Posts Tagged ‘AI UK’

Human Rights Compliance test for football clubs

August 7, 2020

Saudi Arabia’s protracted effort to purchase Newcastle United finally came to an end last week © Getty Images

Amnesty International UK has called on the English Premier League to update its Owners’ and Directors’ test, and has sent a proposed updated test to the Premier League’s Chief Executive, Richard Masters. Criticising the current test as “hopelessly unsuited” to the task of ensuring proper scrutiny of the human rights records of those trying to buy into English football clubs, Amnesty has commissioned a new human rights-compliant test from corporate lawyers David Chivers QC and Seamus Woods of Erskine Chambers, together with a detailed legal analysis.

The Premier League has recently been supportive of Black Lives Matter solidarity protests from players and clubs, while Amnesty has also praised clubs – including many in the Premier League – for their part in the Football Welcomes project celebrating the contribution refugees make to the game.

Amnesty’s intervention comes as the highly controversial attempt by a consortium of buyers – including Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – to purchase Newcastle United Football Club has thrown a spotlight on human rights issues surrounding the ownership of Premier League clubs.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/31/saudi-backed-investors-pull-out-of-newcastle-deal/] Amnesty’s legal analysis shows that the league’s current Owners’ and Directors’ test has numerous serious shortcomings. For example, the test bars someone on the sex offenders register from becoming an owner or director, but has no such prohibition for those complicit in acts of torture, slavery, human trafficking or even war crimes.

Amnesty’s analysis – “Proposed change to the Premier League Rules Owners’ and Directors’ test to address international human rights and discrimination” – points out that the phrase “human rights” does not even appear in the text of the test despite English football supposedly adhering to FIFA standards – article 3 of FIFA’s statutes says that the international football body is “committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights”.

Among other things, the new test from Amnesty calls for the Premier League Board to consider whether a prospective owner or director has been complicit in serious violations of international human rights law or any conduct that is at odds with the Premier League’s anti-discrimination policy.

Premier League must act on sportswashing

In April, Amnesty wrote to Richard Masters raising concerns about the Newcastle takeover, warning it was part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to “sportswash” its human rights record – with investment in top-level sport used as a “rebranding” tool to deflect attention away from human rights issues. Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s leadership there has been a crackdown in Saudi Arabia, with government critics and human rights defenders arrested – including prominent women’s rights activists – tortured and put on trial. In October 2018, the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a killing which the UN has said was “overseen, planned and endorsed by high-level officials” of the Saudi state. (For more information on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, go here).

Amnesty warned that the Premier League risked “becoming a patsy” of Saudi sportswashing efforts unless it fully considered the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia as part of its scrutiny of the Newcastle deal – scrutiny its current Owners’ and Directors’ test failed to provide. After the collapse of the Saudi-Newcastle deal last week, Amnesty said the attempted purchase had been a “blatant attempt” at sportswashing, with the Saudi authorities attempting to “buy into the passion, prestige and pride of Tyneside football”.

Amnesty’s new letter to Mr Masters urges the Premier League boss to give “careful consideration” to the proposed improved test, and offers to set up a meeting between the Premier League, Amnesty and David Chivers QC to discuss the matter further.

Football Welcomes is an Amnesty UK initiative celebrating the contribution players from a refugee background make to the game, while highlighting the role football and football clubs play in creating welcoming communities for refugees and people seeking asylum. Over the Football Welcomes weekend in April, clubs nationwide stage special matches or tournaments, offer free tickets to games, arrange stadium tours and player visits. In 2019, nearly 180 clubs took part, including more than half of Premier League clubs. The weekend also highlights the work many football club community trusts do during the year to welcome refugees. Through the Football Welcomes Community Project, Amnesty works closely with Leicester City in the Community, Aston Villa Foundation, Middlesbrough FC Foundation, Club Doncaster Foundation and Liverpool County FA/Liverpool FC on creating more welcoming communities.

UK criticised for selling spyware and wiretaps to 17 repressive regimes including Saudi Arabia and China

July 13, 2020

Jon Stone in the Independent of 13 july 2020 wrote about the UK Government being urged to explain £75m exports to countries rated ‘not free’. The British government is providing more than a dozen repressive regimes around the world with wiretaps, spyware and other telecommunications interception equipment they could use to spy on dissidents, public records show. Despite rules saying the UK should not export security goods to countries that might use them for internal repression, ministers have signed off more than £75m in such exports over the past five years to states rated “not free” by the NGO Freedom House.

The 17 countries include China, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, as well as the United Arab Emirates, which was the biggest recipient of licences totalling £11.5m alone since 2015….One such beneficiary of the UK’s exports is Hong Kong, which had a £2m shipment approved last year despite ongoing repression of pro-democracy protests. The Philippines, where police extrajudicial killings are rampant, has also provided steady business for British firms hawking surveillance systems.,,

A government spokesperson said blandly : “The government takes its export responsibilities seriously and assesses all export licences in accordance with strict licensing criteria. We will not issue any export licences where to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria.” But Oliver Feeley-Sprague, Amnesty International UK’s programme director for military, security and police affairs, said the UK did not seem to be undertaking proper risk assessments when selling such equipment and said the government’s controls were becoming “notorious” for their “faulty decision-making”

With numerous human rights defenders arrested and jailed in countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey in the past five years, there’s a greater need than ever for the UK to be absolutely scrupulous in assessing the risk of UK telecoms technology being used unlawfully against human rights activists, journalists, and peaceful opposition figures.

“It’s just not clear that the UK is undertaking proper risk assessments when selling this equipment, and it’s not clear whether UK officials are making any effort to track how the equipment is used in one, two or three years’ time.

This week international trade secretary Liz Truss announced the UK would be resuming arms exports to Saudi Arabia, after a court had previously ordered that they were suspended. The government said it had reviewed claims that Saudi forces in Yemen had breached international humanitarian law and said any possible breaches were “isolated incidents” because they had happened in different places and different ways.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said the sale of the spying equipment raised “serious questions and concerns”.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/14/beyond-whatsapp-and-nso-how-human-rights-defenders-are-targeted-by-cyberattacks/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/uk-spyware-wiretaps-saudi-arabia-china-bahrain-uae-human-rights-a9613206.html

UN Rapporteur and Amnesty seek freedom for those “punished for daring to drive.”

July 9, 2020

On 9 june 2020 Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, urged member states to pressure Saudi Arabia to free women activists before a G20 nations summit which Riyadh will be hosting in November. At least a dozen prominent women’s rights activists were arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2018 as it lifted a ban on women driving cars, a step that many of the detainees had long campaigned for. The women were rounded up as part of a broader crackdown on dissent that extended to clerics and intellectuals.

Several of the arrested women have alleged torture and sexual assault in detention. Saudi officials deny this and said the detainees were suspected of having harmed Saudi interests and offered support to hostile elements abroad.

Some of the activists are now on trial, but few charges have been made public. Charges against at least some of the activists relate to contacts with foreign journalists, diplomats and human rights groups. Their prosecution has drawn global criticism, particularly following the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate. (as Rapporteur Agnes Callamard also dealt with Khashoggi’s killing: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/23/the-unsatisfactory-end-to-the-khashoggi-investigation/)

The families of some of the activists, included Loujain al-Hathloul, raised concerns earlier this year when they were unable to contact their detained relatives in prison for several weeks. Contact was eventually restored. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/07/lina-al-hathloul-speaks-out-for-her-sister-loujain-imprisoned-in-saudi-arabia/].

Earlier Amnesty International had called on Saudi Arabian authorities to immediately release women human rights activists, including those who are “being punished for daring to drive.“…. Amnesty UK has launched a “Beep for freedom” campaign in support of the persecuted women’s rights defenders. The campaign involves supporters sharing photos of themselves behind the wheel of a car or sharing the campaign’s “Beep For Freedom” car horn symbol, with an appeal to the Saudi authorities to “immediately and unconditionally” release the activists and drop all charges against them.

https://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2020/Jul-09/508775-un-investigator-calls-on-saudi-arabia-to-free-female-activists.ashx

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/amnesty-intl-urges-sarabia-to-release-female-activists/1889626

Star power and human rights: food for thought by Kate Allen

July 11, 2019

The issue of star power for or against human rights has been referred to regualry in this blog. See e.g. my older post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/10/star-power-and-human-rights-a-difficult-but-doable-mix/ and the recent: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/10/nicki-minaj-did-the-right-thing-and-cancelled-her-performance-in-saudi-arabia/

On 11 july 2019 Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK Director, published a thoughtful piece on this topic in Metro:

Nicki Minaj’s on-off concert in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has once again shone a spotlight on the thorny business of artists who agree to perform in countries with abysmal human rights records. Was she right – finally – to call it off? Should she ever have agreed to play in a country where women are treated as second-class citizens, where same-sex relations are forbidden, and where a whole host of other basic rights are denied? It sounds like a no-brainer – don’t go. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Musicians like Minaj are understandably keen to play in front of their fans in all sorts of countries, including Saudi Arabia. After all, they’re in the entertainment industry. If the popular demand’s there, you satisfy the demand. And ordinary Saudi fans of Minaj’s raunchy brand of pop (of which there are apparently a surprising number) aren’t themselves the people responsible for institutional human rights abuse in Saudi Arabia, so why punish them? Artists – and their management and publicity teams – will very likely go back and forth on this. Do we play? Is it worth the reputational risk? At Amnesty, we don’t believe in telling artists to ‘boycott’ this or that country.

Instead, number one, we say: ensure you are not, in any way, contributing to existing human rights violations through a specific performance. Madonna’s dancers at Eurovision Madonna’s dancers wore Israel and Palestine flags. If, for example, you’re a singer asked to play a concert in a stadium that’s just been built on land which has seen local people’s houses illegally destroyed, then playing there would be a form of complicity in the act of forced dispossession. Similarly, if the catering company at one of your foreign shows is an abusive employer, then you shouldn’t be party to this abuse by using them.

Number two: when agreeing to play in a country with a very poor human rights record (and we’re talking about scores of countries, not just obvious ones like Saudi Arabia, China or North Korea), you should be prepared to use your influence for good. Raise human rights issues directly where you can. Speak about cases publicly. Advocate for them after you’ve left the country. While the match was never played due to injury, tennis stars Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic agreed to play in Jeddah last year and we asked them to tweet their support for human rights defenders who’d recently been jailed in the country. Similarly, this May, we called on the boxer Amir Khan – also hired for a well-paid exhibition bout in Jeddah – to go with his eyes firmly open and with a preparedness to speak about human rights issues wherever possible. There’s often a degree of fuzziness – perhaps unavoidable – in this. Madonna was criticised by some people for agreeing to perform at the recent Eurovision in Tel Aviv. For sure, Israel’s human rights record is dire, not least through its half-century military occupation of the West Bank. But others praised her for including both Palestinian and Israeli flags in her show.

At the end of the day, it’s unrealistic to expect singers or sports stars to act as celebrity arms of the United Nations. That’s not their job. But they don’t operate in a vacuum either. They need to understand the reputational risk of accepting big money from hosts with dire human rights records. And that risk is compounded if they make no effort to address some of the grim realities of where they go. Nicki Minaj says she’s now ‘educated’ herself about how women and LGBTI people are oppressed in Saudi Arabia, and how basic freedom of expression is denied. Minaj is an expressive performer free to speak her mind. It would be great if she continues speaking out on Saudi human rights issues.

https://metro.co.uk/2019/07/11/celebrities-arent-the-un-but-can-use-concerts-to-defend-human-rights-10176034/?ito=cbshare

On 4 June streets around Chinese embassy to be ‘renamed’ Tiananmen Square

May 31, 2019

Dr Shao Jiang

I have always liked the symbolic act of renaming streets after human rights defenders [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/07/ahmed-mansoor-ten-years-jail-for-tweeting-and-a-street-named-after-you/]. Amnesty International activists will ‘rename’ the streets surrounding the Chinese Embassy in London next week to mark the 30th anniversary of the notorious Tiananmen Square crackdown. On Tuesday 4 June (10h00 am), a total of 30 authentic-looking ‘Tiananmen Square’ street signs will be displayed in the streets around the embassy in central London to mark the anniversary. Amnesty UK Director Kate Allen and Shao Jiang – one of the original student protest leaders who was in Tiananmen Square on the night of 4 June – will place a ‘Tiananmen Square’ sign immediately outside the Chinese Embassy building.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/london-streets-around-chinese-embassy-be-renamed-tiananmen-square-anniversary

Amnesty UK media awards sets good example

April 9, 2019

Amnesty International UK runs a successful series of (national) media awards. Amnesty’s Media Awards, which have been running annually since 1992, celebrate excellence in human rights journalism and applaud the courage and determination of journalists who often put their lives on the line to report on vital human rights issues. Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said at the 3 April 2019 ceremony: “Media work is vitally important for Amnesty and everything we do. This evening we’ve seen some brilliant journalism that has had enormous human rights impact…Without a free press, it’s extremely difficult to expose wrong-doing and hold leaders to account. But even here in the UK we’re seeing it being threatened – especially with the sinister arrest of Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey in Northern Ireland last year…That’s why our awards are about congratulating the achievements of the media and championing its role in creating a fairer, more open world.” The awards, hosted by Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman, held a moment of silence for the approximately 90 journalists imprisoned last year for doing their jobs. Canada and the USA are undertaking similar events.

The winners of the 2019 AI UK Media Awards include:

News (Broadcast)

Features

Regional Media

  • BBC Northern Ireland – Spotlight: Buried Secrets

Documentaries

  • BBC Two – Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess

Impact Award

Investigation

For jailed Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo this means yet another award for their work as they continue to fight an appeal against their conviction. The men, who have been behind bars in Myanmar since December 2017. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/06/50-human-rights-ngos-address-joint-letter-to-aung-san-suu-kyi-on-reuters-journalists/]

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Giles Duley, on assignment for UNHCR, photographs refugees and migrants in Greece in 2016.  © UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis

Humanitarian photographer Giles Duley won a Media Award for his powerful series depicting the plight and resilience of Congolese female refugees in Angola. His photo essay, “We Are Here Because We Are Strong”, was commissioned by UNHCR and published in Humanity magazine. The subjects of his project were forced to flee the Kasai region of Democratic Republic of the Congo after violence erupted in March 2017, triggering massive displacement.

The full Media Awards 2019 shortlist can be found here.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/amnesty-media-awards-2019-winners-announced

https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/jailed-reuters-reporters-wa-lone-kyaw-soe-oo-honoured-with-amnesty-media-award-during-appeal/

https://www.unhcr.org/news/latest/2019/4/5ca5ff704/unhcr-photographers-essay-congolese-women-refugees-wins-prestigious-award.html

Human Rights Defenders pay high price for Bahrain Grand Prix

March 28, 2019

The Bahraini authorities appear to be using the glamour of motor sport to obscure the country’s human rights record

Bahrain: Grand Prix should not ‘sportswash’ country’s human rights record” says Amnesty International.

[see my earlier post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/01/sports-and-human-rights-focus-on-sports-washing-big-names-play-for-big-money/]

Ahead of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix this weekend, Amnesty International has highlighted the grim human rights record of the country. Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns, said: “Beneath the glamour of the F1, there is a far more sinister side to Bahrain, revealing the country as a deeply repressive state where anyone critical of the government can be jailed merely for posting a tweet. “Prominent human rights defenders are under relentless attack in the country. 

Nabeel Rajab was shamefully convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for tweeting about the conflict in Yemen and torture allegations in Jaw Prison. “Instead of just ‘sportswashing’ its image and glossing over its dismal human rights record through high-speed sport, the Bahraini government should immediately repeal laws that criminalise freedom of expression and fast track the release of all prisoners of conscience.

Since mid-2016, the Bahraini authorities have embarked on a systematic campaign to eliminate organised political opposition in the country. The main targets of this far-reaching repression have been human rights defenders, journalists, political activists, Shi’a clerics and phttps://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/bahrain-verdict-against-sheikh-salman-another-nail-coffin-free-speecheaceful protesters…Earlier this month, Ebrahim Sharif was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for three years, for a tweet criticising Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. …. Bahrain has used draconian legislation such as Law No. 58 of 2006 on the Protection of Society from Terrorist Acts, the Law on Political Associations, and repressive provisions of the Penal Code including Articles 134, 160, 165, 168, 214, 215, 216 and 310, to target protesters and other critics of the government. Since 2011, more than 800 people have been stripped of their nationalities. Of those, 115 lost their citizenship following a ludicrous mass trial that relied on confessions extracted under torture.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/02/happy-new-year-but-not-for-ahmed-mansoor-and-nabeel-rajab-in-the-gulf-monarchies/

For more information on the human rights situation, see the following blog – Bahrain: What lies behind the scenes of the Formula One Grand Prix.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/bahrain-grand-prix-should-not-sportswash-countrys-human-rights-record

 

The “Stansted 15” story ends ‘well’ but not good enough

February 7, 2019

PA WIRE/PA IMAGES

Kate AllenDirector of Amnesty International UK, wrote a blog post on 7 February 2019 in the Huffington post about the ‘Stansted 15’: 

After nearly two long years the news is that the Stansted 15 will not be going to jail. On Wednesday, the 15 arrived at Chelmsford Crown Court with their bags packed for their anticipated prison stints. Given that they were staring down the barrel of a possible life sentence, they were contemplating the worst. ..a happy ending? Well, not really. [see also the recent: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/feb/25/stansted-15-ordered-back-to-court-on-aggravated-trespass-charge]

This group of human rights defenders remain convicted of a serious terrorism-related offence. They were tried in relation to their attempt to prevent the deportation of a group of people at Stansted Airport in 2017. Their actions – which at no point harmed anyone – prevented the flight from leaving. Of the 60 individuals due to have been deported, at least two have since been granted permission to remain in the UK, with others still pursuing their claims.

Initially, we should recall, the Stansted 15 were charged with aggravated trespass, a relatively minor charge of the type that has often been used to prosecute people who have undertaken similar protests. But four months in, this was changed to “endangering safety at aerodromes” – a very serious terrorism-related charge which came onto the books following the Lockerbie bombings – and one which has a maximum penalty of life in prison.

….The way the Stansted 15 have been treated should be a matter of grave concern for anyone who cares about human rights in the UK. This case is a canary in the coalmine and we should be alert for the chilling effect this trial could have on peaceful protest in the UK….It’s easy to see how what has happened to them might give pause to others seeking to stand up against perceived injustice.

Throughout this case it’s been clear these are human rights defenders, motivated by conscience and compassion for their fellow humans. 

 

 

Emma Hughes grew up in Epsom and was one of 15 activists who helped block a charter flight at Heathrow airport in March 2017.  Emma Hughes is a charity worker who recently gave birth to a son, Fen. In December last year before learning of her sentence, she told the Surrey Comet that the trial and subsequent conviction, which she might have faced up to life imprisonment, had severely impacted her pregnancy. Hughes said: “My partner faces not just me going to jail but his first child as well. It’s very scary for everyone’s families as well as us.” 12 of the activists, including Hughes, received community service sentences, while three others were given suspended prison sentences.

Raj Chada, Partner from Hodge Jones & Allen, who represented all 15 of the defendants said: “While we are relieved that none of our clients face a custodial sentence, today is still a sad day for justice. Our clients prevented individuals being illegally removed from the UK and should never have been charged under counter terrorism legislation. We maintain that this was an abuse of power by the Attorney General and the CPS and will continue to fight in the appeal courts to get these wrongful convictions overturned.

Eleven of the people on the halted March 2017 flight are still in the UK and have been able to keep fighting their cases. The Stansted 15 have been described as‘heroes’ by one of those people, a man who has lived in the UK for over a decade. As he sat on the flight, waiting for it to leave, his mother and two children were also in Britain, as well as his pregnant partner. The delay to the flight meant that he was able to successfully appeal against his deportation and be at his partner’s side while she gave birth to their daughter. He wrote for the Guardian: “Without the Stansted 15 I wouldn’t have been playing football with my three-year-old in the park this week. It’s that simple. We now have a chance to live together as a family in Britain – and that is thanks to the people who laid down in front of the plane.”

It will be interesting to see what the UK Government will reply to the UN in a few weeks time. (see Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/07/un-tells-uk-stop-using-terror-charges-against-peaceful-protesters)

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/stansted-15-trial_uk_5c5bfdcee4b09293b20bbfbd

https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/amy-hall/uk-human-rights-defenders-escape-jail-for-stopping-deportation-flight

Human Rights Day 2018 – anthology part III (the last)

December 18, 2018

Mopping up after International Human Rights Day 2018 here six more ‘events’:

For part I, see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/10/human-rights-day-2018-just-an-anthology/

For part II, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/11/human-rights-day-2018-anthology-part-ii/.

 

  1. Tibetans in Sydney celebrate Nobel Peace Prize Day and Int’l Human Rights Day.
    Tibetans in in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, observe an official function to mark the 29th anniversary of the conferment of Nobel Peace Prize on His Holiness the Dalai Lama, on December 15, 2018. Photo: TPI/Yeshe Choesang

Tibetans in Sydney celebrate Nobel Peace Prize Day and Int’l Human Rights Day

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2018/12/16/best-human-rights-books-october-december-2018/

https://www.adventistreview.org/for-people-of-faith-70-year-old-human-rights-document-holds-special-meaning

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/lord-ahmad-speech-at-amnesty-international-annual-human-rights-day-reception

https://blogs.library.duke.edu/blog/2018/12/12/duke-announces-winner-of-2018-juan-e-mendez-human-rights-book-award/

https://menafn.com/1097819272/Somaliland-HRC-Commemorates-Human-Rights-Day-2018-In-Burao

Ahmed Mansoor: ten years jail for tweeting and a street named after you

June 7, 2018

Joe Odell's picture Joe Odell (press officer for the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE) wrote on Wednesday 6 June 2018 a long piece in the Middle East Eye about the “UAE‘s shameful imprisonment of Ahmed Mansoor“. As the last dissident voice in the Emirates is silenced, it remains to be seen who is left to speak out about injustice in the UAE, he states rightly. As I have posted regularly on him (see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/13/update-on-mansoor-in-uae-after-one-year-detention-appears-in-court/), will only refer to a few highlights in Odell’s article:

“Last week Abu Dhabi’s Supreme Court sentenced the awarded-winning Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor to 10 years in prison after finding him guilty of using his social media account to “defame the nation” by spreading “rumours and lies about the UAE” and promoting “sectarian feelings and hatred” among its citizens. It is a ruthless ruling for one of the region’s most prominent rights campaigners, who in 2015 won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders after his tireless struggle for basic political and civil rights in the UAE.……

It was almost as if the UAE wanted to get this news out in a way that created as little fanfare as possible. Many hours were to pass before the UAE state-owned publication the National confirmed that this was indeed Ahmed Mansoor; international media promptly picked up the story within minutes – no doubt to the ire of the UAE government. Emirati authorities, however, are yet to give an official comment on the court decision. More pertinently, Mansoor’s exact whereabouts remains unknown, leaving the 48-year-old father of four at grave risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FMiddleEastEye%2Fvideos%2F1707420759323305%2F&show_text=0&width=476

…..Perhaps, in his heart, Ahmed knew this day would come. But he always refused to place himself above the struggle, telling journalist Bill Law prior to his arrest: “The only way to counter repression is by revealing it. And, yes, there is always that possibility that I will go back to jail. But if activists do not talk, who will?”

This knock-on effect has already begun. In the UK, pressure is now mounting on Manchester mayor Andy Burnham to issue a statement on Ahmed’s case after a coalition of 34 NGOs, including Amnesty International and the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, demanded intervention. This is a sensitive and fought over issue in a city whose council have burgeoning commercial links with the UAE, and whose football club is owned outright by the Emirates’ deputy prime minister, Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed al-Nahyan. [see below]

…….Meanwhile, in north London, Arsenal supporters are now questioning their club’s links with the UAE, which began with their move to the Emirates Stadium more than 10 years ago. In response to Ahmed’s sentence, leading Arsenal fan website the Daily Cannon published an editorial calling for a review of the club’s sponsorship deal with Emirates Airline. Perhaps for the first time the UAE’s soft-power project in the UK now lies on contested ground, not only from regional foes, but increasingly from ordinary people across Britain….[ see also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/09/15/fly-emirates-if-the-emirs-let-you/]

And indeed on Friday 3 June 2018, campaigners in Manchester, UK, held a “street renaming” ceremony for Ahmed Mansoor and to highlight the city’s close links with the UAE government. Activists raised a banner saying “Ahmed Mansoor Street” in Manchester, to pressure the city’s council to bring up the case of the blogger who was sentenced to a decade in jail by UAE authorities this week.

The protest took place on Thomas Street, in the city’s fashionable Northern Quarter district. Supporters of Mansoor in the UK have asked Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to help secure the release of the free-speech activist. The campaigners believe one way that could help is for Burnham to name a street after the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders laureate.

“As the first directly-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester you are in a unique position to show leadership on this issue,” a letter by Mansoor’s supporters to Burnham stated. “Your public support for a street named after Ahmed Mansoor – and calling for his immediate and unconditional release – would demonstrate your commitment to this heritage and these ideals.

Manchester has deep ties with the Gulf state, including companies and investment groups tied to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the de-facto ruler of the UAE. The football club, Manchester City, is also owned by leading Emirati royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

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