Members of the UK Guantanamo Network (which includes a number of Amnesty groups/activists) are organising a campaigning action in London on Saturday 8th January 2022 to mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo on 11th January 2022.
Your action can really make a difference! Here is what you can do as we head towards the 20th anniversary of the opening of the unacceptable legal black hole that is Guantánamo. 100 volunteers are needed to walk in single file on behalf of those still detained in Guantanamo and to recognise those who have previously been detained there.
Meeting time on 8th January – midday
The action is expected to last approximately 2 – 3 hours (maximum) and volunteers will be asked to meet at midday in Victoria Tower Gardens (a public park next to the House of Lords).
The plan will be to walk in single file to Parliament Square and then up past Downing Street to Trafalgar Square where speeches will be given. After the speeches we will walk back in single file to Victoria Tower Gardens. We will be demanding the closure of Guantánamo and justice for those still detained there/those who have been detained there. We also plan to have a delegation handing a letter into 10 Downing Street for the attention of the Prime Minister. We are trying to gather the names of 100 activistswilling to take part in this campaigning action – please be one of them if you can!
We are in the process of deciding upon exact timings (for example how long we will stay in Parliament Square, opposite Downing Street, in Trafalgar Square) but we would expect to be back in Victoria Tower Gardens by 3pm at the latest.
At this point we are aiming to put together a list of 100 volunteers who are prepared to join us to wear an orange jumpsuit and take part in this vigil as a sign of respect to those whose human rights are being abused (or have been abused) in Guantanamo. So far we have 30 volunteers. Can you be one of the 70 volunteers we still need in order to make an impact?
Further details will be sent out to all volunteers prior to the demonstration so that everyone knows exactly what to do on the day and so that our demonstration can be as impactful as possible.
Initially – please send your email contact address to Sara Birch (Lewes Amnesty Group) who is putting together a list of all volunteers and will be available to answer any questions you may have as the demonstration date approaches. She will also be sending keeping all volunteers informed of all information that they will need to take part in the campaigning action. Her email is: email@example.com
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 wrote 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. Turnout was almost at pre-covid levels and over 80 letters and cards were sent.
This year we were 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 were 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.
It is not too late to take part. Writing these letters is the core of what we do. You can download the Write for Rights booklet here:
We had cancelled our biannual Christmas concert because of Covid, but two of the musicians offered to play anyway. And, while allowing for a judicious amount of personal space, we managed to fill St. Anne’s church. The music played by Robbie Hughes and Rachel Fryer gave us a varied, festive performance and the cakes were seriously good. You missed out.
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
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.