Solitary Confinement is a Crime

International webinar: 12 May 2021
7 – 9pm (UK), 2 – 3.30pm (US Eastern Time)

REGISTER HERE

Hosted by Legal Action for Women, Payday men’s network,
Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike

Speakers include:

Kevan Thakrar, over 11 years in UK Close Supervision Centre – audio presentation Now in further segregation: ACTION ALERT

Khalfan Al-Badwawi, survivor of torture and solitary confinement in Oman

Susie Winter, former prisoner

Dr. Derek Summerfield, Psychiatrist, member of The International Critical Psychiatry Network 

Shandre Delaney, Human Rights Coalition (US), mother of Carrington Keys, one of the Dallas 6 prisoners

Deepa Govindarajan Driver, campaigner against the continuing imprisonment in solitary of journalist Julian Assange

Mumia Abu-Jamal, famed political prisoner and solitary survivor – message of solidarity

Plus: Q&A.

The UK government denies that there is solitary confinement and that dozens of prisoners are being held in isolation, sometimes for years – 23 hours a day, having to choose whether to phone relatives or bathe, or take exercise in the one hour allowed out of their cell.  Since March 2020, all prisoners have suffered these conditions – effectively held in solitary because of the pandemic.

A smaller number of prisoners are held in Close Supervision Centres (CSCs) where conditions replicate those in solitary. Prisoners describe being fed through a hatch and isolated from family and outside support. They report attacks from guards that remain unpunished and complain that there is no transparent process to decide who is placed in the CSC and therefore there is “no way out”. Approximately 50% of prisoners held in CSCs are Muslim – proof that these units are institutionally racist.

A campaign initiated by prisoners is pressing the Royal College of Psychiatrists to withdraw the “Enabling Environment” status they awarded to CSCs. These awards deny prisoners’ experience and provide a cover for abuse. A letter signed by 60 organizations and 200 individuals, including Professor Emeritus Angela Y. Davis, Professor and former prisoner Benjamin Zephaniah, and psychiatrists and other healthcare providers, was delivered to the RCP last December.

This webinar aims to highlight the cruelty and illegality of solitary confinement and help build the movement to end it in the UK and internationally.

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Filed under Miscarriages Of Justice, Prison, Uncategorized

Victory: charges dropped against Malaysian human rights lawyer Charles Hector & the environmental campaigners he represents

On 14 April at Kuantan High Court, Malaysia, contempt of court charges against lawyer Charles Hector and eight environmental rights defenders were withdrawn – a major victory in this ongoing struggle against logging contractors.

This followed an international appeal for support by Legal Action for Women, UK, signed by 21 lawyers, including UK distinguished human rights barrister Michael Mansfield QC, over 60 organisations and 80 individuals from 17 countries, condemning attempts to discredit and criminalize Charles Hector and the villagers.

The defendants expressed their appreciation for the support they received.

In Defence of Charles Hector campaign commented:

“We are deeply grateful to every individual, organization and movement that supported and showed solidarity to both Charles Hector, the other environmental rights defenders and their community.

Our special thanks goes to Legal Action for Women, which initiated the Open Letter and to the Wages for Housework Campaign and the Global Women’s Strike, which helped co-ordinate support from prominent individuals and organisations internationally.

“While many aspects of the connection between human rights and the environment are important, none is more urgent than the need to protect those individuals and communities who work, often at great personal risk, to protect the natural environment from unsustainable exploitation, and defend their human rights and that of their communities.

“It is through their efforts taking collective community action that the survival of the environment and human life depends.”

Present in court to support the defendants was prominent women’s rights lawyer Honey Tan with her team. Representatives of the Bar Council of Malaysia attended on a watching brief. One indication that international support had an impact on the case is that the federal counsel representing the chief minister of Pahang state turned up in court.  

The civil suit taken against eight inhabitants of Kampung Baharu, a village in Jerantut, Pahang by two logging companies continues on 5 May. Villagers are protesting intended logging in the nearby forest on which they depend for clean water and therefore for their lives and livelihoods.

Since the contempt of court charges have been dropped, Charles Hector can continue to represent them.

We will keep you informed as your support is still needed to prevent the logging, which could commence at any time.

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Filed under International, Miscarriages Of Justice, Uncategorized

Lawyers condemn attempts to discredit fellow lawyer

Lawyers and organizations from UK and a number of other countries write to Malaysian authorities condemning attempts to discredit and criminalize human right lawyer Charles Hector.

8 April 2021

Twenty-one lawyers, including human rights QC Michael Mansfield, over 60 organisations and 80 individuals from 17 countries, have signed an Open Letter distributed by Legal Action for Women, UK, condemning attempts to discredit and criminalize Malaysian human rights lawyer Charles Hector and the eight villagers he represents. 

——————————————————————————————————–

OPEN LETTER to: the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Chief Justice of Malaysia, Chief Minister of Pahang State Government, The Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), the Pahang Foundation, the Head of the Delegation of the European Union, the Malaysian Bar and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (​UNHCHR)

We condemn attempts to discredit and criminalize Malaysian human rights lawyer Charles Hector 

Legal Action for Women (LAW) and undersigned organizations condemn attempts to discredit and criminalize Malaysian human rights lawyer Charles Hector.  Mr. Hector is representing eight villagers in Jerantut who are protesting intended logging in the nearby forest on which they depend for clean water.

We urge the Malaysian authorities to take immediate action to stop a spurious application by logging contractors for leave to begin contempt of court proceedings against Mr. Hector.  The application is aimed at precluding a fair trial.  It is based on a letter Mr. Hector sent on behalf of his clients seeking clarifications in preparation for full trial.  The contractors claim that that this letter breached a temporary/interim injunction court order.  The Malaysian Bar recently called for new legislation to define contempt of court and what sentences it would carry.  Sentences now are entirely arbitrary and can include high fines, prison sentence and even the revocation of Charles Hector’s practicing lawyer certificate.  The hearing has been adjourned on a number of occasions and is now due to be heard on 14 April

Charles Hector is a highly respected human rights lawyer who has defended freedom of assembly, the rights of women, Indigenous people, migrants and refugees, workers, trade unionists, urban settlers, as well as land rights and administration of justice.  He is a former member of the Bar Council, and has also been instrumental in developing the Malaysian Bar Legal Aid Dock-Brief programme to ensure that all defendants who do not have a lawyer receive free legal advice and legal representation. 

The charges brought against Mr. Hector may aim to stop him from representing victims of possible collusion between regional state authorities and corporations, such as these Jerantut villagers.

On the basis of Articles 1, 5 and 12.2 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the UN in 1998, we demand an end to the harassment of Mr. Hector and the eight villagers who are defending human and environmental rights and exposing rights violations.   Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by a United Nations Congress, also states, amongst other things, that lawyers must never be barred from being ‘. . . able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; . . . (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.’ (Article 16)

The outcome of this case is being watched internationally, especially given the climate emergency and the targeting of human rights defenders and their lawyers.  We call for the immediate discontinuation of this contempt proceedings against the lawyer and his eight community human rights defender clients.

SIGNED BY: Nina López, Legal Action for Women, UK

And by:

LAWYERS

Michael Mansfield QC, UK

Jamie Bell, Duncan Lewis Solicitors, UK

Ryan Bestford, Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit

Hilary Brown, CEO, Virgo Consultancy Services Ltd

Nick Brown, barrister, Doughty Street Chambers, UK

Emily Burnham, non-practising solicitor, UK

Brenda Campbell QC, Garden Court Chambers, UK

Valerie Easty, barrister, Garden Court Chambers, UK

Michael Ellman, solicitor, ex-chair of Solicitors’ International Human Rights

Group, UK

Matt Foot, solicitor, Birnberg Peirce Ltd, UK

Russell Fraser, barrister, Garden Court Chambers, UK

Toufique Hossain, director of public law & immigration, Duncan Lewis Solicitors, UK

Kevin Hsu, non-practicing attorney, USA

James Lafferty, lawyer, USA

Alastair Lyon, solicitor, Birnberg Peirce and Partners, UK

National Lawyers Guild, San Francisco

Richard O’Keeffe, Head of Legal, United Voices of the World Union, UK    

Elizabeth M Millar, solicitor, UK

Damien Morrison, Morrison & Associates Solicitors, UK

Kali Schellenberg, lawyer, Relman Colfax PLLC, USA

Sham Sunder, Shaharudin Sham Sunder & Partners

Frances Swaine, solicitor, Managing Partner, Leigh Day Solicitiors, UK

Farhana Yamin, solicitor & climate activist, UK

ORGANISATIONS

Gloria Peters, All African Women’s Group, UK 

Wiranta Ginting, Asia Floor Wage Alliance, Indonesia

Reiko Harima, Asian Migrant Centre, Japan

Jenneke Arens, Bangladesh Group Netherlands

Rachel West, Bay Area Global Women’s Strike, USA

Jacob Berkson, Brighton Migrant Solidarity, UK

Luke Daniels, Caribbean Labour Solidarity (President), UK

Rama Ramanathan, Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances, Malaysia

Poai Hong Wong, Childline Foundation, Malaysia

Arjan van der Waal, Defenders in Dordrecht, The Netherlands

Kofi Thompson, Eco-Conscious Citizens group, Ghana

Niki Adams, English Collective of Prostitutes, UK

Pat Albright, Every Mother is a Working Mother Network/Phila., USA

Meenakshi Raman, Friends of the Earth (SAM), Malaysia

Rohana Ariffin, Gagasan Insan Progresif

Dr. Pillkyu Hwang, GongGam Human Rights Law Foundation, South Korea

Alex Burton, Global Justice Bloc, UK

Meena Jagannath, Global Network of Movement Lawyers, USA

Crissie Amiss, Global Women Against Deportation, UK

Selma James, Global Women’s Strike, UK          

Phoebe Jones, Global Women’s Strike, USA       

Pierre Labossière, Haiti Action Committee

Susan Englander, Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, USA

Jain Young, Heartland Communities, Inc., USA

NurFitri Amir Muhammad, IDRIS Association, Malaysia

Margaret Prescod, International Black Women for Wages for Housework

Hui Yein, Jaringan Hak Asasi Manusia, Malaysia

Sukhdev Reel, Justice for Ricky Reel

Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar, Klima Action Malaysia 

Kate Raphael, LAGAI Queer Insurrection, USA

LASSCAST collective, UK

Nina Lopez, Legal Action for Women, UK 

Alice Griggs, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, UK

Shahindha Ismail, Maldivian Democracy Network, Germany

Brahm Press, MAP Foundation, Thailand

Sam Weinstein, Momentum Camden, UK

Leslie Miles, New Future Foundation, USA

Laura Connelly, Northern Police Monitoring Project, UK

Adrian Pereira, North South Initiative

Giorgio Riva, Payday, Italy

Ben Martin, Payday men’s network, UK,

Eric Gjertsen, Payday men’s network/Phila, USA

David Gibson, Peace, Justice, Sustainability NOW!, USA

Lisa Pedersen, Peace Builders of Orange County, USA

Suguna Papachan, Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor (Friends of Women Organisation), Malaysia

Temma Fishman, Philadelphia Ethical Society, USA

Rumana Hashem, Phulbari Solidarity Group, Bangladesh

Shandre Delaney. Human Rights Coalition Fed-Up, Pittsburgh PA, USA

Didi Rossi, Queer Strike, UK

Ali M, Rakyat Jelata, Malaysia

Michael Kalmanovitz, Refusing to Kill initiative, UK

David Swanson, RootsAction Education Fund, UK

Kim Sparrow, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, UK

Suresh Kumar, SUARAM, Malaysia

Jacob Berkson, Sussex Refugee and Self Support Group, UK

Puni Selvaratnam, Tamil Women for Peace & Justice

William Mitchell, Toxicology & Industrial Hygiene Consulting, USA

Chee Yoke Ling, Third World Network, Malaysia

Leela Panikkar, Treat Every Environment Special, Malaysia

Rachel West, USPROStitutes Collective, USA     

Cardiff People’s Assembly, Wales

Sara Callaway, Women of Colour/Global Women’s Strike

Mary Shanthi Dairiam, Women’s Aid Organisation, Malaysia

Roz Jones, #MeToo Survivors, USA

INDIVIDUALS

Adjeley Akwei, Ghana           

Adrienne Fong, USA

Adwoa Sey, Ghana

Agnes Williams, USA

Alice Nah, University of York

Alissa Trotz, Canada/Guyana

Anna Thorburn, UK

Anne Hall, retired health care lecturer, UK

Anne Phoenix, UK

Anuradha Banerji, India

Barbara Gurley, USA

Berit Jordahl, USA,

Bill MacKeith, UK

Bob Goupillot, UK

C Gill, UK

Carol Fern Culhane, USA

Carolyn Hill, USA

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

Chris Barraclough, UK

Chris Peters

Clem Simon, BPP University, UK

Daniele Tamburlini, Italy

David Tejeda, USA

Dawn Sanders, UK

Devon Ferrucci, USA

Diana Bohn, USA

Dorothea Leicher, USA

Dr Felicity de Zulueta, Emeritus Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy at SLaM NHS Foundation Trust and Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer in KCL, UK

Dr Jonathan Fluxman, UK

Dr Laura Connelly, Lecturer in Criminology, University of Salford, UK

Dr Remi Joseph-Salisbury, Presidential Fellow in Sociology, University of Manchester, UK

Dr. Susan Curtis, USA

Ellen E Barfield, USA

Estelle Cohenny, Thailand

Evelyn Bradley, UK

Fidel Asante, UK

Fitnat Adjetey Esq., Ghana   

Frances Gilmore, USA

Geoff Francis, RMT (personal capacity)

Gray Davis, UK                        

Halil SAVDA, Conscientious Objector and Human Rights Defender, UK

Heulwen Baworowska, UK

Jane Welford, USA

Janet Love, UK

John McCormick, USA

Julius Williams, Ghana          

Katharine Johnson, USA

Kua Kia Soong, Malaysia

Laura Sedgy, UK

Linda Ray, SEIU 1021 Delegate to San Francisco Labor Council, USA

Liz Hilton, Australia

Lorry Leader, UK

Maggie Ronayne, Lecturer at the National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

Manjeet Panesar, UK            

Marcella Pedersen, member of National Farmers Union, Canada

Marta Guttenberg, USA

Nana Asante, UK

Naomi Caplin, UK

Naomi L Vinbury, USA

Nasreen Mahmud, USA 

Nell Myhand, USA

Nohad Nassif, author, USA

Olivia Qasir, Pakistan

Pamela Hall, USA

Rona Rothman, USA

Salai Yaw Aung, Thailand

Shoda Rackal, UK

Shreena Shah, UK                  

Shreena Shah, UK

Sidney Ann Ross-Risden, USA

Sophia Vassilakidis, USA

Symran Saggar, UK  

Teresa Muldrow, USA

Yvonne P Benn, High School of Economics & Finance, USA

Background

The contempt of court application has been initiated by two logging contractors, Beijing Million Sdn Bhd and Rosah Timber & Trading Sdn Bhd, appointed by the General Manager of the Pahang Foundation, being the Logging License holder. The Pahang Foundation is a statutory body of the Pahang State government. 

Since 2013, hundreds of villagers from Kampong Baharu and other villages in Jerantut, Pahang State, have been protesting logging in the Permanent Forest Reserve in Jerantut. The part intended to be logged is also a water catchment area.  The impact of deforestation on water catchment areas is well documented. 

Regardless of this classification, the Forestry Department issued a logging license in 2019 to the Pengurus Besar Yayasan Pahang (General Manager of the Pahang Foundation).  

The villagers rely on the sources in this forest for clean water for drinking, cooking and personal needs.  The water is a key to their livelihoods and food security which includes fish farming. Logging also threatens the critically endangered birds and animals of the forest; for example, the helmeted hornbill bird which is near extinction was sighted here.  The villagers submitted petitions with hundreds of signatures to the Pahang State Chief Minister (Menteri Besar), relevant members of State Cabinet and also Federal Ministers. In response, the Chief Minister directed the relevant government departments to address the issues raised.

On 19 February 2020, an agent of the logging contractors unloaded heavy machinery in front of the home of one of the defendants.  Villagers went to inquire about what was happening peacefully. Later, they discovered that a complaint had been made to the police accusing them of having disrupted and blocking the workers.  When they went to the police station to assist investigations, they were arrested, finger-printed, photographed, had their DNA sample taken and statements taken before being released on surety.

The following day, 20 February, the Jerantut Forestry Officer, Mohd Zarin Bin Ramlan, issued a letter suspending the logging companies’ permission to build an access road into the forest.  The main reason given was the “disturbances” caused by the villagers on 19 February.  At that time, the police hadn’t even completed their investigations, and it is suspicious how the Forestry concluded that the allegations were true. The police now have concluded their investigations and found that the allegations against the villagers were false/baseless.  It is highly likely that this 20 February letter of the Forestry Officer was the primary reason why the Court granted the temporary injunction order pending completion of full trial.

In the process of trial preparation, Charles Hector, as lawyer representing the eight villagers, wrote to Mohd Zarin Bin Ramlan individually, not in his official capacity as Jerantut Forest Officer, seeking clarification of this 20 February letter.  How this private letter even came into possession of the logging contractors still remains a mystery.  Hector’s letter to Mohd Zarin is now the basis of this contempt of court action initiated by the logging contractors against the eight villagers and Charles Hector, their lawyer.  

The loggers claim that Mr Hector’s clarification letter was in violation of the interlocutory injunction orders, in particular the order that prohibits the Defendants, ‘their agents, representatives, servants and/or any party connected with them’ from ‘1.4 Interfering with department or approval given to the Plaintiffs on 15 September 2019 by the District Forest Office ….1.5 Cause nuisance to the work of the Plaintiffs in any manner whatsoever including physically, online or by  communication with the authorities…[1]  The said order is vague.

It is unfathomable for an allegation of contempt to be based on a letter from legal counsel, acting on behalf of his clients, seeking clarification from the author of a disputed document.In preparation for trial, lawyers must reasonably seek clarification, interview potential witnesses, obtain documents and evidence.  The need to do this is even greater in civil procedures that require the pre-filing of documents and the provision of witness lists and statements before trial proper even starts.  

It is alarming that the court is hearing a complaint possibly aimed at manipulating the legal process to attack and discredit a dedicated human rights lawyer and silence the genuine concerns of the community.  The right to counsel of one’s choice and the right to a fair trial must be protected.  Human rights lawyers like Charles Hector play a vital role in ensuring access to justice and protecting the public interest.

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Dear Friends,

We write to ask if you could kindly donate to our annual Christmas appeal for destitute women and children in the All African Women’s Group (AAWG) — the self-help group of women asylum seekers based with us at the Crossroads Women’s Centre.  Each year we have been able to ensure that women have some money in their hands to cover essentials over the holiday period when they are without the usual support that the Centre provides.

The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed women into even more desperate situations. Women asylum seekers got just £37.75 a week to live on in pre pandemic times and that was increased by just £1.85. Many get nothing and are completely destitute. Since the lock down, we’ve worked with other organisations at the centre to get food vouchers and parcels to women in need,as well as phone top-ups/other help to ensure women are not isolated and can still pursue their cases and support each other.

Over half of the women in the group are mothers worried about their children going hungry. Some women have “No Recourse to Public Funds” and now can’t do waged work to support themselves. Many women, as you can imagine, are suffering from physical and mental health problems from rape and other torture that they suffered.

Last year as a result of people’s kindness, we were able to give 50 women a one-off payment comparable to one weeks’ worth of benefits. We worked together to distribute the money raised.  We’d like to be able to provide something similar this year.

We appreciate that the people we approach for help often don’t have much themselves especially in these very hard times, but women are always amazed at the generosity, lovely comments and good wishes received through the appeal. 

Even under lockdown women are campaigning to get their voices heard, raising destitution and the dependence and danger that comes from that, speaking about the impact of the climate crisis on women internationally, and where possible protesting about violence and lack of protection here and in their home countries as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

We are trying to raise at least £2,500 to match-fund a generous donor and ensure that the women who regularly attend AAWG’s monthly self-help meetings get a small cash payment. Anything you can give, no matter how small, will be greatly appreciated.  

Best wishes,

Niki Adams

How to donate:

1.    ThroughCrossroads Women’s Christmas Asylum Appeal2020. If you are a taxpayer the value of your donation isincreased by 20% at no extra cost to yourself if you choose to add Gift Aid toyour donation.

2.    Moneytransfer to Legal Action for Women, Unity Trust Bank, account number -50728361, sort code – 086001.  If donating online or direct into ouraccount, we would appreciate an email to let us know. 

3.    By cheque, payable to Legal Action for Women – please specify that you are donating in response to the Christmas Appeal and post the cheque to: Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX.

Thank You!

Legal Action for Women

 law@allwomencount.net  

Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX Tel: 020 7482 2496

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Filed under Asylum, Children, Uncategorized

Urgent Christmas appeal for destitute women and children

Dear Friends,

As Christmas and the school holidays are almost here, we write to ask again if you could kindly donate to our annual Christmas appeal for destitute women and children in the All African Women’s Group (AAWG) — the self-help group of women asylum seekers based with us at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. About 2/3 of women in the AAWG have been in detention and many of them are mothers, some are lesbian women.  Each year we have been able to ensure that women have some money in their hands to cover essentials over the holiday period when they are without the usual support, including food and second hand clothes, that the Centre provides.

We appreciate that the people we approach for help often don’t have much
themselves and are always amazed at the generosity, lovely comments and good wishes we receive.

Last year people as a result of this generosity, we were able to give 50 women a one-off payment of approximately £50 with which they were able to buy food and other essentials. We worked together to distribute the money raised.  A third of women at AAWG meetings, are destitute without any income.  Many are suffering from physical and mental health problems from rape and other torture that they suffered.

Like millions of people in this country women are dependent on food banks throughout the year. Some women are on National Asylum Support but can barely survive on the weekly allowance of £37. Some are living in terrible slum housing with abusive landlords who take advantage of their vulnerable position. Mothers are particularly desperate. Having a little cash in their hands means that women get some respite from dependency and the grinding worry of how they are going to survive the day or week.

Women who are fighting for asylum knowing that their lives would be in danger if they were sent back are able to get help and support with this too. Using LAW’s Self-Help Asylum Guide women take part in weekly work sessions with Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape to work on their own and each other’s cases,including taking calls from women in detention. All are encouraged and strengthened by the collective work at the Centre.

Women also speak at public events about the often hidden situation of women seeking asylum. With the climate crisis at the forefront of everyone’s minds, AAWG women have been speaking as farmers and as mothers, the primary carers in every society, who do the work of ensuring that people are fed, and who have been evicted or seen their land destroyed by environmental devastation.

This year we have had more lovely victories including a young woman from Albania who was at risk of honour killing if returned to her home country who won her case after nine years. Yet even having won this  may not be the end of the struggle as some women are fighting for housing years after winning their status and many are still fighting to be reunited with children they were forced to leave behind when they fled.

We are trying to raise at least £2000 to ensure that the women who regularly attend AAWG’s monthly self-help meetings get a small cash payment. Anything you can give, no matter how small, will help.

Best wishes,
Niki Adams

How to donate:

1.   Through Crossroads Women’s Christmas Asylum Appeal 2019fundraising page. If you are a taxpayer the value of your donation is increased by 20% at no extra cost to yourself if you choose to add Gift Aid to your donation.

2.    Money transfer to Legal Action for Women, Unity Trust Bank, account number – 50728361, sort code – 086001.  If donating online or direct into our account, we would appreciate an email to let us know. 

3.    By cheque, payable to Legal Action for Women – please specify that you are donating in response to the Christmas Appeal.

If you would like to donate non-perishable food, toiletries or other essential items, these would also be very much appreciated.  They can be delivered any day before 19 December to the Women’s Centre in Kentish Town (25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX).

Thank You!

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Filed under Asylum, Destitution, Uncategorized

Please sign urgently in defense of Malaysian human rights lawyer – by Sunday 21 March

SIGN HERE
OPEN LETTER to:  the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Chief Justice of Malaysia, Chief Minister of Pahang State Government, The Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), the Pahang Foundation, the Head of the Delegation of the European Union, the Malaysian Bar and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (​UNHCHR)

19 March 2020

We condemn attempts to discredit and criminalize Malaysian human rights lawyer Charles Hector 

Legal Action for Women (LAW) and undersigned organizations condemn attempts to discredit and criminalize Malaysian human rights lawyer Charles Hector.  Mr. Hector is representing eight villagers in Jerantut who are protesting intended logging in the nearby forest on which they depend for clean water.

We urge the Malaysian authorities to take immediate action to stop a spurious application by logging contractors for leave to begin contempt of court proceedings against Mr. Hector.  The application is aimed at precluding a fair trial.  It is based on a letter Mr. Hector sent on behalf of his clients seeking clarifications in preparation for full trial.  The contractors claim that that this letter breached a temporary/interim injunction court order.  The Malaysian Bar recently called for new legislation to define contempt of court and what sentences it would carry.  Sentences now are entirely arbitrary and can include high fines, prison sentence and even the revocation of Charles Hector’s practicing lawyer certificate.  The hearing is on 25 March 2021 at Kuantan High Court in Pahang, Malaysia

Charles Hector is a highly respected human rights lawyer who has defended freedom of assembly, the rights of women, Indigenous people, migrants and refugees, workers, trade unionists, urban settlers, as well as land rights and administration of justice.  He is a former member of the Bar Council, and has also been instrumental in developing the Malaysian Bar Legal Aid Dock-Brief programme to ensure that all defendants who do not have a lawyer receive free legal advice and legal representation. 

The charges brought against Mr. Hector may aim to stop him from representing victims of possible collusion between regional state authorities and corporations, such as these Jerantut villagers.

On the basis of Articles 1, 5 and 12.2 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the UN in 1998, we demand an end to the harassment of Mr. Hector and the eight villagers who are defending human and environmental rights and exposing rights violations.   Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by a United Nations Congress, also states, amongst other things, that lawyers must never be barred from being ‘. . . able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; . . . (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.’ (Article 16)

The outcome of this case is being watched internationally, especially given the climate emergency and the targeting of human rights defenders and their lawyers.  We call for the immediate discontinuation of this contempt proceedings against the lawyer and his eight community human rights defender clients.

SIGNED BY: Nina López, Legal Action for Women, UK

Background

The contempt of court application has been initiated by two logging contractors, Beijing Million Sdn Bhd and Rosah Timber & Trading Sdn Bhd, appointed by the General Manager of the Pahang Foundation, being the Logging License holder. The Pahang Foundation is a statutory body of the Pahang State government. 

Since 2013, hundreds of villagers from Kampong Baharu and other villages in Jerantut, Pahang State, have been protesting logging in the Permanent Forest Reserve in Jerantut. The part intended to be logged is also a water catchment area.  The impact of deforestation on water catchment areas is well documented. 

Regardless of this classification, the Forestry Department issued a logging license in 2019 to the Pengurus Besar Yayasan Pahang (General Manager of the Pahang Foundation).  

The villagers rely on the sources in this forest for clean water for drinking, cooking and personal needs.  The water is a key to their livelihoods and food security which includes fish farming. Logging also threatens the critically endangered birds and animals of the forest; for example, the helmeted hornbill bird which is near extinction was sighted here.  The villagers submitted petitions with hundreds of signatures to the Pahang State Chief Minister (Menteri Besar), relevant members of State Cabinet and also Federal Ministers. In response, the Chief Minister directed the relevant government departments to address the issues raised.

On 19 February 2020, an agent of the logging contractors unloaded heavy machinery in front of the home of one of the defendants.  Villagers went to inquire about what was happening peacefully. Later, they discovered that a complaint had been made to the police accusing them of having disrupted and blocking the workers.  When they went to the police station to assist investigations, they were arrested, finger-printed, photographed, had their DNA sample taken and statements taken before being released on surety.

The following day, 20 February, the Jerantut Forestry Officer, Mohd Zarin Bin Ramlan, issued a letter suspending the logging companies’ permission to build an access road into the forest.  The main reason given was the “disturbances” caused by the villagers on 19 February.  At that time, the police hadn’t even completed their investigations, and it is suspicious how the Forestry concluded that the allegations were true. The police now have concluded their investigations and found that the allegations against the villagers were false/baseless.  It is highly likely that this 20 February letter of the Forestry Officer was the primary reason why the Court granted the temporary injunction order pending completion of full trial.

In the process of trial preparation, Charles Hector, as lawyer representing the eight villagers, wrote to Mohd Zarin Bin Ramlan individually, not in his official capacity as Jerantut Forest Officer, seeking clarification of this 20 February letter.  How this private letter even came into possession of the logging contractors still remains a mystery.  Hector’s letter to Mohd Zarin is now the basis of this contempt of court action initiated by the logging contractors against the eight villagers and Charles Hector, their lawyer.  

The loggers claim that Mr Hector’s clarification letter was in violation of the interlocutory injunction orders, in particular the order that prohibits the Defendants, ‘their agents, representatives, servants and/or any party connected with them’ from ‘1.4 Interfering with department or approval given to the Plaintiffs on 15 September 2019 by the District Forest Office ….1.5 Cause nuisance to the work of the Plaintiffs in any manner whatsoever including physically, online or by  communication with the authorities…[1]  The said order is vague.

It is unfathomable for an allegation of contempt to be based on a letter from legal counsel, acting on behalf of his clients, seeking clarification from the author of a disputed document.In preparation for trial, lawyers must reasonably seek clarification, interview potential witnesses, obtain documents and evidence.  The need to do this is even greater in civil procedures that require the pre-filing of documents and the provision of witness lists and statements before trial proper even starts.  

It is alarming that the court is hearing a complaint possibly aimed at manipulating the legal process to attack and discredit a dedicated human rights lawyer and silence the genuine concerns of the community.  The right to counsel of one’s choice and the right to a fair trial must be protected.  Human rights lawyers like Charles Hector play a vital role in ensuring access to justice and protecting the public interest.
SIGN HERE

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Women’s Resistance

Behind Bars, US & UK

Vikki Law, author and journalist

6.30pm. Thursday 30 May 2019

Crossroads Women’s Centre

25 Wolsey Mews, Kentish Town, London, NW5 2DX

Vikki Law is a author and journalist who highlights in particular the effective and creativeorganising of women prisoners which is so often overlooked. Over half of women in prison in the UK have suffered domestic abuse and one in three sexual abuse. Two-thirds are mothers separated from their children and women of colour are disproportionately represented inside.It is rarely acknowledged how women prisoners and detainees are spearheading opposition to abuse in prison and detention.

Ms Law is author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles Of Incarcerated Women and Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities. She writes for NY Times, most recently on End Forced Labor in Immigrant Detention and is a regular commentator for Truth Out.

 

For more information:

Legal Action for Women & Women of Colour GWS

LAW@AllWomenCount.net / WomenOfColour@GlobalWomenStrike.net

020 7482 2496



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END DISCRIMINATION: RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS AND RESTORE SHAMIMA BEGUM’S UK NATIONALITY

From Charles Hector easytocall@gmail.com

Dear all,

In UK, a young woman, who had just given birth to a baby, currently at the Syrian refugee camp has had her citizenship revoked by the Home Secretary. It is a concern of all concerned with human rights and justice.

We invite your organisation/group to endorse this statement, which shall be issued as a Joint Statement of all endorsing groups. The statement was drafted in consultation with several individuals including from UK:

END DISCRIMINATION:

RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS AND RESTORE SHAMIMA BEGUM’S UK  NATIONALITY

We, the undersigned organizations and groups are appalled that the United Kingdom has revoked the citizenship of Shamima Begum, a 20-year-old mother who asked to come back to the UK after giving birth to a baby boy in a Syrian Refugee camp. While the UK government refused to allow her and her child in, the baby died.

It was reported that the Home Office sent Begum’s family in UK a letter informing her that Home Secretary Sajid Javid had made an ‘…order “removing her British citizenship” on Tuesday [19/2/2019]. The document, addressed to Begum’s mother, said the decision was taken “in light of the circumstances of your daughter…” (Independent, 20/2/2019)

DENIAL OF RIGHT TO BE HEARD & A FAIR TRIAL

It is unconscionable and unjust that anyone is deprived of one’s citizenship and/or nationality. It is even more shocking when they have not been accorded the right to be heard and to a fair trial. In addition, any decision should be made by the courts – not merely an administrative order of some Minister, in this case the Home Secretary.

The fact that the UK government knows that Begum is in a Syrian Refugee camp, not in the United Kingdom, and that she had been asking the government to help her and her baby get home, made this act of citizenship cancellation even more outrageous. The tragic death of her child, who was born a British citizen and may have been saved had he been allowed into the UK with his mother, is unconscionable.

The Home Secretary allegedly made his decision “…in light of the circumstances…” but Begum has not been heard, therefore the ‘circumstances’ may not be true – they have certainly not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Fifteen-year-old Begum, with a couple of friends, allegedly left the UK and travelled to Syria. She then allegedly got married to a man from Holland. They allegedly had children, and this is now her third child. Her other children apparently are also no longer alive. Her ‘husband’ was allegedly involved in ISIS and/or a terrorist group. There are allegations that Begum herself may have supported terrorist agendas, beliefs, ideology and may even have participated in their activities.

There can be many allegations, but allegations are irrelevant when it comes to the administration of justice, especially when the end result is the possible deprivation of liberty, or worse, the loss of nationality.  Allegations need to be proven beyond reasonable doubt especially when it comes to cancelling one’s birth right. Begum was a citizen at birth. She was not granted her nationality by any subsequent act of government.

What we have heard and seen in the media may have influenced the government of the day. There is always the possibility of bias, selective ‘quotes’ and/or selective reporting that may invite wrong conclusions.

The government, on the other hand, must be more thorough and just, especially if the end result is the expulsion of a person from the UK, the only country that Begum belongs to, the separation from her family there, and now the death of a new born.

At present, there is no crime in UK law that prescribes that the penalty is the revocation of citizenship. Even the worst of criminals, such as convicted mass murderers like the Yorkshire Ripper keep their nationality.

A mother, wife, child or relative of a person convicted of a crime should never be considered guilty simply because of family ties or association. If Shamima Begum did break UK law, then she should be brought back to the UK and accorded a fair trial. If convicted, then she should be sentenced as a citizen in accordance with the law.

DISCRIMINATION – Different treatment based on parentage…

Discrimination is also a major concern if different treatment is being accorded to a class of citizens who are assumed to be or maybe entitled to dual nationalities through parentage, or even marriage. Would other citizens of the UK, with no migrant heritage, be treated in the same way ending up with the revocation of their UK citizenship?

‘…Speaking after he revoked her British citizenship, [Home Secretary,] Sajid Javid said he would not take a decision that would leave an individual with nowhere to go…. Although he has not commented directly on the case, Mr Javid appeared to confirm earlier in the week the government felt able to take such action – which would prevent her from returning to the UK – because she is a dual national or has the right to citizenship elsewhere. Under international law, revoking someone’s citizenship is only permissible if it does not leave that person stateless….’ (Sky News, 21/2/2019).

It must be noted that Begum does not hold dual citizenship, which is permitted in the UK, but is a UK citizen from birth. The Home Secretary’s order would thus now make her stateless. Bangladesh has already stated that Begum does not have any right to Bangladeshi citizenship.

The position adopted by the UK is clearly discriminatory. It sets a frightening precedent for millions of people born in the UK to immigrant parents.  They can now lose their citizenship whilst those born to British-born parents cannot.

It is most disturbing to find out that there has been a significant escalation of removal of citizenship. This was highlighted by the Windrush scandal where Commonwealth citizens who had lived in the UK for decades were deported if they could not show documentation proving their citizenship. 

Removal of Citizenship has increased by 600% in a year. Over the past 10 years, 150 people have been deprived of UK nationality. Fourteen people were deprived of citizenship in 2016, and 104 in 2017. (Independent, 21/2/2019). 

This is another result of the ‘racist policy’ to create a ‘hostile environment’ against anyone assumed to be an immigrant from the ‘New Commonwealth’ (i.e. people from countries with mainly non-white populations) put in place by Prime Minister Theresa May when she was then Home Secretary.

Child Rights Convention – Removing A Mother’s Nationality Is Not In The Best Interest Of A UK Child Citizen

Begum’s son was born days before her citizenship was revoked and was therefore a UK citizen.  The government’s action was against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), amongst others, as it deprived him of his mother and of his right to be breastfed by her.  It was certainly not in the best interest of the child. His subsequent death is a tragedy that may have been avoided had his rights been prioritized. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott questioned whether stripping Begum of her nationality “made it impossible for her to fulfil her duties as a mother and bring her baby home to a safe place.”

Therefore we

Call on the UK government to forthwith revoke the Home Secretary’s order removing Begum’s UK citizenship/nationality, and immediately bring her back to the UK as per her request;

Call on the UK Government to respect human rights, including the rights of the child as contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); and

Call on the UK to abolish laws and/or policies that can result in discriminatory treatment against citizens based on factors including parentage.

SIGNED

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Dear Friends,


Each year, as Christmas approaches, we ask our friends and supporters to kindly donate to an appeal for destitute women from the All African Women’s Group (AAWG), one of the organisations based with us at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. We write now again to ask for your help.  

This year our struggle to make visible the extent and devastating impact of poverty on women and children has been helped by a UN Rapporteur whose scathing condemnation of the government’s “‘punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous’ austerity policies” was headline news. He reported that women had been targeted by the cuts and that levels of child poverty were “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster”. It was as if the welfare cuts had been designed by a “group of misogynists”, he said. 

AAWG members gave evidence including Trinity who was quoted in the press telling the Rapporteur that: “A lot of women are forced into poverty and into prostitution. I have been destitute and homeless from one place to another.” She added that she had survived an attempted rape from the husband of a friend she was staying with and “had boiling water poured on her when she resisted.” She and her child eat from food banks and “everything I’m wearing, apart from my hair, is from jumble sales“.

As we prepared this appeal, another member asked for her experience to be included:

I live on £32 [asylum support payments] which I get from the Post Office each week. My asylum claim was refused but I can’t go back because I will be killed. I now live with a woman who gave me some kind words when she saw me upset at a bus stop. Her children love me and I take care of them. My room in her house is so small it only fits a bed and my bag. I only eat the most basic cornmeal; I haven’t bought clothes for myself for nearly 10 years.”

At the last AAWG meeting women commended Trinity and other women for their bravery in speaking publicly about deeply humiliating experiences and commented that the strength of AAWG was one reason that despite all she recounted Trinity was able to describe herself and others like her as “survivors”.

Each AAWG meeting reveals victories – both large and small. Women also attend work sessions and learn, firstly from each other, how to summarise their case and the injustices they have suffered. They then use that summary to find a lawyer, ask their doctor for assistance or find backing from others to pursue their claim or get it back on track. This is anti-poverty, anti-destitution work.

The loudest cheer is always when women, finally, win their status and can go on to work and/or receive welfare benefits, and/or be reunited with their children. But getting there usually takes years, and during that time many women are denied all support. They are left destitute, dependent on the compassion and indignation of others to survive and pursue their rights.

We understand that the people we are asking for money, are also struggling financially and may also be living in poverty.  We ask you to give whatever you can manage to help women get through the holiday period when they can’t come as regularly to the Women’s Centre for food, warmth and support.

Legal Action for Women works closely with the All African Women’s Group to distribute the money. We aim to ensure that women get the equivalent of one week’s mainstream benefits, including the amounts for children where applicable.  There are no administration costs. Every penny raised will go to women and children and even a little bit can make an enormous difference.

How to donate:

1.    Click here to donate to the Asylum Appeal administered on our behalf by the charity Crossroads Women – please specify “Asylum Appeal” in the message box.  All donations can be gift-aided.

2.    Money transfer to our account: Legal Action for Women, Unity Trust Bank, account number 50728361, sort code 086001. If possible, please send an email to law@allwomencount.net to let us know.

3.    By cheque, payable to Legal Action for Women – please specify that you are donating in response to the “Asylum Appeal” and send to Crossroads Women’s Centre 25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX.

If you would like to donate non-perishable food, toiletries or other essential items, these would also be very much appreciated.  They can be delivered any weekday before 16 December to the Women’s Centre in Kentish Town. 

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Seminar: DO NO HARM

6-8pm Tues 11 September House of Commons, Westminster, Committee Room 14   All welcome

DO NO HARM

A seminar to gather evidence of the significant harm caused to children by separating them from their mothers and families, and which families are targeted for child removal and forced adoption.

Hosted by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP

Organised by Legal Action for Women

Speakers so far:

Andy Bilson, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, University of Central Lancashire – new research into rising levels of investigation of families by social services and of children taken ‘into care’

Victoria Childs, Psychotherapy and Counsellors Union – the (lifelong) impact of separation from birth families

Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Shadow Minister for Children & Families

Lisa Longstaff, Women Against Rape – separation can be worse than witnessing domestic violence: a New York court ruling

Anne Neale, Legal Action for Women, Suffer the Little Children & their Mothers – updated findings from the past year’s self-help case work

SHODA RACKAL, Breastfeeding Peer Supporter – protecting the bond between mother and child

Jean Robinson, Association for Improvement in the Maternity Services – the threat of having children taken stops mothers accessing services

A mother who kept her child, a mother who got her child back, and a grandmother whose grandchild was forcibly adopted.

Contact: law@allwomencount.net   020 7482 2496

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Filed under Children, Support not Separation, Workshop