Interview with William Francome, writer of ‘In Prison my Whole Life’

After our screening of  ‘In Prison all my life’, I spoke to film-maker and writer William Francome about what happened to Mumia Abu-Jamal, issues of racial tension in the US and his new project ‘The Penalty’ that will be starting raising money on Kickstarter on 6th November and looks to be released in early 2016.

Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Prison_My_Whole_Life#mediaviewer/File:Inprisonmywholelife.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RC: I understand that Mumia’s death sentence was revoked after the film was released, can you bring me up to date on what’s happened?

WF: While we were making the film was being made his death sentence was vacated but he had to stay   on death row because the state pulled an appeal to keep him on death row. After the filming it finally went through the courts and his death sentence was vacated. In America you have two phases of a trial in a death penalty case, you have a  guilt phase and a sentencing phase. He is still considered guilty of the crime but not sentenced to death. So he is still imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole, so he will still stay in prison until he dies of old age and he has no chance of getting out, currently.

RC: You mentioned that he has a limited chance of getting out or a free trial still, why is this?

WF: It is very difficult to appeal court cases in America. I feel myself that there were some serious issues within his case, but the courts have essentially said that they do not feel that is the case. You have to prove that a certain fact would have been strong enough that it would have swayed a jury one way or the another. That’s not the easiest thing to do, it’s often conceptual. In Mumia’s case the judge, in his PCRA (Post Conviction Relief Act) hearing, came out of retirement  specially to hear the case – the same judge that had heard his case in the beginning. Considering one of the main issues of him having a fair trial, was the bias of the judge, it was kind of ridiculous to have the same judge. I know that Mumia was hopeful that he would get a new trial, that’s where we left the film, we thought he might get one and in the end he didn’t. While he is no longer on death row, he still feels like he is serving a death sentence, he still considers it to be a travesty and that he is innocent and that if he had his day in court  he would have been able to get his fair trial that we didn’t think he had and that Amnesty don’t think he had. Whether he shot the policeman or not, I don’t know but what I do know is that he didn’t have a fair trial.

RC: What was the experience of making ‘In Prison All My Life’, was it a big learning curve?

WF: Yes definitely, I was at university when I wrote down the idea for the first time. Originally I had written this idea for a film and no one was interested, my sister was working at ITV and she pitched it there and to some other people and I kind of gave up on the idea. Two years later my girlfriend Katie was like, ‘let’s do this’ and then we decided we were going to do it. We got very lucky, Colin Firth and his wife Lydia got involved, they heard about what we were doing and they wanted to help us do it. It was a fantastic experience, it was very stressful and it was a learning curve but we had some fantastic people on board and some people who were really dedicated to making this film and to letting me have this vision and go on this journey. I was able to go off and meet these people and ask the questions I wanted to ask.

RC: Do you think things have progressed in the US or does it appear to be quite stagnant?

WF: I do definitely think things are changing, I think now we are seeing a level of debate around the death penalty that we have never seen before. Mumia’s case was the loudest and it was the most famous in the late 90s,  in 1998 you had a 80% approval rate of the death penalty in the US but now it’s down to 53/54%. That is a huge swing in twenty years, a significant 30%,  and I think a lot of that is to do with exoneration particularly DNA exoneration. I think that people are understanding, ‘well god if there’s one innocent person than that’s probably one too many and how much is it costing us?’ I think that people have pretty much acknowledged that it costs almost three times as much to have someone on death row and to executed than to leave them in prison for life.  I think that the general public is understanding a lot more, I can definitely tell that there is a shift and once you get to a point when you’re around 50% then it’s time to think that it is a fundamental issue in society  and surely we should look for a unanimous rather than a case of 50% either way.

RC: 53% still seems quite high, why do you think this is?

WF: I think there is all sorts of historical situations and reasons, I also think popular support in the UK is probably not as far off that as you think. I think people in America think that it is appropriate for people who have done horrendous things. I am not going to tell people what they should or should not agree with it. I think people think the death penalty is quite often an abstract thought of ‘someone deserves to die for doing this horrendous thing.’

When you actually explain to people,  it costs this much money and this is how many people who have been found to be innocent, and the issues of getting a fair trial in America, (especially if you’re poor or you’re some sort of minority), I think having something like an execution as the ultimate punishment suddenly seems like quite a major thing and I think when people begin to understand that their abstract idea of the death penalty really changes.

RC: Do you think that getting a fair trial in the US is still a big issue?

WF: Yes totally, there are endless people who’ve been innocent ended up on death row and in every case you hear the same thing time and time again: ‘I had a bad attorney’, ‘I didn’t have enough money to put up a good defence’, ‘the cops were racist’, or ‘I falsely admitted after two days of interrogation’. We had are these same problems crop up over and over again. I think what we are seeing with the 1000 people that have been exonerated from the Innocent Project is not just exceptional cases, but that there was a massive problem with injustice. Most people clean out because they’re too terrified whether they’re guilty or innocent, if you’re facing 100 years in prison  but are told that if you plead guilty you’ll get 10 years in prison then even if they’re not guilty you’ll still plead out. There are some serious serious issues with the American justice system. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to get a fair trial but I would not say it is a flawless system by any means.

RC: Do you think there is still a problem with racial prejudice in the US?

WF: Totally, I think there completely is. I think many of people wanted to see the election of Obama as America suddenly becoming this post-racial nation that had dealt with its’ race and history. But at the end of the day black men are still locked up in a way that is unprecedented in anywhere else in the world. We’re in a time where prison is a solution to a lot of society’s issues and people just get banged up to deal with whole sections of society. I think particularly in poor urban nations, policing is a completely different situation. For young black males, their experience of the criminal justice system is totally different to what I would have got as a young white teenager growing up in suburban America. I think those issues are still definitely there, even though we have elected a black president and the odd people who can surpass the issues the wider issue is still there. I think that it is very hard to change those, unless you really invest and change things through education, through policing, through jobs. Unless you tackle those issues you will see the same issues over and over again.

RC: Is lack of representation still a major issue?

WF: I think it’s a lack of equality on multiple levels. If you do not have a certain level of education, and your parents did not have access to a certain level of education so they did not have as good jobs so you then have the problem of poverty. This is very broad brush strokes, but say you have a lower level of health, and a lower life expectancy and you have less opportunities and access to jobs. And say you’re in an area where you have less access to jobs and you’re policed in a certain way because you’re considered to be more dangerous and scary than other parts of society. Whether that is by black or white police officers. I think it a multitude of issues that all get compounded together, the overall effect is still a very unequal society.

RC: Can you tell me a bit about your new film, more death penalty (!) what led you to continue with this topic?

WF: (Laughs) I promise this will be the last death penalty project! Last year, I drove across America with my co-director and a couple of producers  we made ten films on the road. (The project is called ‘One for Ten‘) They’re all online and are free to download. It was a project that we wanted to be open to the public and it to be as interactive as possible. However, after this we still had a few more questions and in this privileged position with these relationships we had made we wanted to do another project answering these questions. In America it seems to be a really important point with the death penalty, we’re approaching the 50% mark, and I think when you approach the 50% mark then we really should be talking about this a bit more deeply. So we wanted to make a film that answered all these questions.

RC: What is different about your new film? 

WF: In this new film The Penalty, we are going to be talking to people about it from all sides, and we’re following three major characters.  This one guy who was on death row and was released after 15 years and who has got his life back on track, a lawyer who is trying to prevent his client from being executed by one of these new drug cocktails, and the third and final story which we are still looking for which is a family who are waiting for the execution of a loved one. We really want to look at it from all sides and look at what the reasons are for having it and what the reasons are for not having it. We don’t want it to be a campaign piece saying this is what you should think, we really want people to ask themselves questions. We think people often think of the death penalty as an abstract term so the worst of the worst people who have done the most horrendous things. I think often that is not the case, and the reality is a lot more complex. We just want to show those people and ask them: ‘what do you think now?’ and is this the sort of society you want to live in.

[Further updates will be made with the rest of the interview! Another three/four questions to follow.]

Rob Hallam

Newsletter 2014-10-19: Ferguson, PUB QUIZ THIS SUNDAY and some Reminders

Hello again! With the passing of another week I would like to thank everyone who tended the shop while I was away in the south. You all kept things running smoothly! I’d also like to say thank you to everyone who came along to the screening of In Prison My Whole Life and to the debate with the Dialectics where we got some more photos for our #notodeathpenalty campaign. If you missed Bex’s writeup on the documentary it’s well worth a read, and it ties in nicely to what we’ll be doing in the week ahead.

All in all given how well the week went, I may have to go away more often…

This Week: Ferguson

Tuesday 14th October, 5PM, QMU Committee Room 1

Ferguson protest in the street

From the death penalty we move on to our first choice of campaign for this year: Ferguson. This is the first time that we’ve covered something of this nature happening in the US, so it’s new ground for novel campaigning ideas!

Announcing: GU Amnesty’s Pub Quiz!

Sunday 26th October 2014, Jim’s Bar, 8PM

Pub quiz 2013 team

So you think you know your stuff? It’s that time of year again: time for another GU Amnesty Pub Quiz! Join us on Sunday 26th October (this coming Sunday, a week today) in Jim’s bar for several rounds of delightful brain-teasing questions. Entrance is £3 (thinking of the Raise-off already!) and there will be some great prizes to be won. So get those thinking caps on!

Click ‘going’ on the Facebook event page, you know you want to! And invite your friends too- the more people that go the higher the pot!

You can also have a look at the photos from last year’s Pub Quiz which should show what a great time we had.

SPB Poster Competition

Accepting entries now!

Do you think you heave what it takes to win an award from an award-winning show? If you have some creative flair and a knack for digital artistry you mays be interested in participating in our very own poster competition!

The competition has run for the last couple of years and produced some great results:

2013 Poster2014 Poster

…And yours could take their place amongst them! The details we need are:

GU Amnesty International
Date :February 21st
Title :The Secret Policeman’s Ball
Hosted by Billy Kirkwood
The Venue : Qudos, Queen Margaret Union
Price: £6 for comedy only £8 with afterparty in Jim’s Bar (£7/9 O.T.D.)
Doors: at 7.30pm

If it’s a format that translates well between large poster (A3) and flyer (A5) sizes so much the better, even if the two versions are slightly different.

The deadline is 31st October 2014 and the grand prize is two tickets to this year’s SPB. Plus the whole bunch of kudos and exposure of having your design plastered around the West End and online.

Please send your entries to spb@guamnesty.org.uk; and good luck to all entrants!

More info can be found in the Facebook event.

AIUK Student Conference – Reminder and Motions

November 1-2 2014, London (deadline for motions is Monday 23rd October)

Student conference

I’ll be reminding you again about the student conference (see below) but first we had a message in from Rachel Statham, the Scottish STAN rep about making policy proposals at the student conference:

The Student Conference AGM is the opportunity for students to have their say, and resolutions can be passed on pretty much any aspect of Amnesty policy, provided that the action you call for is to ask the STAN Committee to do something. For example previous resolutions have asked that the STAN Committee not fly within the UK (exempting Northern Ireland) when travelling to meetings, and have asked us to raise particular issues with the AIUK Board.

This is a brilliant chance for every student activist to engage in the governance of Amnesty, as you can also ask us to help facilitate bringing a motion to National AGM, on a campaign you would like to see Amnesty UK doing. Last year this is exactly what happened when a motion brought forward requesting a focus on Human Rights Abuses in Guatemala, was passed at the AGM in Edinburgh. This motion, stemming from a proposal from a student group at the student AGM, and is now a formal AIUK Campaign.

The deadline for submitting resolutions is Midday on 23rd October, so it’s very soon. Please consider bringing forward a motion, and engaging with the AGM. Don’t hesitate to contact us, by email or facebook, for any advice or more information.

Governance and policy are really important areas to get right, and it’s vital we all are able to have a say in how Amnesty International (and STAN, in this case) conducts its business. Please get in touch very soon if you have something you would like raised or would like more info on the process.

Don’t forget to register on the student conference page! Although the registration fee costs £20, we can apply to the SRC for a reimbursement on that so keep those receipts! There are workshops, campaign actions, discussions, socialising and much more. Let’s not forget we have an award to pick up for last year’s Secret Policeman’s Ball! Please let me know if you are interested in coming and we can try to make travel plans for the group.

Jamnesty Update: Venue confirmed!

Wednesday 26th November 2014

Thanks to the efforts of Domi, Joe and Milia we have confirmed Stereo as a venue for Jamnesty on 26th November. This will be an excellent place to host the great music we’ll be hearing over the course of the night and is a significant expansion over our previous venue of The Halt.

It should be a great night! Keep your eyes peeled for further announcements closer to the time.

Sleep Out Reminder!

Friday 24th October 2014

Last reminder this week I promise!

The annual sleep-out returns! GU Amnesty has long been involved in these and they’re a really good way to raise both money and awareness. Basically the idea is to meet up with sleep gear (bags/mats/etc), hang out for a bit in the evening to chat and listen to the music and/or theatre sketch (latter TBC!).

Unfortunately it looks like it won’t be possible to use the Wellington Church as a venue this year, which is a shame as it was almost ideal! The venue is still TBC at time of writing.

Update: Kit has confirmed that the sleep out will be held in the cloisters as he was able to secure permission for it to be held there.

The SurveyMonkey poll for the charity to be fundraised for in the sleep-out is here.

Thanks for Reading

This week’s newsletter had a generous portion of reminders of upcoming events and things of note. But sometimes they’re necessary (I do try and keep the newsletter short and also mark reminders clearly!); and some don’t mind them:

A pair of seagulls from Port Issac

Including this couple from Port Issac.

Get in Touch

If you have any questions, suggestions or feedback you can always get in touch either via the website or on Facebook or Twitter.

Just don’t say ‘less reminders’, please!

Reporting on the Documentary: In Prison my Whole Life

Mumia Abu-Jamal was taken into police custody on 9th December, 1981 after being accused of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner with limited evidence. He has remained under police control ever since.

That is, at the time of writing (14th October 2014), 11,997.6 days (32 years, 10 months). Ten years more than my life time. He spent 11,008 days on death row waiting to die, until on 29th January 2012, after over a decade of public protest, his death sentence was repealed.

How you ask, can a government get away with keeping someone on death row in the 21st century without a fair trial? The answer, Abu-Jamal’s case like a number of others, relies upon a court decision with a jury that is fairly represented and a judge who is impartial.

Abu-Jamal had neither of these in his original court case.

The prosecutor in Abu-Jamal’s case, Joseph McGill, de-valued the role of the jury by saying that the case would be “appeal after appeal” and that he would not ever be executed.  This could have led to a less engaged jury. The jury was also not racially representative, with only three African Americans on the jury (25%), when the African American population at the time in Philadelphia was 44%.

At a period of severe racial hatred, racial representation was critical in a court of law. While he was not executed, he still spent 11,008 days waiting to die, something that can only be described as a slow tortured death.

Before the 'Mumia' law was passed that removed the possibility of taking photos of prisoners.

This photo was taken before the ‘Mumia’ law was passed in Pennsylvania which removed the possibility of taking photos or video footage of prisoners.

The lack of a fair trial also extends to the judge; Judge F.Sabo had a track record of sentencing people to death; he sentenced 33 people to execution in his career.  Overheard at the beginning of the trial saying “I’m going to help them fry the n*****”, he was openly corrupt and racist. This suggests that perhaps personal opinions influenced his court ruling, which resulted in the death of only two white people out of 33.

Another important point to add, is there is little concrete evidence to show that Abu-Jamal was guilty. From looking at photos taken by Pedro Polakoff at the scene, that came into public view in 2012, it is clear to see the murder weapon being held along-side Falkner’s police gun in another police officer’s un-gloved hand. This shows that no forensic investigation had taken place.

Later it appeared that  witness, Veronica Jones, a prostitute had been blackmailed by the police force to speak out against Abu-Jamal in return for a removal of her 10 year sentence which had meant that she would lose custody of her children. When she admitted her false testimony in 1996, Jones was called up on a five year old sentence for an unsigned cheque of $250 and arrested in the court room.

The corruption in the case surrounding the witnesses, also led only eye-witness who saw the whole event to remain silent. This was the brother of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Billy Cook, who Mumia had come to help as he was being assaulted by the deceased police officer.

Further corruption in the case is shown through the changing of statements from police officers, initially reported as having said ‘nothing’, this was changed a month later to Abu-Jamal screaming out and saying: “I shot the motherf**ker and I hope he dies.” As he was suffering from a punctured lung that was filling up with blood, medical evidence suggested that this would have not been possible for him to speak, let alone scream.

While corruption in the case is three-fold and required a re-trial time and time again it was rejected, and was only taken up on June 10th 1991, after Abu-Jamal had spent nine years and six months on death row.

Abu-Jamal is in an inescapable situation as he is still imprisoned for life without parole. However, he still manages to provide a “voice for the voiceless”, and keeps in touch with his former job as a radio journalist and newspaper journalist. Reporting on Ferguson and comparing it to Gaza two days ago on prison radio, he still fights for justice, even when justice has kept him behind bars.

His fighting for justice, also turned him into an author of seven books, with multiple best sellers. He also has a book coming out next year which shows that this prisoner, while he has lost his freedom of movement has definitely not lost his freedom of speech.

Abu Jamal, similar to the likes of Martin Luther King, fought for what he believed in. However, because it did not go against those who could be ‘demonised’, the good old police force, he instead was tarred with the brush of a ‘terrorist’ and removed from public view and contained within ‘a room the size of your bathroom’.

The issue of racial prejudice, has come back into the news recently with the outburst in Ferguson, St. Louis after the death of teenager Michael Brown. Similar to the case of Abu-Jamal, the police officer involved has not been tried in a court of law.

The major problem that has arisen from this is that popular belief is that if the young teenager had been white, there would have been greater repercussions. Or if it had been the police officer, as in the case of Abu-Jamal, Michael Brown would have been charged.

It appears that the police force, can only be the good guys. Even in the wake of Ferguson which has shone another light on racial prejudice, it is almost impossible to challenge the police force, even if it appears that they are breaching human rights. The police in Ferguson were shown to be using tear gas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters.

 

Rob Hallam

Newsletter 2014-10-12: Election Results, Upcoming Events and CFCI Update!

Another week has flown in! Congratulations to our three new committee members:

  • Fundraising Officer Joe Clerke
  • Ordinary Board Sarah Bacom
  • Ordinary Board Seb Hammani

And my deep regrets to those who stood but were not elected- please don’t be too disheartened, we definitely still very much want and appreciate your input over the coming months! The main AGM will take place in the second semester for those interested in standing then. I hope you will be just as keen!

Thanks to everyone who helped making the banners for the death penalty demo on Friday; and my apologies for the confusion over the crafting session- due to issues with room bookings we decided to use the banners we already had plus the two that were made on Tuesday. A big well done especially to those who braved the intermittent showers to get all the #notodeathpenalty photos on Friday!

If all the death penalty campaigning has piqued your interest and you have ideas or want to get involved give us an email at campaigns@guamnesty.org.uk.

Tuesday 14th October: Film Screening of In Prison My Whole Life

5PM, Boyd Orr Building Room 222

In Prison My Whole Life

Please note the venue! We’re over in the Boyd Orr Building for the meeting this Tuesday. We’ll be watching the film In Prison My Whole Life, which we saw the trailer for last week. If you missed it, you can see it here:

(link for those reading in email: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7K3pdnsWmM)

The film deals with the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted in July 1982 of killing a police officer. The title comes from the day in December 1981 of Abu-Jamal’s arrest- the day Will Francome (creator of the documentary) was born. We’re lucky to have Will Francome joining us via teleconference after the screening too. It should be a very good watch! More information and join the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/721239527960240/.

Wednesday 15th October: Death Penalty Debate with Dialectics

6PM, Boyd Orr Building

Rounding off our look at the death penalty (for the time being) will be this debate conducted by the Dialectics society. Join us for a discussion of how the death penalty is used internationally in what promises to be a very informative look at some of the issues surrounding extrajudicial killings, war crimes and mob justice.

Get more info and join the event on Facebook!

Reminder: AIUK Student Conference

November 1-2 2014, London

Student conference

Another quick reminder about the student conference coming up soon. We’ve got a few folks confirmed as going, so do get in touch if you want to come along! It’s a two-day dive into what Amnesty International is all about: campaigns, actions… and meeting and socialising with other groups!

Although the registration fee costs £20, we can apply to the SRC for a reimbursement on that so keep those receipts! There are workshops, campaign actions, discussions, socialising and much more. Let’s not forget we have an award to pick up for last year’s Secret Policeman’s Ball! Please let me know if you are interested in coming and we can try to make travel plans for the group.

Places go quickly so don’t delay! More information and booking link are available on the student conference page; if you are travelling down please let me know and we can book something all together!

GU GRASS Info

GRASS header

Since there was interest in GRASS last week after Kit filled us in on some upcoming events (Thanks Kit!) I thought it would be worthwhile to give a few more details for those that might be interested in what’s happening and the great work that they do.

So first of all, from their about page:

At Glasgow University, we use our position as a university society to help asylum seekers and refugees in the best ways we can. As Glasgow is a distribution centre for refugees, a strong network of support for arriving refugees and asylum seekers in Glasgow is really important. GRASS began in 1999 and has been working to improve the lives of refugees ever since.

You can find them on Facebook and their website is pretty informative for things like past and current projects. Also on Facebook is the event page for their Pub Quiz which Kit also mentioned.

Sleep-Out: Friday 24th October 2014

The annual sleep-out returns! GU Amnesty has long been involved in these and they’re a really good way to raise both money and awareness. Basically the idea is to meet up with sleep gear (bags/mats/etc), hang out for a bit in the evening to chat and listen to the music and/or theatre sketch (latter TBC!). Unfortunately it looks like it won’t be possible to use the Wellington Church as a venue this year, which is a shame as it was almost ideal! Despite this it will be going ahead in a couple of weeks, so dig out the sleeping bag and get sponsored!

The SurveyMonkey poll for the charity to be fundraised for in the sleep-out is here.

Jamnesty Update

Domi and Milia have been working hard to get things sorted out for Jamnesty in November, which is already shaping up to be a fantastic night! We’ve a number of options for venues, and the line up of acts is looking good. If you want to get involved there’s still time, just email jamnesty@guamnesty.org.uk.

SPB Update

As mentioned last week the SPB organisation is truly getting underway. Billy is totally on board with the plans and also wants to make this year bigger and better than ever!

Duncan will be organising another meeting of the SPB subcommittee this week – likely to be Monday afternoon – for those coming on-board (such as those who signed up on Tuesday- thanks to you guys!), so keep an eye on Facebook for the details on that. If you want to be involved, either get in touch via FB or email spb@guamnesty.org.uk.

CFCI News!

CFCI banner

The Conflict-Free Campus Initiative has been a campaign GU Amnesty has been at the heart of for over two years. Briefly, it aims to change University purchasing policy to favour electronic items (PCs, laptops, tablets etc) which are produced in a ‘conflict free’ way. This means that, for example, the minerals such as gold, tin, tantalum and so forth are extracted and traded in a way that doesn’t result in millions of deaths. You can read more about the background of the CFCI, conflict minerals and what’s being asked asking for in our petition or the other information we have on it.

The CFCI is now an inter-society coalition, much like the fossil fuel divestment group was. And much like the fossil fuel divestment group had a very good result result in the uni senate recently so did the CFCI! The senate agreed to set up a working group (much like it did previously with the fossil fuels group) to examine the case for implementing the CFCI proposals. It’s a big step on the road, but there’s still a ways to go. On that note:

Wednesday 29th October: Conference

‘Conflict in the Congo: Responses from the International Community’

4-6PM, Senate Room, Main Building, University of Glasgow

With several interesting speakers, this conference co-hosted by CFCI Glasgow, GHRN and Global Security Network is a great opportunity to find out in a bit more detail what has been going on in the Congo and what the response has been.

The event will be free and open to everyone, including all students and staff at the University, members of the Glasgow Human Rights Network and the Global Security Network, and anyone outwith the University who may be interested. The hope is that this event will provide an education to those who have little or no understanding of the on-going conflict in the DRC, as well as giving people from campaigning/academic backgrounds with a focus on the DRC or human rights and conflicts the opportunity to engage with a range of speakers who can discuss various aspects of international interventions.

It looks really great and I know that Ruth has put a lot of work into organising the event, so I would strongly recommend gong if you’re free at 4 on Wednesday 29th! You can always check out the CFCI Facebook page for more info and updates.

Glasgow West Comedy Night

Wednesday 22nd October, 7:30 PM, The Stand Woodlands Road, £7

Our friends at the wonderful Glasgow West Amnesty group are putting on their annual comedy night, which is coming up on the 22nd of October. I’ve been to these before and it’s a great laugh!

More info is available on the event listing page, and you might want to check out Glasgow West’s page as well.

Closing

This week the newsletter comes to you from Sandridge Barton, near Stoke Gabriel in Devon. Reflecting those environs, I will leave you simply with a photo facing down to the River Dart. Enjoy.

View down to River Dart
(Click for bigger size)

Get in Touch

If you have any questions, suggestions or feedback you can always get in touch either via the website or on Facebook or Twitter.

Rob Hallam

Photos from Meeting 3: Elections and Death Penalty

A big big well done to everyone who stood in the elections today, it’s not easy to talk in front of everyone. I wish we could have taken you all onto the committee, I really do. Congratulations to Joe, Sarah and Seb though!

There were some great ideas for banners bandied about this afternoon to for our Death Penalty demo on Friday- can’t wait to see the results!

 

Rob Hallam

Newsletter 2014-10-04: Important Announcement, Death Penalty and Many Events

Hello again to everyone. Thanks to everyone who took part in the #DemocracyNowHK photo action last week. Those photos had a huge reach on Facebook and are being Tweeted out- showing that we stand in solidarity with those protesting and risking so much in Hong Kong. We’ve some important announcements in this week’s newsletter, so be sure to read at least those. It also means this week’s instalment is another lengthy bulletin; please bear with me!

** Important Elections Announcement! **

Tuesday 7th October

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been reminding you of the elections for 2x Ordinary Board member committee positions happening this Tuesday. In addition, our lovely Fundraising Officer Nikola has taken the difficult decision to step down as a committee member.

This means that the position of Fundraising Officer will also be available for election this Tuesday (7th October).

Nikola has been an enthusiastic member for the last couple years and did a great turn last year as Publicity Officer; and we are very sad to see such a talented person leave the committee. But we’re still happy as she will be coming along to weekly meetings!

Nikola

If you are interested in the positions available (OBM or Fundraising Officer), it may be of interest to read the position descriptions written for the AGM last year. This might help you decide if the role is for you. If you have ideas (and some of the folk I’ve talked to who seemed keen do) you can certainly go beyond the job description!

All the best to Nikola and good luck to anyone standing on Tuesday.

First Semester Campaigns

In other exciting news, we all discussed, debated and ultimately chose the campaigns we will be prioritising in the first part of the year. Up to Christmas (82 days at time of writing- start buying those presents now!) we will be focusing on:

  • Unrest situation in Ferguson, MO (starting in 2 weeks!)
  • Human Trafficking
  • Food Banks
  • and, if we have time, Human Rights in Russia

The voting was very close! It was really positive to both have suggestions from the group (as opposed to from the committee) and that they were taken on board to such a great extent. Please don’t be too disappointed if your preferred campaign(s) didn’t get selected- there is always next semester! We are also hoping to get a letter-writing lunchtime session up and running, as well as expanding how we do online actions. You’ll never be stuck for campaigning with GU Amnesty!

Drinking Bird Loves Campaigns

And so am I.

As a side note, we have plans to work on both Syria and Women’s Rights in the second semester, due to collaborations with the Coalition for Syrian Refugees and International Women’s Week. Stay tuned!

This Week: Elections and Death Penalty

Tuesday 7th October, 5PM, QMU Committee Room 1

I’ve already covered elections in the special notice earlier in this newsletter; if you missed it please skip back a couple of paragraphs and read the info! We intend to kick things off with the elections first of all, as the prospect of speaking can make people somewhat nervous. Try not to stress too much about it though, we’re all friendly; and if you have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

12th Day Against the Death penalty

Thanks to the work of our Campaigns Officer Alex, we have a ready-to-go campaign for you all to get involved with before we start on our chosen campaign of Ferguson later on this month. Our first campaign is the worldwide abolition of the Death Penalty, a perennial favourite. We have a few events planned for this already!

Upcoming Events

Death Penalty-Related

Demo Against the Death Penalty

Friday 10th October, Library Hill

There will be a demo, probably on Library Hill on October 10th, International Day Against the Death Penalty. We have some decorations and such from our demo last year, but we’re always mad keen for banner-making!

Death Penalty Film Screening

Tuesday October 14th, 5PM, Venue TBA (Likely Boyd Orr Building)

We intend to screen a documentary or film as part of the death penalty campaign, which will happen a week on Tuesday. More details closer to the time.

Death Penalty Debate with Dialectics

Wednesday 15th October, Time/Venue TBA

This should be an interesting one. While the debate over the death penalty as an judicial option rages on, we and the Dialectics felt it had been overdone. So this debate will likely centre around extrajudicial uses of the death penalty- in times of war, in terms of mob/vigilante ‘justice’, and in the use of drones. These are all scenarios which have cropped up over again in recent times, and yet they don’t seem to provoke the same sort of response as killings carried out on the orders of judges.

Come along and join the debate.

Other Events

Academics at Risk Event (Reminder)

Monday 6th October, 3-6PM, Glasgow University Concert Hall

There is an event which may be of interest put on by GU Settlement to inform people about the work of CARA:

The University of Glasgow, with assistance from GU Settlement, is hosting a CARA (The Council for At-Risk Academics) awareness raising event.
The Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA) has provided protection and support to refugee and ‘at risk’ academics for over 80 years. The defence of academic freedom continues to underpin CARA’s work assisting academics who, for reasons of persecution and conflict, are unable to continue their research in their countries of origin.
The event will be chaired by Prof John Briggs (Vice Principal and GU Refugee Champion) and Prof Alison Phipps (GU CARA Rep/ GRAMNet).
A representative from GU Archives will discuss the historical role that the University has played in supporting dispossessed and displaced people and there will also be the opportunity for round table and informal discussion.

UK Premiere: Beneath the Blindfold

Thursday 9th October, 6-8PM, GFT 12 Rose St

We’re lucky as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival to be able to attend the UK premiere of this documentary giving accounts of torture:

Screened in partnership with Document, the International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, four torture survivors from around the globe courageously tell the stories of their mistreatment and their subsequent attempts to move beyond these horrifying experiences. The film follows them as they build new lives and, despite the continued psychological and physical fallout from their experience, become public advocates for an end to torture.

See the information page for more details.

Student Forum at Document 12

Friday 10th October, 12-3PM, CCA Glasgow on Sauchiehall Street

This may be of interest to some as part of the Document 12 film festival on in Glasgow from 9-12th October.

On Friday 10th October from 12-3pm we have a FREE Student Forum in the Club Room of the CCA (Sauchiehall St). Presented in conjunction with GRAMNet and the Glasgow Human Rights Network, the forum will screen two documentaries taking different perspectives on the contemporary experience of Palestinian children: Stone Cold Justice (Dir. Gabi Weber) looks at the contrasting legal rights enjoyed by young Israelis and Palestinians in the context of increasing arrests of Palestinian boys by the Israeli police force, while Since I Was Born (Dir. LAURA DELLE PIANE) tells the story of 11-year-old Tamer growing up in Dheisheh refugee camp, The West Bank. The screenings will be followed by a discussion led by Beth Pearson, Keith Hammond and Dr. Naomi Head all from Glasgow Uni.

See the facebook event for more details.

Amnesty UK Student Conference

London, 1-2 November

Student conferences are always a blast! In a little under a month the UK Student Conference will kick off at Amnesty UK’s HQ in London. It costs’s £20, and there are workshops, campaign actions, discussions, socialising and much more. Let’s not forget we have an award to pick up for last year’s Secret Policeman’s Ball! Please let me know if you are interested in coming and we can try to make travel plans for the group.

Places go quickly so don’t delay!

Amneslunchtime Amnesletters

Weekly

I mentioned this at the meeting last week but in case anyone missed it, we’re intending to start up a weekly lunchtime letter-writing session in the Fraser Building. It’ll give us a chance to go a bit further in taking action on campaigns and harnessing the keenness of the group.

Details will follow once we’ve decided on a day. The intention is to tweet / say on FB when we are there and roughly where we’re seated.

Watch this space!

Secret Policeman’s Ball Update

21st February 2015!

It may only be the start of October, but we already have a date for all your diaries:

Saturday 21st February 2015 will be night we have our Secret Policeman’s Ball!

If you haven’t heard of the SPB before, the short version is that it’s a night of comedy (modelled on the ones put on by Amnesty international) and our biggest fundraiser of the year. It’s hosted by the ever-funny Billy Kirkwood, and we’ve won multiple awards for them over the years.

SPB 2014 LaunchSPB 2014SPB 2014 Afterparty

More details will come over the next few weeks and months, but there’s plenty to be doing in the meantime- publicity, decoration, organisation. If there’s any aspect of this huge event you’d like to get involved with – looks great on the CV, by the way – please let Duncan or me know. Duncan is heading up the organisation of the SPB this year, for which we’re all very thankful!

Well Done For Reading Reward

This week’s ‘thanks for reading’ bounty is one for fans of Rube Goldberg machines (that’s a Heath Robinson machine if you’re on this side of the Atlantic). Some of you may have seen this before, but it’s so delightfully done I could watch it again and again.

(link for those reading in email format: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qybUFnY7Y8w)

See you all on Tuesday for the elections and Death Penalty!

Get in Touch

If you have any questions, suggestions or feedback you can always get in touch either via the website or on Facebook or Twitter.

Rob Hallam

Newsletter 2014-09-14: Freshers’ Week, First Meeting and Beyond!

We’re back! September has arrived and the new term is nearly upon us. This is a busy time for everyone and a really important time for us with new members and a whole bunch of events to kick off the new academic year.

Freshers’ Week

15-21 September 2014

Freshers’ week is one of the most important parts of the year for us- chances are high if you’re reading this that you’ve at least wandered by our stall during Freshers Week one September! If you’ve an hour to spare (or more), please come along– it’s a great way to meet the new faces who’ll be coming along this year and would really help us out. Get in touch with us either via email, Facebook or Twitter; or if you prefer you can fill in the Doodle: http://doodle.com/65zgchrx98mvgwun#table. Let us know, we’ll really appreciate it. If you don’t, well:

Stern Bird is judging you

But if you are able to lend a hand, then:

Happy Bird sez well done you

Avian persuasions aside1, if you can come along that would be great and we’d love to see you there.

The Freshers’ Fair Stall

16-17 September, 10-4, Randolph Hall

We have booked a stall which will be in Randolph Hall on Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th September from 10 AM to 4PM. Wearing our best smiles we’ll be chatting to Freshers about what we do, our meetings and events, and generally looking like the society that everybody wants to join.

Collaboration with STAR & CB – ‘Journey to Safety’

Wednesday 17th September, 3-6 PM, Body Orr Building Room 213

One of the other things we’ll be helping with is a very exciting workshop on the asylum seeker process organised by STAR over the course of a few hours on Wednesday afternoon 3-6 in the Boyd Orr Building (room 213). It’s a really good way to get a quick feel for the process; it’s be done in previous years and extremely well-received. STAR Glasgow and Crossing Borders will be taking people through the stages.

If you’d like to come along and take part I’m certain you’d find it a useful and positive experience. Or if you’d like to help out we could use folks to take people from one station to another (no prep work needed- script you can read from provided!) that would be really helpful. Let us know as mentioned above.

Activist Mixer/Social

Sunday 21st September, Curler’s Rest, 5 PM onwards

Thanks again to Kit of STAR, there is an activist mixer on Sunday 21st September in Curler’s Rest on Byres Road (by the subway). Invitations have gone out to a number of activist groups on campus, so there will be a mix of different groups doing good work. It’s a great opportunity to find out about what other societies are doing, and to network; we as a group tend to work with a number of familiar faces so it’s useful to meet these good folks. Come along for a bit if you’re passing and say hi.

(Provisional) Activism Talk

Thursday 18th September, Afternoon

Although this is provisional, we are hoping to do a talk on activism on the afternoon of 18th of September. We’re discussing with the SRC what we can do, it would be good to see some familiar faces in the crowd if it does go ahead. Keep an eye on the website, Facebook or Twitter for updates on time and venue.

First Meeting of 2014-15!

Tuesday 23rd September, 5PM, QMU

Fun! Excitement! Presentations!

We’ll be kicking off the academic year with our first meeting on Tuesday 23rd September in the QMU at 5PM. We’ll be giving an overview of what we do for new members, introducing the committee and giving information about upcoming campaigns, events- which includes the election of two ordinary board members. This is a committee position which gives even greater opportunity to be involved in the planning and direction of GU Amnesty.

First Social of 2014-15

Tuesday 23rd September, 7PM onwards, The Old Schoolhouse, Woodlands Avenue

Following on from our first meeting we will be having our first social. This will be held at The Old Schoolhouse in Woodlands Road after the first meeting (roughly 7PM). If you don’t know where it is, don’t worry, it’s close by and we’ll walk you there. It’s a really good way to get to know folks – invariably the members of GU Amnesty are great folk to hang out with as well as outstanding campaigners!

Other Upcoming Events and Info

We already have a number of exciting things planned for Freshers’ Week and our first campaign, but there are plenty of other things going on which you might be interested in.

GHRN Events and Bulletin Information

If you haven’t heard of it, you should check out the Glasgow Human Rights Network.

The Glasgow Human Rights Network aims to bring together researchers, practitioners,
members of civil society organisations and policymakers who address human rights issues.

Their events can be very informative for those looking to go a bit deeper into human rights issues, especially those that see themselves either working, pursuing further education or researching in the field.

The latest bulletin had too many events to list here, but if you are interested you can find details on how to subscribe to their website, linked above. If there’s any difficulties finding the details, please get in touch with us and we’ll help you out.

I Am Troy Davis Community Book Club

21st September-10th October 2014

On September 21, 2011, the State of Georgia put Troy Davis to death despite a compelling case of innocence. To mark the 3-year anniversary of this travest9thy of justice, and to deepen and widen the discourse about the human impact of the death penalty and criminal justice system, we invite you to participate in a worldwide Community Book Club between September 21 and October 10, World Day Against the Death Penalty. Through hundreds of intimate gatherings across the country and the world, Troy’s story will reach and impact thousands of new people.

The case of Troy Davis is one we’ve campaigned on in the past, and it continues to be a focal point in the case for the abolition of the death penalty. If you’re interested, please take the time to have a look at I Am Tro Davis and the Community Bookclub. The death penalty is a campaign we will return to in October. If you’re interested in more information or the book please contact our campaigns manager Alex or the good folks at I Am Troy Davis above.

Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival

1-19 October 2014

There’s a film being screened on 9th October, the UK premiere of Beneath the Blindfold telling the stories of four torture survivors. As a heads-up, we have a death penalty-related event putatively pencilled in for the same day, but details will follow and it may be of interest.

Get in Touch

There’s lots on in the coming week or two, and even more beyond but this newsletter has to end somewhere! There will be more coming next week, and every week after that. Well done for making it to the end this time. Your picture rewards are the two birds included above.

If you have any questions, suggestions or feedback you can always get in touch either via the website or on Facebook or Twitter.


  1. Photos taken in my back garden this week. 
Ruth

Amneslunch and Ceilidh Coming Up, Local Opportunities and Global Campaigns News

Why hello there,

Sorry for the delay, I was waiting for news and updates before sending this newsletter – and now we have news aplenty! Our events are at the top, and then there are some good looking opportunities and actions that we have been asked to share with you, followed by some wonderful human rights news and campaign successes sent out by AIUK at the beginning of this month. Happy reading!

May: Amneslunch!

We are planning to start our new lunch club on the 1st May, as a simple casual, drop-by and say ‘hi’ kind of thing. Join the event to let us know if you think you’ll make it along at some point and suggest things that we can do/talk about. Also, we haven’t confirmed all the dates so let us know when you would like us to be there.

Saturday 24th May: Ceilidh for Red Cross Tracing Service

STAR Glasgow, GU Amnesty, and GU Red Cross are hosting their annual ceilidh fundraiser at the end of exams this year! As well as the usual ceilidh dances, we’ll be having a whiskey toss (where you can win a bottle of whiskey!), and a raffle with prizes worth up to £40!

As usual, all funds raised on the night will be going to the Red Cross International Tracing Service – this service helps reunite families and loved ones who have been displaced by conflicts around the world. They do a lot of great work, and you can read more about it here:

http://www.redcross.org.uk/What-we-do/Finding-missing-family/International-family-tracing

Tickets are £3 if you buy them beforehand, or £4 on the door. Tickets can be bought from anyone in the STAR, Amnesty, or Red Cross groups.

Rights Referendum Campaign: Keeping Human Rights in the Debate

From Amnesty Scotland:

In the run up to Scotland’s Referendum on Independence, we have launched our Rights Referendum campaign calling for any future Scottish Government to respect and safeguard human rights at home and abroad, regardless of the outcome of the vote.

It would be fantastic if you could join the Rights Referendum campaign and mobilise students from around Scotland to take action by contacting local MSPs and Scottish MPs, asking your representatives to show their support for human rights. Here’s the link to our action on the Amnesty website:

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/scotland-scottish-independence-referendum-human-rights?from=issues

AHRI Human Rights Conference: Call for Submissions

From the Glasgow Human Rights Network at Glasgow University:

The Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI) calls for the submission of proposals for papers to be presented at the AHRI Human Rights Conference to be held in Copenhagen on 29-30 September 2014.

“Human Rights under Pressure: Exploring norms, institutions and policies”

Papers can be presented on any topic related to human rights and should be unpublished. Interdisciplinary projects and jointly authored papers are welcomed. Proposals for entire pa- nels (up to four papers) are equally welcome, indicating the title, abstract and author of each paper as well as proposed chairs and discussants.

Deadline for submission of abstracts and panel proposals is 1 May 2014. Submissions should be sent to ekni@humanrights.dk. All abstracts will be reviewed by the AHRI Programme Com- mittee and selections announced by 1 June 2014. Formal registration for the conference will be possible from 1 June.

This is only a snippet of the email that was sent. If you are interested, please reply to this email and I will forward you the rest of the information.

New NGO for Maternal and Children’s Rights

From the Glasgow Human Rights Network at Glasgow University:

A new NGO is being established, specialising in maternal and child rights, particularly for Reproductive Health Rights Education, initially in Malawi and Scotland, but not exclusively so.  The aims include reduced HIV, improved maternal health and reduced maternal mortality, through female empowerment.

If you are interested in finding out more and might be interested in supporting these objectives, please contact Gordon MacPherson at scunner1320@yahoo.co.uk.

Great News on our Amnesty Campaigns!

In recent weeks, we’ve had good news on a whole host of campaigns, from the release of Hakamada Iwao in Japan, to the UK ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty and the UN Human Rights Council voting for an inquiry into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, the UK has welcomed the first of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees to be granted sanctuary here – the direct result of all our campaigning as a global community.

Arms Trade Treaty

2nd April 2014 marked the one year anniversary of the UN vote and saw 18 governments, including the UK, jointly deposit their signed ratification papers at a special ceremony at the UN. That brings the total of ratifications up to 31, well over half way to the 50 we need.

There is now every likelihood that we will see the 50th ratification as early as this autumn, allowing the treaty enter into force well within two years of its adoption. For an international Treaty, that’s actually that’s pretty good going. Read more.

Syrian Refugees

After months of weak arguments and refusal to share responsibility for resettling some of the escalating numbers of Syrian refugees, the government has eventually done the right thing. The announcement comes after a combination of months of lobbying work from our refugee specialists and the incredible response and action taken by Amnesty supporters. Read more.

Hakamada Iwao – the longest-serving death row prisoner.

Hakamada is, for the first time in nearly half a century, experiencing life outside of a detention centre. He has serious mental health problems after his time on death row, having spent the previous 46 years awaiting execution every single day; Japan gives its prisoners no forewarning of their execution – many find out just minutes before they are hanged. We hope that soon Hakamada may experience justice that is nearly half a century overdue. Read more.

War crimes in Sri Lanka

On 27th March 2014, the UN Human Rights Council voted to establish an inquiry into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka, something we have all fought long and hard for. After a certain amount of wrangling with the rules and filibustering, the Resolution was passed with 23 states in favour, 12 against and 12 abstentions. Read more.

Jailed for posting on Facebook: Jabeur Mejri now freed in Tunisia

Jabeur was part of our 2013 Write for Rights campaign and nearly 12,000 of you signed our petition calling for his release. Thank you, your simple act has made a massive difference. Read more.

Jailed for supporting LGBTI teenagers: Elena Klimova now freed in Russia

In January this year, Elena Klimova was charged under Russia’s new anti-‘gay propaganda’ law for running Children 404, a website offering support to LGBTI teenagers. Read more.

Mozambique takes positive step towards outlawing rape in marriage

In March this year, the parliament of Mozambique was close to ratifying a Criminal Code that would permit rape within marriage. Not only would the proposed law allow impunity in existing abusive marriages, but if a rapist were to later wed an unmarried victim (including girls as young as 12 years old), the abuser would escape prosecution altogether. Thankfully, authorities in Mozambique have publicly stated they will not follow through with these proposals. Read more.

 

Whether you are having a good rest or cracking on with coursework and revision, I hope it’s all going splendidly.

Ruth

 

 

Rob Hallam

Washington State Governor Suspends Death Penalty

From USA Today:

“[Governor] Inslee’s moratorium means that if a death penalty case comes to his desk, he will issue a reprieve, which isn’t a pardon and doesn’t commute the sentences of those condemned to death.”

See Amnesty USA’s response, and tweet your support of this decision!

Rob Hallam

Photos from Death Penalty Stall and Bake Sale

Thanks to everyone who baked, came along and helped out and signed our petition!