GOVERNMENTS WHO TORTURE • PRESS FREEDOM • REFUGEES’ HUMAN RIGHTS • LGBTIQ RIGHTS 1
PHOTOGRAPHER AND ILLUSTRATOR
BEHIND THE BARCODE OF FASHION
AFGHANISTAN DANCING BOYS
GOVERNMENTS WHO TORTURE
THE LGBTIQ BATTLE IN JAMAICA
VIDEO: YOUNG & GAY: JAMAICA'S GULLY QUEENS
THE ANNUAL CASTAN CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS LAW CONFERENCE 2014
LAUNCH PARTY AM-UNITY MAGAZINE
AM-UNITY MAGAZINE TEAM EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMILY WILLIAMSON
VANESSA DE LA GARZA
JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER
SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR
WRITERS/EDITORS GRACE BUTCHER DAVID AIDONE
AYKUT OZAL ONLINE MARKETING MANAGER JONATHAN STIGLEC MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR
PING-YI LEE CARA GILLESPIE KATIE O'CONNELL SARAH MOKRZYCKI
CAMILA BAR PHOTOGRAPHERS ERIN WALLACE JAMES ROBINSON JANE MCDOUGALL KATE SHEFFIELD
OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTIONS ARTICLES, ARTWORK & PHOTOGRAPHY DOHA CENTRE FOR MEDIA FREEDOM, ARTIST: NASER JAFERI VALERIA CORNIA
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It gives me immense pride to work on such an incredible project that combines my two great loves; human rights and journalism. AM-UNITY Magazine is a labour of love for all the volunteers who have been involved in its creation and supported its growth. The level of talent and dedication amongst the team is once again evident in this edition which followed the main themes of Press Freedom, Governments Who Torture, Refugee Rights and LGBTIQ Rights. The writing team have provided you with a diverse range of articles including those about Vietnamâ€™s prisoners of conscience and a global comparison of refugee rights. There is also incredible photography that has been supplied to us by international artists which we feel privileged to be able to share with you. Thank you to everyone who came to support us at the launch of our second edition, it was a great night put together by our team behind the scenes. Each edition we are continuing to learn and grow and I sincerely thank each and every one of you for supporting us. Itâ€™s hard to believe it has now been over one year since we started this adventure and despite its challenges I am truly grateful to be involved with such an amazing organisation. It has been an incredible year and I hope there are many more to come. Emily Williamson
CARTOONIST NASER JAFAR FRONT COVER IMAGE
In the beginning of the “Arab Spring” social media was a main source for people to communicate and spread information about their human rights and democracy. It became an enemy for fascist political systems who used to restrict people’s freedom speech. This cartoon reflects how many humans passed that jail of restriction and how much it is impossible to make people give up and always their opinions should fly like a birds through rods.
Naser Jafari lives in Jordan and works as a cartoonist at Al-Ghad Daily Newspaper.
Now i know that we have not come all the way yet, and we have to face many new challenges, some are more tragedy than fascist political systems itself, but human history won’t go back...i hope and i wish ....
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Image from Doha Centre for Media Freedom. Artist: Naser Jafari
VALERIA CORNIA PHOTOGRAPHER AND ILLUSTRATOR I’m a wannabe photographer and illustrator. I’m interested in anything that is telling a story. Winogrand used to say: ‘I don’t have messages in my pictures...The true business of photography is to capture a bit of reality (whatever that is) on film’. The reality is already full of meanings, full of messages, full of stories. I just want to sit, observe and question them. Usually, if I like the answer, I grab my pencil, or my camera, and I start capturing them. You have to know your subjects, use different techniques because every situation is different from another, and then fail, fail a lot of times, waste opportunities, waste time, try, always dare something that you didn’t try before. All these efforts will sure shine through your job, and will make it a unique and beautiful piece of art. This is the most important matter in this world because without art, without beauty and without judgements, humankind has no reason to be. Without stories and without interactions we don’t truly live.
These photos are from my trip around Palestine with the association Casa per la Pace Milano, which organizes this great experience every year. We spent two weeks in West Bank talking to people and associations and sleeping in refugee camps. Now we all want to tell the world what we saw. To view more of Valeria’s work please visit http://bit.ly/1xRw7BJ
PHOTOGRAPHER & ILLUSTRATOR
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PHOTOGRAPHER & ILLUSTRATOR
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ETHICAL CONSUMERISM Behind the Barcode of Fashion By Sarah Mokrzycki
Behind the Barcode, much like my personal favourite, Shop Ethical, is a website providing information on ethical consumerism. In a nutshell, it tells you what to buy and what not to buy. It focuses on electronics and fashion, and readers can subscribe to the website in order to have ethical guides, updates, and news emailed to them. (Should you have the means, you can also donate to them in order to support their community development projects through Baptist World Aid.) 128 fashion brands have been assessed by Behind the Barcode, with their three main areas of interest being a living wage for workers, ranking in the Australian Fashion Report and the use of Uzbekistani cotton (obtained through forced child labour). The purpose of their ethical fashion guide is to provide a means to educate consumers. More often than not, we as shoppers tend to buy things – clothes, shoes, jewelry – without knowing where these items came from, or what impact our buying them could have. Even if we flip the price-tag over and read ‘Made in China’ or ‘Made in Australia from imported goods’, these labels don’t exactly tell us anything. The only way to fight poor shopping choices is to know the brands. For instance, some brands are made, or source goods, from outside Australia, but remain ethical. Likewise, an Australian made and owned item doesn’t make it automatically ethically sound. For example, many Australian made food products contain unsustainable palm oil
(see my previous article in the first edition of AM-UNITY magazine). Geographical location is not the major factor concerning the ethics of products (although carbon footprint should of course be taken into consideration). The major factor for any product is the way in which it is made, and the way its materials are sourced. That’s where guides like Behind the Barcode’s come in handy. According to cottoncampaign.org Uzbekistan is one of the largest exporters of cotton in the world. Both adults and children are forced to pick cotton during harvest – schools are shut down and government and private business employees are sent to pick cotton in order to meet quota each harvest. School children are threatened with expulsion and adults with unemployment should they attempt to refuse to work. Uzbek citizens who attempt to have their human rights recognised are threatened, detained, tortured and exiled. Laborrights.org explains that the forced labour of children and adults in Uzbekistan is ‘unique’ to the world: ‘it is a state-controlled system, under the direction of a president in power since the end of the Soviet Union.’ Every year the Uzbek government, under President Islam Karimov, force over one million citizens – both adults and children – to manually harvest the country’s vast cotton fields. Profits from the nation’s cotton sector go back into the Karimov government, and only the highest-level officials know where and how the proceeds are used. 10
Image Above: By Chris Shervey (Own work) [CC BY 2.0] (https://creativecommons. org/licenses/by/2.0/), via Flickr
The primary buyers of Uzbek cotton are China and Bangladesh, where the forced labour cotton enters global supply chains. Just last year China purchased over half of Uzbekistan’s cotton exports, and most of the brand-name retail and clothing companies we have in Australia purchase their clothing from China. Out of the 128 companies listed in Behind the Barcode’s guide, 51 are yet to boycott the use of Uzbekistani cotton, and 90 do not provide a living wage guarantee. Only nine companies out of the 128 ranked have earned an A rating, whereas forty-two rated D or lower. On a more promising note, eighty-five companies rated C or higher, including department stores Big W, Kmart, Target (C-) and Woolworths. Coles and Myer, however, both received a D+ rating. It is interesting to note that in the cases of the department stores and many others, the companies often do not meet living wage or cotton standards (or both), despite earning C ratings or higher. This is due to the fact that taking steps in the right direction are counted in a company’s favour – for example, providing a public commitment by signing the Cotton Pledge (for a full list of companies that have signed the pledge click here http://bit.ly/1o9Xbfa). Also keep in mind that a cross next to Uzbekistani cotton use doesn’t necessarily mean the company specifically uses this cotton, but that they have not taken steps to avoid its use in their supply chains (see the End Notes in the guide for more details).
So, what can I do? 1) Write a letter.
2) Share that letter around!
If one of the places you shop at received a poor rating in the guide, why not contact the company directly to let them know you will not be purchasing from them again until they change their ways? Use the letters below as a template and send to as many companies as you like!
Get online and post, tweet, share and email your letter to family and friends and encourage them to pass it on. You could even turn your letter into an online petition, an open letter on your blog or a YouTube video. Be as creative as you like!
For companies denying a living wage:
Op shopping is one of the most costeffective and ethical ways to shop. All op shops support a cause, whether it be the local hospital or the Salvation Army. By buying from an op shop you are helping charities continue their good work â€“ and will save a few pennies at the same time!
Dear [company name],
It has recently been brought to my attention that your company does not ensure a living wage for workers. By denying workers a living wage your company is contributing to the exploitation of people in developing countries. I strongly urge you to do the right thing and commit to making ethical changes to your supply chain. Until then, I am afraid I am forced to boycott your company, and I will be telling others to do the same. Yours in hope, [Your name] For companies yet to boycott Uzbekistani cotton: Dear [company name],
It has recently been brought to my attention that your company is yet to boycott the use of Uzbekistani cotton. By not taking stand and sourcing cotton ethically your company is contributing to the forced labour of adults and children in Uzbekistan. I strongly urge you to do the right thing and commit to making ethical changes to your supply chain. Until then, I am afraid I am forced to boycott your company, and I will be telling others to do the same.
3) Op shop!
4) Make yourself a promise. You might not be able to only shop at A rated stores, but why not commit to only shopping at those rated C or higher? Making ethical changes in your life starts with small steps.
School children are threatened with expulsion and adults with unemployment should they attempt to refuse to work.
Want to find out more?
Shop Ethical considers the Behind the Barcode fashion guide to be a â€˜key resourceâ€™ in clothing ethics, and includes other helpful links to find out more about the issue http://bit.ly/1z9wZWN Cotton Campaign provides news, updates, photos and reports on the forced labour in the Uzbekistan cotton industry. Labor Rights looks at the issue, background, solutions, and campaigns surrounding Uzbekistan cotton.
Yours in hope, [Your name]
Image Below: I, Dfrg.msc [GFDL (http://www. gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0
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Afghanistan Dancing Boys By Emily Williamson
form of abuse that is rarely spoken of; however, it is rising in popularity. Countless boys Itareis afacing sexual exploitation as part of the Bacha Bazi practice which literally translates into
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Initially banned by the Taliban, the practice is making a come-back as wealthy merchants and armed illegal groups create growing demand, and increased poverty and homeless children create growing supply. Boys are generally lured or abducted and become the property of an ‘owner’. Although generally released at the age of eighteen, after years of exploitation they find it hard to build a new life.
massacred. He returned to his ancestral country for the first time after September 11 2001, when the Taliban regime was still in Kandahar, despite the United States-led campaign to oust them. After visiting the devastation and destruction of twenty-three years of war, Batoor decided to work for his country and draw the world’s attention to the plight of the Afghani people. He chose photography as his medium of expression.
There is great denial by ‘owners’ that their boys are subject to abuse; however, after their performances many boys can be sexually abused by a group of men. The United Nations attempted to increase awareness of the issue in 2009, but faced a significant challenge in a conservative country that shuns homosexuality. The Bacha Bazi has deep cultural roots and the abuse is hidden. Therefore, attempting to change something that is not acknowledged can be almost impossible.
Batoor Started photography in 2002 and launched his first solo exhibition in 2007. His photographs were exhibited in Denmark, Dubai, Australia, Pakistan, Italy, Japan, Switzerland and Afghanistan. His works have been published in magazines, newspapers and catalogues such as the Washington Post, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, Stern, India Today, Afghan Scene, Risk Magazine, The Global Mail, The West Australian, Strategic Review and others. He participated in ‘Lahore Artist Residency’ in Pakistan and was the 2009 recipient of a photography grant from New York’s Open Society Institute for the project of ‘Child Trafficking in Afghanistan/The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan’. At the Nikon-Walkley Awards in Australia this year, Batoor won Photo of the Year and was a winner in the Photo Essay category. To see more of Batoor’s work please visit his website http://bit.ly/1yC58gI
To battle this abusive ritual a strong campaign needs to emerge pushing for laws to protect the boys, and punishment for the culprits. Unfortunately it will not be an easy battle as victims generally refuse to report their abuse for fear of stigma, honour killings or retaliation. The artist who captured these images of the Bacha Bazi ritual is Barat Ali Batoor. He was born in 1983 to a family that was driven out of Afghanistan during civil war when most if his people were 14
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GOVERNMENTS WHO TORTURE
In the outskirts [of Philadelphia], stands a great prison, called the Eastern Penitentiary...The system here is rigid, strict, and [consists of] hopeless solitary confinement. I believe it, in its effects, to be cruel and wrong. I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers.
These were the words of Charles Dickens upon touring and experiencing the conditions of the first prison to implement solitary confinement – the Eastern Penitentiary, Philadelphia – in 1829. ‘[I] never saw such a picture of forlorn affliction and distress of mind. My heart bled for him.’ Dickens’ comments on the humanity of such a system predate modern conceptions of human rights and torture, and yet such conditions have continued well into the age of enlightened human rights. They remain a point for furious contention within many Western countries today; Australia included. What is Solitary Confinement? Imagine living in a space smaller than most bathrooms. Imagine being confined to that space for up to twenty-three hours a day with no human contact. Imagine living all that time without natural light or fresh air against your skin, and without any activities for work or education; nothing to stimulate your mind. Nothing to keep you from going insane.
Many such units exist across the United States, with an estimated 80,000 inmates across the country currently in solitary confinement. Some, such as South Port in New York and the federal prison ADX in Colorado, consist purely of Supermax facilities. Conditions within these prisons are notoriously harsh, and have been the fight of human rights groups for several decades. Some inmates are incarcerated for years or even decades within this system. These prisons exist across Australia too. Goulburn Correctional Centre in NSW has a notorious Supermax unit. Another well known unit is in Casuarina Prison in Western Australia. Human Rights Both in Australia and the US the conditions of solitary confinement have raised debate within human rights circles. Many groups and experts have argued that the suffering caused to inmates constitutes torture, cruel or inhumane treatment under international law, and is therefore a violation of inmates’ basic human rights. It is a contentious issue, particularly in
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These are the conditions that prisoners in solitary confinement often face and these are the conditions which many human rights protestors and organistions continue to oppose. Some, including the United Nations, even argue that they constitute torture.
Facilities known as Control Units, Special Handling Units or ‘Supermax’ prisons have become common within our prison system. These prisons within prisons house those commonly referred to as the worst of the worst; typically those prisoners who cannot live even in the mainstream prison system.
...Conditions where individuals are deprived of social interaction and the opportunity to be productive cause severe and lasting psychological damage or suffering.
the era of The War on Terror when many Western governments have abandoned civil liberties in favour of state security, amid much protest. The United Nations has a leading role in this debate. There is no universal definition of solitary confinement but in 2011 Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture, called for an end to the use of pre-trial, indefinite, or prolonged solitary confinement. He defined the term as a prisoner held in isolation for more than twenty-two hours a day, with fifteen days being labeled the maximum acceptable duration for isolation.
This denouncement has occurred across human rights organisations at an international level. There is an extensive list of instruments and organs which have condemned or prosecuted the practice – the UN General Assembly, the UN Committee Against Torture, the European Court of Human Rights and the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights, to name a few. All these parties acknowledge that the practice is harmful to the psychological and moral integrity of a person. Even within Australia the practice of solitary confinement has gained notice among national and international human rights bodies, the media and the public. Our own Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission considered the situation of mentally ill inmates within facilities such as the Supermax at Goulburn to potentially contravene international torture laws. And The UN itself, in 2008, raised the issue. The UN Committee against Torture
recommended that Australia review its ‘regime’ of isolation used to manage mentally ill inmates. In November 2012, the ABC reported outrage among human rights groups in Australia at the news that teenagers were being held in solitary confinement within a Victorian adult Supermax prison for months at a time. It began with the discovery of a sixteen-year-old Aboriginal boy who had been held in solitary confinement in Port Phillip Prison for four months. It was then revealed that there were five or six other children in the same situation; one spent around seven months in solitary. Within the prison’s Supermax unit, named Charlotte, prisoners are reportedly locked down for a minimum of twenty-two hours a day without fresh air or sunlight. ‘I would say it’s damaged him beyond words,’ said Chantelle Higgs, a youth worker who visited the unit and the teenagers held in solitary there. ‘They don’t have access to any rehabilitation, they don’t go to school, they don’t get to learn, they don’t get access to mental health practitioners.’ Lawyer and Professor of Law at Florida International University College of Law, Tracy Hresko, argued that the conditions faced by US inmates of solitary confinement potentially meet all four criteria of the legal definition of torture: severe mental suffering, consensus by officials, a clear objective, and an official element to the punishment. Dr Terry Kupers is considered one of America’s leading psychiatric experts on solitary confinement. Although he was not interested in drawing 20
concrete definitions, he believed that ‘Long term segregation…constitutes both an 8th Amendment violation and torture.’ According to Dr Kupers, conditions where individuals are deprived of social interaction and the opportunity to be productive cause severe and lasting psychological damage or suffering. He labeled this ‘the purposeful decimation of life skills’, which has no penological objective beyond excessive punishment. Prison authorities are aware of the lasting and severe effects of this, and therefore, he argued, the continued use of solitary confinement in the face of this knowledge constitutes torture. Why Solitary Confinement? These facilities were designed to house those labeled the worst of the worst; serial killers, gang leaders, and more recently terrorists. These are the criminals the Supermax at Goulburn was designed for –originally named High Risk Management Unit (HRMU) or, as many inmates have dubbed it, the ‘Harm-U’. Around forty prisoners are held there in isolation between sixteen and twenty-two hours a day, in a two-by-four metre cell consisting of a bunk, a toilet and in some special cases a small TV set. Officials at the facility gave very specific reasons as to why an inmate will be placed in these conditions. They are the prisoners who present the most extreme risk to security and safety within the prison system. Prisoners who are at risk of self harm or suicide are placed within Safe Cells where they are subject to constant
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camera surveillance. Identified gang leaders are moved away from their power base in an attempt to disrupt the ethnic violence which has taken over Australian prisons in recent decades. Those who might be targeted by other prisoners are placed in solitary for their own safety. Solitary Confinement and Mental Illness Many protests against solitary confinement argue that for many prisoners the real reason they are placed in solitary confinement is mental illness, which is then exacerbated by the conditions of isolation. Speaking to ABC Four Corners, one prisoner described living in the HRMU as brain numbing. ‘[They were] trying to wear me down mentally just to break me down.’ De-institutionalisation of psychiatric hospitals in both Australia and the US led to an influx of the mentally ill into society. Unfortunately, according to Dr Kupers, many of these individuals have ended up in the prison system.
the well being and human rights of inmates. Decisions to place detainees in solitary confinement are often made by correctional administrators instead of mental health professionals. Dr Kupers said neglect to public mental health has resulted in leaving those with serious mental illness vulnerable to arrest and incarceration. ‘We as a society have chosen to neglect this group of disadvantaged people, and they are regularly “disappeared” into jails and prisons.’ Within the prison system the mentally ill are particularly vulnerable to victimisation, or they repeatedly break the harshly enforced rules, which land them in solitary confinement. There is a strong tendency for individuals prone to mental breakdown to do so in solitary confinement. Dr Kupers said that in the course of his career, ‘Many of the most severe and disabling cases of serious mental illness I have seen involve solitary confinement.’
‘There’s no facilities and these people don’t belong in jail,’ said Christopher Binse, a former prisoner at Goulburn speaking to ABC Four Corners.
Not all argue these damaging effects though. Chris Linton, the Clinical Director of Goulburn’s Supermax, claimed there wasn’t a great deal of evidence to support that incarceration in more restricted conditions contributes to poorer mental health. He said that in studies conducted on sixty day segregation orders there was no deterioration in the mental health of inmates. On the matter of longer term isolation, he added, the jury was still out.
A 2008 report by the Australian Human Rights Law Resource Centre stated that the security of prisons is often given greater priority than
Former NSW Commissioner for Correctional Services, Ron Woodham, was asked by ABC’s Chris Masters if prison made the condition of
‘By default [the prisons] are becoming the mental health institutions,’ said one prison worker at Casuarina Prison in Western Australia. ‘We monitor. We medicate.’ One third of the inmates in Goulburn and one fifth in Casuarina have suffered mental disorders.
mentally ill inmates better or worse. ‘In some cases,’ he replied, ‘it keeps them alive.’ One American prisoner who had been held in solitary confinement for twenty-five consecutive years, wrote about his experience in an essay which appeared on the human rights group Solitary Watch website. ‘Though it is true that I’ve never died and so don’t know exactly what the experience would entail, for the life of me I cannot fathom how dying any death could be harder or more terrible than living through all that I have been forced to endure in the last quarter-century.’ William R. Blake was imprisoned in 1987 for the shooting death of a deputy while being transferred from prison custody to court to appear on drug and robbery charges. In his essay, Blake said that, even by his own standards at the time of the shooting, he thought he deserved to die for what he had done, an act he called ‘monumentally wrong.’ In the Special Housing Unit, Blake lived in lockdown for twenty-three hours a day in a cell ‘smaller than some closets I’ve seen.’ He was given one hour of recreation a day, where he was placed by himself in an empty, concrete, enclosed yard. Blake described how twenty-five years in solitary confinement had left him out of touch with the real world due to the restrictions of his imprisonment. ‘I’ve never seen a cell phone except in pictures in magazines. I’ve never touched a computer in my life, never been on the internet.’
United Nations Convention against Torture Members. “CAT-members” by IdiotSavant
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‘I’ve had neighbors who came to the SHU normal men, and I’ve seen them leave broken and not anything resembling normal anymore. I’ve seen guys give up on their dreams and lose all hope in the box.’ Is it Effective? Despite the debate raging around the issue, many inmates across the world still exist in states of isolation. So the question is: is solitary confinement effective or necessary, and if so, does that override the inmates’ individual human rights? One potential sign of success could be a decrease in harm to inmates. Chris Masters reported that incidences of violence and self harm within the Goulburn HRMU since its opening in 2001 were relatively few. Previous NSW Corrective Services Commissioner Ron Woodham described the atmosphere of the HRMU as peaceful. He said, ‘If it can be peaceful there it can be like that in the rest of the system.’ Professor Tony Vinson, however, did not consider peacefulness to necessarily equate with effectiveness. He said that while it might be an indication of efficiency, it did not necessarily indicate effectiveness.
cost to the tax payer is another. To house a prisoner in solitary confinement it costs between double or triple that of regular incarceration.
Another supporter of the practice is the former secretary of corrections for the state of Wisconsin, Walter Dickey. Despite acknowledging that, in his experience, healthy prisoners came out mentally ill, in an interview with NPR radio he didn’t think the practice of solitary confinement should be stopped, due to the dangers and violence that prison workers face at the hands of violent inmates.
‘I am only the more convinced that there is a depth of terrible endurance in it which none but the sufferers themselves can fathom, and which no man has a right to inflict upon his fellow creatur.’
However, perhaps the consideration of reform is evidence of the ineffectiveness of the practice. NPR Radio reported that the US Federal Bureau of Prisons had, for the first, time decided to review its policies on solitary confinement. Many things have encouraged the consideration of reform. The psychological effect to prisoners is one; the astronomical 23
While not necessarily change, it is a significant step for those who have been pushing for increased focus on the effects of solitary confinement and the human rights of prisoners. Over 150 years ago Charles Dickens was horrified at what he saw in an early Supermax prison, just as today witnesses and experts are regularly horrified at the glimpse of inmates’ conditions in solitary confinement in some of the world’s most laudably free countries. His words carry across the years and are as important for today’s prisoners as they were in 1829.
To assist Amnesty International’s campaigns against torture follow this link http://bit.ly/1z9DatW
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Dr Kupers, too, disagreed; arguing that in America the suicide rate for prisoners in solitary confinement is ‘unacceptably high.’ In addition to this he pointed to other activities that regularly occur in solitary confinement including beatings, sexual abuse, deprivation of adequate clothing and bedding, denied visitation and more.
One supporter of solitary confinement, the executive director of the Utah Sheriffs’ Association, Gary DeLand, strongly defended he strongly defended the use of solitary confinement for certain prisoners and considered it to be effective. The safety and liability of the prison officers and other prisoners was his main justification. ‘Limiting or controlling violent prisoners’ interaction with other prisoners greatly limits the potential for violence,’ he said. When the aim of solitary if discipline, he supported a time limit on the confinement, but if the prisoner had a history of being a violent predator or gang member, ‘the frame for solitary confinement should be indefinite.’ It is ‘essential to the safety of other inmates and staff.’
Moses was Sixteen Years Old when he was Tortured by the Nigerian Army
By Lucy Howard-Robbins
Moses Akatugma was a sixteen-year-old boy waiting for the results of his high school exams when his life changed forever.
hanged. He was never given the chance to challenge the decision because of the torture used to obtain his confession.
He was arrested and charged by the Nigerian Army in 2005 accused of stealing three mobile phones. If Moses had been able to call a lawyer – or even his mum – he could have been protected, but for the first twenty-four hours of his arrest nobody knew where he was.
He was sentenced to death by hanging. Now, he is twenty-five years old and sitting in prison, severely traumatised and awaiting his hanging. No one should experience this level of brutality. No one should be pressured to confess through torture. And no one under the age of eighteen at the time of the criminal offence should be sentenced to death.
Moses described being shot in the hand and soldiers beating him on his head and back. He was taken to the army barracks and shown a man’s corpse. When he couldn’t identify the man, he was beaten again. Police beat Moses with machetes and batons. They tied and hanged him for several hours in Epkan Police Station in Delta State, and used pliers to pull out his fingernails and toenails in order to force him to sign two confessions. Moses said he only signed the confessions because of the torture. He says he is innocent.
During Amnesty’s Stop Torture Campaign, Amnesty will be collecting signatures for a petition urging the Governer of Delta State to commute Moses’ death sentence and launch an independent investigation into his claims of torture. Make sure you add your name to the fight for Moses. (Information adapted from an Amnesty International Australia Case Sheet)
Moses was convicted of robbery on the basis of the two confessions he made while being beaten and
International Justice for Victims of Torture By Lucy Howard-Robbins
22 Feb 2001 – Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovac and Zoran Vukokic – Bosnia and Herzegovina The Hague convicted three members of the Bosnian Serbian Army for acts committed during the Bosnian War. During the war, forces sought to rid the area of non-Serbian inhabitants and the Bosnian Muslim population were subject to systematic abuse and genocide. Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovac and Zoran Vukokic were convicted of the rape, enslavement and torture of Bosnian Muslim women in the town of Foča in 1992. Kunarac was sentenced to 28 years imprisonment. Kovac was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Vukokic was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. 23 March 2009 – Joseph Mpambara – Rwanda The Hague District Court sentenced Joseph Mpambara to 20 years imprisonment for torture resulting in death of two Tutsi mothers and their four children during the Rwanda genocide. Mpambara had been arrested by Dutch authorities in 2006 for his part in genocide and war crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994. He was found not guilty of war crimes, but in 2011 a Dutch appeals court sentenced him to life in prison for an attack on a protestant church in Mugonero where Tutsis had sought refuge. 22 November 2010 – Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo – Central African Republic The trial began of the former CAR vice president for crimes committed in the CAR between October 2002 and March 2003. He was charged with crimes against humanity (rape, torture and murder) and war crimes (rape, torture, outrages upon personal dignity, humiliating and degrading treatment and pillage). The trial is ongoing. 5 July 2011 – Algeria The organisation TRIAL (Track Impunity Always) (http://bit.ly/1qrpfpu) won a case of death under torture against Algeria brought before the UN Committee against Torture. The victim, Djilali Hanafi, was arrested in 1998, tortured at the gendarmerie headquarters and died within hours of his release as a result of his injuries. In 2008 TRIAL brought the case before the Convention Against Torture who handed down a decision that the facts constituted torture. Algeria was found in violation of the Convention against Torture and condemned for Mr Hanafi’s death. Under the terms of the decision, Algeria was obliged to initiate an impartial enquiry into the event. 16 May 2012 – Ratko Mladic – Bosnia and Herzegovina The trial of Ratko Mladic commenced at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Ratko Mladic was charged with genocide, persecution, murder, inhumane acts, terror and other violations during the Bosnian War. He was indicted with participation in the mission to remove all Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina, including in the massacre in Srebrenica in 1995 which resulted in the execution of more than 8,000 Bosniak men and the rape and torture of women and children. The trial is ongoing. 2 July 2013 – Hissène Habré – Chad The Extraordinary African Chambers charged former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré with crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes and he is placed in pre-trial detention. The Chambers had been created within the Senegalese Court System by Senegal (where Habré had sought refuge) and the African Union to try Habré. The exact number of victims of Habré’s rule between 1982 and 1990 is unknown, but it is estimated he authorised tens of thousands of political murders and torture. The trial is ongoing. To assist Amnesty International’s campaigns against torture follow this link http://bit.ly/1z9DatW
AM-UNITY MAG EDITION 3
Amnesty’s Stop Torture Campaign By Lucy Howard-Robbins
The Stop Torture Campaign will run in Australia until the end of 2015. The goal is to stop governments torturing and to hold them accountable for their promises thirty years ago when the Convention against Torture came into being. for entertainment using a torture wheel. Those at particular risk of torture include suspects in common criminal cases, repeat offenders, out-of-favour police informants and political activists. Alleged torture methods include beatings with wooden batons and metal bars, burning with cigarette butts, pressing hard on fingers with bullets, electric shocks, water boarding and suffocation with plastic bags. Many people who have experienced torture live in fear of reprisals, so they do not report their experience to authorities. (Information adapted from the Amnesty International Australia Stop Torture Toolkit available on the Activist Portal) Over the next two years, Amnesty activists in up to 150 countries will mobilise and focus on:
Reform in five priority Countries: Morocco, Mexico, Nigeria, Uzbekistan and the Philippines.
Early evening on 3 October 2013, single mother Alfreda Disbarro was at an internet cafe near her house in Barnagay San Antonio, Paranaque, when the police stopped her and accused her of drug dealing. The police then pointed a gun at her, punched her in the chest, handcuffed her and took her to police headquarters.
Justice for individuals who have been tortured in these countries. Improvements in their own countries where necessary. Amnesty Australia, along with other national offices, will focus their campaign on ending torture in the Philippines. The use of torture is widespread and routine in the Philippines, particularly within the Philippines National Police. Despite the fact that the Philippines has ratified the Convention against Torture, justice is out of reach for the majority of victims, and perpetrators are almost never held to account.
To force her to confess to the crime, Alfreda says a senior police officer pinned her against a wall, punched her repeatedly in the stomach and face, hit her with a club, poked his fingers into her eyes, slapped her, forced a damp and dirty mop into her mouth and banged her head against a wall. Two days later, Alfreda was woken and told to sign a blank sheet of paper. She was photographed with money and a sachet of drugs that the police gave her.
Recently, the Philippines government pledged to increase its efforts to stop the practice, and together with other Amnesty offices in the Asia Pacific, we will work to make sure this promise is kept.
Alfreda was in such pain after the beatings that she couldn’t eat, had difficulty breathing and kept vomiting for days.
(Information adapted from the Amnesty International Australia Stop Torture Toolkit, available on the Activist Portal)
She is awaiting trial in a local jail charged with selling and possessing illegal drugs.
Torture in the Philippines
There is good news though – in the last couple of months, Amnesty activists around the world began campaigning for Alfreda. The Philippines National Police Internal Affairs Service has begun to investigate four police officers for grave misconduct, and they say that their decision to investigate was because of letters from Amnesty.
Five years after the Philippines’ Anti-Torture Act was passed, not one person has been convicted of torture.
(Information adapted from the Amnesty International Australia Stop Torture Toolkit available on the Activist Portal)
In January 2014, a secret detention centre was discovered in Laguna province, where police officers tortured people 26
GOVERNMENTS WHO TORTURE
Myths about Torture MYTH 1: Torture is mainly used against terror suspects or during war. THE TRUTH: The focus on torture and other ill-treatment as part of the War on Terror in media and entertainment has skewed the global picture. In reality, most victims of torture and ill-treatment are not terrorists. Usually, they’re poor, different, petty criminal suspects or they have dared to disagree with their government. Torture is mostly practiced as a means of dehumanising enemies, exploitation or political convenience but regardless of the motive, it is never justified. MYTH 2: Torture is a way to get reliable information. THE TRUTH: Often, the information gained through torture is false and misleading, because people will say anything when being tortured. Governments can use a wide variety of humane questioning techniques which have proved efficient, resulting in accurate and useful information without the devastating personal, societal and legal consequences of torture. MYTH 3: Some forms of torture are not that bad. THE TRUTH: Torture does not come in levels. All forms of torture are despicable and illegal under international law. MYTH 4: Only a handful of the worst governments use torture. THE TRUTH: Reading the following content in this edition of Am-Unity, you will see that this is not true. Punishments and acts that can be classified as torture by international law are being used by many countries around the world, including Australia. Over the past five years, Amnesty has reported on torture or other ill-treatment in 141 countries. In some torture is the exception, but in many it is routine and systematic.
What to Know
To date 155 countries have adopted the Convention against Torture – of which 79 still tortured people in 2014. 44% of 21,000 people surveyed from 21 countries don’t feel safe from torture by their own government. Common Methods of Torture
Safeguards against torture
• Electric shock
• Lawyers must be present during interrogations
• Prolonged isolation/solitary confinement
• Doctors must be able to conduct independent medical examinations
• Families must have contact with their relatives in custody
• Mock executions • Cigarette Burns
• Confessions obtained by torture can never be used as evidence
• Sleep deprivation
• Anyone who commits or facilitates torture must be brought to justice
• Inhumane detention conditions • Extreme heat or cold • Boiling water • Medical care denied • Suffocation • Forced abortion and sterilisation
(Information adapted from Amnesty International Stop Torture Myths and Fact, July 2014) To assist Amnesty International’s campaigns against torture follow this link http://bit.ly/1z9DatW
AM-UNITY MAG EDITION 3
The LGBTIQ Battle in Jamaica By Emily Williamson
The treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people living in Jamaica is horrifying. Homophobia is a cultural norm and protesters take their lives in their hands when they demand equality. Legally people in the LGBTIQ community have no rights in Jamaica, and at its worst, intolerance of homosexuality has led to murder. Currently Human Rights Watch is campaigning for the Jamaican government to repeal the anti-buggery law, which would see greater protection from discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Criminalisation of homosexuality in Jamaica dates back to the 1864 Offences Against the Person Act, which can result in up to ten years hard labour for those convicted. The Act also gives law enforcement the power to search for proof of suspected homosexual acts, and to detain anyone they suspect to have committed or intend to commit buggery. While rarely enforced, this law has encouraged the discrimination and violence towards people in the LGBTIQ community. People can be denied basic rights and services based on their sexual orientation, which has resulted in shocking rates of homelessness and HIV. As a result of this intolerance, people in the LGBTIQ community have been forced to find refuge in the most unimaginable places. The video below tells the story of the Kingston LGBTIQ community, who have found sanctuary in the city’s storm drainage systems known as the gully. For those unable or unwilling to hide their sexuality, the gully has provided a sense of community and rela ive safety.
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GLOBAL CONTEXTS Exploring Asylum and Refugee Numb Around the World By Katie O’Connell Global Contexts
while a significant proportion of applicants are officially classified as stateless (many of these identify as Palestinian), with many also originating from the Horn of Africa, namely Eritrea and Somalia. In 2013 Sweden received a total of 54,259 applications for asylum.
The global refugee population has recently hit fifty million, a figure that is often lost amid Australia’s internal debates around asylum seeker policies. Despite Australia receiving a comparatively small 24,324 applications for asylum in 2013, barely a day goes by without the issue making headlines around the country. Katie O’Connell explores the global context of asylum seeker and refugee numbers.
Aside from Israel, Turkey is the only state bordering Syria that is a signatory to the Refugee Convention; in 2013, it received 44,807 applications for asylum. Turkey currently accommodates around 800,000 of the estimated three million refugees that have fled Syria since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011. It is estimated that up to 80 per cent of the Syrian refugees in Turkey live in cities, with the remaining 20 per cent in camps.
In 2013 the US received 88,358 applications for asylum. The majority of asylum seekers to the United States originate from China, with many claiming asylum on the grounds of political or religious persecution. Central America is also a significant producer of asylum seekers to the US, particularly from Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala. The Obama administration is considering allowing minors to apply for asylum in their own country, thereby avoiding the dangerous voyage north via land.
Italy received a total of 27,832 applications for asylum in 2013. In October 2013 over 360 people drowned off the island of Lampedusa after the boat they had travelled on from Libya sank of the coast of the island. In response to the tragedy the Italian government declared an official day of mourning throughout the country. In April this year the UNHCR reported that the Italian Navy had rescued around 6000 people off the coasts of Sicily and Calabria in just four days.
Germany received the greatest number of requests for asylum in 2013, with 109,580 applications. Russians and Serbians make up the majority of claims for asylum in Germany, followed by Syrians. Germany has accepted the greatest number of Syrian refugees than any other EU country. Multiculturalism remains a divisive issue, with many Germans unhappy at European Union laws allowing new migrants to receive social welfare benefits; the German government is now considering legislation that would declare Serbia, Macedonia and BiH ‘safe countries of origin’, meaning that applications for asylum from these countries would be rejected. This could have a disproportionate impact on persecuted minorities such as Roma and Sinti.
THE GLOBAL REFUGEE POPULATION HAS RECENTLY HIT FIFTY MILLION
Lebanon is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, however, according to the UNHCR it is currently estimated to be accommodating between one and 1.5 million people fleeing the crisis in Syria. The Lebanese government has allowed the Syrian refugees access to the country’s health and education systems. Lebanon also has a significant population of Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers. Pakistan
Pakistan is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, however, it is commonly considered to accommodate the greatest number of refugees of any country in the world, with an estimated refugee population of 1.6 million, the majority of these of Afghani origin.
In September 2013, the Swedish government announced that all Syrians who applied for asylum in Sweden would be granted permanent residency, with full legal aid, work rights and family reunion rights, and the opportunity to apply for citizenship after five years. The majority of asylum seekers to Sweden are Syrian, 30
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Ethiopia has recently overtaken Kenya as the host of the greatest number of refugees in Africa, primarily due to the ongoing conflict in South Sudan. According to the UNHCR the country currently accommodates 629,718 registered refugees, 247,000 of these from South Sudan. South Sudan
In addition its own population of internally displaced people, estimated to number 1.3 million people, South Sudan plays host to a refugee population of approximately 234,000, originating from countries throughout Africa including Sudan, the Central African Republic and Ethiopia.
An estimated 168,000 people have crossed from Ukraine to Russia so far in 2014; nearly 49,000 of these applying for temporary asylum and just over 6000 who applied for refugee status. The visa-free agreement between Ukraine and Russia allows many to cross without formally applying for protection, meaning that the number of those fleeing Ukraine is likely to be significantly higher.
Statistics sourced from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; for more information see http://bit.ly/1qrgegh To help Amnesty International campaign for the rights of refugees click here http://bit.ly/1tsK4b7
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Map reproduced with permission from The World 1 © 2014 Lonely Planet.
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Give Asylum Seekers the Right to Work By Emily Williamson
Asylum seekers fleeing from persecution have been completely dehumanised by the Australian government. They are known as ‘boat people’, ‘queue jumpers’ or illegals’. The politicisation surrounding asylum seekers is inhumane and the fear unfounded, and for those who manage to reach Australia, the battle has just begun.
As an alternative to detention, a bridging visa can be offered to asylum seekers. A bridging visa is a temporary visa which allows an asylum seeker to stay in Australia whilst their claims are being processed. They receive financial assistance equivalent to around eightynine per cent of the dole, which amounts to around $200 per week– barely enough to survive after rent, bills and other living expenses. Asylum seekers, however, who arrived by boat after 13 August 2012 and given a bridging visa, do not have the right to work at all, forcing them into indefinite poverty. This is despite the fact that in 2012, 90.8 per cent of boat arrivals were found to be genuine refugees and granted permanent protection visas by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Although bridging visas are more humane and affordable than living indefinitely in detention centres, the support for those living amongst us is lacking. Denying
asylum seekers the right to work results in the deterioration of their mental and physical health, increases their risk of labour exploitation and creates a bigger burden on already under-resourced charities attempting to support them. Sophie Dutertre is the employment program manager at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, and said in addition to not allowing newly arrived asylum seekers to work, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has also failed to renew expired visas for asylum seekers already working. ‘Morrison has put everything on standstill until temporary visas are approved and employers won’t accept them without legitimate work rights, so a lot of people have lost their jobs,’ she said. Ms Dutertre said she believes the government aren’t allowing asylum seekers to work because they are scared people will flock to Australia for employment. ‘What actually happens when people are able to work and earn money and support themselves is they’re in a better place to consider return than [those] left in destitution, getting depressed because the effect on their mental health [from]not being able to work and not have a visa is terrible; they’re not in a place to consider return.’ Ms Dutertre said permitting asylum seekers to work would alleviate anxiety and depression, and allow asylum seekers to support themselves as well as send money back to their families.
‘A lot of these guys, despite the way they’ve been treated, actually want to contribute and give back. For them working is a way to give back,’ she said. By not allowing asylum seekers to work, the government is missing out on a valuable opportunity. ‘[When people] work they contribute, they pay taxes, they spend money. Instead [we have] a population who is unable to work, unable to contribute, unable to spend any money. It’s a burden – we’ve created a burden instead of creating a very active, contributing population.’ The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre is campaigning for asylum seekers’ right to work and assisting those who are allowed into the workforce. Asylum Seeker Service for Employment and Training (ASSET) was established in 2004 and is a pioneer of asylum seeker employment and education services in Australia. It has assisted over 1000 asylum seekers in all areas of employment and training, and is crucial to help those who would be subject to poverty without work. This program allows asylum seekers to participate in the community and support themselves, and enables employers to access a largely untapped pool of skilled workers. ASSET assists asylum seekers in several ways:
• Employment Casework – supports asylum seekers by building a structured pathway to employment.
...IN EVERY COUNTRY YOU NEED SOMEONE TO BLAME FOR THINGS AND ASYLUM SEEKERS ARE AN EASY TARGET; IT’S A GOOD DISTRACTION...
• Education and Training Unit – provides access to education and vocational training funded by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD). • ASRC Recruitment – helps employers with recruitment, post-placement support and training, all at no cost.
ASSET has two key recommendations:
1. An undertaking from the Minister for Immigration & Citizenship to immediately extend the right to work to all asylum seekers released into the community on bridging visas, regardless of mode or date of arrival or stage in the refugee determination process.
• Employer Partnerships –develops partnerships with prospective employers to create employment opportunities for asylum seekers. It also assists with work experience programs which enable asylum seekers to develop their skills.
2. The right to work is accompanied by the provision of basic employment support services to increase asylum seekers’ chance of employment.
• ASSET Social Enterprises – the ASRC directly employs asylum seekers for their catering or cleaning business.
‘...asylum seekers ...are very low risk because they’re really motivated. They’ve often been working until very recently so their work experience is very current.’
A targeted approach to employment support services and pathways to employment are also required for asylum seekers. Even those who have the right to work in the community may struggle to navigate their way through the Australian job market and find employment.
Ms Dutertre told of an employer in Dandenong who had struggled maintaining staff at her laundry because the work was very hard. The asylum seekers she has working for her now are motivated, keen to work and happy to be working. ‘Their sense of self is very attached to working,’ Ms Dutertre said. ‘They want to work; they don’t want to be reliant on welfare. If people want employees who are motivated, happy to be there and working hard, this is a population that’s really good.’ Ms Dutertre said there needs to be a shift in the way asylum seekers are portrayed, less politicisation of the issue and a new focus on commonality rather than difference. 33
‘It’s become so political because in every country you need someone to blame for things and asylum seekers are an easy target; it’s a good distraction. It’s easier to worry about this than things that really affect us. Asylum seekers don’t affect us; our lives are not affected by asylum seekers in any way. ‘There really needs to be a change in the conversation around asylum seekers and that’s our job to do that. There needs to be faces put to the term asylum seekers, we need to show people rather than boats and we need to show stories.’ To find out more about the Right to Work campaign visit http://bit.ly/1seq5ZV To find out more about the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and how you can get involved visit http://bit.ly/ZYRar4 To help Amnesty International campaign for the rights of refugees click here http:// bit.ly/1tsK4b7
AM-UNITY MAG EDITION 3
In 2011-2012, the ASSET program secured 180 paid work placements for asylum seekers. A sample of 106 employed asylum seekers found they had collectively worked 54,996 hours and earned $877,736.16. Many asylum seekers have skills, experience and qualifications that Australia seeks in skilled migrants. In 2009, forty per cent of working-age asylum seekers had skills that were on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s skilled occupation list for general skilled migration.
Ms Dutertre said the feedback they have had from employers has been largely positive.
‘The governments have been very successful in dehumanising asylum seekers and presenting them as a homogenous group who want to exploit us and come here and take our jobs, or “Islamisize” us; it’s laughable because it’s so not my experience with people. There is an absolute lack of empathy for people’s circumstances.
Ranjini Still Waiting for Freedom VICTIMS OF TORTURE MAY BE SUBJECTED TO ASIO’S ‘NEGATIVE ASSESSMENT’. By Cara Gillespie House continues to provide care to refugees. The services they provide range from counselling, advocacy, therapies, referrals, interventions and education.
Ten clients of Foundation House have been detained indefinitely after the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) gave them a ‘negative assessment’. Ranjini, a Sri Lankan refugee, has been detained since 2012 and has no right to appeal.
Clients go through an assessment before they can receive care from Foundation House. This process finds out if the client is a victim of torture and if Foundation House can help them.
When Ranjini was eleven she ran away to train as a child soldier with the Tamil Tigers. Seventeen years later she fled Sir Lanka and was granted Australian refugee status in 2011.
Health care services, friends or their own research can refer clients. Most clients come from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Burma (Myanmar), and have suffered experiences such as rape, displacement, kidnapping, beatings, imprisonment and mock executions.
After Ranjini was granted refugee status she started a new life with her husband and two sons. It seemed strange to be called on that day in 2012 and asked to come in, but Ranjini went, and was told she’d received a negative assessment from ASIO. She was then flown to Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney. A few days later, Ranjini also found out she was pregnant.
Szwarc runs research projects he hopes will affect policy in government and other agencies. He asks: what is it like to be a refugee with a young family? How can health care be more accessible to refugees? How does a non–English speaker follow prescription instructions? How can refugees express what they need and be understood?
Ranjini’s case received national and international coverage, prompting support and discussions from all corners. People visit her, write letters and advocate for her appeal.
After fleeing Sri Lanka and a life of fear, Ranjini remains in indefinite detention since 2012 with no reassessment in sight. Foundation House still advocates for her appeal and case.
Along with the UN and other organisations, Foundation House has put in a submission for the government to review her case. The detainees have no right to see ASIO’s evidence, have no right to appeal and no knowledge of why they are detained. The UN contends that indefinite detention is against international human rights.
MOST CLIENTS... HAVE SUFFERED EXPERIENCES SUCH AS RAPE, DISPLACEMENT, KIDNAPPING, BEATINGS, IMPRISONMENT AND MOCK EXECUTIONS.
Josef Szwarc, head of research and policy at Foundation House, is a fast but gentle talker. His white and purple striped shirt hangs loosely and his grey-brown hair is electrified in every direction. He, with Foundation House, put in a submission to review Ranjini’s case. He clarifies that it is all about understanding: understanding that the law is the law; understanding that these people are victims of torture; and understanding that even if Ranjini is a concern, there should be another alternative than indefinite detention. From 2012 to 2013 Foundation House provided services to 3,815 survivors of torture and trauma. With offices in Dandenong, Sunshine, Ringwood and Brunswick, Foundation 34
For more information on Foundation house, visit their website:
http://bit.ly/1wEAfUs To assist Amnesty International’s campaigns against torture follow this link http://bit.ly/1r7Wkq8
Credit to WAN-IFRA and their designer, firstname.lastname@example.org. Images supplied by Getty.
AM-UNITY MAG EDITION 3
VIETNAM'S PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE Lucy Howard-Robbinson
Many people do not realise that Vietnam is more than an idyllic backpacking location and a significant battlefield in history. Vietnam is quickly developing one of the largest populations of prisoners of conscience in the region, and is thus the site of significant human rights abuses.
A prisoner of conscience is someone who has been imprisoned or restricted because of their political, religious or other conscientiously held beliefs, among other things, and who has not used violence or advocated violence or hatred. Human Rights Watch claims that there may be up to 200 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam with sixty-three convicted in 2013. Amnesty has documented seventy-five cases.
Article 9(3): Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release ...
There is no free and independent media in Vietnam; it is tightly controlled by the government, and freedom of association and assembly are restricted. As a result, Vietnamâ€™s prison population increasingly includes human rights defenders, land rights activists, bloggers, writers, musicians, lawyers, union organisers and members of minority ethnic communities and religious groups who question, critique, expose, protest or call for change.
Article 10(1): All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.
Article 19: Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression ...
Vietnam has been governed by the Communist Party of Vietnam under one-party rule since 1975. Dissidents are calling for democratic alternatives to one-party rule, opposing the monopoly on state power and demanding basic freedoms and protection of human rights. Religious groups are protesting for religious freedoms, and ethnic minorities and rural communities are protesting land grabs and evictions.
Article 21: The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized ...
Article 22: 1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests ...
The Vietnamese government has woven a legal net to prevent protest and dissent. All political parties, labour unions and human right organisations independent of the government are banned. On 1 September 2013, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung put into force a decree which legalised content-filtering and censorship and outlawed vaguely defined â€˜prohibited actsâ€™.
The government is debating a revised constitution but, according to Amnesty analysis, the amended constitution contains loopholes that will allow the government to continue to restrict freedom of expression.
"There is no presumption of innocence, no opportunity for suspects and defendants to call and examine witnesses and often a lack of access to competent legal counsel"
Meanwhile, Vietnamâ€™s prisoners of conscience are suffering severe human rights abuses throughout pre-trial detention, trials, imprisonment and post-imprisonment, all in direct violation of Vietnamâ€™s obligations under international law. Most notably, their treatment of prisoners of conscience violates the International Covenant of Civil, Political and Religious Rights to which Vietnam is a signatory.
On 7 November 2013, Vietnam also signed the United Nations Convention against Torture, and yet conditions experienced by prisoners continue to constitute illtreatment and even torture under the convention.
Lengthy pre-trial detention is common and prisoners can be held in incommunicado detention without access to family members or adequate legal counsel. Blogger Nguyen Van Hai was held in incommunicado detention for almost two years before his trial in September 2012. Family members are often not allowed visitation and prisoners can be frequently moved without family members knowing their location. Most do not have access to a lawyer until shortly before trial, which does not leave adequate time to prepare a defense.
Trials are unfair and contrary to international law. There is no presumption of innocence, no opportunity for suspects and defendants to call and examine witnesses and often a lack of access to competent legal counsel.
The judiciary is not independent from the government, and there are claims that judgments appear to be decided beforehand. This was alleged in a case in January 2010 when judges deliberated for fifteen minutes, yet returned a judgment that took forty-five minutes to read.
AM-UNITY MAG EDITION 3
Conditions in prisons are inadequate and harsh, and do not meet the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Prisoners are denied adequate nutritious food, healthcare and/or medical attention. Many political prisoners suffer from poor health. In 2013, prisoners Cu Huy Ha Vu, Nguyen Van Hai and Ho Thi Bich Khuoing went on a hunger strike to protest denial of rights such as adequate medical care. Nguyen Van Hai ended his strike after thirty-eight days when he was informed his complaint petition would be investigated.
"Even once they have been released, many prisoners of conscience are subjected to house arrest or probation, often for between three and five years"
In their report Silences Voices: Prisoners of Conscience in Vietnam, Amnesty makes four key recommendations:
Furthermore, prisoners of conscience can be placed in solitary confinement or isolation for extended periods of time as punishment, a practice which has been equated to torture by the United Nations. Prisoners also report being subjected to beatings and other cruel and inhumane treatment.
• Release immediately and unconditionally all prisoners of conscience ... and ensure that all those released are able to effectively access their right to remedy in accordance with international law, and that they are provided with reparations for their suffering.
Even once they have been released, many prisoners of conscience are subjected to house arrest or probation, often for between three and five years. They are subject to harassment by police, movement restrictions, surveillance and regular questioning. Many are repeatedly arrested and imprisoned.
• Take measures to ensure that human rights defenders, peaceful activists and religious followers are free from violence, discrimination and the threat of criminalisation. • Repeal or else amend provisions in the 1999 Penal Code to ensure that ambiguous provisions relating to national security are clearly defined or removed so they cannot be applied in an arbitrary manner to stifle legitimate and peaceful dissent.
One of Amnesty’s focus cases is that of Father Nguyen Van Ly, a leading advocate for religious freedom and democracy, who has spent roughly eighteen of the last thirty-six years imprisoned in harsh conditions, often in solitary confinement. Amnesty International has considered Father Ly to be a prisoner of conscience since 1983, and has campaigned for his release, access to legal counsel and medical attention for decades. Whilst imprisoned at Ba Sao prison in 2009, Father Ly suffered a stroke in solitary confinement, but was not allowed medical attention or transferred to a prison hospital until two weeks later. A month later he was returned to his prison cell, despite being partially paralysed. In 2010 he was temporarily released from detention, and Amnesty promptly began to campaign for his complete and unconditional release which has not been granted.
• Ensure that the new constitution recognises the rights provided for in Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the ICCPR in terms fully consistent with those articles and that it does not circumvent international human rights obligations as a state party.
Other opportunities for change lie with other governments. The EU, United States and Japan all have potential leverage over the Vietnamese government. Japan has so far failed to use its status as Vietnam’s largest bilateral donor and the US also has influence through its strong bilateral relationship upon which Vietnam is heavily dependent. The public has the power to push governments to place international pressure on Vietnam through increasing awareness of the plight of prisoners of conscience and bringing the issue to the attention of their own government. As an international community we have the responsibility to help those who are being punished for peacefully expressing their views and to ensure Vietnam honours their international legal obligations and respects fundamental human rights.
There are many known cases of political prisoners in Vietnam which Amnesty and other human rights organisations and international legal bodies have identified; however there may be many more among the regular prison population. Furthermore, there are government critics and activists who have been beaten and harassed who remain in pre-trial detention or who are under house arrest.
Campaign for Nguyen Van Hai by writing an appeal to foreign ministries and diplomatic representatives of your own country, Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Minister of Public Security Lt Gen Tran Dai Quang or Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Manh at the below addresses.
Campaign for Father Nguyen Van Ly by writing an appeal to the Vietnamese Minister of Justice Ha Hung Cuong, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Manh or Minister of Public Security Lt Gen Tran Dai Quang at the below addresses.
Appeal recommendations are:
• Calling on the authorities to release Father Nguyen Van Ly, Nguyen Phong and Nguyen Binh Thanh immediately and unconditionally, as they are prisoners of conscience, jailed solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association. • Welcoming the temporary release, for 12 months, from prison of Father Nguyen Van Ly on medical grounds in March 2010. • Seeking assurances that Father Ly is allowed to obtain medical treatment, and is allowed access to his family and lawyers without restriction while temporarily released. • Point out that the rights to freedom of expression and association are guaranteed in Vietnam's Constitution.
Solidarity Action for Nguyen Van Ly: President Truong Tan Sang Office of the President Ba Dinh District Ha Noi Viet Nam
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Manh
Government Office 1 Hoang Hoa Tham Street Ba Dinh District, Ha Noi Viet Nam
Minister of Foreign Affairs 1 Ton That Dam Street Ba Dinh district, Ha Noi Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
Minister of Justice Ha Hung Cuong Minister of Justice Ministry of Justice 58-60 Tran Phu Ba Dinh Ha Noi Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
Minister of Public Security Lt Gen Tran Dai Quang Minister of Public Security 44 Yet Kieu Street Ha Noi 39
Many individuals benefit from receiving letters of support directly from activists. You can send Father Nguyen Van Ly a message, letter or card in Vietnamese or English. Religious cards can be sent, you are allowed to mention Amnesty International and you can use a return address if you wish. Send correspondence to: Father Nguyen Van Ly K1, Trai Giam Nam Ha, xa Tân So'n, thôn Tân Lang Huyen Kim Bang Tinh Nam Ha Viet Nam
To help Amnesty International campaign for the rights of refugees click here http://bit.ly/1u5hElY
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• Call on the authorities to bring the national security provisions in the penal code into line with Vietnam's international human rights obligations, by either amending or removing them, so that they are not used in an arbitrary manner to stifle legitimate dissent, debate, opposition and freedom of expression, including use of the Internet.
Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
How Free is Australia's Press?
Australia's Press Freedom Ranks Worse Than You'd Think Every year the World Press Freedom Index is released by the not-for-profit organisation Reporters Without Borders. This index measures the level of press freedom in 180 countries by assessing the degree of freedom journalists and news organisations have to report information, and the willingness of authorities to respect and protect this freedom.
The countries are scored by the number of views represented in their media; how much the media can function independently of the authorities; the environment in which journalists work; the quality of legislative framework protecting journalists; transparency of institutions; and the quality of infrastructure that supports news and information production.
Some countries that have rated worse on the list this year include Guatemala and Paraguay, where attacks on media have doubled and resulted in the murder of four journalists.
There are, of course, nations that specifically come to mind whenever we think of governments restricting press freedom. North Korea,for example, has maintained an unenviable position near the bottom of the index for its tactics of restricting and controlling all information coming in and going out of the country. The governments of Syria and China have also maintained similar positions for their restriction and control of press freedom and information dissemination.
Another nation that has scored a worse ranking in this yearâ€™s index compared to last year is Australia. Since the first press freedom index in 2002, Australia has moved up and down the list significantly. In 2002, Australia was at its best ever ranking of twelve; however, just two years later in 2004 it reached its worst ranking of forty-one. Since then it has been gradually improving, although the most recent index reveals Australiaâ€™s twenty-eighth position ranks it worse than its 2013 ranking of twenty-six.
"The government's Operation Sovereign Borders includes an official media blackout where journalists are told only what the government wants them to know. "
from court proceedings. In the last five years alone 1,502 suppression orders have been enforced, of which 851 had no expiration.
Australia’s 2014 ranking rates it worse than nations such as Jamaica, Namibia and Ghana.
According to the 2014 Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) Australian Press Freedom Report, Australia’s ranking can be attributed to a range of inadequacies.
Another huge contributor to the restriction of press freedom in Australia is the current barrier to the free flow of information about Australia’s customs and immigration control. The government’s Operation Sovereign Borders includes an official media blackout where journalists are told only what the government wants them to know. Attempts to speak with Immigration Minister Scott Morrison about Operation Sovereign Borders have been unsuccessful, and tactics employed to deter journalists include increasing the cost of journalists’ visas for Nauru from $200 to $8000. The attack on asylum seekers at the Manus Island Detention Centre in February this year, where one detainee was murdered and seventy-six others injured has also remained a mystery, with media access restricted and governments involved uncooperative.
Firstly, there is a lack of adequate legislative protection for journalists who refuse to reveal their sources, and this refusal exposes them to the threat of imprisonment for contempt of court. Although there are shield laws to protect a journalist’s source, these can and have been challenged. The MEAA Journalists’ Code of Ethics states, ‘Where confidences are accepted, respect them in all circumstances.’ Therefore, a journalist must choose between breaking the law and risking imprisonment,or going against their ethical code.
There is also the issue of media ownership concentration in Australia, especially since the amendment to the Broadcasting Services Act in 2007, which saw greater relaxation on the regulation of media ownership. When it comes to print media there are essentially three owners: News Limited, Fairfax Media and APN News and Media. These companies own roughly ninety-eight per cent of the sector, severely limiting the originality and diversity of news in Australia. Compare this to the United States’ twenty-six per cent circulation share of the top three newspaper companies, and it reveals how concentrated the media in Australia is.
More effort needs to be made in Australia to ensure greater respect and protection for press freedom. As a democracy we are entitled to a free press; it keeps us informed and helps us decide who we want to vote for.
To help Amnesty International campaign for the rights of refugees click here http://bit.ly/1u5hElY
Other factors inhibiting press freedom in Australia include the overuse of suppression orders. A suppression order forbids a journalist from reporting part of or all details 41
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Even in a developed nation like Australia our media experiences restrictions, so it is important to remember that when it comes to reading the news we must always be curious, be wary of what isn’t being said, and read between the lines.
Ag-Gag Laws and Animals Rights Grace Butcher
The Debate Over 'ag-gag' Laws Has Reached Australia Early this year, activist group Animal Liberation revealed it has been using drones to monitor stock and poultry farms in the Hunter valley. The group purchased a $14,000 drone aircraft fitted with high definition video cameras, stabilisers and a ten-time zoom lens to help continue its work exposing animal cruelty. In response, the NSW Farmer's Federation has argued for tougher laws around drone surveillance, and has raised concern with the Attorney General at both state and federal level.
Amy Meyer was one of the first people to be prosecuted under ag-gag legislation in Utah. Standing on public land, on a street in Draper, she saw a cow being pushed by a bulldozer and recorded it. William Potter, a leading animal rights activist and author of the book, Green is the New Red, found out about her case and wrote a story on it. Within twenty-four hours it created such a furor that the prosecutors dropped all charges. Amy Meyer’s story demonstrates the role that individuals with cameras phones can have. Civil disobedience in the new age is video footage from hidden cameras; once only for the purview of private investigators, it now provides broader scope for everyday citizens to take action, and worthy substance for prime time broadcast.
Some state governments are now considering legislation to prevent activists from publishing footage in an attempt to cotton-wool Australia’s livestock industries. South Australia is the state furthest along that path, with a bill that was reintroduced to Parliament on 5 June 2014. The Surveillance Devices Bill 2014 would make it an offence to publish footage, audio or data collected without permission, unless deemed by the court to be in the public interest.
In 2011, animal rights campaigners brought Australia's livestock industry to its knees with vision of animal abuse in an Indonesian abattoir. Deeply shocking, the explosive investigation by ABC’s Four Corners in the report, ‘A Bloody Business’, had a very serious public impact. In response to the report the Australian government imposed a temporary ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia. Although the ban only lasted five weeks, cattle exports fell more than 20 percent that year. The work of journalists who gained access to the Indonesian abattoirs, covertly filming the abuse inflicted behind closed doors, was the catalyst that stirred the Australian public into taking action.
These proposed legislative changes are worryingly close to laws already enacted in the United States. States where agro-business is big business, such as Iowa, Utah and Missouri have introduced what have been labeled as “aggag” laws. The laws aim to silence whistle-blowers who would expose animal cruelty, poor working conditions, and food or environmental safety issues by making it a crime for an investigator to get a job on a factory farm, and banning them from taking photos or video without permission. Those who, for example, do not disclose that they are affiliated with the ASPCA or Humane Society would face criminal sanctions under these laws. 1
• Sections 4 and 5 prohibit the installation, use and maintenance of surveillance devices, both audio and visual • Section 8 prohibits the use, communication or publishing of information or material derived from the use of surveillance devices in contravention of the act • Sections 4(1), 5(1) and 8(1) impose sentences for contraventions of these sections, with maximum penalties of $75,000 for corporations and ...$15,000 for individuals or 3 years imprisonment • Sections 34(3) prohibits an individual or corporation from possessing certain surveillance devices prescribed by the minister, imposing a maximum penalty of ...$50,000 for a corporation and $10,000 for an individual or 2 years imprisonment 42
"Some state governments are now considering legislation to prevent activists from publishing footage in an attempt to cotton-wool Australia's livestock industries. " It’s no surprise that “ag-gag” laws are concerning civil libertarians and animal rights activists alike. Perhaps the most alarming of these laws are at the US federal level. Passed by congress in November 2006 the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) goes further by turning activists into terrorists. The legislation protects companies and institutions that use or sell animal products against anyone who causes a loss of profits, without making the distinction between criminal acts and acts of civil disobedience. It punishes otherwise lawful and innocuous speech which causes a business to lose profit, even where the decrease in sales is in reaction to public advocacy.
Lang were sentenced under the AEPA to thirty months jail for committing “animal enterprise terrorism” after releasing 2,000 mink and foxes from fur farms.
Criminalising protests and civil disobedience is no less than a corporate campaign to use terrorism resources to demonize opposition groups. Trespass, property damage, arson, vandalism - these are all criminal acts which criminal legislation is more than adequate enough to deal with. But filming animal abuse is not a terrorism act, nor is publishing it. The public have an inherent right to scrutinise questionable activities affecting public interests.
In March of this year the Centre for Constitutional Rights asked the Supreme Court in the US to review the case of Blum v Holder against the Federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act 2006. In August the five plaintiffs filed their petition for a writ of certiorari. They argue that under the first and fifth amendments, the law is unconstitutionally restricting their abilities to speak on matters of public concern. In particular, the AETA classifies certain protected speech and activity as a “terrorist” crime. They argue it punishes individuals who alone, or with others, criticize or demonstrate against what the statute vaguely identifies as an “animal enterprise,” if that otherwise permissible speech damages the profitability of the animal enterprise or even a person or entity connected with it.2
Livestock producers in Australia argue that privacy laws are not effective. Certainly, the current legal landscape provides no right to privacy for companies or individuals, a position confirmed by the High Court in the case of Australian Broadcasting Corporation v Lenah Game Meats Pty Ltd  HCA 63. In that case, Lenah Meats, a company processing possum meat for export, applied to the High Court for injunction against the ABC’s 7:30 report to stop it from broadcasting video of its operations in Tasmania. The film was from an anonymous source who supplied it to Animal Liberation which then passed it to the ABC. Lenah Meats was unsuccessful in their application. Importantly, it was recognised by the High Court that animal welfare issues are legitimate matters of public debate and noted the importance of public interest groups generating that public debate in Australia. Although it could be said that persons have a right not to have their privacy interfered with, precedence was given to protecting matters of public concern.
Sarah Jane Blum, the leading plaintiff in Blum v Holder, filmed a documentary in 2003 whilst working with gourmetcruelty.com. Delicacy of Despair uncovered the practice of foie gras production in the Hudson Valley and in Sonoma California, where the over feeding of ducks and geese causes livers to swell up to twelve times their healthy size. In an interview with Huffington Post Live, she explained her concern that if she shows her documentary, and people change their diet in response, she would be committing acts of terrorism under the AEPA.
Whilst lukewarm in comparison to the “ag-gag” laws of the US, the proposed changes in South Australia are certainly alarming and serve as a warning of what is to come if Australia is to respond to the pull of powerful interest groups in agro-business. Meat exports, including live exports, generate significant wealth for Australia. Farm owners have a right to protect their commercial interests through prosecutions for breaches of existing laws. But if there is one thing that is so blindly obvious, acts of advocacy groups are not acts or terror, they are protest. Australia must not allow for legislators to single out groups they dislike.
The case of Blum v Holder currently before the Supreme Court brings to light serious issues of freedom of expression. Using false pretenses to access a farm for unauthorised purposes is not an act of terror. Yet, in July of this year, animal rights activists Kevin Olliff and Tyler
The AETA creates a terrorism offence of travelling interstate or using the mail or other facility of interstate commerce “for the purpose of damaging or interfering
with the operations of an animal enterprise” when in connection with such purpose, an individual a)
intentionally damages or causes the loss of any real or personal property used by an animal enterprise, or by a person or entity with a connection to
................an animal enterprise b)
intentionally places a person in reasonable fear of injury through a course of conduct involving threats, vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass,
.................harassment or intimidation c)
or conspires to do so 43
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Free Al Jazeera Staff Detained in Egypt Peter Greste and his Al Jazeera colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed have been convicted by an Egyptian court and been sentenced to seven years in prison. As a matter of urgency, please call on President Abdel Fattah al Sisi to release these three prisoners of conscience immediately. Australian journalist Peter Greste and his Al Jazeera colleagues, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, were detained by Egyptian authorities last December. The three men face terrorism-related charges for ‘airing misleading news’ about Egypt’s political situation. On 20 February the journalists were denied bail by an Egyptian court. They will now remain in jail until their trial continues on 5 March. If convicted, they could face between three years to life in prison. All three men are prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression.
Egypt must immediately drop the charges against the three journalists and let them go free. These latest arrests come as part of a widespread crackdown on press freedom in Egypt. Since July last year, a number of journalists have faced arrest for reporting on human rights violations carried out by security forces. Call on the Egyptian authorities to release Peter Greste and his Al Jazeera colleagues immediately and unconditionally.
For more information follow this link http://www.amnesty.org.au/activist/campaign-resource/35797 44
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THE ANNUAL CASTAN CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS LAW CONFERENCE 2014
By Emily Williamson
The Castan Centre for Human Rights Law aims to promote and protect human rights by bringing the work of human rights scholars, practitioners and advocates from a variety of disciplines to the centre. These people assist with research, teaching, public education, advice and consultancy work. Every year the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law holds a conference hosted by a range of distinguished members in the human rights field, and this year was no exception.
On the 25 July 2014 the Annual Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference was held at Deakin Edge, Federation Square, and included talks from Professor Adam McBeth, The Hon. Michael Kirby, Waleed Aly, Dr Cassandra Goldie, Jillian C York, Elaine Pearson, David Yarrow and Dr Ronli Sifris. The day was incredibly thought provoking, educational and inspirational, as so many people were united by a passion for human rights. The day began with Adam McBeth, associate professor from Monash University Law and Castan Centre Deputy Director. Professor McBeth’s topic was There Ain’t no Votes in Aid: the Impact of the ‘New Aid Paradigm’ on Human Rights. This topic included discussion about the recent budget released by the Coalition government, and how this has impacted on the aid sector. Professor McBeth said the budget’s single biggest cut, and by quite a substantial margin, was to the aid budget. This was an easy cut for the government, according the Professor McBeth, because the repercussions are limited when it comes to people who
cannot vote in Australia. He went on to speak about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and said the government has a goal to ‘treat potential arrivals with so much cruelty that even those fleeing from persecution are deterred to come.’ The second session was held by the Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG, Chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Alleged Human Rights Violation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Mr Kirby’s topic was Human Rights Abuses in North Korea, which included discussion about the ‘uncooperative’ and ‘hostile’ environment of North Korea. Mr Kirby said there are currently 26,000 refugees from North Korea in South Korea; many of whom have been able to provide witness statements of human rights violations occurring in North Korea. He spoke of the thousands of political prisoners in North Korea, the refugees who were sent back and executed for abandoning their country and the one million people who have starved to death in the last fifteen years. Mr Kirby said people in North Korea are ‘required to effectively worship the Kim family,’ or else, it seems, suffer dire consequences. The third session was held by Waleed Aly, The Age columnist, host of Drive on ABC Radio National and politics lecturer 46
at Monash University. Mr Aly’s topic was The Australian Freedom Debate, in which he directed a riveting discussion about the restrictions imposed on freedom of speech in Australia. Mr Aly said, ‘there is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech,’ and discussed how speech freedom can be limited. He said, ‘the question is really not “can I speak?” The question is “am I prepared to bear the cost of that speech?”’ More specifically he said
there can be legal ramifications to what people might say; however, there are also social ramifications where people may risk ostracism if they speak against what is accepted by their society. Mr Aly also brought up the issue that even though the powerless do have a theoretical right to freedom of speech, they do not always have the ability to exercise it. Also in the third session was Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), whose topic was Addressing Poverty and Inequality in Australia: Current Social Policy Challenges. Dr Goldie focused her discussion on the significant impact the budget has had on those who are already struggling in Australia – particularly single parents. The budget saw significant cuts to the single parent payment with a shift from the single parent pension to the job seeking payments of Newstart. This has resulted in significant financial losses for single parents each week, and has severely impacted upon the one-quarter of children living in poverty within single parent families. The government believed this shift in payment type would push more single parents into the workforce. However, as Dr Goldie pointed out, twothirds of single parents are already in paid work. Dr Goldie also highlighted the issue of parents having to halve or delay their further education; the very thing they need in order to gain better employment and pull themselves out of poverty.
Elaine Pearson, Australian Director at Human Rights Watch followed in the fourth session with the topic of Shut Out and Shut Up: The Consequences of Australia’s Border Protection Policies. Ms Pearson focused on the asylum seeker situation in Australia and said, ‘Unfortunately rather than opening our doors to people fleeing from persecution, Australia has closed its doors.’ Ms Pearson does not believe in the government argument that they are trying to protect lives at sea, and believes there are better methods available. When talking about detention centres she said, ‘The government are making the conditions so bad in the camps that going home looks good.’ Ms Pearson said there needs to be more done to address the causes as to why people are fleeing in the first place, and to improve the standards for asylum seekers in transition countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. She said, ‘Australia’s solution is to make it another country’s problem; they are just pushing the burden.’ In the fifth session David Yarrow, a member of the Victorian Bar, discussed the topic of The Australian Way of Indigenous Consent. Mr Yarrow spoke about the importance of corporation and consultation when it came to Indigenous land rights and the need for free and prior informed consent from indigenous people. He believes that Australia still has work to do when it comes to land use, policy and planning for indigenous rights. Although Australia has committed to observing the UN Declaration of the
Rights of Indigenous People, there is still no coherent framework for obtaining indigenous consent. The final speaker was Dr Ronli Sifris, Monash University Law School lecturer and Castan Centre associate, whose topic was Reproductive Rights: Recent Developments. Dr Sifris focused primarily on the rights for women to terminate pregnancy, and highlighted that Tasmania only just passed legislation last year to decriminalise abortion in the Reproductive Health (Access to Termination) Act 2013. She compared the differences in law that can occur between Australian states, such as women in Victoria who are allowed termination until up to twenty weeks, whereas Tasmanian women have just sixteen weeks. Dr Sifris went on to discuss the complexities of when a doctor has a conscientious objection to abortion, and what this can mean for women. She believes that abortions must be carried out in a case of emergency, regardless of the doctor’s position, and gave the example of a woman in Ireland who died of septicemia when doctors refused to abort her baby even though they knew it wouldn’t survive. More information on that case can be found here http://bit.ly/1vbUF98 Dr Sifris said there needs to be a balance found between the rights and life of the woman and the beliefs of the doctor. To sum up, the Annual Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference 2014 was filled with an inspiring group of people excelling in the human rights field. It was topical, interesting and highly educational; I encourage you all to get along to the next one in 2015. To find out more about the Castan Centre please visit http://bit.ly/1yCbTPq Or go to their official blog http://bit.ly/1vu8KzU Images by James Robinson
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The fourth session was held by Jillian C York, Director for International Freedom of Expression Electronic Frontier Foundation. Ms York’s topic was Internet Spying: The Impact on Societies, and included discussion about the use of metadata and mass surveillance, and the impact these have had on journalists. Ms York said she could see the value in targeted surveillance; however, she felt there was never an acceptable circumstance for mass surveillance. Ms York said this type of surveillance has yet to be proven to work effectively and by
surveilling everyone it wrongly assumes their guilt. Unfortunately, she said it is not easy to protect yourself from surveillance, and this has created a difficult situation for journalists who need to protect their sources. Ms York believes there needs to be a conversation in our society about mass surveillance and the kind of world we want to live in.
AMINA BY J. L. POWERS
Book Two of the Through My Eyes Series By Sarah Mokrzycki After many trials Amina begins to find solace in creating new art, and eventually learns how much her artwork is inspiring her people – and just how dangerous sparking inspiration can be. The story doesn’t end the way most children’s novels do, with a neat little ending and a definitive ‘happily ever after’. It leaves the reader facing the realities of life for people like Amina and her family; the devastation, the hardship, and of course the innumerable loss. However, the story ultimately ends on a positive note, with Amina looking to the future of her city while remembering the past. As her father tells her early on, ‘Just keep looking ahead, no matter what.’
... Underneath her quietness lay a seething mass of ideas she was just waiting to express ...
Fourteen-year-old Amina is a bright, curious and artistic young woman living in Somalia, where such things are a ‘liability’ for her sex under al-Shabaab rule. Set in Mogadishu in 2011 during the final days of al-Shabaab’s control of the city, J. L. Powers’ Amina tells the story of one young woman’s determination and perseverance through unimaginable hardship. It is a story at once both inspiring and terrifying. Amina was born into Somalia’s civil war, and has never known another way of life. A natural artist with an ‘itch’ to create public art to share with her community, Amina hides away in abandoned buildings to etch poetry on walls or leave mosaics for others to find. When her father is arrested for creating haram (forbidden) artwork and her brother kidnapped by al-Shabaab to become a soldier, Amina’s world starts crumbling down around her like the buildings of her fragile city. Now Amina, her grandmother and pregnant mother must fend for themselves in a time of war and famine, in a place where women are subordinate to men.
Amina is the second book in the revolutionary Through My Eyes series; a set of children’s novels detailing the lives of young people living in contemporary conflict zones. Amina tells a story of war, famine, child soldiers, Islamic extremism, gender inequality and female genital mutilation. It also tells a story of family, change, community and culture – and ultimately, hope. Like all other books in the series, Amina includes a timeline of events, a glossary of terms and links to find out more about the issues surrounding the novel.
THE ROAD OF LOST INNOCENCE
A book review By Emily Williamson
This book is based on the true story of Somaly Mam, who at just age twelve, was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather. Somaly’s story exposes the devastating effects of the Cambodian sex trade, to which she was held captive for over ten years. Throughout her time she endured the horror and brutality of human trafficking, including rape, torture and deprivation until her eventual escape. With the help of a French aid worker, she began building a better life for herself with the education and security that her newfound freedom allowed her. Somaly, however, could not forget her past and the girls she left behind in
the brothels. This started Somaly on a new path towards the fight against the culture, power and corruption that supports the sex trade in South-East Asia. Her bravery saw her conduct raids on brothels, rescue sex workers as young as five, and start her own organisation. The Somaly Mam Foundation provides those rescued from sex slavery in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos with shelter, education and love. Somaly is a true example of how the courage and determination of just one person can impact change. To learn more about how you can help fight human trafficking, visit the foundation’s website www.somaly.org
THROUGH MY EYES An Interview with Lyn White By Sarah Mokrzycki
A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Lyn White, series creator and editor of the Through My Eyes series. Lyn hosted a lively and thought-provoking meeting at Editors Victoria on her groundbreaking series, discussing children’s literature, asylum seekers, culture and conflict. The Through My Eyes series encompasses six children’s fiction stories, each told through the eyes of a child in a different contemporary conflict zone. Malini, the fifth book in the series, hit bookshelves September 2014. 1) How did you come up with the idea for the Through My Eyes series? As a primary school teacher-librarian I was frequently asked by students for books of a similar genre to those written by Deborah Ellis – fiction stories of children in other cultures that had a strong link to reality. As an English as a Second Language teacher (now known as English as an Additional Language) I had the privilege of listening to the incredible experiences of refugee and newly arrived children who had been displaced and traumatized by conflict. I began to realize the potential of combining these two experiences – a fiction series of engaging stories of true events in troubled lands with insight into culture, conflict and identity through one child’s eyes. The escalating asylum-seeker debate provided further incentive to provide some needed context for young people.
4) What reactions from school children, teachers and readers in general have you had to the series? The response to Through My Eyes has been overwhelmingly positive and is continuing to build as each new story is released. The series website is full of comments and reviews from students and teachers who have not only enjoyed reading the texts but have been challenged in their own thinking about global issues. The young readers are telling me how their appreciation for their lives here in Australia has been heightened after entering the story worlds presented in Through My Eyes. They admire the protagonists who represent the children living in war zones and are inspired by their resilience, courage and commitment to their family and culture.
2) Why was the series was so important for you to make?
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So many of the attitudes we want our young people to develop are based on knowledge, understanding and empathy. I felt it 5) Why was including teachers notes so important to you? was so important and timely to engage readers with the realities of children and families living day by day in warzones. I wanted As a teacher, I realised the potential of the series to support the them to realise the incredible courage and resilience Australian Curriculum, Global Education and the of such children and to experience a sense of our International Baccalaureate. I wanted to create I felt it was so shared humanity – these children also want to go to a comprehensive, digitally linked teaching and important and school, be healthy and live without fear. learning guide that would enable teachers to fully timely to engage explore the texts and link to several curriculum 3) Do you have a favourite book from the series? areas. The texts are suitable for literature circles, readers with guided reading groups, a class text or literary This is a difficult question as I am so connected to the realities of focus for a complete unit of work. Themes such as all the books, having been involved at every level human rights, social justice, culture and identity, children and of their production. Shahana by Rosanne Hawke friendship, family, courage, resilience and hope families living holds a special place, as it was the first book in the feature across the titles. The guides present series. I really admire Rosanne’s ability to bring her day by day in war numerous activities for exploring the universal experience of working as an aid worker in Pakistan zones. themes at various levels of complexity depending to her story that is so culturally authentic and on the age group of the students. sensitive. I also found myself very emotional each time I worked on John Heffernan’s Naveed. John has chosen a An important personal aim for the series was for the readers huge canvas on which to paint his powerful story of one Afghan to go beyond the stories to the real stories of children living boy who refuses to be beaten by the chaos and misery that has in contemporary conflict zones. A portion of the proceeds (up enveloped his country and threatens to escalate as Coalition to $5000) from sales of this series will be donated to UNICEF. troops withdraw. We see and feel the hardship, the tragedy, but UNICEF works in over 190 countries, including those in which above all we are moved by Naveed’s positivity and selflessness, books in this series are set, to promote and protect the rights of and the kindness of others. Readers are left knowing that there is children. The guides contain many links to UNICEF resources indeed light in the darkness. and opportunities for students to become involved as active global citizens.
AM-UNITY MAGAZINE Amnesty International Australia Suite 8, 134 Cambridge Street Collingwood VIC 3066 Telephone: +61 3 9412 0700 Fax: 03 9412 0720 www.am-unitymagazine.com For submissions please send all artwork, photography or articles to email@example.com When sending articles send rich text format or docx and for images send, 72 dpi and rgb files.
The 3rd edition of AM-UNITY magazine is out now! Just click on the magazine cover on the left to view our latest edition - in it we explore...
Published on Nov 24, 2014
The 3rd edition of AM-UNITY magazine is out now! Just click on the magazine cover on the left to view our latest edition - in it we explore...