Sep 2017 Minutes
Truro and Falmouth Amnesty International Group
Minutes of Meeting held on 13 Sept 2017
- : Wailim Wong, Margaret George, Chris Ramsey, Shirley Sweeney, Georgie Wong, Linnea Glynne-Rule, Hetty Tye, Karen Cooper
- Matters arising from the Minutes of the meeting held on 12 July 2017: 2c Chris will send information about the Manchester conference to Karen for Megan. 5b the Cornwall Pride event in Newquay was very successful. We got 250 cards signed, £25.32 in donations, and a new contact for our group (Meike Koops) came along to help.
- Secretary’s report: i. a letter had arrived from Russia (kindly translated by a friend of Margaret) which stated that charges had been dropped against Valentina Chervatenko. This is also confirmed on page 11 of the Autumn Amnesty magazine. Margaret would send out the September Groups’ emailing from Farshid to the people present. The order for the Write for Rights and the catalogue had arrived. A letter had come from Sarah Newton, about the level of training given to those who are dealing with refugees and asylum-seekers.
- Treasurer’s report: Linnea reported that we have £1078.38. Money had come in from the Mayor’s coffee morning, Gay Pride (£25.32) and the bookstall (£109.75). Margaret had emailed Paul Duffy to thank him for being able to have the bookstall in Lemon Street Market.
North Africa – Hetty had brought news that Dr Mohamed Yasin Adalla, a Sudanese doctor, had been released without charge. She had letters to sign on behalf of Nasser Aldeen Mukhtar Mohamed (Sudan), Malmoud Abu Zeid (Egypt) and Abdulaziz al-Shubaily (Saudi Arabia). She had received a request for the group to work on the case of Azza Soliman, and it was agreed that the group will take up this case. (please see the end of these notes for more details on Azza Soliman.)
Central America – Georgie had a reply from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in response to a letter to Sarah Newton about the disappeared Mexican students. More details on Central America are in the newsletter which Georgie has sent out.
Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Chris reported on a petition on the AI website concerning goods from the occupied Territories.
Former Soviet Union - Margaret had brought the recent newsletter.
- Forthcoming events –
- . Peace Day events in Truro on 16th and 21st Sept. It was agreed to have a stall on 21st, at High Cross, from 1pm to 3pm.
- . Give a Home for Human Rights 20 sept. This is part of an event happening world-wide on that date, when musicians are giving their time free to raise funds for the AI ‘I welcome refugees’ campaign. Chris was to speak at the local gig (at St Ewe) and Margaret had applied for a ticket.
- . Truro Street Collection on 23rd Sept. Georgie was drawing up a rota. It was agreed to collect from 9.30 to about 1.30.
- . Amnesty social walk. This was planned for Sunday 24th Sept. Meet at Bodmin Parkway station at 11.00 and walk to Lanhydrock.
- Next meeting: 11th Oct, 7pm at Sambells Café, Truro Methodist Church
The Azza Soliman case:
Azza Soliman is a lawyer who has worked for years in Egypt on defending women's rights. She started an organisation called Centre for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance in 1995, to provide legal aid and other support for women who had been subjected to sexual violence. In 2010, she was involved in starting a second NGO, called Lawyers for Peace and Justice, to provide legal support to people whose rights had been abused.
Soon after the overthrow of Egypt's former military ruler Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, the new government of Egypt began to try to sever the links between civil society organisations and foreign funding and assistance. The government brought a legal case in 2011 against a number of NGOs, including the Egyptian offices of international organisations. After the fall of the democratically elected President Morsi in 2013, and the return of direct rule by the army, the new government intensified the pressure on civil society organisations, seeking to bring all forms of voluntary organisation under the control of the authorities. New legislation enabling strict control of non-governmental organisations was passed by Egypt’s parliament in November 2016 and became law in May this year.
As the military government tightened its grip on civil society, Azza Soliman became a target of the security services - again, as she was first arrested as far back as 1988, when Amnesty campaigned for her release. In December last year, Azza Soliman was taken in for interrogation, and then charged with running a civil society organisation without the right papers, with evading tax, and also with slandering the reputation of Egypt by speaking publicly about the risks that Egyptian women face of sexual violence. She is currently on bail, her assets and those of Lawyers for Peace and Justice have been frozen, and she is banned from travel.
Amnesty believes that the charges against Azza Soliman are motivated solely by her work in defending women's rights. Amnesty is calling for the charges against her to be dropped, and the asset freeze and travel ban to be revoked.
Azza is already known to some members of Amnesty in the UK. In 2016, she was a visiting fellow at the Centre for Applied Human Rights at York University, and during that time, she gave a talk to AIUK’s South East Regional Conference in Cambridge.
Because AIUK is campaigning for Azza Soliman in conjunction with the new global campaign in support of human rights defenders, there will be lots of support from AIUK staff on this project, including campaign cards and other campaigning aids.