Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Conversation with Aung San Suu Kyi

Last week a Skype call was established between Burma’s pro-democracy leader and recently released prisoner of conscience, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Director of Amnesty International Malaysia, Nora Murat.

For two nights Amnesty International staff across Australia attempted to call and listen-in on Aung San Suu Kyi’s conversation joined by other youth activists and long time supporters of human rights from around the Asia Pacific region but were unable to get a connection into Burma. It is unknown whether it was the restrictions in Burma or the poor infrastructure that led to the failure to connect however it still highlighted the restrictions on freedom of communication that the people of Burma are being subjected to daily.

After many attempts, the call was finally connected through Skype and during the call Aung San Suu Kyi answered questions from Amnesty International youth activists, including our Australian activist Larnie.

There is now a recording available online to listen to the call between Aung San Suu Kyi and Nora Murat that some of our NSW office was lucky enough to listen-in on.
The recording can be found here: http://www.amnesty.org.au/crisis/comments/24272/

Monday, November 29, 2010

Face to Face Locations Starting 29.11.10

Monday 29th November - Lismore and Berry

Tuesday 30th November - Casino and Wollongong

Wednesday 1st December - Maclean and Port Kembla

Thursday 2nd December - Grafton and Nowra

Friday 3rd December - Maclean and Shellharbour

Saturday 4th Decemeber - Grafton and Wollongong

Thursday, November 18, 2010

UN votes again to End Executions

On 11 November 2010 the UN General Assembly's Third Committee adopted its third resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The resolution was adopted by 107 votes in favour, 38 against with 36 abstentions. The breakdown of these votes in the Asia Pacific region was: 17 votes in favour; 11 against; with 8 abstentions.

More votes favoured the resolution than the last resolution in 2008. It is now expected to be endorsed at the plenary session of the UN GA in mid-December.

The following countries from Asia and the Pacific positively changed their vote compared to 2008:

Afghanistan (from against to abstention)
Bhutan (from abstention to in favour)
Kiribati (from absent to in favour)
Maldives (from against to in favour)
Mongolia (from against to in favour)
Solomon Islands (from against to abstention)
Thailand (from against to abstention)

This is a notable and positive swing from Asia and the Pacific confirming regional steps towards abolition and the worldwide trend is particularly encouraging.
Disappointingly however, India, despite not executing anyone since 2004, voted against the resolution.

All the accumulative work we do against the death penalty, especially in the Asia pacific region, contributes to positively influencing key opinion formers and decision makers. Our work includes supporting other AI sections and like-minded organisations, through to the direct appeals we send for death penalty cases

Thanks to everyone who has worked on ending the death penalty this year.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi has been released!

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s best-known prisoner of conscience, has spent more than 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest. She was one of more than 2,200 political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, currently being held in deplorable conditions for simply exercising their right to peaceful protest.

Amnesty International welcomes her release, taking place 6 days after the first general election in 20 years, however we are still calling on the Myanmar government to release all prisoners of conscience in the country.

We ask that you send a letter to Kevin Rudd urging our government to speak out forcefully in support of human rights and humanitarian law to ensure adequate protection of those caught in the conflict.
In these letters we are calling on the Australian Government to:
 Appeal to those involved in the hostilities not to target civilians;
 Call upon the international community, particularly countries in our region, to respond to the immediate human rights and humanitarian situation escalating in the border regions;
 Ensure adequate protection is offered to the people feeling Burma cross the border
 Continue pressure on the authorities in Burma to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners

If you would like to send a letter to Kevin Rudd please send to this address:

Hon Kevin Rudd MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

To use a pre-written letter and read more on the action please visit the online action page at http://www.amnesty.org.au/action/action/24127/

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Doubts over legality of offshore processing of asylum seekers

The validity of Australia's controversial offshore processing of asylum seekers has been thrown into doubt after a court found fundamental errors of law in the system.

The High Court has today ruled that two Sri Lankan boat arrivals were denied "procedural fairness" in the review of their rejected refugee status claims. The unanimous judgment found those reviewing refugee determinations were bound to act within Australian law. Currently, those who seek asylum in Australia by boat are denied access to Australian courts.

The full impact of the decision and what implications it might have for the operations of the offshore detention system are still being assessed.

The High Court ruling places all asylum seekers on equal footing before the law, regardless of their mode of travel, which neutralises any legal benefit for the government to send all boat arrivals to Christmas Island first.

Australia's offshore detention regime was set up to deny boat arrivals the right to apply for protection unless the immigration minister made an exception, or “lifted the bar”. In effect, it created a two-tier system of asylum whereby those who flew into mainland airports were given the right to appeal their rejections in court but those who sailed were funnelled through a separate review process that mimicked the courts but were not bound by Australian law.

The two asylum seekers arrived by boat in 2009, reaching Christmas Island on October 2. Both claimed refugee status out of fear they faced persecution because of their alleged support for the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam.

Faced with deportation, the pair appealed to the High Court on grounds of lack of procedural fairness because former immigration minister Chris Evans had failed to consider their cases personally.

The minister has the power under the Migration Act to grant a visa if it is in the public interest.
The High Court upheld their argument that they had been denied procedural fairness when having their claims for refugee status denied.

"Because these inquiries prolonged the detention of the plaintiffs, there was a direct impact on the rights and interests of the plaintiffs to freedom from detention at the behest of the executive," the judgment said. The court found the government had erred in not regarding the asylum seekers as being bound by the Migration Act and decisions of Australian courts.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rally for Burma this Saturday 13 November 2010

Rally For Burma

Saturday 13th November

Stand in solidarity with the people of Burma

On Saturday 13 November Aung San Suu Kyi is suppose to be released from her latest period of house arrest.
Join us in standing up for democracy, human rights and freedom in Burma.

When: Saturday 13 November 2010
Where: Hyde Park, Sydney (at the Archibald Fountain, near St James Train Station)
Time: 11 am – 12.30 pm
Contact: nswprojects@amnesty.org.au

Burma/Crisis Campaign Update 10/11/10

Following reports of the escalating hostilities on the Thai-Burma border and at least 10,000 people seeking refuge from Burma in Thailand, the Burma/Crisis Response Team met yesterday.

Since then the following work has been done (thanks to those involved).
  • A blog on the current situation added to the 'What next for Burma?' feature page online: http://www.amnesty.org.au/crisis/comments/24085/
  • An email to the Office of Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd outlining our calls and asking him to speak out publicly on the situation (along similar lines to the blog).
  • A hookup with activism/CCT about next steps/requirements in terms of public mobilisation (including preparing key points, action and talking to groups we have worked with on Burma about plans).
  • We are also continuing our media and fundraising work on Burma.

In addition to this, we are doing what we can to work with the IS and other sections to expand our response to a regional one to maximise our impact.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Face to Face Locations Starting 8/11/10

Monday 8th November - Singleton and Queanbeyan

Tuesday 9th November- Cessnock

Wednesday 10th November- Nelson Bay

Thursday 11th November- Singleton

Friday 12th November- Scone

Saturday 13th November- Toronto

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Update on petitions and detention centre teleconference

On Monday 1 November Amnesty International handed over petitions with 23, 418 signatures to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen. The petitions called for the government to reassess the way asylum seekers are treated while their claims are being processed; stop the discrimination against Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum seekers; and ensure that all asylum seekers who arrive in Australia, are processed in Australia. Concerns about current immigration policies, such as offshore processing, the reintroduction of the Complementary Protection Bill as well as findings from detention centre tours, were also raised with the Minister.

In October AIA’s Refugee Coordinator Dr Graham Thom led a mini-tour through the detention facilities in Christmas Island, Darwin and Curtin where they met with and spoke to hundreds of detainees. The AIA staff were joined by Halima Kazem, an Afghan IS expert who conducted interviews with more that 40 detainees to gain a thorough understanding of their situations.

If you would like more information about the mini-tours, Graham Thom will be holding an open teleconference on Wednesday 3 November at 1-2 pm. Activists are invited to dial in (dial in number: 1800 153 721 Pin: 261358) or come into the NSW Action Centre (Level 1, 79 Myrtle St, Chippendale). Articles and blogs by AIA staff on the mini-tours are also available on the Amnesty International website: www.amnesty.org.au/refugees

Recent policy changes by the government, including the end of the suspension of Afghan processing and children out of detention, have been a positive step to creating a fair, humane and effective refugee processing system. There is, however, still a long way to go. This is an important time to get in contact with your local MP and ask that they advocate for policies that respect the facts about asylum seekers.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Face to Face Locations Starting 1/11/10

Monday 1st November - Queanbeyan and Wagga Wagga

Tuesday 2nd November- Queanbeyan

Wednesday 3rd November- Queanbeyan

Thursday 4th November - Queanbeyan

Friday 5th November - Queanbeyan