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.
From our table in Cliffe shopping precinct last Saturday we gathered a stack of Christmas cards for refugee and undocumented families held by ICE in Dilley Texas. We will be gathering more for New Years, Valentines day and Easter.
Many people wrote “Feliz Navidad” or “Quede Fuerte” (stay strong). Some wrote longer messages in English. One woman wrote “Requerde que tu es una persona de poder!” (Remember that you are a person of power!)
We’ve had advice from Rebecca Ma who campaigns on this issue for Amnesty USA in New York. Below she describes the urgent situation faced by these families. The detail that gets me: you can’t send gifts, not even stickers. How is that keeping America safe? Please add your messages to ours at the address below. In the future we will also write to other “Residential Centers” where families are being held.
We spent the past couple days working on a rapid response effort for several families who are facing imminent deportation. We’re working with our activists to drive emails and calls to ICE today, over the weekend, and into next week.
I’m copying below instructions/guidance to send letters to the families who remain detained in the Dilley family detention center. Thanks again for all the work you and the Lewes group are doing. We so, so appreciate it.
Proyecto Dilley is collecting letters of encouragement for families detained in Dilley, Texas. Letters may include:
Your support for them and your belief that they deserve justice
Your encouragement to fight for their own families and those that will come after them
Your best wishes for them
Your thanks for having the courage to stand up to a government doing everything it can to wear
What you, family, friends, your community and congresspeople have been doing to fight for them
Many of the families detained in Dilley speak Spanish – if you’re multilingual, please apportion your cards accordingly. Children are welcome to send drawings. Unfortunately, due to facility rules, no foods, gifts, or stickers can be sent to these families. If you’re sending several letters, please place each letter into a blank envelope and then place all envelopes into one larger package to send together. Please mail letters through UPS to: Mackenzie Levy, 1111 N. Main Ave, San Antonio, TX 78212, United States of America
After a seventeen year pause, the Trump/Pence administration resumed executions under Federal law in July 2020 and these are still going on, even during the transition period to the new Biden/Harris administration. Federal executions take place under direct control from Washington DC, rather than the jurisdiction of individual states jurisdiction. State level executions have been less frequent this year, even in states such as Texas, because the global pandemic has hit many US prisons very hard and delayed elements of the process such as legal visits, interviews and appeals.
Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on Federal death row, had her December execution delayed because two of her lawyers have Covid-19. She has just been given a new execution date, 12th January 2021.
The other executions scheduled are for Brandon Bernard (10th December – Human Rights Day), Alfred Bourgeois (11th December), Cory Johnson (14th January) and Dustin Higgs (15th January – Martin Luther King day).
The new Biden/Harris administration comes into office on 20th January and we have to hope for a change at that time. The outgoing Trump/Pence administration seems determined not only to see all the scheduled executions through while it can, but has actually added three men to the list. President Trump was pictured in the news earlier this week, giving a ceremonial pardon to a Thanksgiving turkey and making a big joke of it. If only he could be so compassionate towards human beings.
Use the updated wording in this email (changes to the online text are in bold).
I am writing to ask to call off the executions of five people convicted under USA federal law, currently set for 10 and 11 December 2020 and for 12, 14 and 15 January 2021.
With eight executions carried out since July, your administration has now put to death more people in 2020 than the rest of the country combined; and has tripled the total number of federal executions recorded since 1977, when US judicial killings resumed in the post-Furman v. Georgia era.
This relentless pursuit of executions has not only put the spotlight on the flaws and arbitrariness that have long affected the USA death penalty system, but has also shown cruel contempt on the part of the administration for safeguards and restrictions established under international law and standards to guarantee protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty. Racial bias and flawed legal representation are some of the common factors that have contributed to unreliable judicial decisions on life or death, including for people with severe mental and intellectual disabilities. I ask you to intervene and lead the urgent review of the broken USA death penalty system.
As of today, 22 US states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty, and 11 others have not carried out executions in more than 10 years.
In addition, if you would like to send a personal card to offer your support to these five people, please send a message to Patrick, our Lewes Amnesty Group death penalty coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) who can give you their details. It will mean a huge amount to them.
From now until the end of December, Amnesty International is asking members around the world to write letters of support for 10 individuals at risk. Lewes Amnesty Group wants to meet or exceed last year’s 170 messages of support.
Go to our Write for Rights page, download Amnesty’s booklet and use our online form to tell us who you wrote to. That way we can tell Amnesty UK.
After the killings, the protests and now the election, where does America go from here? Beyond policing, will the next president tackle the causes of inequality – in housing, education, health care and wealth creation?
Following the death of his brother in police custody, attorney Ryan Budhu of the international law firm Arnold & Porter, has advised the City of New York on race relations and policing. He also does pro bono work for inmates on death row.
On 12 November 2020, as part of our American Crisis campaign, Lewes Amnesty Group hosted a public discussion on with Mr Budhu about his work and how he sees the future. He described the ways that “zero tolerance” and “stop and search” laws combined to drag huge numbers of minority citizens into the criminal justice system and how laws that are broken by minorities are likely to carry much harsher sentences than similar laws likely to be broken by whites.
Mr. Budhu also described the impact of COVID-19 on minority households, many dependent on work that faces the public with no alternative but to keep working when white collar workers can work from home.
In our question period afterwards, we also discussed the phrase “Defund the Police” – whether it has proved counter-productive or has raised awareness that America is over-reliant on police when what it needs are social workers, or just less racism in areas like housing and education.
Protesters in orange jumpsuits took to the streets of Lewes in August to protest against the continued detention without charge or trial of forty men in Guantanamo. Lewes Amnesty Campaigners were joined by Amnesty members from Brighton and Hove, Tunbridge Wells, Maidstone and Kingston.
We were keen to raise awareness about the continued operation of the illegal detention centre where dozens of men continue to languish without ever having been charged or faced a trial.
We also wanted to show the detainees, all of whom have not seen their family members during their detention, that they had not been forgotten.
Sara Birch, one of the organisers of the vigil, said “It is likely that the detainees will become aware of this action and so buy taking this action at the very least we will show these men that they have not been forgotten by the outside world”.
Lewes Amnesty is also organising a letter-writing project over the coming months to ensure that each of the detainees receives a letter. Says Birch: “Amnesty International aims to shine a light on the darkness whenever and wherever human rights violations are taking place and this is what we are aiming to do next Saturday on behalf of those men still detained in Guantanamo”.
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.
Guest speaker Andy Worthington (journalist, activist and co-founder of the Close Guantanamo campaign) brought us up to date on what is happening in Guantanamo. His talk was followed by an opportunity to ask questions an we were joined by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a former detainee at Guantanamo.
To attend other meetings like this one, join our mailing list.