Wales PEN Cymru is a member of the Human Rights Alliance.
The Human Rights Alliance is a network of over 200 organisations from across the United Kingdom committed to protecting human rights and the Human Rights Act. The Alliance, coordinated by the British Institute of Human Rights, comprises a wide range of groups and sectors including small community organisations, user-led groups, national campaigns and international non-governmental organisations.
Mae Wales PEN Cymru yn aelod o’r Gynghrair Hawliau Dynol.
Mae’r Gynghrair Hawliau Dynol yn rhwydwaith o dros 200 o sefydliadau o ar draws y Deyrnas Unedig sy’n ymroddedig at warchod hawliau dynol a’r Ddeddf Hawliau Dynol. Mae’r Gynghrair, sydd wedi’i chydlynu gan Sefydliad Hawliau Dynol Prydain, yn cynnwys ystod eang o grwpiau a sectorau gan gynnwys sefydliadau cymunedol bach, grwpiau a arweinir gan aelodau, ymgyrchoedd cenedlaethol a sefydliadau anllywodraethol rhyngwladol.
December 7th 2016
WALES PEN CYMRU JOINS OVER 160 GROUPS TO TELL THERESA MAY:
DON’T ABANDON OUR HUMAN RIGHTS ACT
Organisations come together to say now is time to think again, not to risk further division and legal confusion
A letter asking the Prime Minister to abandon plans to scrap the Human Rights Act has been signed by 164 organisations, including those working with new mothers, children, patients, carers, people with learning disabilities and mental ill-health, women experiencing violence, migrants and older people, and groups campaigning for LGBT rights, fair trials, access to justice, decent housing and against racial discrimination.
The British Institute for Human Rights (BIHR) is publishing the letter on Saturday (10 December), Human Rights Day, to show the breadth of support for the Human Rights Act across the UK. Amnesty International UK, Liberty and Human Rights Watch as well as trade unions and law firms have signed the letter.
Stephen Bowen, Director of BIHR, said: “I hope the Prime Minister will listen to so many respected organisations, all with first-hand knowledge of how the Human Rights Act helps so many people in their everyday lives and why it isn’t something to scrap but something to cherish. These are uncertain times and Theresa May should not be adding to the legal confusion, risking further division, or signalling that the UK wants to walk away from international standards. Instead, she can give us all something to cheer by saving the Human Rights Act.”
The letter reads:
Dear Prime Minister,
Today, on Human Rights Day, we will celebrate the difference the Human Rights Act makes to all our lives.
The Human Rights Act is something to cherish. It helps those delivering frontline services to make difficult ethical decisions and enables families to hold those in powerful positions to account. It is key to defending our free press and to protecting our democracy. It is the Bill of Rights we already have.
This year, huge uncertainty and upheaval began that will continue for years to come. It is not the time to add to the legal confusion, to risk further division or signal that the UK wants to walk away from international standards. Now is the time to champion, at home and abroad, the protection of hard-won human rights. For everyone.
The day you became Prime Minister you said your mission was to make Britain a country that works for everyone, including the disadvantaged. You said that when your government passes new laws you would listen to ordinary people and you would do everything you could to give them more control over their lives.
The Human Rights Act makes a much-valued difference to all our lives and for many people that difference is dramatic. Please, Prime Minister, drop the Government’s commitment to “scrap” the Human Rights Act.
For further information, including a full list of signatories, please call Sanchita Hosali on 07811 457343 or email email@example.com
PRESS RELEASE: UK fails to meet United Nations calls on human rights as welfare and legal aid cuts present new risks
Thursday, 22 September 2016
Concern that plans to scrap Human Rights Act will lead to less protection
A report produced by the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) with input from more than 175 civil society organisations, shows that the UK Government has failed to fully meet 81 out of 85 recommendations made by the United Nations in 2012 to improve domestic human rights protections.
BIHR’s 55-page report, which will be submitted to the UN on 22 September as part of the Universal Periodic Review process to which all 193 member countries are subjected every four and a half years, looks at 85 of the 132 UN recommendations, covering areas such as children’s rights, violence against women, discrimination and criminal justice. The report finds that vast majority of recommendations have not been fully met.
The ‘Joint Civil Society Report’ is the result of eight consultation events and a call for evidence, engaging over 175 bodies ranging from local community advocacy groups to large national organisations, working on issues such as health, older people, children, justice, education and welfare. It presents overwhelming evidence that the UK has failed to make progress on the majority of the recommendations made by the UN in 2012. In some areas, such as adequate standard of living, the situation has even got worse.
The report will be launched at an event on Thursday evening (22 September) at which David Isaac, new Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and Harriet Harman QC MP, Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, will both speak.
The impact of cuts to welfare benefits and legal aid reforms have emerged as key factors which now put people’s human rights at risk in Great Britain. And a key concern raised by civil society is the threat posed by the Government’s position to “scrap” the Human Rights Act and replace it with a new bill of rights, which groups believe will lead to less protection of human rights.
The report also notes some key differences between the devolved governments and the UK Government, such as positions on the Human Rights Act, commitment to international children’s rights, and the differences in applying welfare benefit reforms. The UN’s recommendations are to the UK Government, as the State Party, but are also to devolved nations where applicable.
Says Stephen Bowen, Chief Executive of BIHR:
“The UK Government needs to listen, not just to the United Nations but to the voices of the huge range of organisations closer to home that have shared their serious concerns with the British Institute of Human Rights. They are troubled the Government is taking the UK towards further isolationism and disregarding the United Nations, worsening the situation with welfare and legal aid cuts, and wanting to scrap the Human Rights Act, weakening its accountability for our rights at home as well as internationally.”
Notes for Editors
The British Institute of Human Rights is a UK-wide independent human rights charity. Established for over 40 years, BIHR helps people to know what human rights are and are not, to put their human rights into practice to achieve positive change in everyday life without resorting to the courts and to make sure those in power respect our human rights laws and systems. For more information, visit http://www.bihr.org.uk.
This report has been produced by the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) as part of the Human Rights Check UK project. The report will be submitted to the United Nations on 22 September 2016 as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UK. The UPR is a UN process that all 193 member countries go through every 4.5 years to review their domestic human rights situation, and set recommendations for future progress. Civil society groups can submit evidence reports which assist the UN when questioning senior government officials at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The UK is about to enter its 3rd UPR. The BIHR provides a vital contribution to ensuring that the UK Government is accountable at an international level.
Bahrain: ‘Call for Nabeel Rajab’s release’, rights groups urge 50 governments
Wales PEN Cymru joins the call for release of Nabeel Rajab. Menna Elfyn writes to Boris Johnson.
15 September 2016 – Rights groups yesterday wrote to the governments of 50 states urging them to publicly call for the release of Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who faces up to 15 years’ imprisonment for comments he made on Twitter. Last week, Bahrain brought the new charge of “defaming the state” against him, after an op-ed was published under his name in The New York Times.
The letter from 22 NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, urges the 50 governments to “speak out on Bahrain’s continued misuse of the judicial system to harass and silence human rights defenders, through charges that violate freedom of expression.”
Among those addressed are the governments of France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. While the US State Department called for Nabeel Rajab’s release on 6 September, other governments have not done so. The 50 states addressed in the letter are all previous signatories of statements at the United Nations criticizing Bahrain’s ongoing human rights violations and calling for progress.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Al-Hussein, used his opening statement at the 33rd Human Rights Council this week to raise concern over Bahrain’s harassing and arresting human rights defenders. He cautioned Bahrain: “The past decade has demonstrated repeatedly and with punishing clarity exactly how disastrous the outcomes can be when a Government attempts to smash the voices of its people, instead of serving them.”
Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been held in pre-trial detention since 13 June. During this time he has been held largely in solitary confinement, and his health has deteriorated as a result. Since 2011, Nabeel Rajab has faced multiple prosecutions and prison sentences for his vocal activism. He was subjected to a travel ban in 2014 and has been unable to leave the country.
In his current trial, Nabeel Rajab faces charges including “insulting a statutory body”, “insulting a neighbouring country”, and “disseminating false rumours in time of war”. These are in relation to remarks he tweeted and retweeted on Twitter in 2015 relating to torture in Bahrain’s Jaw prison and the role of the Saudi Arabian-led coalition in causing a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Nabeel Rajab’s next court session has been set for 6 October, when he is expected to be sentenced.
NGOs and others have been urging action on Nabeel Rajab’s case since he was imprisoned in pre-trial detention in June. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy wrote to British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on 7 September urging public action on Nabeel Rajab. On 2 September, 34 NGOs wrote a letter to the King of Bahrain calling for Nabeel Rajab’s release.
In August, as part of an initiative organised by Index on Censorship, leading writers wrote a letter to British Prime Minister Theresa May asking the UK government to call on Bahrain, their ally, to release Nabeel Rajab. They included playwright David Hare, author Monica Ali, comedian Shazia Mirza, MP Keir Starmer and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka.
25 August 2016
Turkey: Serious concerns for health of writer and activist Asli Erdogan: denied water & medication
PEN International is deeply concerned for the health of novelist and human rights activist Asli Erdogan, following an interview via her legal team in which she stated that she is being denied medication and water.
In an interview given from the detention centre where she is being held, Erdogan – who suffers from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes – said that she is being held in awful conditions and has been denied essential medication for five days, as well as requests for water.
PEN International considers the conditions of Asli Erdogan’s detention wholly unacceptable and calls on the Turkish authorities to immediately provide better conditions, ensure immediate access to medication and to her doctors as a matter of extreme urgency.
Take Action – share on Twitter, Facebook and other social media
Send Appeals to the Turkish authorities:
- Expressing serious concern for the health of Asli Erdogan and urging that she be given full access to water and all necessary medical care as a matter of urgency;
- Urging them to immediately release Aslı Erdoğan who PEN believes is held solely in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression;
- Calling for all detained writers and journalists to have access to lawyers and to be released if they are not to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence and tried promptly in accordance with international fair trial standards;
- Calling on them not to use the state of emergency to crack down on peaceful dissent, civil society, media and education;
Please send appeals reiterating PEN’s calls (listed above) to:
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Tel : (+90 312) 525 55 55
Fax : (+90 312) 525 58 31
Please copy your appeals to the Embassy of Turkey in your country. A list of embassies can be found here.
Please send copies of your letters or information about other activities and of any responses received to Sahar Halaimzai at PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: Sahar.firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also sign this letter online here.
PEN members are encouraged to publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the case of Aslı Erdoğan and the situation of freedom of expression in Turkey. Please also consider adopting her as an honorary member of your Centre.
Aslı Erdoğan, a renowned novelist, columnist and human rights activist, in Turkey was detained on 17 August following a police raid into her apartment. Her arrest comes alongside more than 20 other journalists and employees from Özgür Gündem newspaper, a pro-Kurdish opposition daily, which was shut down by decree as part of the state of emergency in the country following the failed coup of 15 July 2016. Two further journalists from IMC TV, who were reporting on the raid, were also arrested. Erdoğan serves as an advisory board member and columnist in the paper.
Aslı Erdoğan’s first novel, Kabuk Adam (Crust Man), was published in 1994 and since published seven books. Her short story Wooden Birds received first prize from Deutsche Welle radio in a 1997 competition and her second novel, Kirmizi Pelerinli Kent (The City in Crimson Cloak), received numerous accolades abroad and has been published in 15 languages. Her texts have also been translated to French and in 2005 she was shortlisted by respected French literary magazine, Lire, as one of the “50 most promising authors of tomorrow.”
PEN International has documented at least 97 writers and journalists in custody as of 22 August 2016.
For further information please contact Sahar Halaimzai at PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: Sahar.email@example.com
Wales PEN Cymru Statement on Arrests of Turkish Journalists
Wales PEN Cymru calls for the immediate release of the 17 journalists arrested last week in Turkey in a purge by the state on all media sources that do not directly support the current regime. President Erdoğan has stated that the West should ‘mind its own business.’ As part of the international PEN family of centres freedom of speech is our business. We condemn these blanket arrests and the misguided use of anti-terror laws to detain journalists. We will continue to highlight these cases and to send messages of support to imprisoned writers, poets and journalists. We support our fellow centre PEN Turkey in demanding that the charges under which these 17 journalists have been arrested be produced without delay.
‘herşey nasıl da bütündü bir zaman:
şimdi bahçe eksik, güllerse yarım;’
‘and how everything once was a perfect whole:
now the garden is lacking, half the roses gone;’
Hilmi Yavuz, poet, aged 80 (arrested this week and released due to ill health)
Excerpt from statement of PEN Turkey’s Executive Committee, 27.7.2016
Following the recent attempted coup and under the auspices of the declared State of Emergency a string of decrees have been issued under which a number of journalists and writers have been arrested and held in detention. Just as this situation has restricted the freedom by which the country receives its news, so too has the freedom of expression and thought of these individuals been disregarded. This has also led to infringements of their rights.
In accordance with their rights to freedom of thought and expression, the charges and claims against these individuals, whose profession is journalism and who have not been involved in any illegal activities must, without delay, be presented before the general public. If this fails to happen then the feeling of mistrust in the judicial system governing the country will increase.
In the words of the famous author Albert Camus: “A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.”
Mae Wales PEN Cymru yn galw am ryddhau, a hynny’n ddi-oed, y 17 newyddiadurwr a arestiwyd yn Nhwrci yr wythnos hon mewn diarddeliad gan y wladwriaeth o’r holl ffynonellau cyfryngol nad ydynt yn uniongyrchol yn cefnogi’r gyfundrefn gyfredol. Mae’r Arlywydd Erdoğan wedi datgan y dylai’r Gorllewin ‘feindio’i fusnes.’ Fel rhan o deulu rhynwladol canolfannau PEN rhyddid mynegiant yw ein busnes. Rydym yn condemnio’r arestiadau cyffredinol hyn a’r defnydd camsyniol o ddeddfau gwrth-derfysgaeth i gaethiwo newyddiadurwyr. Byddwn yn parhau i amlygu’r achosion hyn ac i anfon ein negeseuon o gefnogaeth i awduron, beirdd a newyddiadurwyr a garcharwyd. Cefnogwn ein cyd ganolfan PEN Twrci sy’n mynnu fod y cyhuddiadau dros arestio’r 17 newyddiadurwr hyn yn cael eu cyflwyno’n ddi-oed.
‘herşey nasıl da bütündü bir zaman:
şimdi bahçe eksik, güllerse yarım;’
‘and how everything once was a perfect whole:
now the garden is lacking, half the roses gone;’
Hilmi Yavuz, bardd, 80 oed (arestiwyd yr wythnos hon ac a ryddhawyd oherwydd gwaeledd)
Detholiad o ddatganiad gan Bwyllgor Gweithredol PEN Twrci, 27.7.2016
Yn dilyn yr ymgais ddiweddar i gipio awdurdod a than nawdd y datganiad a wnaed o Gyflwr o Argyfwng cyhoeddwyd cyfres o ddyfarniadau ac fel canlyniad arestiwyd nifer o newyddiadurwyr ac awduron a’u cadw yn y ddalfa. Yn union fel mae’r sefyllfa hon wedi cyfyngu ar ryddid y wlad i dderbyn ei newyddion, felly hefyd y mae rhyddid i farn a mynegiant yr unigolion hyn wedi’i anwybyddu. Arweiniodd hyn hefyd at droseddu ar eu hawliau.
Yn unol â’u hawliau i ryddid barn a mynegiant mae’n rhaid i’r cyhuddiadau a’r honiadau yn erbyn yr unigolion hyn, sy’n newyddiadurwyr proffesiynol ac nad ydynt wedi bod ynghlwm ag unrhyw weithgaredd anghyfreithlon, gael eu cyflwyno i’r cyhoedd yn ddi-oed. Os na ddigwydd hyn yna bydd yr ymdeimlad o ddrwgdybiaeth yn y system farnwrol sy’n llywodraethu’r wlad yn cynyddu.
Yng ngeiriau’r awdur enwog Albert Camus: “A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.”
- Human Rights Alliance Meeting on 19 November 2015
The most recent meeting of the Human Rights Alliance took place on Thursday 19 November at Senate House in London. A huge thank you to all of you that attended. We had almost 50 people present representing over 30 organisations which was a really fantastic turn out. Attached to this e-mail are the minutes from that meeting.
The next meeting of the Human Rights Alliance is scheduled to take place on Thursday 28 January 2016 and full details of the time and location will be sent out closer to the time. However, further meetings before this date will likely be convened for Human Rights Alliance members to discuss strategies and responses to the government’s consultation on the British Bill of Rights as and when necessary.
- Human Rights Alliance Working Groups
As part of the work involved in the British Bill of Rights consultation process, the Human Rights Alliance has set up a number of working groups to bring together Human Rights Alliance members that would like to be more closely involved in the co-ordination and response process itself. Attached is a summary of the working groups and the different areas that they will be covering: (i) NGO Community and Visibility; (ii) Parliamentary and Political Advocacy; (iii) Policy; (iv) Communications; and (v) Stakeholder and Public Engagement.
We have already had a fantastic response to the proposal to set up these working groups with a large number of members having expressed an interest in being part of one or more of the groups. We are looking to initiate the working groups formally next week and so if you would like to be part of one or more of the working groups, or would like further information on the work of the groups, please do let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Equality and Human Rights Commission: Consultation on Strategic Plan 2016-19 / Strategic Cases
The meeting on 19 November included a presentation from Lorna McGregor, one of the Commissioners, on the Commission’s consultation on its new Strategic Plan 2016-2019. The PowerPoint presentation from that session is attached to this e-mail, and the consultation document and questions can be found at https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/about-us/our-work/ehrc-consultations/2016-2019-strategic-plan-consultation?wssl=1.
We would strongly encourage all members of the Human Rights Alliance to read through the consultation document and to take part in the consultation to help the Commission identify its priorities in the upcoming years.
- Equality and Human Rights Commission: Consultation on Strategic Plan 2016-Labour Party Human Rights Task Force
On Tuesday 24 November, the Labour Party hosted a “Human Rights Act Reform Roundtable” which was attended by the British Institute of Human Rights and other members of the Human Rights Alliance. Andy Slaughter MP (Shadow Minister for Justice) chaired the meeting and announced the establishment of a Human Rights Task Force within the Labour Party Shadow Frontbench comprising:
|Andy Slaughter (Chair)||Shadow Minister for Justice|
|Diana Johnson||Shadow Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs|
|Louise Haigh||Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office|
|Kate Green||Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities|
|Sir Keir Starmer QC||Shadow Minister for the Home Office|
|Emily Thornberry||Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions|
The British Institute of Human Rights and other Human Rights Alliance members will be engaging with the Task Force and for those interested in joining the working group on parliamentary and political advocacy, this presents a further opportunity for parliamentary engagement.