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UK: Greetings Card Campaign – 100,000 cards boost justice globally

The annual human rights campaign, involving people in the UK sending cards to those under threat around the world, saw an overwhelming response to 32 cases of people suffering or at risk of human rights violations. Some 11,650 cards were sent to the families in Britain of British men and British residents held in Guantanamo Bay alone.

The cards, sent between November 2004 and January 2005, are designed to pressure the authorities into respecting human rights and to act as a morale-boost to prisoners, families and others.

Terry Waite, CBE, the former hostage in Lebanon, has endorsed the campaign. He said:

"The cards show the authorities that the world is still watching and that we can help lift the spirits of those who need our support."

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

"The simple gesture of sending a greetings card to people at risk is an amazingly effective means of helping to protect people and it can even play a small part in securing people’s release from wrongful detention.

"This year has seen a tremendous response from the British public, with over 11,000 cards sent to the families of British men and British residents in Guantanamo Bay alone.

"Our campaign is really about solidarity with those at risk, but we are delighted that six people who were part of this year’s cards campaign have now been released.

"We will continue to keep pressing for justice for all the subjects of our greetings cards appeal."

During the period of the three-month long campaign six prisoners were released:

  • Oscar Manuel Espinosa Chepe: an economist and journalist sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment in Cuba after a crackdown in March 2003. Considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. Released in November 2004 (on his 64th birthday). His release was on health grounds. He is still forced to serve his sentence outside prison.
  • Hafnaoui Ghoul: a journalist imprisoned in Algeria in May 2004. Released from detention in November. However, his younger brother - Ahmed Ghoul - was imprisoned for six months in October for participation in a meeting of a political group for which his brother is spokesperson. Amnesty International considers Ahmed a prisoner of conscience and has been directing cards to him.
  • Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar: British nationals held without trial at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere for around three years. They were returned to the UK in January 2005 and have since been released from British custody without charge. Their families have expressed their gratitude for thousands of cards sent to them.

    Other successes during the 2004-5 greetings cards campaign included:

  • After Ignatius Mahendra Kusuma Wardhana - a student organiser imprisoned in Indonesia for three years for “insulting the President or Vice-President” - received 800 greetings cards, he wrote his own cards to others around the world from his cell. His student organisation also set up a new website for prisoners of conscience in Indonesia.
  • Zheng Enchong, an imprisoned lawyer in China, is no longer held in a solitary confinement, though he is still imprisoned in high security cell.

    Amnesty International has received replies from several of the recipients of the 2004-5 greetings cards, including:

  • Russian anti-racism organisation United Europe has sent Amnesty International photographs of hundreds of cards that it received. The organisation is campaigning against racism in Russia and receives harassment and death threats. In January its director Dmitrii Kraiukhin received an email which threatened that his house would be broken into and his head would be cut off.
  • Lim Taehoon, a gay rights activist detained in South Korea, said: "I was very happy to receive the greeting cards from you. Your cards gave great courage and hope."
  • Alyaksandr Bukhvostov, a union leader who has faced persecution in Belarus, commented: “Thanks for your support which is very necessary for us and to everyone who struggles against dictatorship in Belarus.”
  • Nasser Zarafshan, a lawyer detained as a prisoner of conscience in Iram, said: “One cannot measure the effect that the cards had on the authorities, they had a big effect; they create hope and courage.”

Of the 35 cases featured in last year’s campaign, 12 people were later released and at least four others experienced an improvement in their circumstances.

More about the Greetings Card Campaign, including updates on cases

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