Letter #7

As a member of Amnesty International I receive emails asking me to sign petitions. This one chimed with me. Being on a low income, I would not be able to represent myself in court if I was attacked.

The response will be in the footer.

___________

Dear Andrew Jones,

I am disappointed to see the latest evidence suggesting that the reforms to legal aid introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 have had a significantly negative impact on access to justice and protection of human rights, in particular for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

I am writing to urge you immediately to conduct a review of those effects – recalling in particular that the government previously promised a review would be carried out.

On 11 October, Amnesty International released ‘Cuts That Hurt’, a report which examines the impact of civil legal aid cuts on access to justice in England. The changes essentially reversed the previous position, meaning that instead of being generally available in civil cases, subject to the merits of the legal case and the means of the person, legal aid is now generally not available, other than in a few narrow areas. There is also an ‘exceptional case funding scheme’ which aims to provide funding where refusal would breach the applicant’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Amnesty International’s report looks at those changes. It details some of the ways in which the loss of legal aid has made it substantially more difficult for people to access the legal advice and assistance that they need. It sets out how the cuts have led to a loss in early specialist legal advice and resulted in a reduced and uneven provision of free legal assistance across the country. It also examines the exceptional case funding provision and finds that inherent failings mean that the scheme does not in practice provide the promised safety net for vulnerable or disadvantaged people who are struggling to navigate complex legal processes and effectively advocate for their rights.

The report concludes that the cuts to civil legal aid have had a particularly serious and disproportionate impact on disadvantaged and marginalized people in the UK, who already experience the most obstacles in accessing justice and effectively claiming their rights. That includes vulnerable children, and also parents trying to resolve family disputes. The report also makes some not exhaustive suggestions for the kind of changes which Amnesty International believes could improve the situation.

I am concerned about ordinary people like myself and others whose access to justice is at risk. I join Amnesty International in respectfully urging the government to conduct an urgent review of the impact of the LASPO cuts on access to justice and protection of human rights, in particular for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew

Just Plonk This Here …

In a damning new report, the United Nation’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has confirmed that the UK government’s austerity measures and social security reform are in breach of their obligations to human rights.

Drawing on evidence from Just Fair, the report considers a number of factors in its decision, including increased reliance on foodbanks, unemployment rates, the housing crisis, mental health care, and discrimination against migrants. The committee reminds the government of their obligations and calls upon them to make changes.

The UN committee said it was “seriously concerned” about “the disproportionate adverse impact that austerity measures” are having on disadvantaged and marginalised individuals and groups.

It also emphasised problems with welfare reform, saying it was “deeply concerned” about “the various changes in the entitlements to, and cuts in, social benefits”, including the reduction of the household benefit cap, the four-year freeze on certain benefits and the reduction in child tax credits. It added that these changes adversely affect “women, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families and families with two or more children”.

It said that these issues and others meant the UK government are failing “to meet their obligation to mobilize the maximum available resources for the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights”.

The report also expressed concerns over:

  • Unemployment, which, despite a small rise in the employment rate, continues to disproportionately affect people with disabilities, young people and people belonging to ethnic, religious or other minorities.
  • The high incidence of part-time work, precarious self-employment, temporary employment and the use of zero hour contracts.
  • The “persistent discrimination” against migrant workers.
  • The challenges faced by asylum seekers due to restrictions in accessing employment and the insufficient level of support provided through the daily allowance.
  • The national minimum wage, which “is not sufficient to ensure a decent standard of living in the State party, particularly in London, and does not apply for workers under the age of 25”.
  • Increases in the inheritance tax limit and value added tax, and reductions to corporation tax, in encouraging “persistent social inequality”.
  • The new Trade Union Act (2016), which limits the right of workers to undertake industrial action.
  • Sanctions in relation to benefit fraud and the absence of due process and access to justice for those affected by the use of sanctions.
  • The limited availability and high costs of childcare and the lack of involvement of men in childcare responsibilities.
  • Persistent underrepresentation of women in decision-making positions in the public and private sectors.
  • Violence against women with disabilities.
  • The increased risk of poverty for people with disabilities, people belonging to ethnic, religious or other minorities, single-parent families and families with children.
  • The persistent critical situation in terms of availability, affordability and accessibility of adequate housing (in part as a result of cuts in state benefits), the lack of social housing, and lack of adequate access to basic services, such as water and sanitation, for Travellers.
  • Reforms to the legal aid system and the introduction of employment tribunal fees, and the resulting restriction of access to justice, in areas including employment, housing, education and social welfare benefits.
  • The significant rise in homelessness.
  • The country-wide reliance on foodbanks.
  • Discrimination in accessing health care services against refugees, asylum-seekers, refused asylum-seekers and Travellers.
  • The lack of adequate resources provided to mental health services.
  • Persistent serious shortcomings in the care and treatment of older persons, including those with dementia.
  • Significant inequalities in educational attainment, especially for children belonging to ethnic, religious or other minorities and children from low-income families which has the effect of limiting social mobility.
  • Increasing university fees, which affect the equal access to higher education.
  • Lack of corporate regulation.
  • The way international development funds are used overseas.
  • The announced plan of replacing the Human Rights Act of 1998 by a new British Bill of Rights.
  • The criminalisation of termination of pregnancy in Northern Ireland.
  • The lack of effective measures adopted by the State party to promote the use of Irish Language in Northern Ireland.
  • The lack of involvement and participation of Northern Ireland in this review process, and the limited information available on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in the British Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies.
  • Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.

Why You Should Not Buy A Siemens Product

tumblr_njxxojd9p61tzr9z1o1_500On Wednesday 15th June, Greenpeace launched a campaign to save the Tapajos region of the Amazon rainforest from a proposed mega-dam that would flood an area of forest bigger than Greater London. From 27th June, Greenpeace will be targeting Siemens, who are in the running for building some of the mega-dam.

Some Facts About Siemens

  • According to CEO Joe Kaeser, the company stands for fairness & integrity, ingenuity & quality & innovation. These values, as well as sustainability and responsibility, are supposed to shape their actions in the future.
  • In the run up tot he UN Framework Convention on Climate Change COP in Paris (2015), Siemans announced it’s plans to be climate neutral by 2030.
  • Siemens has committed to a wide range of environmental & human rights policies. If the company had applied them then Siemens would never have got involved with the Belo Monte project, let alone the Tapajos.
  • In November 2006 a large-scale raid against Siemens offices and homes of senior management uncovered about 4300 illegal payments and more than 330 dubious projects on the company’s books. A total of €1.3 Billion had been paid.
  • In Brazil, Siemens received a 5-year ban in 2014 on bidding for or signing federal contracts following accusations that Siemens had paid to obtain contracts from the Brazilian Post Office & Telegraph Corporation between 1999 and 2004.

Context

The Tapajos River is the last major river in the Brazilian Amazon free from hydro-electric dams and is one of the most threatened regions. The threat of illegal logging, cattle ranching and soya farming are now joined by a new threat; a series of vast hydro-electric dams that will flood an area bigger than that of Greater London.

In addition to its incredible diversity of plants and animals, including endangered species, the Tapajos basin is also fundamental to the Munduruku people, who have lived in the area for thousands of years – using the forest and river for food and transportation. Their demand is simple; they want the right to determine their own future and what happens on their land.

Greenpeace, together with the Munduruku people, are calling for the Tapajos mega-dam project to be scrapped. Siemens is likely to be a major player in the building of the dam, so my first step – as a Greenpeace activist – is to put pressure on Siemens.

Sao Luiz do Tapajós is the first hydro-electric dam planned for what what the Brazilian Government calls the Tapajos Hydro-dam Complex. The complex provides five dams planned in the Tapajos river and it’s tributary, the Jamanxim. The area flooded will be greater than London.

What are the Environmental Consequences?

The Brazilian Governments own Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – criticised for being an inadequate assessment – found an enormous variety of species in the vicinity of the dam site, including 1378 plant species, 553 bird species, 352 fish species, 109 amphibian species, 95 mammals and 75 reptiles. Many of them were endemic to the region and / or threatened with extinction. On the same surveys, species new to science were discovered – including a new monkey and five new bat species.

How many hydropower plants are planned for the Tapajos Basin?

43 Hydropower plants are being planned for the Tapajos Basin, including the Tapajos Hydro-dam Complex, including all the dams in different stages, such as large plants, small plants, plants being mapped, planned or already operating.

The number of dams planned for the Amazon Biome is 70.

Why target Siemens?

As the example of the Belo Monte mega-dam has shown, once contracts are signed to build the dam, it becomes next to impossible to stop it whether it is actually legal or not. Therefore, if key companies refuse to engage in such destructive projects, it puts important question marks behind the feasibility of the project and will  ultimately make the dam more difficult to build.

Siemens-Voith is one of the world’s largest suppliers  of large hydro turbines and generators – critical parts in any hydro electric dam. Greenpeace hae already publicly called on the other two leading suppliers (at their AGMs) to withdraw any plans they might have to be involved in the Tapajos dam. If these companies pull out it will be very hard to build the damn.

Why Is The Tapajos River So Important?

The Tapajos is considered an Amazon conservation hotspot. Some scientists believe the Tapajos to host the greatest Biodiversity int he Americas. Especially in regards to feline species. It is also home to 12000 Munduruku Indigenous people, who have lived in the Tapajos region for millennia. The building of the dam will affect their ability to fish and to hunt – in particular migratory fish and animals. Their sites would disappear. Such huge construction would attract thousands of temporary, migrant workers which would have significant social impact.

Are they really destroying so much forest?

Despite the area to be flooded, and therefore destroyed, being 376km2, there will be an estimated indirect deforestation (from new roads / people) of 2235km2 which represents almost half the annual deforestation rate.

Why tie this in with the human rights tag on your blog, Andy?

This may be a Greenpeace campaign. but, the issue of human rights has always been prevalent in in Greenpeace’s Rainforest campaigns; indigenous populations such as the Munduruku are the best forest guardians we have. I recognise their fundamental role in the preservation of the forest.

I thought all you lefty type sandal wearers like hydro electricity?

Hydroelectricity power can be considered as renewable energy, but is far from being a clean and harmless source when built in a fragile eco-system such as the amazon.

Hydro dams can emit vast amounts of greenhouse gases – both carbon dioxide and the much more powerful methane – as a result of the decay of flooded vegetation and soil. A study suggests that the Tapajos dam’s contribution to global warming could be as much as the equivalent of half a gas fired power station – and far more compared to wind or solar energy over a 20 year period. Which is the timescale within which decisive action is needed to prevent dangerous climate change.

If the river flows are affected due to climate change, so is the generation of hydroelectricity in hydroelectric plants. Even the storage of water in big reservoirs would be affected if water flows are different. A study commissioned by the Brazilian Government has indicated that by 2040 the river flow for the Tapajos could be reduced by 20% to 30%.

If it isn’t environmentally friendly – why build so many dams?

An investigation into corruption at state-run oil company Petrobras and major construction companies has shown that big construction in Brazil is riddled with corruption, including the major dams in the Amazon.

What about much needed jobs?

If we take the example of the Belo Monte dam the social cost are much higher than the capital benefits. Altamira (town) became engulfed in chaos with 50% more residents and huge social problems. There was an increase in deforestation with illegal opening of roads and invasion of indigenous lands bu miners, hunters and loggers.

Don’t the indigenous tribes get consulted about their land?

Brazil has signed Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which guarantees to indigenous and traditional communities the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). However, the Brazilian Government to date has steadfastly refused to follow this convention and other legislation that guarantees indigenous and traditional communities their rights.

 

Why I Joined Liberty

Well, in a nutshell, it was recommended that I do so …..

See, I have been following the Human Right’s Blog Law, Rights & Peaches for a number of months – casually dipping my toe in grand affairs that I am out of my depth in. After a while I plucked up the courage to post a question to Chris (the author of Law, Rights & Peaches) asking him how I can be more involved with Human Rights on an activist level.

I appreciate I will never be a high flying lawyer at the Hague – rooting out war criminals – but if I can help in my own way then damn it I will.

Why did I choose Liberty? Because of their passion. Admittedly, in an ideal world there would be no need for campaign groups like Liberty. But, even in 2016 Britain, we are having to fight for our fundamental freedoms. The current Government are thinking of rolling back the Human Right’s Act in Parliament. Currently, everyone’s Human Rights are protected by law, including yours. Our Human Rights Act is the law that safeguards our fundamental freedoms.

Our Human Rights Act protects every one of us: young & old, wealthy & poor, you & your neighbour. The act is made up of a small bundle of fundamental freedoms that we all share. They are about big issues, like Life & Death. But they are also about everyday things, like your beliefs and what we can say and do:

Right To Life –

The Human Rights Act protects your life by law.

It makes it illegal for someone to take your life.

Right To Liberty –

You have the right to be free and not arbitrarily deprived of your liberty.

Means that the state can only imprison you with very good reason.

Includes a number of procedural safeguards, if you are arrested or detained.

No Slavery Or Forced Labour –

You should never be treated like a slave, or be subjected to forced labour.

Slavery cannot be justified.

Right To A Fair Trial –

You are always innocent until proven guilty and if you are accused of a crime you have the unfailing right to hear the evidence against you in a court of law.

The right to a fair trial is fundamental to the rule of law and to democracy itself, and cannot be limited.

No Punishment Without Law –

You cannot be found guilty of a crime if it wasn’t against the law at the time it was committed.

Such law must clearly be defined so you know what acts are criminal.

No Torture, Inhuman Or Degrading Treatment –

You should never be tortured in an inhuman and degrading way, no matter what the situation.

This is an absolute right – in no situation is it justifiable to torture someone.

Free Speech & Peaceful Protest –

You have the right to speak freely and hold opinions.

You have the right to join with others to express these views peacefully, without interference from the state.

Freedom Of Thought, Religion & Belief –

You have the right to your own beliefs and to practice those beliefs.

Nobody can make you believe in something, or tell you what to believe.

No Discrimination –

Everybody’s rights are equal.

You should not be treated unfairly because of your gender, race, beliefs, sexuality, religion, age – or anything else.

A Right To A Private Family & Home Life –

Nobody can secretly watch what you are doing, read your private letters or emails, or listen to your phone calls without very good reason – like stopping a crime, for example.

Right To Marry –

As long as you are legally old enough, you have the right to marry who you like and raise a family.

Protection Of Property –

The things you own belong to you.

Public bodies cannot take them away or tell you how to use them without good cause.

Right To An Education –

All children and young people have a fundamental right to schooling.

Free & Fair Elections –

You have the right to vote for your own Government

You should be free to make up your own mind who to vote for.

There has been very little public education about Human Rights contained within our Human Rights Act, and how it works as a result 0 many myths and misunderstanding have sprung up as a result. Including who it protects and who it doesn’t protect and what values it contains. Human Rights are not imposed on us by Europe (before or after the referendum). The European Convention on Human Rights was Winston Churchill’s legacy and adopted by the council of Europe – a body set up to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europs after WWII – in 1950. It has nothing to do with the EU. In fact, Human Right’s are a very British thing. Our Human Rights act was passed by our own Parliament back in 1998, with cross-party support. It simply incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights – itself largely drafted by British Lawyers – in our own law.

Human Rights are for ordinary people. Our Human Rights Act protects everyone’s Human Rights. Young & old, wealthy & poor, you & your neighbour. Anyone’s privacy can be breached by the prying eyes of the state and anyone can be badly let down by the authorities or wrongly accused of a crime. Hopefully this will not happen again, but, if it does – you’ll be happy we have the Human Right’s Act. Human Rights are indivisible – you cannot pick and choose which rights and freedoms you will honour. Although, our Human Rights Act doesn’t protect an endless catalogue of rights. It only protect 15 well established freedoms (see above).

Founded in 1934, Liberty is a cross-party membership organisation at the heart of fundamental rights and freedoms across the UK. We promote the values of individual Human dignity, equal treatment and fairness as the foundations of a democracy. Liberty influence policy at the highest level, raising awareness through the media and helping thousands of people every year through their free advice service.

Letter #5

Dear Andrew Jones MP,

Thank you for your continued correspondence – it is nice to see democracy in action. Belonging to the Mother Of All Parliaments seems a daunting task. A task that does not always go the way of sense. Brexit was such a case – however, it was democratically chosen by the British public so I bear witness.

However, in the run-up to Brexit, the move to dehumanise and undermine the positive contributions made by migrants, refugees and minorities in every community has been gathering pace for some time. Violence. Vandalism. Hate speech. Racist slogans on t-shirts. In the last few days reported hate crimes in Britain have increased.

Fuelled by years of hostile rhetoric coupled with divisive campaigns, we are now seeing racism and xenophobia on the rise on our streets and in our communities on a local and National level. Local leaders, such as yourself, must condemn these actions immediately and do everything in your power to make people safe and welcome.

I am asking you to stand against racism, xenophobia and hate crimes. In Britain. In 2016.

The EU Referendum, the London Mayoral campaign, and the language and imagery used around the refugee crisis have been marked by scare stories and myths. Now we’re seeing verbal and physical abuse hurled in public places, community buildings defaced with racial slurs, and abhorrent slogans on t-shirts. Fair enough – these are not inclusive of Harrogate, but on a National level.

I am calling on you, Andrew Jones MP, to stand against racism in all its forms. People from all walks of life have found themselves bearing the brunt of a society where racism and xenophobia has become more prevalent. Many of my friends and other loved ones are unsure of their future, their family’s future and the security of their jobs and homes.

They all need to be urgently reassured that they’re safe, protected and welcome here, in Britain.

Please act now to reassure people that they are safe and welcome – this is urgent.

In just a couple weeks, local councils across the UK will go on recess for the summer. We need our local communities to start the fight back against racism, xenophobia and hate crimes now.

Yours sincerley,
Andrew B_________

A British Person’s View Of Brexit

Where to start, really. I woke up on Tuesday in Great Britain and will fall asleep today (Friday) in Little England.

Hats off to the Leave Campaign. They fought a very aggressive campaign and won. We live in a democracy and ultimately we will suffer the Government we deserve. I am grateful that I have the chance to still complain about the state of the British – however – I will ask you this; when did Noah build the ark?*. I know some people (who I will let remain anonymous) who said they were voting Leave. Their reasons were manifest, but it boiled down to Xenophobia and Bigotry. Excuses to veil this Bigotry & Xenophobia were given as things like “But you have to wait weeks for a GP appointment!” :: Solution = Don’t vote in the Tories who slash NHS spending. “I have two grown kids at home, they can’t afford a house” :: Solution = build more houses and invest in the infrastructure. “I walk down the street and don’t hear English” :: Solution = live in a cave.

The referendum has left a divided nation. With nearly half the nation backing the Remain Campaign (48.1% back the Remain Campaign Nationally – Me included) this will leave a lot of dissatisfied & disgruntled people who feel they do not have a voice any more (Me included). Will this lead to revolution or apathy? If Russell Brand is anything to go by it will lead to apathy. The referendum showed a deeply divided nation by geographical region: England was predominantly Leave, Scotland massively Remain, Wales strongly Leave & Northern Ireland a firm Remain. Does this mean that Northern Ireland could now claim it has more in common with Éire than mainland UK if it wants? Will Brexit prompt another Scottish independence referendum? If they vote to leave I may claim my right to hold a Scottish passport.

The Leave campaign was based on Hate and whipped up a fury. It encourage binary thinking / black or white / in or out. There was no compromise and it was all or nothing. People nailed their colours to the mast early in the campaign and very few people I know swayed from what their initial snap judgement was when the poll was announced. If there had been a third option “Remain but with amendments” then I would have voted for that – and, I believe that that is the Campaign that would have won. However, testosterone driven blinkers led to a lot of people who are now worried about their future. I know of artists who live in this country – they came over here to study and fell in love with Blighty and did not want to return to the continent. They do not have a regular job so will be forcefully deported back to Europe when we exit. What ever happened to trying to work together as a team to achieve a greater whole.

I know of people who have actually fallen out over Brexit – we are now a deeply divided nation – with the announcement of the poll, Cameron unleashed a political Kraken and foretold his own political harakari. Cameron has announced his retirement back to his Trust-Fund and the UK will have another Prime Minister by the Autumn. The smart money is Cameron’s replacement being Johnson or Gove (God forbid it is Hunt). Time will tell and the majority of British subjects will not get a say in the matter. But, Cameron has gone … that is one small mercy.

The Pound Sterling is already at levels that it has not experienced since 1985 and the Yen is at a ten year high – Bankers seem to be making a fortune out of other peoples misery yet again. Friends in Eastern Europe are now terrified that there is little that can now be done to halt Russia’s hegemony. Nigel Farage. We seem to be the only nation on Earth who would vote to take away our human rights. There is nothing to stop a reformed Conservative Party from taking away compulsory sick pay, maternity pay, paternity pay.

However, we must as a Nation regroup and build on our collective failure. We still have the Commonwealth left over from when we pillaged the world. Will Brexit, a seismic shift in British politics, usher in a new folk art movement – like Art Noveau in the Slovak independence days? I for one am up for playing the role of Alfons Mucha but I do not think that the joie de vivre is the same as in those halcyon days of the birth of the Slovakian Government back at the start of the 20th Century.

 

*Before the flood: as a result I have joined Liberty.

Letter #2

I am in the process of writing a letter to my local MP, Andrew Jones – this time about British Cluster Bombs being used against civilians in Yemen. Cluster bombs are an illegal weapon, banned under international law since 2008. Amnesty International uncovered a British-made BL-755 – a particularly nasty model, which consists of a large bomb that opens mid-air to scatter 147 smaller explosive bomblets across a wide area.

What is a cluster Bomb?

The below is the final draft of a letter I intend to send to Andrew Jones.

___________

Dear Mr. Jones,

In this letter I am writing to you – well, I am almost embarrassed: The UK is fueling the deadly conflict in Yemen through reckless arms sales to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition – these sales break UK laws and the global Arms Trade Treaty it once championed. I was prompted to write this letter by the information I found on Amnesty’s website – I figure rather than sign a one-size-fits-all petition to the Prime Minister, I would write to you as a human and as a concerned constituent.

Amnesty International’s research team recently visited Yemen to collect evidence of human rights abuses. What they discovered was a UK-made cluster bomb, used by the coalition in a series of strikes on civilians.

At least 16 civilians, including nine children, have been maimed, and two children killed. Many more people are still at risk from thousands of un-exploded cluster bombs left in their neighbourhoods.

On 16 April 2016, in a village around 10km from the Saudi Arabian border, two brothers aged nine and twelve were herding goats in the valley nearby. The nine-year-old boy found two un-exploded cluster bombs and gave one to his brother.

‘I found the bomb and I went and gave it to my brother so he can have one and I had one. He hit them against each other and they exploded and I found myself lying on the ground.’

He survived but his 12-year-old brother was killed on the spot, his abdomen torn open and his arm severed.

On 1 March, “Walid” (children’s names have been changed for their security) another 11-year-old from a nearby area, was also hurt by a submunition, losing three of his fingers and breaking his jaw. His brother, “Samih,” an eight year old, was killed.

Walid told Amnesty International that he and Samih were near the village of Fard, al-Safra directorate in Sa’da, on 1 March when they encountered multiple submunitions while herding goats in a valley. He said that he and Samih were carrying around and playing with submunitions for several hours when one eventually exploded around 1pm, killing Samih instantly and injuring Walid. Amnesty International observed that Walid lost three fingers on his right hand and that he had had an operation to insert steel plates in his left jaw, which was broken in the blast. He also sustained shrapnel injuries to his chest and legs.

“We go down every day to the valley to herd goats, where there are many small bombs. We found four of them in the morning… they were cylindrical with a red ribbon. We carried them with us while herding. At around 1pm, I started to take the red string with my right hand and pull and [Samih] pulled on the other end of it and then it went off and I fell back. [Samih] was hurt in his stomach and he had fallen down too. We didn’t know it would hurt us.”

Based on the description, these appear to be ground-launched “ZP 39” DPICM submunitions, which have been documented by Human Rights Watch in northern Yemen in May 2015.

Cluster bombs are an illegal weapon, banned under international law since 2008.

Amnesty International uncovered a British-made BL-755 – a particularly nasty model, which consists of a large bomb that opens mid-air to scatter 147 smaller explosive bomblets across a wide area. The bomblets eject a stream of molten metal as they detonate, which is designed to pierce metal armour. After this, they explode into more than 2,000 fragments killing and maiming all in the vicinity.

Even if they don’t explode on impact, they become ticking time bombs for civilians on the ground, with hundreds of live, lethal devices left scattered across the drop zone. The bombs are known to be in the stockpiles of both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

This type of cluster bomb was originally manufactured in the UK in 1970/80’s and likely sold to a member of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition some years ago. But regardless of when this was sold the UK has a responsibility, under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, to ensure these weapons are never used.

How many more people must die? I am asking if you can raise a point in the House Of Commons calling on the UK government to stop selling arms to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition carrying out illegal and indiscriminate airstrikes in Yemen.

So far, they’ve ignored Anmnesty’s calls. When pressed on the matter, UK ministers have said that Saudi Arabia has provided it with ‘assurances’ of their proper use.

This is unacceptable. Parliament must not ignore the deaths of civilians.

Demand an urgent investigation into the use of cluster bombs and an immediate end to these weapons sales.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew W. Backhouse

___________

As ever, I am not expecting a reply from my MP – although this is democracy in action and in the interests of democracy I will publish his reply up here if I get the opportunity. I have created a category for my correspondence with Andrew Jones MP  – if you want to dip your toe in ill-thought-out policies and leftist rebuke then that is the place to head.

He’s Free!

Photo Credit – Travis Spradling


 

Albert Woodfox was released from the West Feliciana Parish jail Friday afternoon, hours after pleading no contest to manslaughter in the 1972 killing of Angola guard Brent Miller – after 40 years of solitary confinement. Raising his arm in a salute to cheering onlookers, Woodfox walked out of the fenced perimeters of the jail facility and got into his brother’s car. When asked how he feels, Woodfox said, “I really haven’t decided yet.”

According to theadvocate.com, his next step will be “saying goodbye” to his deceased mother, he said. “I wasn’t allowed to go to her funeral when I was at Angola and my sister as well.” Miller’s relatives said they did not cooperate in the plea deal decision and were told about it by the second-in-command at the Attorney General’s office. Wanda Callender, the guard’s younger sister, said she felt the deal was foisted on her family.

However, in a statement, Attorney General Jeff Landry, who took office last month, thanked the family and said “their support has been instrumental in today’s very difficult decision.” Landry said with the plea Woodfox “stands convicted of the homicide of Brent Miller.”

Back story – you may be wondering why I am blogging about somebody who just admitted killing someone – here is the back story.