Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Face to Face fundraising locations for the week starting on the 26th of July.

Monday 26th July 2010: Eden, Bega

Tuesday 27th July 2010: Eden, Bega

Wednesday 28th July 2010: Ulladulla, Bateman's bay

Thursday 29th July 2010: Ulladulla, Bateman's bay

Friday 30th July 2010: Berry, Nowra

Saturday 31st July 2010: Berry, Nowra

Upcoming Overboard Seminars

During August and September two Overboard Seminars will be held:

Overboard Seminar # 3
  • 12th August 6.30pm for 6.45 start
Deborah Kelly, an artist who has worked individually and collaboratively with boatpeople.org and other organisations, will speak to us of her experience of art and activism and help brainstorm new ideas for creative activism in support of refugee and asylum seekers' rights.

Overboard Seminar # 4
  • 9th September 6.30pm for 6.45pm start
Dr. Chris Michaelsen from UNSW's Law Faculty will join us to discuss international law and interception at sea and the implications they have for new proposals for offshore processing of boat arrivals.

Both events will be held at the Action Centre and they can contact us at nswrefugeeteam@amnesty.org.au if they want any more info - no need to RSVP.

Good news including AI's impact

Sri Lanka

The team liaised with the Relief team to get a resettlement grant (supported by sections) for a Sri Lankan journalist now in exile in the US for safety reasons. The journalist who was abducted and badly beaten in 2009 sent a note of thanks "to Amnesty activists who supported me and my family".


Prisoner of Conscience, Yusak Pakage, was released on Wed 7 July. AI has campaigned on his behalf since his arrest in December 2004. He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for his involvement in a peaceful demonstration during which the Papuan flag was raised. he was freed as a result of a presidential pardon granted in June 2010 - to our knowledge, it is the first pardon granted for charges of rebellion. Scores of peaceful political activists in Indonesia have been arrested, detained and sentenced to long-term imprisonment under these charges.

This is Yusak Pakage's message to AI:
For me Amnesty is everything… Amnesty is god’s angel… Jesus who works on earth and dries the tears of those [in pain]. [It] becomes the strength for those drowning… cheering up those who are sad… being the friend of the excluded… the protector of those in need… the parents of those who are fatherless and motherless… and the hope which keeps our hope alive… Thank you to everyone at Amnesty International… members across the world… May Jesus God protect you all. [This message is ] from someone who has suffered and who now smiles again thanks to Amnesty."

Timor Leste

Timor-Leste report "Justice in the Shadow" was launched in June in collaboration with the International Justice Team. The report received good media coverage, especially in Australia. The researcher gave interviews to Australian media and BBC World Radio (Indonesian news). The former Australian consulate in Timor-Leste also commented publicly on our report, supporting our calls for the setting up of an international criminal tribunal to deal with past crimes and address the issue of amnesties for crimes against humanity in Timor-Leste.


China’s civil society is raising its voice:
- A group of lawyers formed a team to provide legal aid to petitioners from remote areas going to Beijing to seek justice.
- Chinese activists including Fan Yafeng, Tang Jingling and supporters in Hong Kong and overseas formed a Prisoners Of Conscience (POC) support group to support POC.
- Beijing and Sichuan lawyers formed Liu Xianbin’s legal support group. They issued a statement and generated actions across the country.
- Hunan Citizen forum was established at end of June and held it’s first formal meeting on 1 July. The group was formed to debate democracy and human rights issues and gather activists in Hunan to support each other. The group is hoping to launch its on-line space soon.
- China has put on trial a torture perpetrator for miscarriage of justice. Victim Zhao Zhuohai is receiving compensation. This case may encourage to bring more torture cases to be addressed by courts.
- China, in drafting the amendment to compensation law, considered psychological harm to be listed among compensation areas as well as arbitrary detention inasmuch as it causes economic and other losses to the detainee.


The team worked with AI Mongolia before they met the visiting the Spanish Ambassador Rafael Valle on the Death Penalty on 3 June. AI Mongolia briefed the Ambassador on the situation of the death penalty in Mongolia, arguments of both sides of the death penalty debate. Speakers at the 4 June Press Conference in Ulanbataar on the issue of the death penalty included the Ambassador and chairperson from AI Mongolia; the conference was widely reported by Mongolian media. During the Press Conference, it was announced that Mongolia will be part of the International Commission against the Death Penalty which is expected to be established later this year. It was also announced that the office of the president was working on the amendments to the Criminal Code that includes complete abolishment of the death penalty and that the draft to ratify the Second OP to the ICCPR was going to be submitted to the Parliament for discussion.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Good news - Indonesian prisoner of conscience who we have been working for has been released

Yusak Pakage, 31, was released on Wednesday morning from the Doyo Baru prison in Sentani, Papua province. He had been serving a ten-year sentence for his role in a peaceful demonstration in December 2004 during which the Morning Star flag, symbolising Papuan independence, was raised.

Our section has been working for Yusak and his colleague, Filep Karma, for almost two years. Three action groups have been campaigning for them and we have included their case in lobbying as opportunities arose.

Their case is in the current Human Rights Defend Magazine. Letters have been steadily generated to Indonesian authorities and solidarity messages have been sent in to Amnesty International for the men.

While Yusak has been released, the other bit of good news is that Indonesian government has approved Filep to receive the urgent medical attention that he needs in Jakarta. An Urgent Action was released for Filep in April, when his medical condition rapidly deteriorated. This went though our Urgent Action network. This is good news for both men and their families and friends and Amnesty International supporters who have worked for their case.

We still need to keep the pressure on Indonesian authorities to fully release Filep, and that in the meantime they hurry up and actually get him to Jakarta so he can receive the specialist treatment which they have approved.

Media release on Yusak here

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Parramatta Action Group launched

The Parramatta Action Group was launched on June 24 to coincide with the World Refugee Week. There was a strong show from the community in Parramatta for the first Info Night, held in the Parramatta City Library, to share and exchange views on human rights. Residents from diverse backgrounds had come for the first meeting, reflecting the strong multiculturalism in the area.

Representatives from Amnesty International told members about the organisation’s history, background and human rights campaigns it is involved in. They also spoke on what an action group is, its impact on human rights and how the community can be an active part of it. Members from the Epping group spoke about their group and the activities members of the group undertake regularly.

Parramatta residents also discussed how they would like to be involved in the action group. At the end of the meeting, they signed a petition calling on the Australian Government to end the discriminatory suspension on the processing of asylum applications. The petition also calls on all political parties to deal more humanely with asylum seekers who come to Australia.

The new Parramatta group brings to almost 30 the Amnesty International Action Groups throughout NSW that meet, organise events and mobilise support around human rights campaigns. Action Groups make an invaluable contribution to Amnesty International’s work protecting and defending human rights around the world.

Indian vegetarian cooking class Refugee week

Last Saturday, AIA, in cooperation with the Lane Cove Seniors Centre, organised a Sri Lankan/Indian vegetarian cooking class. The aim of this event was, following refugee week, to raise awareness with regard to the current treatment of asylum seekers in Australia, give information on the correct facts on Australia’s refugees (coming by boat) and show the human faces behind the headlines. Whereas most people attending the event were not familiar with AIA’s current campaigns, we started off with a brief introduction on AIA, its campaigns and everything happening around refugee week. A volunteer from our refugee caseworker team also explained what her work with Amnesty involves and how she tries to help asylum seekers with their application for Refugee status in Australia.

Leigh Drew, an experienced vegan cooking teacher from the Sydney Community College, managed to coordinate the group of 25 participants, whose ages ranged from 5 to 75 years, in preparing six beautiful dishes: Pilaf Rice, Roti, Tofu Saag, Baigan Bharta, Aloo Gobi, and Chana Massala. After the cooking, we enjoyed our homemade lunch, while flipping through our recipe booklets and discussing what was mentioned during the introduction.

It was hart-warming to see everyone listening in astonishment to the facts, figures and the human stories behind the headlines on refugees in Australia, as well as working together to get a beautiful meal on the table. At the end even the local ranger and the responsible for the Senior Centre joined in. All in all a very pleasant family day!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Community Campaign Trip South Coast

Following Refugee week (20-26 of June) staff and volunteers from the Amnesty International Australia NSW Community Campaigns section paid a visit to Ulladulla, Nowra, Kangaroo Valley and Kiama (29th of June-2nd of July). The main focus of the visit was AIA’s refugee campaign which urges the Australian Government to think again about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. We also wanted to give people living around the South Coast the opportunity to voice their concerns about human rights violations and take an active role in fighting for social justice.

On the first day, we visited Ulladulla to speak to local residents about human rights issues and raise awareness on the plight of asylum seekers coming to Australia. We had an interesting meeting with the St Vincent De Paul Society and the Sanctuary Refugee Foundation during an afternoon tea, where we learned about the resettlement of a refugee family in the area. We also paid a visit to year 9 and 11 of Ulladulla High School to talk to the students about how they can become involved in human rights activism. In the evening we gave a presentation at the Ulladulla Rotary Club Meeting, which created the opportunity for the Ulladulla Rotary members to ask questions and learn more about the actual facts on asylum seekers in Australia. We also deemed it important to show the human faces behind the headlines.

During our visit to Nowra we held a street stall where local residents were invited to sign our refugee petition calling for a more humane treatment of asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat. In the afternoon we spoke successfully at the Illawarra Multicultural Service Meeting, held at the East Nowra Community Centre, where we discussed further cooperation for future events in Nowra in September.

The next day we attended the Kangaroo Valley Remexio Community Meeting for afternoon tea. This group has a partnership with a village in East Timor, for which they organise fundraising events. They have also worked together with our Amnesty International Shoalhaven Action Group in the past.

On Friday we met with the Student Representative Council and the Social Justice Coordinator of Kiama High to talk about the various campaigns that Amnesty International Australia is involved in both nationally and internationally and the importance of fighting for human rights in local communities. We also held a street stall where Kiama residents could find out about how to become involved in human rights activism and take action by signing the petition.

In short, it was a very successful trip: we met with various local groups and schools with whom we might team up in the future, raised awareness among the general public, met Amnesty members, and learned about the general public opinion in this area on the current treatment refugees in Australia.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Face to Face fundraisers for this week

Monday, 5 July: Summer Hill OTS, Sutherland OTS, CBD Hyde Park (Prince Albert Road) OTS

Tuesday, 6 July: Paddington DTD, Merrylands OTS, Revesby OTS

Wednesday, 7 July: Newtown OTS, Liverpool OTS, Parramatta OTS

Thursday, 8 July: Martin Place, Macq/ Phillip St OTS, Bondi Beach OTS

Friday, 9 July: Engandine OTS, Glebe OTS, Padstow OTS