The United States was founded on civil liberties, but in the past decades it has retreated from those ideals. We have all been shocked by the sight of young children taken from their parents and put in cages, videos of police violence and moves to deny the rights to prisoners on death row, in Guantanamo Bay and in “Residential Centers” for immigrant families.
How did it get this bad? And what will happen to the fight for human rights in places like China or Russia if America walks away?
Lewes Has a Connection to Human Rights in America. Let’s make use of it.
As Americans prepare for a new administration, Lewes Amnesty Group are sending politicians, newspapers and schools copies of our AMERICAN CRISIS leaflet, a synopsis of Amnesty International’s new report to the UN on human rights abuses in the United States. We compare that report to the writings of Tom Paine when America was founded and ask: What happened?
We need your help. We want the whole town of Lewes writing letters and making phone calls this autumn. 18,000 people can make a lot of noise if we all shout in the same direction. Aimed at one child or prisoner at a time, we might just get them free.
Join our mailing list and help us call America back to its founding principles.
STOP THE EXECUTIONS
Brandon Bernard was the youngest person in the US to receive a death sentence in nearly 70 years for a crime committed when he was an adolescent. Take action now to stop others.
FREE THE REFUGEE CHILDREN
A federal judge has ordered that children still in detention centres be released. But the authorities are separating them from their parents. Sign this petition to #FreeThemAll. Other cases can be found here.
CLOSE GUANTANAMO BAY
This summer we intend to write to all of the 40 men detained in Guantanamo to show them they have not been forgotten. To be part of this project and be allocated prisoners to contact, join our mailing list.
Meanwhile, you can write to the US Secretary of Defence.
STOP POLICE BRUTALITY
The PEACE Act (HR 4359), establishes a national standard to prevent police officers from using lethal force unless nonlethal methods have been exhausted. Take this short online course on policing issues in the States. Sign this petition to pass the Justice in Policing Act.
When director Kevin Macdonal was doing Q&A for his film The Mauritanian at Depot Cinema, he was asked “What affect has the film had in the States?” and he had to answer “Very little”.
The release of the Mauritanian in America was frustrated by COVID, worse than it was here in the UK. Here the release was primarily on Amazon Prime, which worked well for a pandemic. But in the States it went to cinemas, many of which were closed.
But Lewes Amnesty group was able to get a showing this October just by asking nicely. The people at Depot Cinema took on this cause and went out of their way to make it a success.
So we figure, if we can do it, why not local groups in the United States? So we are launching a kind of internal campaign to help local Amnesty groups in America arrange showings of the Mauritanian in the next two months – leading up to the 20th anniversary of Guantanamo in January.
We have a new web page, a snappy URL, a contact form and a map of independent cinemas across the United States. It’s not a bad start:
Please spread this link to anyone you know who belongs to a human rights or civil society group – here or in America. It doesn’t have to be Amnesty. And if you would like to help us make this campaign a success, fill in the contact form and say so. We will need people to send emails, make calls and do research.
Our Campaign Co-ordinator Sara Birch organised this two day academic conference in conjunction with the University of Brighton. Have a brief look at the link below and count the international academics, lawyers and journalists that gave presentations from all over the world.
This event made a prestigious contribution to the study of America’s terrible decision to invent a place where human rights do not exist. Over two days, experts on Guantanamo examined the law, the hidden histories and agendas behind the prison, and why it is still open.
Guantanamo doesn’t just hurt the men inside and their families. It has had a corrosive effect on American justice and America’s place in the world. Sara, Andy Worthington and legal students from the University of Brighton gathered some extremely smart people to untangle this mess.
It was mentioned by more than one participant that the event not only examined the facts, but had strengthened the community of activists working to close the prison. The event was recorded, and a publishing company have shown interest in a book. More to follow!
Back in the flesh and back in the streets, the Lewes Amnesty Group will be writing letters and cards to prisoners and the people holding them on the 27th of November at the House of Friendship on School Hill in Lewes.
This year we are writing in aid of Zhang Zhan, one of the few citizen journalists to report on COVID-19 in China and was sent to prison for it. We are also writing to Mikita Zalatarou, a teenager sentenced to five years in prison colony for running away from police in Belarus and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, facing the possibility of life in prison for protesting against the Thai government.
Come help us. We will need people inside serving hot chocolate and people outside handing out leaflets. For many people, this is the most important thing we do – Amnesty’s core mission of direct contact.
Out of nowhere, two talented local musicians have come to our group proposing a charity concert. Um.. yes!
This late Sunday afternoon of beautiful music will benefit St. Anne’s Church and Amnesty International. The admission price is £5 and includes tea and cake. Details below and you can download their poster, suitable for printing and displaying in your window.
Charity Concert for Lewes Amnesty Group
Robbie Hughes, violin Rachel Fryer, piano Brahms: Sonata No. 1 in G major Op.78 mmt 1 Beethoven: Sonata No. 5 Op. 24 ‘Spring’ mmt 1 Massenet: Meditation from Thais Kreisler: Syncopation Tickets £5 including tea and cake from www.trybooking.co.uk/BIGR or on the door Sunday 5 December, 4-5pm St Anne’s Church, Lewes BN7 1RJ
The Brighton website, magazine and news channel The Latest followed us around for a few days. They filmed the Q&A session after The Mauritanian and then our vigil in Cliffe High Street.
The vigil had a good turn out. We were joined by members of the Brighton Amnesty Group. Some passers by who had seen The Mauritanian at the Depot Cinema, were moved to spontaneously grab orange jump suits and join us.
Our screening of The Mauritanian at Depot Cinema sold out, and the director Kevin Macdonald came down from London for the night along with journalist Andy Worthington. They were joined on Zoom by the real life subject of the film Mohamedou Ould Salahi and his lawyer Nancy Hollander. The whole Q&A was filmed and I will link to it on this website as soon as the video is available.
All costs for showing the film were donated by Depot Cinema in Lewes. They also donated publicity and help with the technology of the Q&A. It was a great evening.
The Curst Sons in October pulled a healthy crowd and played the wild, energetic music we were hoping for. We drank the fine beverages available at the Con Club bar and made hundreds of pounds for Amnesty. Yee-hah!
Najwan Haddad of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign told us about her visit to family in Gaza before the recent fighting and updated us on what she knows of the situation since.
She described the difficulties of getting into Gaza, the poverty there and the wealth of some people who are getting funding from somewhere, the desperation of many young people who have turned to prescription drugs such as opioids, and she told us the latest on the COVID vaccine programme.
Sergei Nikitin, the former head of Amnesty International’s office in Moscow spoke with Lewes Amnesty Group on the 8th of April, 2021. He has worked for Amnesty in Moscow for 14 years and has witnessed the shrinking space for human rights in Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Mr. Nikitin also addressed recent developments, specifically the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and Amnesty’s response.
Lewes Amnesty Group is writing to Alexi Navalny in prison in Russia where he is on hunger strike. We are also writing to Amnesty’s International Secretariat asking them to clarify their position on Navalny’s status. If you would like to join us in this effort, use the contact form on the right.
Lewes Amnesty Group was delighted to host a large online audience to hear former Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Salahi mark the 19th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center and to remember the forty men who remain in Guantanamo today (either detained without charge or trial or who have been subjected to unfair trials).
Chaired by AIUK Board member Hugh Sandeman, the event highlighted Amnesty’s new report on Guantanamo that was issued on 11th January. Aside from Mohamedou, we were joined by Andrew Worthington, campaigner and author of The Guantanamo Files.
We call on all local Amnesty groups to join us in taking action over the coming year to demand that Guantanamo be closed and for justice for the 40 men who still detained in Guantanamo today.
Mohamedou Ould Salahi
Amnesty International supporters worldwide mobilized to secure Mohamedou’s release from Guantanamo in 2016. After his release, he experienced restrictions on his freedom of movement, and Amnesty activists helped him secure his passport from the Mauritanian government. He is still experiencing restrictions, with several countries refusing to grant him visas to visit, allegedly at the behest of the US government, which continues to demonize him. A Hollywood production about Guantanamo and Mohamedou is slated for release on 19 February 2021, and Amnesty International is endorsing the movie and partnering with the production team for a joint launch. We are finalizing the launch plans and there will be a subsequent action circular specifically about the movie. You can watch the trailer for The Mauritanian here.