UK: Human Rights 'Message of Hope' Greetings Card Campaign Announced

Amnesty International has launched its annual 'Greetings Card' campaign to send messages of support to people around the world facing persecution, torture and other human rights abuses.

The annual campaign asks people in the UK to send cards to those under threat around the world – those imprisoned solely for their beliefs, those under sentence of death, those held without charge or due process and others at risk of human rights abuse.

Beginning on 1 November and running until 31 January 2005, the campaign is expected to generate thousands of messages of hope, of various faiths and none, to each of 30-plus cases featured.

Of the 35 cases featured in last year’s campaign, eight people have since been released and six have seen their circumstances improve.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'The greetings card campaign is a fantastic way of making a meaningful connection with people at risk around the world.

'At a time when people are contacting their own loved ones, we are asking people to send a message of hope to prisoners and other threatened individuals around the world.

'We know from messages received from people previously featured in the campaign that these cards are a great source of hope and encouragement.'

Speaking of the campaign Terry Waite, CBE, the former hostage in Lebanon, 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.'

Alyksandr Bukhvostov, a persecuted trade unionist in Belarus featured in this year’s campaign has said:

'International solidarity is stronger than any dictator or dictatorship, together we can conquer evil and assert our right to freedom and the right to call ourselves human.'

The campaign is focusing on over 30 cases in 2004, including:

A 16-year-old boy, from Romania, who was arrested in November 2003 and accused of stealing a box of sweets. He was reportedly violently beaten by police. On the same day the same police officer was involved in another case of alleged ill-treatment of a 19-year-old. In both cases the Prosecutor’s Office decided not to initiate criminal investigations against the officer due to alleged lack of evidence.

Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abassi, Martin Mubanga, Richard Belmar - all UK nationals, and Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil al-Banna, Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer and Jamal Abdullah - UK residents, all of whom have been held for up to two and half years without trial (and most without charge) at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba by US military forces.

Ignatius Mahendra Kusuma Wardhana, Chair of the National Democratic Student’s League and Yoyok Eko Widodo, a member of the Indonesian Street Musicians Union, who are currently serving prison sentences for 'insulting the President or Vice-president.' Both are prisoners of conscience.

Sumi Khan, from Bangladesh, a journalist who has written investigative articles about the alleged involvement of local politicians and religious groups in attacks on members of minority communities, kidnapping and land grabbing by some landlords. On 27 April 2004 she was stabbed and critically wounded. Before this she had received several anonymous threatening phone calls, warning her not to 'defame' people in her reports.

Zheng Enchong, a Chinese lawyer imprisoned under 'state secrets' legislation, a measure believed to relate to his provision of information to the non-governmental organisation Human Rights in China. Mr Zheng had worked to help more than 500 families displaced by Shanghai’s redevelopment projects. His wife has also been harassed.

The Bashir family - a husband, wife, the husband’s elderly mother and eight Children's rights - under threat of house demolition in the Israeli-Occupied Territories. The Israeli army is occupying the top floor of the family home. The family’s land has been confiscated and damaged, and members of the family have been shot and injured

Good news from last year’s campaign

Phuntsog Nyidrol, a Tibetan Buddhist nun who was arrested by the Chinese authorities in October 1989, was released in February 2004, one year early.

Zouheir Yahiaoui, a Tunisian prisoner of conscience, was conditionally released from prison in November 2003.

Aleksei Shishkin and Andrei Osenchugov, from Russia, both aged 18 and allegedly tortured while awaiting trial on robbery charges in 2002. Cards they received while in detention are thought to have protected them from further threats and intimidation.

Zakiya ‘Abd Jiyad ‘Uwaysi, a Palestinian mother of 11, arrested in June 2003 and held in interrogation for one month and then held in administrative detention, was released in July 2004.

Lionel Tate, from the USA, a minor who had been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in contravention of international standards, who was released on bond in January 2004. Lionel’s lawyer expressed his thanks for the 3,000 cards and letters from Children's rights and others received at his office.

Many of the individuals featured in 2003 have contacted Amnesty International to communicate the importance of the cards, expressing their thanks to those who wrote to them.

Media information

Photos of some of the people featured in the campaign are available on request. It may be possible in some instances to arrange interviews - with the person themselves, a family member or others connected to the case.

• The Greetings Card Campaign 2004

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