people live here housing is a human right
ISSUE 3 / 2012
In this Issue > A wrong turn towards asylum seeker detention > social media - opening the world for social change > on the streets protecting the human
“And yet the mood here is one of optimism, hope and dedication.” Condensing two months experience in my new role as Executive Director into a few short paragraphs isn’t easy. What is easy is to feel overwhelmed when you join Amnesty. Just sign up to the Amnesty International’s Urgent Action Network and read the daily alerts if you ever want to shake off the feeling that humanity is largely good.
News Review - Updates from Around the World
Feature: Housing is a Human Right
Social Media - Opening the World for Social Change
Ghost Boats: New Zealand’s Wrong Turn Towards Asylum Detention
Take Action - World Day Against the Death Penalty
10 Good News 11 Amnesty Briefs
Cover photo: A young boy blows a balloon during an Amnesty International “Week of Action to Stop Forced Evictions in Harare, Zimbabwe, March 2012. (c) Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/ AP Images for Amnesty International Contact details Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand 68 Grafton Road, Auckland, 1010 P O Box 5300, Wellesley St, Auckland, 1141 0800 AMNESTY (0800 266 378)
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Chairperson: Helen Shorthouse Executive Director: Grant Bayldon editor: Anita Harvey
art direction + design: We Love Inc www.weloveinc.com Pass it on When you’ve finished with your copy of Flame please pass it on to someone else so they can learn about Amnesty International and the vital work we do.
And yet the mood here – of both supporters and staff who deal with these harsh realities daily – is one of optimism, hope and dedication. So what, I’ve been wondering, is the secret to staying positive? I think the answer to this question is in the way Amnesty works. Because as well as despair, we see hope every day as prisoners of conscience we have campaigned on are released, or new freedoms open up in countries where there previously were none. And as well as the desperate ongoing tragedies like Syria, we see victories like Aung San Suu Kyi’s liberation. The Arms Trade Treaty campaign is a good example. In July, 20 years of work were undermined at the last minute by cynical superpower politics. Yet we remain confident that the years of work have built up a momentum that will win out, and will one day be seen as one of the most significant steps in curbing the atrocious human rights violations that result from uncontrolled arms. If we look at the state of human rights in the world now and compare it to when Peter Benenson founded Amnesty International 51 years ago, I think most people would agree that the good guys are winning – the human rights project is progressing. But looking at today’s news and Amnesty’s Urgent Action update, there’s still so much more to do. So how do I feel after my first two months? Daunted and a little overwhelmed, certainly - but far more inspired by the incredible people who are part of this movement, and excited about the task we have before us all. This is a role I have wanted to do for a long time, and it’s a great privilege to be part of Amnesty International with you.
This is your FLAME Please let us know if you like it Send all your comments and suggestions to: email: theflame@amnesty. org.nz WWW.amnesty.ORG.NZ Protect the Human
Grant Bayldon Executive Director Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand
Arms Trade Treaty: A Hurdle, But There’s Still Hope. World leaders were so close to finally agreeing on a Treaty to effectively regulate the transfer of weapons between states at the United Nations in July. But at the 11th hour, a small but powerful handful of countries, including the US, Russia and China, blocked a final decision from being reached. While this was disappointing it is not cause to lose hope. Enormous progress has been made and what’s more, while the final draft of the Treaty was not perfect, it was strong. The Treaty talks will most likely be deferred to October’s UN General Assembly meeting. Until then, we will step up the pressure to ensure that a Treaty becomes a reality. Keep an eye on www.amnesty.org.nz/our-work/arms-tradetreaty. Image: Six-year-old Salah Suri lost his hand when an artillery shell struck his family home in the Fardus district of Aleppo, killing his three-year-old brother, FadiSuri on 9 August 2012. © Amnesty International
Syria: Under Fire
August there were reports that nine people were executed in Gambia. The first executions in the country in 27 years. The news followed comments made by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh that people sentenced to death in Gambia will be executed by September. In the first half of 2012 alone, Iraq has executed at least 70 people, which is already more than the figure for all of last year. And Japan’s decision in March to carry out its first executions in almost two years,was condemned as a hugely retrograde step. 10 October is World against the Death Penalty Day. To take action turn to page 8-9.
Image: Amnesty ‘Pussy Riot’ protesters shackled near the Russian Embassy with placards, London, August 2012. © Amnesty International (Photo: Imran Uppal)
Free Pussy Riot A Russian court’s decision to jail members of the punk rock band Pussy Riot was a bitter blow for freedom of expression in the country. Three members of the all-female group were convicted of “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” after they sang a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral in February. The trial and sentencing captured the world’s attention, generating a wide debate on blogs, social networks and in the media about freedom of expression, the place of the Church in a modern secular state and the independence of courts.
Death Penalty While developments on the use of the death penalty in 2011 confirmed the global trend towards abolition, in late
Niger Delta: Another oil spill 'fiasco' from Shell Experts have examined evidence from the latest oil spill caused by Shell’s poorly maintained pipelines in the Bodo Creek area, Nigeria, and confirmed that there is a strong indication that the leak was due to corrosion of the pipeline. The spill was discovered on 21 June 2012 and was stopped on 30 June 2012. However, Shell continues to misrepresent the real reason for leaks or to accept corporate accountability for a problem of its making.
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As the conflict in Syria continues, first-hand field investigations show that civilians are enduring a horrific level of violence. In early August, Amnesty’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser Donatella Rovera visited Aleppo and investigated
some 30 attacks in which scores of civilians not involved in hostilities, many of them children, were killed or injured in their homes or while queuing for bread, as a result of indiscriminate attacks against residential neighbourhoods. “It is imperative that all parties – government forces and opposition fighters – comply with international humanitarian law,” said Rovera. For the latest news and to take action visit www.amnesty.org.nz
people live here By Poorna Prakash & Anita Harvey
A forced eviction is the removal of people against their will from the homes or land they occupy without legal protections and other safeguards. A forced eviction is a major human rights violation. Around the world Amnesty International is working on issues and cases of forced evictions: In Cambodia: Entire communities are being bulldozed. Tens of thousands of people have been forcibly evicted. In the capital Phnom Penh alone, 10 percent of the city’s population was evicted between 1990 and 2011. In Israel and the Occupied West Bank: The Israeli army plans to forcibly evict and transfer 20 Palestinian communities – mostly Jahalin Bedouin – from their homes in the Occupied West Bank. Some of these communities may be relocated to land that is 300m from a garbage dump. In Port Harcourt, Nigeria: After five days of demolitions at Abonnema Wharf waterfront in Port Harcourt, thousands of people have been forcibly evicted by the River State Government and many left homeless by the demolitions.
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For more information and to take action on forced evictions visit www.amnesty.org.nz/our-work/forced-evictions PICTURED: Destroyed homes in Borei Keila, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 3 January 2012. © LICADHO
On 17 April 1975, Lisa Ho’s grandmother, her mother and her mother’s siblings, along with every other city dweller, were forced out of Phnom Penh in one afternoon. For the next four years they were held in the most oppressive labour camps you could ever imagine.
Seventeen-year-old Alzain Ali from Aorere College, Auckland, recalls the abrupt end to his idyllic childhood in Ba, north-western Fiji when his family received an eviction notice from the Government to leave their family farm.
“The Khmer Rouge killed my grandmother because she was no longer fit to work,” said Lisa, who works as Amnesty’s Fundraising Co-ordinator.
“We were blindsided. We were expected to just leave our home, which had been in our family for generations, within two weeks.” Alzain says that the reason given was the land would be used to build a railway track through it, but he doesn’t believe it, as thousands of Fijians of Indian descent have been evicted from their sugar cane farms.
Lisa’s mother came to New Zealand in 1982 as a refugee; and it wasn’t until 2010 that she returned to visit her homeland for the first time. “Her initial reaction to the country’s development was positive, but as we drove past homes that had been set on fire during recent evictions, she became upset and was reminded of the very real injustices still present in her home country,” said Lisa. During 2009 Lisa spent a year working with marginalised and vulnerable youth for a nongovernmental organisation (NGO) in Phnom Penh. She remembers one young boy, a street kid who attended the centre. “He was just 12 years old, his family struggling to get by, living in a shelter made out of a tarpaulin, after the authorities set their entire community on fire," said Lisa. Previously, in 2008 Lisa lived in the area around Beoung Kak Lake and visited the slums nearby. There she saw people living in shelters made from nothing more than a few wooden sticks and rusty tin roof. Kids ran around naked; others fished for food in the polluted brown lake. Two years later she went back to visit the area and found that it no longer existed. The lake had been filled with sand to make way for commercial development and as water levels rose, many of the houses had been flooded to the point where families could no longer stay there. “Sometimes I cannot help but imagine, what if this happened to my own family had my mother decided that she wanted to rebuild her life in Cambodia?” Lisa said.
“When I found out we would be leaving, I remember asking my family why this was happening to us. Nobody could give me a satisfactory answer.” When Alzain asked if they could refuse, he recalls their answer“They told me that if I didn’t want to go to jail, I should simply do as I was told.” The family lost everything when their house was sealed off with all their possessions still in it. “We lived with my uncle for a long time and had to borrow everything including utensils and clothes.” While the adults dealt with the trauma of losing their family land and an expensive court case, Alzain had his own hurdles to overcome. “Imagine being 11 years old and suddenly losing everything that is familiar to you. It was a terrible time that still makes me quite angry to think about.” Alzain wishes he could confront the man who started it all when he handed over the eviction notice. “I’d like him to know that he shook the very foundations of my life. Every corner of that house had a memory and it was taken from us. It was wrong and unfair.” It is this sense of injustice that prompted Alzain to participate in this year’s Freedom Challenge on Forced Evictions. As he puts it - “Knowing what it feels like, I felt compelled to do something, however little it might seem".
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“How can the people of Cambodia move forward, if at any time, any moment, their entire livelihoods can be stripped away? These people deserve to be treated with dignity.”
Since he was 11 at the time, Alzain did not fully comprehend the situation but recalls with clarity the anger and helplessness that enveloped his family in the following months.
PICTURED: The Tweeting Seat - an interactive park bench designed to connect communities by tweeting images of its users and the environment in which it is placed. Each time someone sits down, TweetingSeat uploads an image from two cameras to a live Twitter feed. Designed by Chris McNicholl - chrismcnicholl.com © Chris McNicholl
Opening the World for Social Change Amnesty International has long believed that if the world sits up, takes notice and lets human rights abusers know that they were being watched, then we can stop atrocities from occurring, stop torture, stop human rights abuse. This is true now, perhaps more than ever. Technological innovation has connected the entire world and allows us to more easily hold abusers to account. Just a glimpse at the Facebook tracking site socialbakers. com shows just how many people around the world are using social media to express themselves. Earlier this year Amnesty’s Senior Director of International Law and Policy, Widney Brown blogged about human rights and the internet. She wrote about the responsibility the technology sector had to take in order to thwart attempts to undermine these rights. “Technology companies have built their businesses squarely in the sphere of human rights. [They] need to be present in the fight for human rights [and] must challenge laws that suppress free expression, censor information and invade users’ privacy,” she said. While the world of Twitter and Facebook, as well as Pinterest and Youtube may be full of nights out, the latest fashion, food and romance, they also present as tools for social change and human rights promotion.
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According to social media website mashable.com the case of Troy Davis, and the last minute attempt to save him from execution was the second most tweeted moment per second in 2011. The past few months have seen fluro balaclava photos go viral online, in support of Russian punk band Pussy Riot. And often the only footage of atrocities being committed in Syria have been shot on mobile phones and posted on
Youtube by citizens on the ground – citizen ‘reporters’. We live in a time where simply hitting ‘LIKE’ represents our views and allows us to speak out. But of course with this comes a new sphere for rights to be undermined as governments seek to control the virtual world. We continuously see human rights abuses being carried out against social media activists. In Vietnam, blogger Nguyen Hoang Hai is awaiting trial accused of conducting anti-state propaganda. And in Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab, who on top of a three year sentence for taking part in an anti-government protest is serving a three month sentence for libel for a post he made on Twitter. Yet in July this year, the UN Human Rights Council backed a resolution saying “all people should be allowed to connect and express themselves freely on the internet.” In New Zealand we can pretty much be ourselves online –tweet, share personal information and beliefs without fear of persecution or punishment. In many countries this is simply not possible. Around 10 October, World Day Against the Death Penalty, Amnesty will be launching an exciting Facebook application that will let you find out just how the freedom of your life style measures up around the world. Make sure you keep an eye on www.facebook.com/ AmnestyNZ and follow us @AmnestyNZ to find out more as the time for the application’s release draws closer.
By Tracey Barnett Truly, it’s downright confounding. Why is New Zealand considering mimicking a disastrous Australian policy to lock up our non-existent, boat-arriving asylum seekers to these shores? That failed policy is what is being proposed here, right now. Detention will be more expensive, damage our international humanitarian reputation and punish the world’s most desperate, while doing absolutely nothing to deter traffickers. Not to mention one tiny, confounding detail; New Zealand has never had a boat arrival of asylum seekers in modern history. That’s right, zero. New Zealand currently allows people the dignity to await the determination of their asylum cases in the community, with few exceptions. Australia locks away asylum seekers who arrive by boat in remote camps, including women and children, deeming them instant prisoners just for having the bad luck of having to run for their lives. The human cost of Australia’s detention policy has been downright ugly. Among those locked in razor wire camps, suicides rates soar up to 41 times the national average, 86 percent suffer from depression. Detainees stuck for years have resorted to self-harm, sewing their lips together in protest and burning their own camps in despair. Not so in this country — that is, until now. If our Prime Minister gets his way, renewable, six-month detention will be introduced for asylum seekers arriving unscheduled in groups over 10 people. Even then, their cases will have to be tested again three years later before they can gain permanent residence, leaving their lives in limbo and fear, not knowing if they can put down roots. We are about to erase something we have done right—indeed as a world leader— with a policy that most countries in the world are now abandoning as ineffective, costly and inhumane. What a dangerous, new precedent. This is not who we are as a nation - nor who we should become. You can follow the campaign on Twitter at: #WeAreBetterThanThat and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ WeAreBetterThanThat www.traceybarnett.co.nz
Toward Asylum Detention On 28 August the Transport and Industrial Select Committee released a report supporting a Bill that will breach several important human rights, including the right to be free of arbitrary detention, and access to justice rights. People have a fundamental legal right to seek asylum, and Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the Government is giving itself the ability to breach these obligations. We must demand better. Join us in telling our MPs that this is not what New Zealanders stand for. www.amnesty.org.nz/getinvolved/take-action-online
07 PICTURED: An asylum seeker from the Ukraine looks out through the bars of a Detention Center. © UNHCR / B. Szandelszky
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Tracey Barnett is a columnist and also a board member of the Auckland Refugee Council
Ghost Boats: New Zealand’s Wrong Turn
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siti zainab binti duhri rupa WHAT
domestic worker under death sentence BACKGROUND Siti Zainab Binti Duhri Rupa, an Indonesian mother of two, has been detained in Saudi Arabia’s Medina Prison, since 1999, and is currently under sentence of death. In November 1999 she admitted to stabbing her employer because of mistreatment. She has had no legal representation at any stage and did not have access to a consular representative during the police interrogation. The police suspected that she suffered from mental illness at the time of the interrogation. Before she was arrested, Siti Zainab Binti Duhri Rupa sent two letters in which she said that her employer and her employer’s son had acted cruelly towards her
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WHAT CAN YOU DO
PLEASE WRITE Call on the Saudi Arabian authorities to commute Siti Zainab Binti Duhri Rupa’s death sentence. Urge that she be given immediate access to legal representation in order to seek a pardon, and that she also be given consular assistance, adequate translation facilities and medical assistance as necessary.
Appeal to His Majesty King Abdullah Aziz Al Saud The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques Office of His Majesty The King Royal Court Riyadh Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1403 3125 (via Ministry of Interior) Salutation: Your Majesty © Documentation of CIMW
#3 © Radio Taiwan International
on death row since 1989
BACKGROUND Chiou Ho-Shun was arrested in 1988 in connection with two murders and was tortured into confessing. After an unfair trial, he received the death sentence. No material evidence linking him to the crime was ever produced, but he could be executed at any time. In 2011 Chiou pleaded to the Courts: “I haven’t killed anyone. Why don’t judges have the courage to find me not guilty?”
WHAT CAN YOU DO
on death row since 1972
BACKGROUND Okunishi Masaru is charged with supplying alcohol which contained pesticide, killing five women in 1961. He “confessed” under interrogation but retracted it later. He was acquitted due to lack of evidence but this was reversed by a higher court which sentenced him to death. The Supreme Court confirmed his death sentence on 15 June 1972. Okunishi’s case is emblematic of the systemic flaws of the administration of justice in Japan.
WHAT CAN YOU DO
Call on the President to ensure Chiou Ho-Shun receives a fair re-trial. Urge him to suspend all executions and death sentences as a step towards abolishing the death penalty in Taiwan.
Call on the Minister of Justice Makoto Taki to grant another retrial for Okunishi in which his case is considered within international fair trial standards and he has full access to lawyers; that Okunishi is given improved prison conditions, including greater access for family, friends and campaigners; and urge Minister Taki to stop further executions, commute all death sentences and impose an immediate moratorium on executions.
Appeal to President of Taiwan Office of the President No. 122, Sec. 1 Chongqing S. Road Zhongzheng District Taipei City 100 TAIWAN Fax: +886-2-2383-2941 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Salutation: Your Excellency
Appeal to Minister of Justice of Japan Fax: +81 3 5511
7200 (via Public Information & Foreign Liaison Office) Salutation: Dear Minister
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Makoto Taki Minister of Justice Ministry of Justice 1-1-1 Kasumigaseki Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 100-8977 JAPAN
Aung San SuuKyi at an Amnesty event in Ireland. © Maxwell Photography
Myanmar's Road to Freedom Aung San Suu Kyi’s release from mandatory house arrest and her trip to Europe heralded the opportunity for a new, freer era in Myanmar. During her time in Europe Suu Kyi was finally able to accept her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize in person. And also her 2009 Ambassador of Conscience award from Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty and musician Bono in Ireland. Upon receiving the award, she said, “To receive this award is to remind me that 24 years ago, I took on duties from which I have never been relieved.” There seems to be a new wind blowing
in Myanmar as the Government begins to implement some positive measures, starting with the release of its political prisoners. By July 2012, most of Amnesty’s Prisoners of Conscience, including student leaders from the 1988 protests Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi had been released. Suu Kyi travelled to Europe as an MP after her party the National League for Democracy (NLD) won 42 seats in the Myanmar Parliament. In Europe she had a packed agenda, meeting with her supporters, presidents and kings who were all humbled to meet this gentle woman who symbolises a pillar of quiet resistance against a brutal government. The Government has also taken a significant step towards loosening its
SINCE THE LAST ISSUE OF FLAME Conscientious objector Moon Myung-jin was released from prison on parole in South Korea.
authoritarian hold over its people by abolishing direct media censorship in August 2012. Under the new rules, journalists no longer have to submit reports to state censors before publication. The Government has also lightened their internet surveillance and increased their engagement with the main opposition party and ethnic minorities. Amnesty International will continue to monitor the situation and the campaign for human rights in Myanmar as there are still many issues to be addressed. Amnesty has spoken out against the treatment of the Rohingya Muslims by the security forces and will continue to urge the Government to meets its human rights obligations.
signatures were handed over to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in July calling for a bulletproof Arms Trade Treaty.
Prisoners of conscience Khun Kawrio and Ko Aye Aung were freed from prison in Myanmar. In Iran, Ronak Safazadeh was released from prison after being detained for her work for women’s rights and the rights of Iran’s Kurdish minority.
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In late June we received the great news that the 13 women who had been arrested for protesting forced evictions at Boeung Kak in Cambodia had been released.
587 people took action in just 24 hours to call for an end to the torture and for the immediate release of Johan Teterissa in Indonesia bit.ly/ RhNpqc.
10,000 the number of cards and letters Nigeria’s child prisoner Patrick Okaroafor (31) received from Amnesty members during the four-years we campaigned to end his 17 years in prison. He was released in April.
17, 570 number of followers Twitter Account @freepussyriot has in support of Russian punk band Pussy Riot.
And a round of applause to Wellington Regional Team who smashed their previous collection total to win the award for most cash collected in 2012, almost $9000. A huge thank you to everyone who gave up some time to help us Protect the Human and to all of our teams and local coordinators who organised collections and events - we couldn’t do it without you!
Write for Rights 2012
A quick update to let you all know it has been confirmed that next year’s Annual Meeting will be held in Auckland on 4 5 May and returns to a two-day format.
In Numbers: The Death Penalty
20/198 of the world’s countries carried out executions in 2011, down by more than one-third from a decade ago.
18,750 people, at least, were under the sentence of death at the end of 2011.
Poorna Prakash Media & Comms Intern
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On 2–12 December join thousands across the world and Write for Rights. Pick up a pen, send a tweet, post a comment or type an email and use your words as a SPOTLIGHT on the dark corner of the torture chamber. IGNITE hope in a forgotten prisoner and bring POWER to a human rights defender whose life is in jeopardy. Use your words to change lives. More details coming soon, so keep an eye on www.amnesty. org.nz for updates.
Annual Meeting 2013
Sharissa Naidoo Youth Intern
To our local teams who coordinated collections and held events, thank you for your time and dedication. The award for most original fundraising event goes to the resurrected New Plymouth Group for auctioning a ‘gig in your living room’ which raised over $280.
Sophie Pollak Advocacy Intern
Around the country our Youth Network has been chaining up teachers, slumming it in cardboard houses, baking their hearts out and linking arms to stop the bulldozers. This year’s Freedom Challenge focused on forced evictions in Cambodia and Israel & the Occupied Territories. At the time of writing they had brought in over $12, 000, signed over 1700 petitions and received widespread national media attention.
Emily Wright Advocacy Intern
Standing on the street collecting donations might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we had some of the most devoted of collectors take part in this years’ street appeal. Doing their bit to Protect the Human and adding awesome figures to the $40,000+ overall total, we‘d like to make special mention of the wonderful Max Clift (84) and Dawn Ibbotson (97) who collected in Auckland and Dunedin respectively. They are an inspiration to us all.
Nitesh Rai Events Intern
Youth Take On the Challenge!
Sneha Venkatesh Activist Support Intern
On the Streets to Protect the Human
Gopika Dasi Campaigns Intern
PICTURED: Auckland Girls’ Grammar – Slumming it in the study hall
have you met our interns?
PICTURED: Max Clift about to brave the streets of Auckland
Jessie Song Social Networking Intern
Bhavisha Kumar Administration Intern