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Amnesty International, one of the organisations supported by World and Society, consists of over three million ordinary people from around the world standing up for humanity and human rights and its aim is to protect individuals wherever justice, fairness, freedom and truth are denied.
The local Wharfedale Group exists to raise awareness of current human rights issues or campaigns by writing letters to governments and leaders, sending faxes or emails on behalf of prisoners of conscience, and organising fund-raising events for Amnesty International. There are several annual events organised by the group which includes a street collection, an Amnestea, a Greetings Card Campaign, and participation in the Otley Green Fair and the Otley Victorian Fayre.
The local group also adopts and concentrates on a specific prisoner of conscience and individual members act upon Urgent Action cases by writing letters. Members of the group also give talks to schools or other organisations to promote general awareness.
Former prisoners, torture victims and others who have suffered human rights abuses often say that international pressure secured their release and saved their lives.
The Wharfedale Group meets in the Christchurch Coffee Centre on the 2nd Thursday of the month at 7:45pm. The first 30 minutes are dedicated to letter writing before concentrating on other matters. New members are always welcome. Contact Sandra Duff via the Church Office for further information.
Our local Amnesty group would be grateful if you could include these individuals in your prayers (November 2013):
Kyaw Hia Aung – Myanmar
Human rights defender, Kyaw Hia Aung remains arbitrarily detained in Myanmar over three months after he was arrested in connection with his peaceful activities. He has been charged with multiple offences and is facing a lengthy prison sentence. There are serious concerns regarding his lack of access to his lawyer.
The son and mother of Shen Yong – China
The son and mother of a Shanghai petitioner, Shen Yong, are under tight surveillance after Shen Yong was allegedly beaten to death by police in China. They are both at risk of torture and ill-treatment.
Threatened El Tamarindo families – Colombia
Paramilitaries sent a death threat to several human rights organisations and a trade union in Barranquilla, Northern Colombia. Among those threatened are families from El Tamarindo, who are also under threat of eviction from their farm. The El Tamarindo farm has been peacefully occupied by 130 families since 2001 and there have been repeated attempts to force them off the land, resulting in the forced eviction of some families in May and June 2013. All the threatened organisations are part of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes.
Reza Shahabi – Iran
Iranian trade unionist Reza Shahabi, held in Tehran’s Evin Prison, is in urgent need of medical care that he cannot obtain in prison. He is treasurer of the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company and is serving a six-year prison sentence for ‘gathering and colluding against state security’ and ‘spreading propaganda against the system’.
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Kim Song-il and Kim Son-hye - North Korea
North Koreans are prohibited from travelling abroad, including into China, without permission. A family of five, who fled the country, have been forcibly returned to North Korea. Three relatives were allowed to travel to South Korea but Kim Song-il and Kim Son-hye were detained. They are at serious risk of arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, forced labour and possible death. They are also at risk of enforced disappearance.
Igor Postnov - Belarus
An outspoken psychiatrist working in Belarus, Ignor Postnov, has been forcibly detained and treated in the hospital where he works, following the release of a number of interviews over the past 18 months on YouTube, criticising government policy and the management of the health care system in the city of Vitebsk, in the north of the country. He raised issues of medical errors, misuse of funds and in June of this year, he criticised the police’s use of in-patient psychiatric testing to deal with homeless people. A commission at the hospital where he works concluded that he required forced psychiatric treatment for ‘a psychopathic personality disorder with a mania for persecuting the authorities’. Igor Postnov has 10 days to appeal against the decision but has no contact with the outside world and was only able to see a lawyer in August after the intervention of local human rights activists.
Elker León Cataño, Fredy Antonio Rodriguez Corrales, Lidia Liliana Vásquez Pacheco and Joséd de la Cruz Trujillo - Colombia
The above men are members of the Horizon Colombian Association of Displaced Population (ASOCOL). Armed men, believed to be Colombian paramilitaries, have threatened, and apparently attempted to kill, the above members of ASOCOL, who are leaders of the families forcibly displaced from the Hacienda Bellacruz farm, who are campaigning to return to their land. The attacks and other threats against the leaders and families of Hacienda Bellacruz have taken place only a few months after a ruling by the state authorities in April, which could be an important step towards restitution of the land to the families.
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Amarildo Souza Lima - The Unidade de Policia Pacificadora (UPP) is a community policing programme that has been implemented in certain slums in Rio de Janeiro. Despite official statistics showing the implementation of the UPP has reduced the incidence of criminality, Amnesty International in Brazil has been receiving complaints of human rights violations in areas with UPP. Rocinha is one of the largest shanty towns of Rio de Janeiro, with about 70,000 inhabitants, and is located in an upper-class neighbourhood, policed by UPP since 2012. Amarildo Souza Lima has lived in Rocinha all his life and has never been involved in any illegal activity. He works as a bricklayer and has helped many to build their houses. In July he was mistaken for a drug dealer and arrested. After checking his records, he was supposedly released by the police but has not been seen since. Issues: Fear for safety, Risk of ill-treatment, Suspected Abduction - Brazil
Hussain al-Hawaj - This 15 year old boy was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment by a Bahraini court in June for participation in a protest, arson and rioting. He is held in a prison for adults. He was arrested in December 2012 following clashes between protesters and the police. The boy had actually been visiting his grandfather and was crossing the road to buy food. His family was allowed to visit him after 10 days and he told them he had been beaten, threatened and made to sign documents he was not allowed to read. At the prosecution conflicting testimonies were given in court. Issues: Ill-treatment, incommunicado detention and legal concern - Bahrain
Hernando Mejia López and David Espinoza - During Colombia’s long-running armed conflict between security forces, acting alone or in collusion with paramilitaries and a range of guerrilla groups, civilians have been the main victims. Members of trade unions, human rights organisations and other social organisations have often been labelled as guerrilla collaborators or supporters by the security forces and paramilitaries. As a result they are often killed, threatened or subjected to enforced disappearance. In recent weeks there have been several death threats against the human rights movement in Barrancabermeja, where Hernando Mejia López and David Espinoza are working on human rights education and undertaking grassroots pastoral work in poor neighbourhoods, especially with young people. The two men received a death threat, demanding that they leave within 2 days. Issues: Death threats, Fear for Safety, Freedom of Expression, Impunity - Colombia
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