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Posted: April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

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The opinions expressed below do not reflect or represent those of Amnesty International.

Members of Amnesty G48 travelled down to Jeju in late February to attend the Jeju International Peace Conference. Following the conference, we learned more about the nonviolent struggle of the local villagers against the naval base construction taking place in their backyard. Following the scheduled conference activities, some of our members joined the protestors as individuals. Two such members share their reflections here.

REPORT ON PEACE CONFERENCE AT GANGJEONG VILLAGE

By Catherine Christie (missionary in Seoul, new member of G48)

12 people from mainland Korea (mostly Seoul) and affiliated with the Seoul Amnesty G48 group attended the Jeju International Peace Conference March 24-26, which was also attended by 15 members of Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space from US, England, Sweden, India and Japan.

 This was my third visit to Gangjeong for which I consider myself truly blessed.  Each time I have gone has been both inspiration and unsettling.

5 of us arrived on Friday evening, missing many of the talks given at the 4.3 Peace Park during Friday.  We arrived at Minbak Seobu, the others came from the conference, and as we began to get to know each other, Benji (of the Village International Team) came to tell us the Global Network group were just having a strategy meeting, and inviting Pat and I (as the Elders of our group) to sit with them.  These people are all experienced activists, used to confronting the military-industrial powers and demonstrating the moral bankruptcy of governments that support the military-industrial powers against their own people, communities and life and peace in the world.  These people we were sitting with were in Gangjeong to carry out a visible action, and arrest is an expected outcome, even welcome as it is newsworthy.  That night they brainstormed ideas and sketched out the outline of the Sunday action.

Saturday morning there was a session at the Village Hall, presentations by three international presenters and then discussion with villagers about the resistance.  We broke at 11:30 to meet the Catholic priests at the construction gate where they had finished Mass but were performing 153 bows, which the Koreans call deep bows, but are full  prostrations.  Luckily for us, we arrived when they were at about 120, so we only had 30 to do.   It is a very powerful emotional/spiritual experience.  Back to the Village Hall on shaky legs for a delicious lunch, then met for trip around the village. 

We began at the eastern shore beyond the fencing.  Oh, so much barbed wire – no, razor wire – rolls and rolls of it.  Just where the trees and the rocks meet is the place where the community gathers to greet the ancestors.  We had a chance to experience that action, and the words of a Sweet Honey in the Rock song came to me, “We are the breath of the ancestors”.  Each step from eastern shore to the harbor in the west was significant, as we saw walls, concrete structures, destructive machinery, but also hope, wonderful murals, the garden in the Peace Park, the beautiful eternal sea.

Evening vigil – every evening the villagers gather.  It is amazing, inspirational, fun.  Speeches, singing, dancing.  Mayor Kang Dong Kyun received an award on behalf of the village presented by Dave Webb of Global Network for their work for peace.

Back to minbak for strategy meeting.  Two groups would attempt to get to Gureombi, one by land through or under the fence, the other by kayak.  They would breach the wire, maybe cut it.  I was not going to go.  Why?  I live here, but in a month I am going to Canada for an extended time away, and did not want to jeopardize being allowed back into the country.  I hadn’t talked to anyone about what might be possible implications in that way.  Therefore, when someone asked who would keep a list of names and keep track of the people, be responsible for possibly making contacts with outside world, I was very glad to volunteer.

Sunday – there was going to be Mass on Gureombi at 7 a.m.  I was at the harbour at 6:30, but the Mass was canceled due to waves.  I was disappointed.  In August I had worshipped on Gureombi, and maybe I will not again.  (No, as we sang, “deep in my heart, I do believe, Gureombi will be free one day”)

Sunday at 10 – Press conference at construction (destruction) gate.  Mary Beth Sullivan and her heart-felt grief at militarization that threatens community in so many places throughout the world, Toshio Takahashi who brought his grandson’s Charlie Brown Friendship towel to symbolize making the world safe for the coming generations, Dave Webb’s firm request to hold the Global Network annual meeting on Gureombi.  When no one responded to his request, a march to the main gate where we pounded and demanded entry.  No one came, but we formed to sing and encourage each other.  May I share two songs I hadn’t heard in many years?  Thanks, Agneta and Angie.

“You can forbid almost anything, but you can’t forbid me to think.  You can’t forbid the sun to shine, and you can’t close my mouth when I sing” Other verses: “forbid the grass to grow, the rain to fall, my tears to fall”

“You say this land is out of bounds, our lives and our futures beyond our command.  This land isn’t yours to put boundaries around.  We’ll stand and get stronger, our voices resound”

A few minutes of futile conversation with a police representative, and then the groups started off. A few of us from Seoul, and some of the Japanese delegates  gathered on the wharf after seeing the kayakers off.  We had binoculars to watch what was taking place on Gureombi.  We watched and watched for the land team, and then suddenly, they were also at the launch ramp and the kayaks were coming back to meet them.  It was much later we found out what happened.  Our role for much of the time was to encourage the kayakers, who had heavy swells to go through, and were making trip after trip.  We would shout encouragement to them and they would call back to us.

We saw the police presence ebb and flow.  We watched Mass celebrated and meeting held, and then we saw the breach of the wire and that some were taken by the police, and the kayaks started back at full speed.  We raced to the launch ramp to meet them.  I received a phone call from Tom and was able to tell him the Minbyun lawyer was on the way to the police station to meet them. As soon as all the internationals were back, we piled in a van which took us to Sogwipo Police Station, and were met by a solid line of police across the entrance.  But we settled on the pavement in front of them, while the International team leaders sought information.  The first line of police with shields were replaced by a second with chest and arm protectors, and a third with helmets as well.  Gulp!  Preparing for something!

My mind was full of memories of August, when I visited Gangjeong the first time.  During that day someone from the village had been arrested and the candlelight vigil had been held in front of the police station, where we were sitting.  Would they again?

Well, the good food preparation team from Gangjeong arrived with a wonderful meal which they set out by the sidewalk and we feasted.  Then more arrived, and candles.  Ah yes.  But that time, the police had all been behind the fence – this time they were very aggressive.  Suddenly our banners were being stomped on, the police were pushing forward and we had to scramble to get the food pots up on the sidewalk, candles were scattered.  We did our best, we tried to sing, but the police invaded the sidewalk as well, and started arresting Korean participants.  I texted some people in Seoul to tell them what was going on.

It was very cold and frightening.  However, about 10:00 the word came the prisoners were being released, and soon the four internationals and two of the Koreans came out (the other 5 had been taken to Jeju City station).  We found out they had not expected the group to be there waiting, so it was a jubilant greeting.  I phoned Sung Hee at Jeju City,  the other group had also been released and were on their way home.

Later we met for debriefing at the minbak – all most exhausted and emotionally drained, but determined.  We listened to Sung Hee setting out the future dangers – the drainage work is nearly done, the permit for dynamiting will be applied for – it should be two weeks before it is approved – and the whole process of blasting beautiful Gureombi will take a total time of 6 months.  The dynamite is already purchased; the team knows where it is being stored.

We agreed to work together to create an International Week of Action for September 6-15, when the International Union for Conservation of Nature is holding a major convention just a few minutes away from Gangjeong.

The next morning, with hearts weighted with fears for our friends, the internationals began to leave.

Deep and heartfelt thanks to the village leaders and elders who welcomed us, to the International Team who planned such an event, to the hospitality of the wonderful meal brigade and all the villagers, to all the brave resisters, and to the Spirit of Resistance that strengthens you all.

PROTEST ON GUREOMBI

By Pat Cunningham (new member of G48)

I just had the most amazing experience this past weekend! I attended the 20th annual Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space conference in Gangjeong, Jeju Island!
A number of peace activists from Britain including Angie Zelter (Britain) who is nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Bruce Gagnon (USA) and Dave Webb (Britain), the chair of the Global Network were among the 28 international activists in attendance numbering around 70 in total.  The incredible energy coupled with the spirit of peaceful resistance that the international visitors brought reassured the villagers that their struggle to reclaim Gangjeong from the war machine was not just their own separate, isolated struggle but was the struggle of all concerned global citizens!  The extraordinary spirit of the villagers has left an indelible impression. The hospitality and warm welcome afforded to all to rally to this cause was extraordinary-each night there was a candle light vigil interspersed with song, dance and words of hope and encouragement assuring the villagers all the while that they were not alone in their struggle against the might of this military machine. On the contrary we would remain united in peaceful resistance until such time that this madness would stop!

The Global network conference was followed by a protest and direct action resulting in the arrest and detention of 20 Korean and International peace activists! 11 international activists including myself were released without charge after a 6-7 hour investigation! Many who attended the conference participated in this direct action hoping to strike a small blow at the heart of increasing militarization in the Asia Pacific Region and around the world-approx.1000 US bases worldwide and counting!!  We were reminded that the building of the base in this once peaceful village of Gangjeong is part of a wider geopolitical strategy on the part of the US government of encircling China and Russia with Aegis destroyers carrying missile ‘defense’ systems causing much alarm and concern to all. We were told that Gangjeong is at the heart of the struggle for world peace and this was illustrated in a very significant way by the attendance of so many peace activists from around the world.

We witnessed first hand the already devastating effects the construction of the base is having in terms of dividing the once close knit community, driving a wedge between families, onetime friends and neighbours! The concrete jungle that the coastline has become with concrete casings, tetra pods, earth moving equipment and cranes scattered across the beautiful landscape is a dreadful eyesore causing one to ponder the devastation that has already resulted. However, the most frightening scenario is that if the blast of the Gureombi rock (an area roughly 800m long and 150 m wide) proceeds as planned over the next few weeks the resulting toxic pollution despite efforts to contain it will undoubtedly cause untold damage to the soft coral reef and marine life off the coastline. It could possibly render to extinction the already rare species of red feet crab and destroying the habitat and playground of the ‘pink nosed’ dolphin! The rock of Gureombi has sacred significance for the villagers as it is a ‘living rock’ and therefore intimately tied up with their identity as a village people – a place where people from the 400 year old village used to celebrate their ceremonial rites. ‘Gangjeong is Gureombi’ we were told more than once! Divisions in the community coupled with the ongoing daily tensions that the villagers have been subjected to are tearing away at the fabric of this once close knit community meaning that the people have been unable to conduct their ceremonial rites for five years now.

The celebration of Mass on the rock has been a regular feature of the resistance. It was celebrated as normal that Sunday afternoon although with a difference. This time a major feature was the presence of many members of the Global Network and other international activists among the many local villagers who made the 25 min trip by kayak. Entrance from land had been cut off despite the best efforts of the designated land group. Two activists- Angie Zelter (Britain) and Benjamin Monnet (France) had already breached the razor wire fence and were ‘waiting’ inside closely monitored by numerous police officers.

The Mass on the gurombi rock led by Fr. Moon on the afternoon sought to bring hope and determination to the spirit of peaceful resistance among all those in attendance. Angie Zelter spoke incredibly movingly from across the razor wire and addressing the crowd she mentioned the incredible irony of how governments in addressing the security needs of their people only think about ramping up their so-called military ‘defenses’ increasing military expenditure and in ratcheting up military tension ultimately leaves no prospect of providing real security which can only be found in people’s access to healthy food, water, medial care and education.  She spoke about how she was able to exploit the weakness in the razor wire allowing her to gain access which was her right. One could get the feeling that she was calling on all of us to be brave and not allow this illegal razor wire fencing deny our right of access to this public area. I felt buoyed and fired up by her call.

 It was extraordinary to see how life giving and hopeful the celebration was on that Sunday afternoon to numerous people gathered from around the world – many faith traditions and none, many people of faith and no religion all gathered together under the one cause-all singing from the same hymn sheet calling on the Korean and US governments to stop this destruction. We were singing as concerned global citizens seeking to live in peace without the constant threat of war hanging over our heads. It is heartbreaking to see this beautiful place being desecrated but we found hope from the spirit of the celebration and proceeded to make our move which saw 16 in total breach the fence.   We then proceeded in determined fashion buoyed by reserves of energy received from the ‘celebration’ on the rock in following Angie Zelter and a French activist. Soon we ended up being arrested and being carted away to the police station-a significant victory for the struggle in the face of the military machine.

We also poignantly remembered during the celebration Professor Yang Yoon Mo who is into his 23nd day of hunger strike. His memory was at the forefront of my mind. He is determined to stick to his promise to come off all salt and water if the blasting of the rock is initiated. It is therefore vital that as peace activists we strengthen our alliances with peace loving people around the world in ensuring we do what we can to prevent a calamitous situation from arising! Peace!

Please join us for the first Amnesty G48 meeting of 2012! RESERVE A SEAT THROUGH OUR FACEBOOK EVENT. Besides learning about the situation in Gangjeong, we’ll be planning a field trip, discussing 2011’s campaigns, and setting up new coordinator roles to increase our level of activity this year.

If you are interested in getting more involved and focusing on a specific area such as women’s human rights, the arms trade, migrant workers, LGBT rights, etc, please make sure you attend this meeting as we will be forming coordinator roles. We are also looking for members to take on more active roles in proposing meeting topics, actions and to help us get the website back up and running.

Resistance and Repression in Gangjeong

Time and date: 4 – 6pm, Saturday, January 28.

Place: Amnesty International Korea Office (near Hapjeong Station, exit 8), 3rd Fl. Geumag Bldg., 454-3, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul (see map below).

The South Korean Government is constructing a US$970 million base in Gangjeong, a small village on Jeju Island which is a UNESCO-designated Global Biosphere Reserve. This construction is taking place against overwhelming opposition from the local community (one vote put the total at 94% against) which has been waging a nonviolent resistance movement for the past four years. An increasingly large number of arrests have taken place over the last year with police indiscriminately targeting community members including village leaders, young students and elderly residents alike. The planned base would accommodate 20 warships and would be open for use by US ships. While the Navy claims that the base will serve to strengthen Korea’s national defense, the majority of Gangjeong’s residents and a growing number of peace activists around the world are concerned that the construction of the base would in fact increase insecurity in the region.

Amnesty G48 January Meeting: Repression & Resistance in Gangjeong

Saturday, January 28, 4pm – 6pm, Amnesty International Korea Office (3rd Floor, Geumag Building, 454-3, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul)

AGENDA

1) Welcome and introductions – All (10 mins)

2) Electing campaign/issue coordinators – All (10 mins)

3) Brief background to the issue – Tom (10 mins)

4) Documentary screening of Al Jazeera’s, “A Call Against Arms” (25 mins)

5) Break (5 mins)

6) Open discussion – All (35 mins)

– The anti-base movement

– Police repression

– Testimony from activists

7) Planning a group trip to Gangjeong – All (5 mins)

8) Summary of the 2011 Palestine Peace Solidarity Korea report on SK-Israeli Relations – Orlando Forbes (10 mins)

9) Wrap up

10) Dinner to carry on discussions?

We’ll watch a 30-minute Al Jazeera documentary following two members of the village, trace the history of the nonviolent resistance struggle, and look at the increasing level of arrests and police force being used against villagers in preparation for a field trip down to Gangjeong Village in March.

If you have any questions, please contact Tom on amnestyseoul@gmail.com.

Michel Catuira, President of the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union (MTU) in South Korea is at risk of being deported. The Korea Immigration Service has told him that he must leave the country by 7 March or he will become undocumented and subject to forcible deportation. Amnesty International believes he has been targeted for his role in the MTU.

Michel Catuira sits amongst pictures of migrant workers who have died during crackdowns and deportations in South Korea. Image sourced from http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_entertainment/452769.html

As of 7 March 2011, Michel Catuira, a 38-year-old Filipino national and President of the MTU, will be subject to forcible deportation from South Korea. The government of South Korea refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the MTU and has staged a number of crackdowns on its leaders since it was founded in 2005.

The harassment of Michel Catuira began in July 2010. The Ministry of Employment and Labour ordered him and his employer to appear for an interview under suspicion of a false employment relationship. The Ministry did not find any prosecutable violation of labour or immigration law. However, it found that Caturia’s workplace, a shoe factory, had little business. As the main goal of the Employment Permit System (EPS) is to provide foreign labour to companies with labour shortages, the Ministry sent a memo to Michel Catuira’s employer suggesting that they file a change of workplace for him.

In November 2010, Michel Catuira was called to appear before an investigation team of the Korea Immigration Service on “suspicion of violation of the Immigration Control Act in the course of applying for a workplace transfer and with relation to actual performance of work duties at present”.  They concluded that he was not working at the shoe factory, thus, the grounds for his work visa was “deceitful”, in breach of article 89.1 of the Immigration Control Act. On 10 February, the immigration authorities cancelled his visa, and on 14 February, he was told that he had until 7 March to leave South Korea.

The MTU has been very vocal during the past few years in favour of the respect, protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers in South Korea. In particular the MTU has spoken out against restrictions placed on migrant workers’ freedom to change workplaces and against immigration raids, which have resulted in arbitrary arrests, collective expulsions and violations of law enforcement procedures, including the excessive use of force.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in English, Korean or your own language, urging the authorities of South Korea to:

  • Restore Michel Catuira’s visa status and refrain from forcibly deporting him;
  • Immediately stop all practices which result in obstacles or deterrents to actively participating in trade unions;
  • Immediately remove obstacles to participating in the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union (MTU), in particular by recognizing its status as a legal union in South Korea in line with domestic and international law and standards.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 07 MARCH 2011 TO:

Chief Commissioner of the Korea Immigration Service
SEOK Dong-hyun
Korea Immigration Service
1-19 Gwacheon, NC Building 8th Floor
Byeolyang-dong, Gwacheon
Gyeonggi Province 427-705
Republic of Korea
Fax: +82-2-500-9097/9059
Salutation: Dear Commissioner

Minister of Justice
LEE Kwi-nam
Ministry of Justice
Gwacheon Government Complex
88 Gwanmoon-ro, Gwacheon
Gyeonggi Province 427-720
Republic of Korea
Fax: +82-2-503-3532/7023
Email: webmaster@moj.go.kr
Salutation: Dear Minister

And copies to:

Minister of Employment and Labour
Bahk Jae-wan
Ministry of Employment and Labour
Gwacheon Government Complex
88 Gwanmoon-ro, Gwacheon
Gyeonggi Province 427-718
Republic of Korea
Fax: +82-2-503-6623
Email: molab506@moel.go.kr

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

Additional Information

Michel Catuira has been in South Korea since February 2006 as a documented migrant worker employed under the Employment Permit System (EPS). He was employed at a shoe factory in Seoul. He became President of the Migrants’ Trade Union (MTU) in July 2009.

The South Korean government has arrested and deported several leaders of the MTU since it was founded in 2005. The targeted nature of these actions indicates that the authorities are attempting to stop the MTU from conducting its legitimate union activities.

The South Korean authorities arrested MTU’s first president, Anwar Hossain, a Bangladeshi national, for being in an irregular status soon after the union was founded. On 14 May 2005, more than 20 police and immigration officials arrested and reportedly physically assaulted Anwar Hossain. Eleven months later, Anwar Hossain was released on bail citing “a temporary cancellation of detention” so he could receive medical treatment for a mental condition that he suffered during detention. When he returned to Bangladesh in August 2007 he was detained by the Bangladeshi authorities and questioned on his “anti-government activities” in South Korea.

MTU’s second president Kajiman Khapung, as well as the vice-president and general secretary were all arrested on 27 November 2007 on grounds of their irregular status. The three leaders were taken to a Cheongju detention centre in North Chungcheon province and later deported to their countries of origin on 13 December 2007.

The MTU’s third president was arrested on 2 May 2008 along with the vice-president. Both were arrested on the basis of their irregular status. They were detained at Cheongju detention centre and deported on 15 May 2008, despite a call by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea for a stay of deportation until it could investigate allegations of abuse during the arrest.

The Seoul High Court issued a judgement on 1 February 2007 calling for the cancellation of the rejection by the authorities of the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union’s Notice of Founding a Union. This ruling, in effect, recognizes and thereby realizes the MTU as a union representing the rights of all migrant workers, regardless of their status. The Ministry of Labour appealed against this decision to the Supreme Court where a ruling is still pending.

In November 2009, both the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued recommendations to the South Korean government recognizing the right of all migrant workers, regardless of visa status, to freedom of association. Further, the two bodies recommended that the South Korean government immediately stop using immigration procedures, such as arrest and deportation, against MTU officers. The ILO has continued to issue similar recommendations since that time, which the government has clearly not heeded.

Amnesty International believes that this is the latest attempt by the South Korean authorities to crackdown on the activities of the MTU and to threaten migrant workers’ rights, including the right to freedom of association and, in particular, to form trade unions. The rights to independent association, collective bargaining and collective action are protected in the Constitution of South Korea and apply to everyone, without discrimination, including migrant workers.

Originally posted on the MTU website: http://migrant.nodong.net/?document_srl=91219.

Amnesty International has condemned the conviction of eight members of the Socialist Workers League (SWL), a small association that espouses socialism. All eight men were found guilty under Article 7.1 of the National Security Law (NSL) for ‘propagating or instigating a rebellion against the State’.

Among the eight is Oh Se-chul, a professor emeritus and founding member of the SWL, who was convicted for one-and-a-half years, suspended for three years. The other seven all received sentences ranging from one to one-and-a-half years, suspended from two to three years. All of them intend to appeal the decision.

The SWL was founded in 2008 and calls on the working class to build a ‘socialist state’. The SWL has about 70 members and has been seeking to register as a political party. The organization sought to promote itself and socialism by attending various demonstrations and distributing pamphlets.

“It is hard to see how eight men distributing pamphlets can constitute a genuine threat to national security. These men have been convicted solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and association. The conviction must be overturned,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.

The NSL contains clauses that prohibit ‘anti-state’, ‘enemy-benefitting’ and ‘espionage’ activities but does not clearly define them. Amnesty International believes this law has been used as a form of censorship, to punish people for publishing and distributing material expressing views that oppose the positions or policies of the government.

“The NSL has long been used as a tool to silence dissent and to arbitrarily prosecute individuals who are peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. To prevent further human rights violations this law needs to be abolished or fundamentally reformed to bring it in line with international standards,” said Catherine Baber.

Amnesty International recognises that South Korea has serious security concerns with regard to North Korea. However, security concerns should never be used to deny people the right to exercise their human rights, in particular the right to express their views peacefully.

In 2008, the Seoul District Court twice rejected requests to issue detention warrants for several members of the SWL. The judge rejected the requests noting that the activities of the SWL represented no substantial threat to the security of the country.

In August 2009, eight members of SWL including Professor Oh, were charged for violating Article 7 of the NSL. The unsuccessful attempts in 2008 to get a detention warrant had included charges under Article 3 (forming anti-state groups) as well as Article 7 of the NSL.

Originally published at http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/eight-south-koreans-convicted-breaching-national-security-law-2011-02-24

Amnesty G48 February Meeting: Tears of the Flood in Pakistan

Join the Facebook event: CLICK HERE.

WHERE: Amnesty International Korea Office,3rd Fl. Geumag Bldg., 454-3, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul.
WHEN: Saturday, Feb 12, 2 – 4pm
WHAT: A talk on a global approach for the rehabilitation of flood victims in Pakistan. Although rarely in the news these days, the effects of the floods are still being felt by a large number of people. As a result of the flood, a fifth of the country was covered in water, affecting approximately 20 million people and “partially or wholly destroying more than 1.6 million homes and causing approximately $10bn of direct and indirect losses” according to Oxfam. We will hear from the President of Pride Foundation, Mr. Pardeep Kumar, and also talk about ways that we can be of help to those affected.
Demonstrate in Solidarity & in Defiance! Global Day of Action for Egypt
WHERE: Wonpyo Park, Sejongno, Seoul (near Gwanghwamun Station, Exit 6)
WHEN: Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 from 5pm
WHY: We stand in Solidarity with the people of Egypt and the wider Middle East and North Africa in their demands for an end to repression, for their freedom, their basic human rights and immediate reforms.  We stand in Defiance against all those who try to suppress the growing movement of people standing up for their rights, facing down injustice and offering hope for a better world.
WHO: This event is being organised by Amnesty International all over the world. Everyone is welcome to join our G48 group.
HOW: Turn up and show your solidarity with those exercising their basic rights in Egypt!
Any problems find either of the events, call Tom on 010 6379 2273.

Former US president George W. Bush will not travel to Geneva on February 12, according to reports in the Tribune de Genève. The cancellation comes ahead of expected protests and possible legal action against the former president.

On Friday, Amnesty International sent Genevoise and Swiss federal prosecutors a detailed factual and legal analysis of President Bush’s criminal responsibility for acts of torture he is believed to have authorised. Amnesty International concluded that Switzerland had enough information to open a criminal investigation against the former president.

Such an investigation would be mandatory under Switzerland’s international obligations if President Bush entered the country.

The organisers of the event President Bush was expected to attend told the Tribune de Genève that they decided to cancel the visit because of the “controversy” it has generated. They denied that the potential criminal investigations against the former president were a factor in the decision.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called on US authorities to investigate the responsibility of the highest US officials for torture, and of President Bush in particular, most recently after the publication of his memoirs in November.

The USA has failed to open investigations that can adequately examine the former president’s potential criminal responsibility for these acts, and all indications are that it will not do so.

“To date, we’ve seen a handful of military investigations into detentions and interrogations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo. But none of these has had the independence and reach necessary to investigate high-level officials such as President Bush,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

“Meanwhile, there has been virtually zero accountability for crimes committed in the CIA’s secret detention program, which was authorised by then-President Bush.”

Anywhere in the world that he travels, President Bush could face investigation and potential prosecution for his responsibility for torture and other crimes in international law, particularly in any of the 147 countries that are party to the UN Convention against Torture.

“As the US authorities have, so far, failed to bring President Bush to justice, the international community must step in,” said Salil Shetty.

 

 

Activists are at risk during the increasing clampdown on freedom of expression © Adham Omar/Demotix

5 February 2011

Amnesty International has called for an investigation into the detention of some 35 human rights activists and journalists, including two Amnesty International staff members, who were freed after spending almost two days in military custody.

The Egyptian and international human rights activists, lawyers and journalists were arrested Thursday when military police raided the offices of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center.

“We welcome the news that these activists have been freed, but we are outraged that they were detained in the first place and by the manner in which they have been treated,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director.

“We remain very concerned about activists belonging to groups such as the 6 April Movement,  the Youth of Justice and Liberty and the National Association for Change, who were detained in separate incidents on 3 February and whose whereabouts we are still trying to establish.

“The Egyptian authorities must now carry out an urgent independent investigation into why human rights activists monitoring protests in Cairo were targeted in this way, and who gave the orders for it.”

The international human rights activists, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch staff, were released on Friday. The Egyptian activists detained with them were released on Saturday.

Taken from http://www.amnesty.org.

As mass anti-government protests flare across several countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Amnesty International is urging all state authorities in the region to respect human rights, including the rights of those now demanding change.

Repressive governments across the Middle East and North Africa are under pressure and face surging demands for political, economic and social reform. Already, protesters have been killed on the streets by police and thousands have been arrested or beaten as state security forces try to quell the unrest. New curbs on freedom of expression have been imposed with online social media, a vital organization tool for activists, being targeted.

You can follow this unfolding human rights crisis here with news, videos, actions and analysis from Amnesty International’s special microsite: http://amnesty.org/en/middle-east-crisis.

See Amnesty’s new video on the power of change through social media

Show your solidarity with the people of Egypt and across the region by joining Amnesty’s Facebook event.
Take action to demand Justice for victims of the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel

Read more recent Amnesty International reports:

Egypt continues crackdown on media

Sudan urged to end protest crackdown

Yemeni rights activist threatened after organizing protests

Tunisia: Human rights agenda for change

Amnesty International has condemned the conviction of two South Korean human rights defenders for peacefully protesting in support of families whose loved ones died while demonstrating against forced evictions.

Park Rae-gun and Lee Jong-hoe were convicted for their roles in a campaign seeking justice and reparations for the families of victims who died in a January 2009 fire while protesting evictions from their homes and businesses in Seoul’s central Yongsan district.

Park received just over 3 years sentence suspended for 4 and Lee received 2 years sentence suspended for 3 years for their role in organizing a demonstration that did not have police permission.

“Park and Lee have been convicted solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Their convictions must be overturned,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Programme Director.

Park and Lee had joined with other human rights activists to organize protests calling for justice and reparations for the families of those who died in what became known as the Yongsan Fire Incident.

On 19 January 2009, protestors fighting the evictions barricaded themselves inside a watchtower they had erected on the roof of a building earmarked for demolition. They gathered paint thinner and other flammable materials to deter police in the event of an attack.

Early the next morning, police commandos mounted a raid on the watchtower. As police landed on the roof to arrest the protesters, a fire broke out that claimed the lives of five protesters and a police officer.

Park, Lee and the other activists demanded an official apology, adequate compensation and a thorough and impartial investigation into events leading to the deaths. They submitted the necessary police notification for protests but were turned down five times by police who said the protests could become violent.

When the protests went ahead without police permission, Park and Lee were accused of “hosting an illegal protest” and “blocking traffic” even though the duration of any traffic obstruction was not substantial during the demonstrations, in some cases just half an hour.

“The broad discretion police have to issue prohibition notices effectively means that protests can only take place with police permission,” said Catherine Baber. “This discretion has been used to silence dissenting voices.”

Detention orders for Park and Lee were issued in March 2009 and January 2010 respectively. In 2009 Park wrote to the Seoul Central District Court, saying he would only hand himself in to the authorities after the government had met the demands of the families for an official apology and compensation.

On 30 December 2009 the Prime Minister issued an apology and compensation was awarded to the families of those who had died. Park and Lee turned themselves in to the police on 11 January 2010.

In March 2010, the Constitutional Court of South Korea noted that the traffic disruptions that inevitably result from peaceful assemblies and protests should not be punished as “blocking traffic” under the Criminal Code.

“The South Korean government needs to ensure that the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are guaranteed in law and practice” said Catherine Baber.

Kwon Young-kuk, the lawyer working on behalf of victims and bereaved family members of the Yongsan tragedy, is arrested by police for participating in a demonstration to criticize prosecutors held in front of the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office in the Seocho neighborhood of Seoul, May 14, 2009. Image taken from http://blog.jinbo.net/CINA/archive/20090515