Posts Tagged ‘Kate Allen’

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

Arsenal and Chelsea are not the only ones strugggling in Azerbaijan on 29 May

May 23, 2019

Baku’s Olympic Stadium is hosting the Europa League final between Arsenal and Chelsea Wednesday 29 May 2019 and is also the venue for four games in next year’s European Championship. I will certinaly watch the match but will keep in mind Amnesty International’s warning that we should not let Azerbaijan hide human rights abuses behind football.  Sports washing is a phenomenon that deserves more attention, see e.g.:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/01/sports-and-human-rights-focus-on-sports-washing-big-names-play-for-big-money/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/22/andrew-anderson-the-dangerous-game-of-sportswashing/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/fifas-second-report-on-human-rights-misses-sustainable-approach/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-and-rights-alliance/

The decision to stage the Europa League final in Baku has drawn criticism from fans and human rights groups.
The decision to stage the Europa League final in Baku has drawn criticism from fans and human rights groups. Photograph: Robert Prezioso/Getty Images

We must ensure that Azerbaijan isn’t allowed to sportswash its appalling human rights record as a result of the football fanfare,” Amnesty International’s UK director, Kate Allen, said. “Azerbaijan is in the grip of a sinister human rights crackdown, with journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders being ruthlessly targeted. Unfair trials and smear campaigns remain commonplace.

LGBTI people have been arrested, and even people fleeing the country have been harassed and pressured to return. Fans, players and backroom staff can help prevent Azerbaijan’s likely attempt to sportswash its image by informing themselves about the human rights situation behind the glitzy facade of Wednesday’s match….All too often, governments are using high-profile sporting competitions to distract attention from repressive policies and human rights violations, to instead project an image of openness. This couldn’t be further from the truth with the current administration, and the Arsenal-Chelsea clash is just the latest reminder of this.”

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/may/22/amnesty-international-azerbaijan-human-rights-football

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/]

—-

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

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

Amnesty International calls on golfers not to play the Saudi propaganda game

January 31, 2019

Rose during the pro-am at Royal GreensRose during the pro-am at Royal Greens
Golf’s world number one Justin Rose should use his profile to highlight human rights issues and counter the “propaganda value” of this week’s Saudi International, according to Amnesty International.

The tournament has attracted a star-studded field despite the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jamal-khashoggi/]

Rose has defended his participation by the lame response: “I’m not a politician, I’m a pro golfer“. Human rights violating countries are well aware of the ‘sports-washing’ value of international sporting events, and the players need to understand this too. [ just see some the posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-and-politics/]

AI UK’s director Kate Allen said. “We haven’t called on golfers to pull out of the Royal Greens event and it’s not for us to say who should be playing in these tournaments or whether countries like Saudi Arabia should be hosting them“.

The point with this, like other sporting events in countries with atrocious human rights records, is to fully understand the context…By hosting the European Tour, Saudi Arabia is almost certainly hoping to use the glamour of elite golf and the lush panorama of the Royal Greens course to subtly rebrand the country.” 

AI makes the concrete suggestion:”If each member of the European Tour tweeted their support for Loujain al-Hathloul and the other jailed women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, they could go a long way to countering their propaganda value to the Saudi government.”

Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by the Saudi regime

 

See also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/19/novak-djokovic-and-rafael-nadal-have-a-chance-to-score-a-point-for-human-rights-defenders/

 

https://www.rte.ie/sport/golf/2019/0130/1026532-amnesty-calls-golfers/