Amnesty International and the Forgotten Prisoner? Forget about it.
Today, amnesty international stands with the Sheriff of Nottingham, not with Robin Hood.
In the turmoil of the second gulf war (Iraq invasion by Bush Sr. & friends) I became one of the many people who wanted to work against injustice. I joined amnesty international in Aachen and offered all my volunteer capacities in the years 1993 – 1996 for Gruppe 1517. We were the coordination group for cases in Cameroon and we also were in charge of the case of a former police officer in Laos who served arrest – with his family – in a re-education camp in a remote place near Sop Pan where there was no real chance for fleeing.
I participated in countless urgent actions. Amnesty international starts an urgent action when a person becomes arrested on the mere assumption that he or she is a prisoner of conscience. Amnesty international’s original mission is to care for those people who disappear when police or other government forces take hold of the person and put them in a regular prison or to some hidden place where nobody can find them and thus nobody can get into contact with them.
History shows that sometimes tens of thousands of people can disappear this way because they side with the wrong party in their country. Well-known examples are Argentina, Chile or Guatemala. Today it is common and verified knowledge that military kidnapped left-wing students, put them in helicopters and threw them from high altitude into the Ocean from. Others were killed in mass shootings, as we can know from mass graves found in the provinces throughout Latin America.
Children were separated from their parents when these were suspected of communist activities including simple opposition against the government, or working for the labour union, and the parents were brutally murdered and the children, orphans, given away for adoption to families who were leaders in the country. Particularly the police and military from countries in Central America are know to have been trained the dirty war on its own population by the experts in The School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia (USA).
With these lessons learnt, amnesty international, once they became aware that someone was taken prisoner because of their political activities, they send out letters worldwide to their branches and call for an urgent action. Supporters of amnesty international then write letters and faxes to the Police Chiefs, to the Prosecutors, to the Ambassadors, to the Presidents, to the Dictators asking for the release of the prisoner or at least for fair trial proceedings under public observation. The urgent actions help to make sure that such forgotten prisoner does not become tortured and killed by the police.
Often, these urgent actions show some success, because the government or forces who arrested someone (a prisoner of conscience) realized now that they are under observation world wide. It is one instrument of intimidation to silently remove people from the public and jail them somewhere. This tactics is known from the NKWD in the Soviet Union, form the Gestapo in Hitler-Deutschland and from the Stasi in post WW2 Eastern-Germany.
On 25 May 2018, Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, also known under the alias Tommy Robinson, was arrested in Leeds by the British Police as he was life streaming when reporting in the neighbourhood of the Crown Court in Leeds.
Tommy Robinson is a right wing activist who has been rallying for several years for creating awareness of what is known as “grooming gangs” in the United Kingdom. Men of oriental descent, many from Pakistan and of Islam faith, have organised for several decades the sexual exploitation of young girls in the united Kingdom.
The UK police, the justice system, the social welfare organisations and the politics, the government and also the press, the media had turned a blind eye on what is known now as systematic rape of youngsters and children by a group of men which can statistically easy be stereotyped.
Only recently some action was taken, but those officials who spoke out about this horrific crimes run in danger of losing their position. Tommy Robinson has become an activist in this matter and relied constantly, also because one of his relatives had become a victim of one of these “grooming gangs”.
He was arrested by Police because of contempt of court, because of breach of peace. The same day he was sentenced by the judge for 13 months prison time. This is certainly interesting because the courts have taken years before they were ready to jail rapists, at least some of them. But to jail someone who openly complaints about the lack of justice takes only one day – when it is someone Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon.
Therefore I was counting on amnesty international to step in and release an urgent action, particularly because the judge had released a gag order about the case. It was indeed forbidden to report about the case. In the United Kingdom. This is really a big story. But that story was not being told. Because it was not allowed to being told. Tommy Robinson was about to become a forgotten prisoner.
However, amnesty International did not release an urgent action. Therefore I contacted the amnesty international headquarter in London and also some national sections of amnesty international. The German Section responded they cannot help and suggested to find an attorney in UK. Wow: ai suggest to seek the advice of a lawyer.
Lately I have sent my pleas to ai in Germany and Switzerland, and the UK in order to inquire why amnesty international has largely remained silent over the arrest and conviction of Tommy Robinson.
When I volunteered in my very early 30s many years ago for amnesty international group 1517 in Aachen Germany, I used to write plea letters to dictators, corrupt leaders and ambassadors, and the like.
Now, I am writing such letters to amnesty international. Think about it.
Amnesty helps for example a blogger and government critical named Jabbar Savalan in Azerbaijan, who rallied publically for a “day of rage” in his country. Certainly he has every right to do so and police and state prosecutors should not trick him over a drug possession charge into prison for 2 1/2 years. Good that amnesty helped.
Amnesty raises its voice for the underprivileged families of platinum mine workers in South Africa. This is not part of the core mandate of ai, but it’s fair enough that ai reports on that matter to raise awareness and move the money makers to share their wealth a little more with the working poor in their neighbourhood around Pretoria and Johannesburg.
I also agree with that ai points the finger to the abuse of sub Sahara migrants, which even become victim of gang rape in Libya – a country whose society has been destroyed by western people who were voted into office by western people. There is little comfort that my own country, Germany, was reluctant with joining the other democracy-spreading countries in bombing Libya and tearing it literally apart.
What I do not understand, however, is that amnesty international did not speak up when it surfaced that so-called “grooming gangs”, a horrific euphemism, had been abusing minors and children for several decades; the numbers of victims goes in the thousands, and the police and justice and juvenile/family services and politics turned a blind eye on this.
And when someone like Tommy Robinson freaks out over this – we have every reason to freak out over this – then the state steps in and locks him up.
I have read amnesty international’s definition of “free speech” on its webpage, which was launched in December 1st 2017. There, amnesty writes, for what ever wild reason or motivation:
«You might not expect us to say this, but in certain circumstances free speech and freedom of expression can be restricted.»
Correct. I did not expect amnesty international to write such nonsense.
The responses I got so far from ai read not much different than the response I would expect from the PR Office of the H.M. Home Office or from the Court itself. When you are siding with the UK government in the matter of Tommy Robinson, but not in the matter of Jabbar Salavan, for example, then maybe you should move in with your HQ into the government.
AI’s silence over this matter will become a stain in amnesty’s reputation and it is not going away so soon, methinks.
As a human rights organisation you belong to the last line of defence against government overreach. Also in the United Kingdom. While Azerbaijan is not know to the OSCE as a country which embraces free speech and its people’s liberties, the United Kingdom is. And the UK is on a very slippery slope towards lower standards in human rights and civil rights.
Jailing Tommy Robinson for speaking up, who lays the finger in the wounds of those in charge of child protection, cannot be met by amnesty international with citing paragraphs of the criminal code that he has violated. Robinson’s jail time is as much politically motivated by the UK as the jail time of Jabbar Savalan is motivated by Azerbaijan.
Amnesty international refuses to help Tommy Robinson because “he broke the law”? What a ridiculous and low level response. Nelson Mandela broke the law. Mahatma Gandhi broke the law. Alexander Solschenizyn broke the law. Andrei Sacharow broke the law. Robin Hood broke the law.
There you can see how times change.
When I stood in 10 December 1995 (Memorial day for human rights declaration) at the market place in Aachen hosting our amnesty international booth, I knew I was doing good when I decided not to work that day, that week on my diploma thesis. Back then, amnesty international was standing on the side of Robin Hood.
Today, when I read what the HQ of amnesty international explained to me in the case of Tommy Robinson, which reads like the press release form the Court or from the H.M. Home Office, I know: Today, amnesty International stands with the Sheriff of Nottingham, not with Robin Hood.
Hong Kong, 19 July 2018