Posts Tagged human rights

Subversive hairstyles?

There’s a series of ads for hair gel that show young people in various repressive regimes expressing themselves by, er, restyling their hair.

OK in adland. But not in Mexico.

An email arrives from Eulette at Amnesty International:

I don’t know about you but I’ve definitely had some interesting hairstyles in my time. Those who knew me a few years ago wouldn’t have been surprised to see me with a different hairstyle every other week. I’ve always taken for granted that I could express myself through my hair and never once thought I could be attacked for it.

But it seems as though that’s exactly what’s happened to a 16 year old student and graffiti artist in Mexico. Amnesty International has received reports that José Emiliano Nandayapa Gomez was beaten unconscious by police officers in Chiapas state in southern Mexico and was apparently accused of having a “subversive” hairstyle.

Three police officers are alleged to have kicked and punched 16-year-old Jose, stepped on his back, head and legs. They’re then reported to have said to him “what a lovely subversive haircut you have, here’s your revolution, get the weapons and the drugs out.” They went on to tell him, “if you keep on the same path, you won’t live to tell the tale.”

They then kicked him in the face and he lost consciousness.

Amnesty’s expressed concern about the news of this case. Perhaps more so because we know that just a few months ago a 16-year-old graffiti artist was shot and killed in another part of the same state – San Cristobal de las Casas.

Amnesty is urging its supporters to urge Mexican authorities to guarantee the safety of José and his family. You can click here for more information and to take action.

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Sweet land of liberty

In many ways our social freedoms, the freedoms of particular groups, have made great leaps foward under Labour.

We now have comprehensive anti-discrimination laws, civil partnerships, paternity leave, among other initiatives – all supported by the Lib Dems. But at the same time our individual civil liberties have been undermined.

The Government monitors us to a greater extent than ever before, while refusing to tell us the information we most want to know about them. All sorts of longstanding British traditions – like the right to a jury trial or the right to protest at Parliament – are under threat. ID cards and the database state cost billions but make us no safer. The cold eyes of CCTV cameras have replaced real policemen on many of our streets.

So it’s timely that the Liberal Democrats are proposing a Freedom Bill which will tackle some of the worst threats to our freedom.

For example, the Bill aims to:
• Scrap ID cards for everyone.
• Restore the right to protest in Parliament Square.
• Scrap the ContactPoint database of all children in Britain.
• Remove innocent people from the DNA database.
• Reduce the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 14 days.

In an appropriate spirit of openness, the party is inviting comments on the Bill. What’s good, what’s bad, what’s missing: let’s have your views. And if you’re on Facebook and support the Bill, why not join the Facebook group here.

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Pink, perky and proud

Tonight I was in the front row, cheering a fantastic musical evening in Finsbury Library.

We had Schubert lieder, Benjamin Britten songs and show tunes from William Sauerland with Erik Dippenaar. Then an unforgettable performance from the Pink Singers, who delivered two medleys – Bond songs and Tamla Motown – with unique style.

The event was the gala finish to LGBT History Month here in Islington, which is, as one of the speakers reminded us, the queerest borough in London.

Islington is home to London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard and Stonewall Housing (the latter based just down the corridor from Islington Lib Dems at Leroy House), and elected the first out gay MP, Chris Smith.

The first gay rights demo, triggered by the arrest of Young Liberal Louis Eakes, took place on Highbury Fields in 1970 (I attended the 30th anniversary event in 2000). More recently, Lib-Dem-led Islington Council has fought and won the argument that all citizens are entitled to be served equally by the council registrars; and has been recognised by Stonewall as a top employer. Our schools are helping fight homophobic bullying.

Some people are still on the offensive against LGBT History Month. They are wrong. To spend 4 short weeks a year celebrating gay and lesbian lives enriches our culture, celebrates freedom and diversity, and is good for everyone.

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Fashion Victims II

Not a B movie but an update by War on Want of their shocking report, Fashion Victims.

The original report, published in December 2006, exposed the appalling conditions of garment workers supplying some of the most popular UK highstreet names. Now Fashion Victims II reports that workers making clothes for Primark, Tesco and Asda are still being exploited, despite promises from companies to improve the lives of their workers.

I have a confession to make. Like millions of other women, I’ve got some Primark in my wardrobe. Back in 2002 I was away at a conference, and picked up a cotton nightshirt from Primark for a couple of quid, thinking at least it would last the week: it’s lasted much longer than that.

Good value for me, but at what cost to the unknown producers? Now I still love a bargain. But these days I prefer to get them by buying clothes that are discounted (try Brandalley or Lastseason) rather than dirt cheap to start with.

The European elections in June are an excellent chance to demand international action on basic employment rights, to ensure that the global market in clothing doesn’t exploit the very workers it’s supposed to benefit.

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Obama off to a good start

A cheerful email from Amnesty International:

‘As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.’
President Barack Obama, 20 January 2009.

“A refreshing statement from the new president, and it would seem, one that is backed up by action.
We’re only days into his presidency and the human rights victories are stacking up. First the announcement that military trials at Guantánamo will be suspended, then executive orders that will close the detention centre within a year and ban harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding.

“These announcements represent hard-won victories for Amnesty activists and Human Rights campaigners everywhere. Everyone who has campaigned on these issues should be proud of what their tireless efforts have achieved.”

Of course there’s still more to be done.

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Sarah Ludford recognised for human rights work

London Lib Dem MEP Sarah Ludford has won a ‘Big Brother’ award from Privacy International for her work as Vice-Chair of the EU Human Rights Committee.

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Deadly deportation

One of the motions debated at Lib Dem party conference last week was tabled by our neighbours in Hackney; opposing deportation to states which persecute on the grounds of sexuality and gender identity.

Britain is a signatory to the Convention against Torture which not only prohibits torture within the UK but also bans sending people to countries where there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be in danger of torture. But this hasn’t stopped the Labour government deporting gay men to countries where being gay is punishable by death.

The issue remains highly topical. Just this week, Pink News reports the deportation of two more gay asylum seekers to Uganda and Azerbaijan: both countries where gay people are on the receiving end of violence.

This follows the case of Mhedi Kazemi earlier this year.

Whatever the debates about economic migration, if you are fleeing torture, persecution and death threats, that is surely grounds for asylum.

I’m proud that Lib Dems are speaking up for this cause; but less proud that in a 21st century western democracy, we still have to.

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