a lot. 

Dr Mohammad Al-Roken

It was agreed that we should all aim to have written an initial letter on Dr Mohammad al-Roken before the next meeting.  Our Chair had emailed the President and the Prime Minister of the UAE appealing for his release, and sent a letter to the UAE Ambassador in London requesting the same.

This touched on the areas of interest of the group and which information should be received by the Secretary and forwarded on to members (or sent directly to them). It was agreed this should be set at a level where members would not be deluged, reflect their interests and enable us to build from achieving manageable targets. It was suggested this could be achieved by the whole group doing a ‘letter of the month’ and perhaps one other.

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