15 September 2021

Minutes for September 2021 meeting

 Wednesday, 15 September 2021 (via Zoom)

In attendance: Jeff, Barbara, Bob, April, Struan, Bill, Brendan, Heather

Greetings and Personal Updates

Members gave updates on their activities since last meeting.

We continued to discuss format and venues of future meetings. We agreed that there is value in continued to meet via Zoom every other month, as it allows members who live at a distance to continue to participate in our group activities.

Public meetings will be announced on our social media accounts.

Jeff suggested that each month a member volunteer to summarize a major AIUSA campaign. Bob volunteered to speak about the Ending Gun Violence campaign at the October meeting. Jeff also suggested that members review a film, podcast, magazine article, etc., at our meetings. 

Barbara spoke briefly about Banned Books Week actions (September 21 to October 2). During this period, Amnesty International draws attention to people around the world who have been imprisoned, threatened, or murdered because of their writing, art, or other published work. AIUSA is highlighting the cases of six authors and has provided online petitions for each of them: https://www.amnestyusa.org/banned-books-2021/

  • "Release All Peaceful Protestors" (Cuba: UA 88.21)
  • "Activist Jailed for Anti-President T-Shirts" (Nigeria: UA 89.21)
  • "Human Rights Defenders Remain in Detention" (Belarus: UA 85.21)
  • "Opposition Politicians Tried by Special Court" (Egypt: UA 107.19)
  • "Peaceful Activists Released on Bail" (Democratic Republic of Congo: UA 74.21)
Next meeting (online): Wednesday, 20 October 2021, 7:30 p.m. 

18 August 2021

Minutes for August 2021 meeting

Wednesday, 18 August 2021 (via Zoom)

In attendance: Jeff, Barbara, Bob, Frank, Bill, Tilo, Brendan, Heather

Greetings and Personal Updates

Discussion of format and venues of future meetings. Public meetings will be announced on social media.

Discussion of convictions based on false confessions (Brendan)
  • See the Innocence Project regarding large number of innocent persons convicted because they gave wrongful confessions (e.g., the Central Park Five): https://innocenceproject.org/what-is-cognitive-bias-how-it-contributes-to-wrongful-conviction/
  • Video by Professor James Duane, Regent University School of Law: During police interrogation, suspects very often confess to crimes they did not commit (Don’t Talk to the Police, https://youtu.be/d-7o9xYp7eE)
  • Urgent online petition on behalf of Sri Lankan lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah ("Release Muslim Lawyer in Sri Lanka")
  • "Twelve Men Risk Execution After Unfair Trial" (Egypt: UA 77.21)
  • "Human Rights Defender Abducted without Trace" (Pakistan: UA 79.21)
  • "Women Influencers Jailed for 'Indecency'" (Egypt: UA 78.21)
  • "Three Moluccans Arbitrarily Arrested and Detained" (Indonesia: UA 82.21)
  • Comments regarding AIUSA Executive Director Paul O’Brien’s email of 8/16 urging members to contact President Biden demanding that he take immediate action to ensure the evacuation of thousands of Afghans facing Taliban reprisals ("Tell Biden: Evacuate Afghans Now")
Next meeting (online): Wednesday, 15 September 2021, 7:30 p.m. 

21 July 2021

Minutes for July 2021 meeting

Wednesday, 21 July 2021 (via Zoom)

In attendance: Jeff, Barbara, Bob, Frank, Bill

Greetings and Personal Updates

Jeff initiated a discussion regarding the format of our monthly meetings post-COVID. 
  • We observed that, although it would be very enjoyable to meet in person again, online meetings have allowed members who live at a distance to participate. 
  • We discussed the possibility of continuing to meet online most months of the year while interspersing two or three in-person meetings. Jeff was open to hosting. We would be able to watch a film together and have other activities. 
  • We will continue this discussion at our next meeting.
On July 20, Barbara attended an online presentation entitled "Falun Gong Human Rights Crisis in China: Updates, Global Impacts, and Next Actions."
  • Presenters included a Falun Gong practitioner who had been brutally tortured in China but now lives in the US. The speakers described 22 years of persecution of Falun Gong members by the Chinese Communist Party. The persecution continues, as does the forced harvesting of organs of imprisoned practitioners. 
  • Speakers encouraged attendees to write to their senators and representatives urging them to cosponsor a bill currently before both the U.S. Senate and the House: “Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act of 2021.” In the House it is H.R. 1592 (cosponsored by Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA)  and in the Senate, S. 602 (cosponsored by Chris Coons, D-DE). 
  • "Viktar Paluau May Have Been Executed" (Belarus: UA 168.19)
  • "Human Rights Defender Arbitrarily Detained" (Vietnam: UA 44.21)
  • "Activist Spends a Year in Prison Unjustly" (Egypt: UA 139.20)
  • "Tibetan Monk Jailed for Online Messages" (China: UA 72.21)

Next meeting (online): Wednesday, 18 August 2021, 7:30 p.m. 

16 June 2021

Minutes for June 2021 Meeting

 Wednesday, 16 June 2021 (via Zoom)

In attendance: Jeff, Barbara, Bob, Frank, Heather, Tilo, April, Marsha

Welcome and Introductions

  • Marsha sent an e-mail to our list earlier today about an AmnestyLA event this weekend
    • virtual film screening and discussion panel of The Last Passenger
    • Sunday, June 20, noon PDT
    • more details and registration at this link 
  • Discussion about when/how to start meeting in person again
    • Jeff: possibility of meeting at MessiahLutheran in Downingtown (he had talked to them about this before the COVID shutdown)
    • Discussion of tech logistics of running a "hybrid" meeting (some people in person, others joining by Zoom).
    • Possibility of reaching out to local churches to see if we can "take over" their services one week (with Jeff's musical friends helping out).
    • Maybe do monthly meetings online, with quarterly in-person meetings? (like for Write for Rights, Nowruz, film viewings, etc.)
  • Barbara will be attending a rally in Pottsdown this weekend about fair funding for schools in PA (details here)
    • PA is 2nd or 3rd from the bottom in equality of public school funding
    • There's a formula that's supposed to give equal money to all schools in the state, but that doesn't happen. Schools that are primarily African American get less money.
    • In September, a lawsuit about this is going to the PA Commonwealth Court (details here)
  • Algeria update (from Jeff): Marksen has had great success connecting with Amnesty-related people who have some knowledge of N.Africa / Algeria. Amnesty can't get anyone into Algeria, so Marksen and his colleagues are working to gather information (with encouragement from the U.S. Department of State). 
  • Juneteeth celebration at the Melton Center this weekend (from Barbara): Saturday, June 19, 9 a.m. (details here)
  • "Sahrawi Activist at Risk of Further Assault" (Morocco: UA 33.21)
  • "Journalist Facing Torture After Abduction" (Belarus: UA 57.21)
  • "Artist Named Prisoner of Conscience" (Cuba: UA 55.21)
  • "Activist and Lawyer Held in Cruel Conditions" (Egypt: UA 132.19)
  • "Activists May Face 100+ Years in Prison" (Thailand: UA 134.20)
  • "Protestors Tortured and Unjustly Detained" (Iran: UA 66.21)

Next meeting (online): Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 7:30 p.m. 

19 May 2021

Minutes for May 2021 Meeting

Wednesday, 19 May 2021 (via Zoom)

In attendance: Jeff, Barbara, Bob, Bill, Frank, Heather, Marksen

Welcome and Introductions

  • Jeff and Marksen reported on their ongoing work with attorneys and AIUSA area experts on behalf of prisoners of conscience from Kabylia (historical region in what is today the northern area of Algeria).
  • Barbara gave a brief presentation on the history of AI with biographical information on AIUSA's new executive director, Paul O’Brien. In his book Power Switch: How We Can Reverse Extreme Inequality (Winchester, UK; Washington, D.C.: Changemaker Books, 2021), O’Brien notes that international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) “no longer sit exclusively in Europe and the U.S., but all over the world. Even the globally networked organizations [such as Oxfam] with deep roots in the North, increasingly have their headquarters in the South (p. 17).” Countries of the global South have been steadily taking charge of their own development. This “power shift” can also be noted in the priorities and leadership of AI during the last 10 to 15 years.
  • Jeff recommended the podcast Throughline (www.npr.org/podcasts/510333/throughline), which provides historical perspectives on current events.
  • "Family Members Detained on Fabricated Charges" (Russia: UA 20/21)
  • "Farmers Face Trial Amid Environmental Work" (Indonesia: UA 23/21)
  • "Critical Chance to Decriminalize Abortion" (Dominican Republic: UA 36/21)
  • "Indigenous Peoples Face Dispossession" (Malaysia: UA 23/20)
  • "Activists May Face 100+ Years in Prison" (Thailand: UA 134/20)

Next meeting (online): Wednesday, 16 June 2021, 7:30 p.m. 

21 April 2021

Minutes for April 2021 meeting

Wednesday, 21 April 2021 (via Zoom)

In attendance: Jeff, Barbara, Bob, Bill, Frank, Tilo, Struan, Marsha

Welcome and Introductions

  • Barb gave a report on AIUSA's April 19 webinar on the recent release of its annual report "Death Sentences and Executions 2020" (report overview; complete report)
    • Worldwide executions were down 26% (483 in 2020 versus 657 in 2019) during the pandemic
    • The five countries that execute the most people are (in descending over) China, Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia
    • At the end of 2020, over 28,000 people were known to be on death row globally
    • The USA is the only country in the Americas to carry out executions in 2020
  • AIUSA will soon be launching a campaign for clemency for Rocky Myers
    • He has been on death row in Alabama for 26 years
    • He is a Black man who was convicted by an all-white jury of the murder of a white woman
    • The jury handed down a sentence of life in prison, but the judge overrode them (an action that is no longer allowed by state law)
    • [NOTE: AIUSA has not yet published information about this online. Additional details are available from the ACLU page on this case.]
Film Recommendations
  • Jeff: Nasrin, a 2020 documentary film about Nasrin Sotoudeh.
    • From the IMDB listing: "An immersive portrait of one of the world's most courageous human rights activists and political prisoners, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and of Iran's remarkably resilient women's rights movement."
    • Currently streaking (for a fee) at https://www.nasrinfilm.com/. 
  • Barbara and Bob: The Mauritanian, a 2021 film about Mohamedou Ould Slahi
    • Based on Slahi's 2015 memoir Guantánamo Diary
    • Slahi was imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay by the U.S. government for 14 years without charge
  • "Journalists Must Be Released Immediately" (Iraq: UA 28/21)
  • "Assistant Judge Risks Double Prosecution" (Iraq: UA 10/20)
  • "Four Bahraini Minors Tried as Adults" (Bahrain: UA 30/21)
  • "Health of Death Row Prisoner in Sharp Decline" (Pakistan: UA 27/21)-->There are updates to this case; Bill will send out a new letter.
  • "Activist Detained for Reporting Torture" (China: UA 31/21)
Other News
  • Hoping for an update from Marksen next time
    • He was going to meet with the AIUSA area expert on Algeria
    • Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK)
    • Amnesty does not usually get involved in self-determination cases except where there are freedom of speech issues
  • Thoughts about the verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder case

Next meeting (online): Wednesday, 19 May 2021, 7:30 p.m. 

17 March 2021

Minutes for March 2021

Wednesday, 17 March 2021 (via Zoom)

In attendance: Jeff, Bob, Tilo, Bill, April, Marsha

Welcome and Introductions

Communications Updates
Film Recommendations
  • Taxi, a 2015 film by Jafar Panahi.
    • From the IMDB listing: "Jafar Panahi is banned from making movies by the Iranian government, he poses as a taxi driver and makes a movie about social challenges in Iran."
    • Currently streaming (for a fee) at https://www.filmatique.com/ and on YouTube.
  • Nasrin, a 2020 documentary film about Nasrin Sotoudeh.
    • From the IMDB listing: "An immersive portrait of one of the world's most courageous human rights activists and political prisoners, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and of Iran's remarkably resilient women's rights movement."
    • Currently streaking (for a fee) at https://www.nasrinfilm.com/. 
Activism Updates
  • 2021 AGM update from Bob (who attended with Barbara)
    • "Dangers of the Death Penalty": Featured story of a Black woman who was accused of murdering an infant who'd died of natural causes and is now a member of Witness to Innocence (exonerated death row prisoners)
  • Reminder from Bill: 2021 Nowruz is NOW (Amnesty's 2021 Nowruz actions are at https://www.amnestyusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Nowruz-action-2021.pdf.)
  • "Prisoner of Conscience's Health at Risk" (Iran: UA 12/21)
  • "Drop Charges Against Journalist" (USA: UA 14/21)
  • "Aleksei Navalny's Health and Life in Danger" (Russian Federation: UA 6/21)
  • "Trial Delay for Detailed Australian-Chinese Writer" (China: UA 98.20)
  • "Ailing Professor Arrested after Cancelation of Bail" (Pakistan: UA 148/19)
  • "End For-Profit Detention Facilities": online letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas

Next meeting (online): Wednesday, 21 April 2021, 7:30 p.m. 

Minutes for September 2021 meeting

  Wednesday, 15 September 2021 (via Zoom) In attendance: Jeff, Barbara, Bob, April, Struan, Bill, Brendan, Heather Greetings and Personal  U...