UK: East London pupils ensure minister keeps death penalty at heart of UK foreign policy

Pupils from Eastlea Community School in Newham took centre stage at a prestigious event at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in central London yesterday to mark the World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Jeremy Browne, the Minister at the State, invited the Eastlea pupils in after seeing the Amnesty International film I Talk Out Loud, which featured the Amnesty youth group from the school campaigning against the use of stoning in Iran.

The event aimed to raise awareness of the issue of the minimum standards on the use of the death penalty – one of the three goals in the UK Government’s Strategy for Abolition of the Death Penalty.

The young activists spoke to the Minister about their campaign and questioned him about the UK government’s position on the death penalty, including the case of Troy Davis, before introducing the film to open the event. 

Afterwards, the Minister of State Jeremy Browne MP, said:

“The idealism of the young people was inspirational and I also admire their desire to turn ideas into practical outcomes. I enjoyed being involved with Amnesty when I was at school and it was clear these students also have huge enthusiasm for human rights campaigning.”

Khadeeja Shahid, a 14-year-old student at Eastlea Community School and a member of the school’s Amnesty Youth Group, said:

“When the Minister told us how good our work was it made me feel that what we’ve done is really worth it. I was surprised to see how many people are involved in campaigning against the death penalty, and to find out that it’s not just Amnesty, people in government are trying to solve human rights problems too. This is going to make me campaign even harder and try to get even more people involved in the campaign.”

Nazanin Shirani, a teacher at the school and one of the school’s Amnesty Youth Group leaders, added:

“Meeting the Minister was an important opportunity for our students to have a direct conversation with the UK government about the death penalty. We found out that the issue we are campaigning on is also firmly on the British government’s agenda, which is massively encouraging.”

Clare Bracey, Death Penalty campaigner at Amnesty International UK, added:

“I feel so proud of the young activists. They asked great questions, and clearly made a real impact on the Minister. He spent a lot of time talking to them and was genuinely interested in what they had to say. We hope he’ll recall meeting them in the future and use them as an example of outstanding campaigning on this issue.”

Louise De Souza, Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said:

“The film was very moving and a real tribute to the young people’s campaign. I am impressed by their passion and sure they will make the world a better place.”

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