Minutes of 10 February 2022

Minutes of the Lewes Amnesty Group
Monthly Meeting of 10 February


Adrian Briggs
Andy Worthington
Chris Lawson
Christina Lawson
David burke
Duncan Taylor
Gilli Howarth
Grace Anand
Gretal Scott
Judith Land
Linda Calvert
Nick Swabey
Sara Birch
Serena Penman

David Burke reported on efforts to get Amnesty and other groups in the US to hold screenings of The Mauritanian.  He composed a letter to the groups, offering our help and including a message from Carmen Slijpen of Depot Cinema.  Daphne Eviatar of Amnesty USA has promised to send the letter to all local groups and we have also sent emails to all 50 state offices of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).  To date a number of groups in the UK have planned screenings.  It is not clear whether Daphne has yet sent the email.

The journalist Andy Worthington spoke on Guantanamo and his own involvement with the cause.  Guantanamo is “a failed experiment that should never be replicated.  The only reason to put people there was to abuse and torture them, and then you can’t do anything with them legally.”  He described the various half-measures adopted by the Obama administration when it became clear he might have to spend all his political capital to close the prison, and “the dismal passage of time” under Trump, Biden’s political calculations and the case of Khalid Kasseem, who was recently approved for ongoing impisonment for having a bad attitude.  “It remains a place untouched by law” said Mr. Worthington “Judges are no longer looking at habeas corpus.  And if you can’t get out, even with no charges or trial, you actually are a prisoner of conscience.”

Sara Birch discussed the history of the Lewes Group’s involvement with the Guantanamo campaign.  Mohammedou Salahi has been approved for admission to the United Kingdom to speak at various places.  He will appear in person at a screening of The Mauritanian in Tunbridge Wells on the 20th of March.  Sarah will be starting a weekly vigil in London against Guantanamo Bay, on Wednesdays between 1 and 3pm.

Duncan Taylor described the recently published report by Amnesty International on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.  The 280 page report goes further than previous efforts, accusing Israel of creating an “Apartheid” system including systematic oppression, deliberate impoverishment, laws designed to privelege Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians, fragmentation of their lands into zones of control, dispossession of land and property, segregation and denial of rights, deprivation of economic and social rights and unequal distribution of resources.  The report brings Amnesty in line with the conclusions drawn by other groups such as Human Rights Watch, based in the United States and the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

The group then discussed possible actions to raise the profile of the report.  Nick Swabey described the work of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign in Eastbourne.  Serena Penman described their boycott of Puma athletic equipment, which sponsors the Israeli Football Associations, which includes teams from the occupied territories and the Brighton group’s weekly action at the Clock Tower in Brighton.  Duncan Taylor suggested a public meeting with speakers and a screening of Amnesty’s film on the conditions under which Palestinians live.  The group welcomed this idea and agreed it should be done soon, choosing the 14th of April.  Duncan said he would ask one of the authors of the Amnesty report to speak and David Burke said he would book the Town Hall Lecture Room.  There was some discussion of who else to invite.

The group discussed the case of Mohammed El Halabi who worked for the charity World Vision and has been imprisoned without trial by Israel for over five years.  The motion asked for clarification as to why Mr. El Halabi did not have Prisoner of Conscience status.  The motion was originally raised in an email by Adrian Briggs and Duncan Taylor, and passed to the membership by email.  Patrick Ballin had voiced concerns that there might be a good reason and we should research Amnesty’s position. Patrick was able to contact someone in Amnesty who said it could be the question had not yet been investigated.  So Adrian and Duncan were asked to modify the motion slightly, to ask for clarification and for Mr. El Halabi’s case receive a higher priority regardless of his status.  Duncan and Adrian agreed to that and the group passed the motion.


Duncan Taylor to contact authors of Amnesty’s report on Palestine
Adrian Briggs and Duncan Taylor to amend the motion in support of Mohammed El Halabi
David Burke to send the motion to Amnesty International UK and Amensty’s International Secretariat
David Burke to reserve the Town Hall Lecture Room for 14th April 2022