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Supreme Court quashes employment tribunal fees

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 13:26:08 +0000

The Supreme Court has today quashed the government’s system of fees for employment tribunals.

The Supreme Court has today (26 July 2017) quashed the government’s system of fees for employment tribunals.

The case was taken by the UNISON trade union, which successfully argued that the fees prevented many workers from gaining justice at work.

In England, Scotland and Wales, a worker wanting to pursue a case against their employer had to find up to £1,200 in fees. This has been a huge expense for many low-paid employees, says UNISON.

The charges were introduced in 2013 by the then Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling. Today's ruling also requires the government to refund more than £27 million to thousands of people charged for taking claims to tribunals since that date.The most common reasons for employment tribunal cases include unfair dismissal, holiday pay, and sex discrimination.

The decision marks the end of a four-year fight by UNISON to overturn the government’s introduction of fees.

UNISON assistant General Secretary Bronwyn McKenna said: “The Supreme Court correctly criticised the government’s failure when it set the fees to consider the public benefits flowing from the enforcement of legal rights enacted by Parliament.  

 “The effective enforcement of these rights is fundamental to parliamentary democracy and integral to the development of UK law. UNISON’s case has helped clarify the law and gives certainty to citizens and businesses in their everyday lives.”

The TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “This is a massive win for working people. Congratulations to UNISON for doggedly pursuing this case. Today’s result shows the value of working people standing together in trade unions.

“Too many low-paid workers couldn’t afford to uphold their rights at work, even when they’ve faced harassment or have been sacked unfairly.

“Tribunal fees have been a bonanza for bad bosses, giving them free rein to mistreat staff. Any fees paid so far should be refunded as soon as possible.”

Official statistics show that the number of cases taken by workers has dropped by nearly 70 per cent since the fees were introduced. TUC research shows that this fall was especially high in cases involving part-time workers ( down by 83 per cent), sexual orientation discrimination (75 per cent), and unauthorised deductions from wages (78 per cent).

While trade unions often pay the fees for their members, the figures indicate that many workers simply cannot afford to take a case.

* Read the Supreme Court Judgment here

[Ekk/4]




Israeli authorities must stop 'routine abuse' of journalists

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 09:38:47 +0000

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate recorded at least 15 incidents of journalists being attacked, abused or prevented from reporting by Israeli security forces while attempting to cover the Al-Aqsa Mosque protests over the weekend.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) recorded at least 15 incidents of journalists being attacked, abused or prevented from reporting by Israeli security forces while attempting to cover the Al-Aqsa Mosque protests over the weekend. (22-23 July 2017)

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has joined its affiliate, PJS, in condemning these abuses and is calling on the Israeli authorities to let journalists work freely and safely.  

Israeli, Palestinian and foreign journalists have been forcibly removed from areas around old Jerusalem whilst attempting to cover the Al-Aqsa Mosque protests over the past few days. 

Thousands of protesters converged around the Al-Aqsa mosque in mass prayer protests on Friday 21 July against the installation of metal detectors and security cameras at the the entrance to the holy site last week. The security measures were removed on 24 July. 

More than 450 protesters have been injured in clashes with Israeli security forces whilst numerous journalists were forcibly removed from areas of Old Jerusalem and barred from entering and reporting on the mosque site. 

In a statement released on Sunday July 23, the Foreign Press Association of Israel condemned the treatment of journalists by Israeli police:

"Not only have journalists been banned from access, they have been pushed and shoved into areas where their safety is at risk, and where they bear the brunt of the Israeli security response to rioting crowds including teargas, stun grenades and beatings resulting in several serious injuries."

Sky News Arabia chief editor, Omar Al-Issawi, said:"We’re not strangers to this kind of treatment as journalists, but it’s unacceptable”

Phillipe Leruth, IFJ president, said: "The IFJ has repeatedly criticised the Israeli government for their mistreatment of journalists including the disrespect of journalists’ rights to travel and report safely and without hindrance.

"The IFJ calls on the Israeli government to adhere to international conventions and treaties and cease its routine abuse and harassment of journalists."

* International Federation of Journalists http://www.ifj.org/

[Ekk/4]




Methodist Council gains living wage accreditation

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 09:14:21 +0000

The Methodist Council, the governing body of the Methodist Church, has been accredited as a living wage employer by the Living Wage Foundation.

The Methodist Council, the governing body of the Methodist Church, has been accredited as a living wage employer by the Living Wage Foundation.

The council has committed to paying all of its 220 staff, whether they are permanent employees or third-party contractors, at least the voluntary living wage rate.

The living wage is an independently set hourly rate of pay that is calculated according to the basic cost of living. It is paid by employers on a voluntary basis, and is updated annually. The current living wage for employees working across the UK is £8.45 an hour. The higher London living wage rate of £9.75 an hour is reflective of the increased living costs of being based in the capital.

The voluntary living wage is separate from the statutory national living wage, which is paid to employees aged 25 and over. The national living wage rate is currently set at £7.50 an hour.

Nick Moore, head of support services at the Methodist Church, said: "Social justice is part of the Methodist tradition. We believe in 'a fair day's pay for a fair day's work'. Working hard full-time should earn a person enough to live free of poverty.

"Today in the UK there is a legal minimum wage, but despite this, over a third of children in poverty live in households where adults are in full-time paid work. This is why The Methodist Council has chosen to become a living wage accredited employer. As the living wage is independently calculated each year based on what employees and their families need to live, we want to make sure all of our employees are paid at this rate as a minimum."

* The Methodist Church in Britain http://www.methodist.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




Fourteen men are at imminent risk of beheading in Saudi Arabia

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 07:53:44 +0000

Fourteen men face execution after a mass trial which Amnesty International says was "grossly unfair". The Saudi Arabian Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the death sentences of 14 men after a grossly unfair mass trial is a worrying reminder of the country’s lethal crackdown on dissent, says Amnesty International. The men, who were found guilty of protest-related crimes, now face imminent execution. Samah Hadid, director of campaigns for the Middle-East at Amnesty international, said“By confirming these sentences, Saudi Arabia’s authorities have displayed their ruthless commitment to the use of the death penalty as a weapon to crush dissent and neutralise political opponents. “King Salman’s signature is now all that stands between them and their execution. He must immediately quash these death sentences which are a result of sham court proceedings that brazenly flout international fair trial standards." At least 66 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia since the start of 2017, including 26 in the past three weeks alone – more than one execution per day. Hussein al-Rabi’, Abdullah al-Tureif, Hussein al-Mosallem, Mohamed al-Naser, Mustafa al-Darwish, Fadel Labbad, Sa’id al-Sakafi, Salman al-Qureish, Mujtaba al-Suweyket, Munir al-Adam, Abdullah al-Asreeh, Ahmad al-Darwish, Abdulaziz al-Sahwi and Ahmad al-Rab’i were transferred from Dammam in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province to the capital, Riyadh, on 15 July 2017 without prior notice. Now that their sentences have been upheld by the Supreme Court, the 14 men are at risk of execution as soon as the King ratifies their sentences. Due to the secrecy surrounding the Saudi Arabia judicial process, the families are given very little information, if any, about the current state of the case and usually not told about the scheduled execution of their relatives. Families of the 14 men learned that the death sentences were upheld on Monday (24 July) after contacting the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) and they fear that the executions will take place imminently. The 14 men were initially sentenced to death on 1 June 2016 by the SCC in Riyadh, following a grossly unfair mass trial. They were convicted of a range of charges that included "armed rebellion against the ruler" by, among other things “participating in shooting at security personnel, security vehicles”, “preparing and using Molotov Cocktail bombs”, “theft and armed robbry” and “inciting chaos, organising and participating in riots”. Court documents show that the 14 men told the court they were subjected to prolonged pre-trial detention and had been tortured and otherwise ill-treated during their interrogation to extract their 'confessions', however the judge failed to order investigations into their allegations. The SCC appears to have largely based its decision on these forced 'confessions'. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/24154) Amnesty International has recorded a worrying increase in death sentences against political dissidents in Saudi Arabia since 2013, including the Shia Muslim minority. Amnesty International also learned on 23 July that the SCC court of appeal has upheld the death sentences of 15 men accused of spying for Iran, and the case was transferred to the Supreme Court on 20 July. The men were initially sentenced to death on 6 December 2016.  Amnesty International has documented the cases of at least 34 members of Saudi Arabia’s Shia community – making up 10 to 15 per cent of the population – who are currently facing the death penalty. All were accused of activities deemed a risk to national security. * Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org.uk/ [Ekk/6] [...]



UN agency calls on Australia to end offshore refugee processing

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 08:42:43 +0000

Four years on, Australia's offshore processing has left some 2,000 people languishing in unacceptable circumstances – causing physical and psychological harm, according to the United Nations refugee agency, which yesterday called for an immediate end to the practice. Four years on, Australia's offshore processing has left some 2,000 people languishing in unacceptable circumstances – causing physical and psychological harm, according to the United Nations refugee agency, which yesterday (24 July 2017) called for an immediate end to the practice. “Australia's policy of offshore processing in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, which denies access to asylum in Australia for refugees arriving by sea without a valid visa, has caused extensive, avoidable suffering for far too long,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement. In light of the dire humanitarian situation that includes separating families, last November the High Commissioner's Office, UNHCR, exceptionally agreed to help relocate refugees to the United States following a bilateral agreement between that country and Australia. “We agreed to do so on the clear understanding that vulnerable refugees with close family ties in Australia would ultimately be allowed to settle there”, Mr Grandi explained. However, Australia recently informed UNHCR that it refuses to accept the refugees, and that they, along with those on Nauru and Papua New Guinea, were told that their only option is to remain where they are or be transferred to Cambodia or the US. This new information bars people from receiving the support of family residing in Australia – including for those who have undergone traumatic experiences, counting sexual violence, and those with serious medical conditions. “To avoid prolonging their ordeal, UNHCR has no other choice but to endorse the relocation of all refugees on Papua New Guinea and Nauru to the United States, even those with close family members in Australia,” said Mr. Grandi. “There is no doubt these vulnerable people, already subject to four years of punishing conditions, should be reunited with their families in Australia. This is the humane and reasonable thing to do”, he added. The High Commissions reminded the Australian Government that its decision to deny these people the possibility is “contrary to the fundamental principles of family unity and refugee protection, and to common decency.” Underscoring that UNHCR fully endorses the need to save lives at sea and provide alternatives to dangerous journeys and exploitation by smugglers, Mr. Grandi underscored that the practice of offshore processing has had a hugely detrimental impact. “There is a fundamental contradiction in saving people at sea, only to mistreat and neglect them on land,” maintained the UN refugee agency chief. “Australia has a proud humanitarian tradition, manifested in its support for overseas aid and its longstanding refugee resettlement programme. I urge Australia to bring an immediate end to the harmful practice of offshore processing, offer solutions to its victims, for whom it retains full responsibility, and work with us on future alternatives that save lives at sea and provide protection to people in need,” stressed Mr. Grandi. He concluded by pointing out that at a time of record global levels of displacement, “it is crucial that all States offer protection to survivors of war and persecution, and not outsource their responsibilities to others. Refugees, our fellow human beings, deserve as much.” * United Nations http://www.un.org/en/index.html [Ekk/4] [...]



The Howard League responds to Bristol Prison report

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 08:33:46 +0000

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Bristol prison, published today. The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Bristol prison, published today ( 25 July 2017). Inspectors visited Bristol prison in March and found that standards had fallen from an already low base to the point where it was fundamentally unsafe for staff and prisoners. The prison was understaffed and, although it was designated to accommodate only 424 men, it was actually holding 543. Seven men had died by suicide since the last inspection in 2014, including five in the last 12 months alone. Incidents of self-injury had rocketed – there were 230 incidents in the six months prior to this inspection, compared with 58 during the corresponding period before the last one. Violence was rife, with much of it related to drugs and debt, although it had slightly reduced in recent months. One in three men surveyed by inspectors said that they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection – double the number when Bristol was last inspected, and far higher than at similar prisons. Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said, “With its warnings about suicide, violence, drug-taking and filth, today’s report on Bristol – a prison that has faced significant problems for many years – ought to be a shocking anomaly. “In truth, however, we have seen dozens of such reports as the dangerously overcrowded prison system has descended into deadly chaos. Prisons are out of control, and each week brings yet another instalment in a seemingly never-ending story of wasted potential and human misery.Prisoners should not be held, and dedicated staff should not have to work, in such degrading and harmful conditions. “On the day of the Queen’s Speech, the new Secretary of State for Justice sought to assure us that the government would respond positively to criticism from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons. Now, I expect to see action. “The government must take bold but sensible steps to reduce the prison population. This would save lives and help to prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime, violence and despair.” One in seven men had developed a drug problem while at the prison. More than half said that it was easy to get drugs, and the extraordinarily high rate of positive drug tests – 30 per cent – indicated that they were right. A lack of staff meant that men were spending longer locked in their cells with nothing to do. The importance of education, training and work was not given enough priority across the prison and few prisoners attended. Staff shortages also affected work to prepare prisoners for release. One in three men was released to homelessness or temporary accommodation. The prison was dirty and infested with cockroaches. One man told the Chief Inspector that at night he did not use his toilet because he was fed up with inadvertently crunching the insects under his bare feet in the dark. Instead, he used the sink, which was closer to his bed. The findings come a week after the Chief Inspector published his annual report, which concluded that the state was failing in its duty to people in prison. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/24159) Disturbances in two other prisons – Hewell and Aylesbury – were reported over the weekend. * The Howard League for Penal Reform http://howardleague.org/   [Ekk/6] [...]



100 families a day lose homes after evictions reach record high

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 08:27:38 +0000

More than 100 families a day lost their homes last year, according to new figures, after the number of renters evicted from their properties reached a record high. More than 100 families a day lost their homes last year, according to new figures, after the number of renters evicted from their properties reached a record high. The figures come in a new report Poverty, evictions and forced moves, which highlights the misery and insecurity faced by renters struggling on low incomes Over 40,000 tenants were evicted from their homes by landlords in 2015 – an increase of a third since 2003 and the highest level recorded, according to the latest available figures in research for the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). The increasing eviction rates are linked to the overall growth of the private rentedsector and cuts to Housing Benefit, the report by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research found. The rise is being driven by high numbers of 'no-fault' evictions by private landlords. More than four in five of the increase in evictions are carried out under Section 21 - a law which allows landlords to evict a tenant after the initial rental period without giving a reason, and without any wrongdoing on behalf of the tenant. Poverty, evictions and forced moves also carried out 145 in-depth interviews with with tenants on low incomes supported by Shelter and facing eviction, showing the stress and disruption caused to people's lives from insecure housing. The report found: Changes in welfare benefits have combined to make rents unaffordable to benefit claimants in many areas. Housing Benefit no longer covers the cost of renting, with average shortfalls ranging from £22 to £70 per month outside of London, and between £124 and £1036 in inner London. This follows the cumulative impact of freezing Local Housing Allowance rates and below-inflation increases over the last six year: As a result, tenants on low incomes are being evicted because their benefits do not pay market rents, and they are unable to afford alternative homes in the private rented sector, or access social housing. Four out of every five repossessions using S21 are in London, the East and the South East, and nearly two-thirds are in London alone. Even within London, repossessions using S21 are highly concentrated, with a third occurring in only five boroughs: Newham, Enfield, Haringey, Brent and Croydon. Of the 40,000 evictions, there were 19,019 repossessions in the social housing sector, and 22,150 in the private rented sector. The number of tenants evicted by private landlords exceeded the number evicted by social landlords for the first time in 2014. Unlike the PRS, tenants in the social housing sector can usually only be evicted for rent arrears or a breach of tenancy. Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of JRF, said: "These stark figures and harrowing stories show the struggle people on low incomes face in the private rented sector. Facing higher rents, a benefits freeze and impossible choices about what bills to pay, evictions have reached record levels and put families under enormous strain. "Tenants told us about the misery and insecurity they face. The Government has made welcome moves to offer renters more protection. But it is intolerable that over 100 families a day are losing their homes. The Government must act now and take immediate action on housing costs. This means lifting the freeze on Housing Benefit." Anne Baxendale, director of campaigns and policy at Shelter, said: "We are deeply concerned that the current freeze on Housing Benefit is piling a huge amount of pressure onto thousands of private renters who are already teetering on the brink of homelessness. "For those hit by the freeze, Housing Benefit is falling far short of the gap between the cost of sky-high [...]



Church of England shift towards accepting LGBTI people

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 20:55:03 +0000

Church of England shift towards accepting LGBTI people

read more




Brazilian President denies indigenous people's land rights

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 10:59:13 +0000

Brazilian President Michel Temer has accepted a controversial legal opinion which denies indigenous people the right to their land.

The Brazilian President Michel Temer has accepted a controversial legal opinion which denies indigenous people the right to their land, and made it official policy. The opinion states that indigenous peoples do not have the right to their land if they were not occupying it when the current constitution came into effect in October 1988.

The opinion contradicts the constitution, which clearly states that indigenous peoples have the right to exclusively occupy and use the lands which they have inhabited since long before European colonization of the country. Brazil’s federal prosecutor’s office and eminent jurists say that this is only an opinion, and has no legal status as well as being unconstitutional.

Joenia Wapixana, Brazil’s first female indigenous lawyer said, “Our original rights are imprescriptible, so the time frame is unconstitutional.”

Luiz Henrique Eloy, a Terena Indian lawyer working at APIB, the Network of Indigenous NGOs in Brazil said, “Using this time frame is totally anti-constitutional; the constitution recognizes indigenous rights as original rights which precede any other. This [opinion] is the position of some ministers, it’s not consolidated.”

Congress is due to vote next month on whether to approve charges of corruption against President Temer. In the lead up to this vote, analysts report that the President is trying to consolidate his support among legislators, many of whom are linked to or represent Brazil’s powerful agri-business sector which is vehemently anti-Indian.

Many in the agri-business sector, particularly in the south and central states, are occupying and profiting from indigenous territories after the indigenous owners were evicted decades ago. Campaigners fear that President Temer is prepared to seriously undermine indigenous rights for the sake of shoring up his own support.

Deputy Luis Carlos Heinze, a prominent member of the Chamber of Deputies’ Agriculture Commission, who was consulted about the opinion before it was made public said: “[Now, with this opinion], more than 90% of the [more than 700] cases [of demarcation of indigenous territories in progress] in Brazil are illegal and will be shelved."

Indigenous organizations and NGOs in Brazil have condemned the opinion and called for the public prosecutors’ office to suspend it.

* Survival International http://www.survivalinternational.org/

[Ekk/6]




Brazilian President denies land rights of indigenous people

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 07:18:55 +0000

The Brazilian President, Michel Temer, has accepted a controversial legal opinion which denies indigenous people the right to their land and made it official policy.

The Brazilian President, Michel Temer, has accepted a controversial legal opinion which denies indigenous people the right to their land, and made it official policy.

The opinion states that indigenous peoples do not have the right to their land if they were not occupying it when the current constitution came into effect in October 1988.

The opinion contradicts the constitution, which clearly states that indigenous peoples have the right to exclusively occupy and use the lands which they have inhabited since long before European colonization of the country.

Brazil’s federal prosecutor’s office and eminent jurists say that this is only an opinion, and has no legal status as well as being unconstitutional. Joenia Wapixana, Brazil’s first female indigenous lawyer said: “Our original rights are imprescriptible, so the time frame is unconstitutional.”

Luiz Henrique Eloy, a Terena Indian lawyer working at APIB, the Network of Indigenous NGOs in Brazil said: “Using this time frame is totally anti-constitutional; the constitution recognises indigenous rights as original rights which precede any other. This [opinion] is the position of some ministers, it’s not consolidated.”

Congress is due to vote next month on whether to approve charges of corruption against President Temer. In the lead up to this vote, analysts report that the President is trying to consolidate his support among legislators, many of whom are linked to or represent Brazil’s powerful agri-business sector which is vehemently anti-Indian.

Many in the agri-business sector, particularly in the south and central states, are occupying and profiting from indigenous territories after the indigenous owners were evicted decades ago.

Campaigners fear that President Temer is prepared to seriously undermine indigenous rights for the sake of shoring up his own support.

Deputy Luis Carlos Heinze, a prominent member of the Chamber of Deputies’ Agriculture Commission, who was consulted about the opinion before it was made public said: “[Now, with this opinion], more than 90 per cent of the [more than 700] cases [of demarcation of indigenous territories in progress] in Brazil are illegal and will be shelved."

Survival International, the global movement for the rights of tribal people, gave him its Racist of the Year Award for offensive remarks about indigenous peoples.

Indigenous organisations and NGOs in Brazil have published a strongly worded press release condemning the opinion and calling for the public prosecutors’ office to suspend it.

Survival International has been campaigning alongside indigenous peoples and NGOs in Brazil against the undermining of indigenous rights, and says it "condemns this illegal action against Brazil’s first peoples."

* Survival International http://www.survivalinternational.org/

[Ekk/4]




Increase in apprentices paid below the minimum wage

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 07:05:29 +0000

The TUC has reacted with disappointment to new figures from the Apprenticeship Pay Survey 2016, which show an increase in the proportion of apprentices who are not paid the full minimum wage due to them.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has reacted with disappointment to new figures from the Apprenticeship Pay Survey 2016, which show an increase in the proportion of apprentices who are not paid the full minimum wage due to them.

The survey reveals that 18 per cent of apprentices were paid less than the minimum wage rate they were entitled to in 2016, up from 15 per cent in 2014.

The top five offending sectors have all seen increases in non-compliance:

  • Hairdressing: 46 per cent paid below NMW in 2016, up from 42 per cent in 2014
  • Childcare: 27 per cent paid below NMW in 2016, up from 26 per cent in 2014
  • Construction: 25 per cent paid below NMW in 2016, up from 21 per cent in 2014
  • Electrotechnical: 23 per cent paid below NMW in 2016, up from 17 per cent in 2014
  • Health, social care and sport: 17 per cent paid below NMW in 2016, up from 12 per cent in 2014

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It is shocking that so many apprentices are being cheated out of the pay they have earned. Bosses in hairdressing and childcare are the worst offenders – meaning that thousands of young women are being denied their legal rights.

“Workers at the start of their working life are entitled to be paid the national minimum wage. Ministers must urgently find the employers responsible for breaking the law, name them publicly and prosecute them.”

* Read the Apprenticeship Pay Survey 2016 here

* TUC https://www.tuc.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




Quakers to consider faith and politics at Yearly Meeting Gathering

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 06:52:49 +0000

In these days of political turmoil Quakers in Britain are inviting politicians to their Yearly Meeting Gathering to say how faith and politics can change the world. In these days of political turmoil Quakers in Britain are inviting politicians to their Yearly Meeting Gathering to say how faith and politics can change the world. Catherine West and Molly Scott Cato are both Quakers who speak about their faith influencing their decisions. Labour MP Catherine West retained her seat in Hornsey and Wood Green in the election in May. As a Quaker, she is committed to tackling rampant inequality as one of the most pressing challenges today. She will give the 110th Swarthmore Lecture, on Monday, 31 July 2017 The lecture is part of Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre's learning programme. She says, “If we cannot change what is happening on our street, why should anyone believe we can change the world? Politics starts with the local." Molly Scott Cato is Green Party MEP for South West England and Gibraltar. She will give the Salter Lecture, under the auspices of the Quaker Socialist Society. This is another event traditionally associated with Yearly Meeting. She will speak about balancing reason, intuition and conscience in relation to the EU referendum and the war in Iraq and her work in the European Parliament. The Yearly Meeting Gathering is the high-point of the Quaker year. Around 1500 Quakers will meet for a week of work and worship. They will focus on movement building and living out Quaker faith in the world. A parallel programme runs for young people, from babies to teenagers. Deborah Rowlands, clerk to Yearly Meeting Gathering says: “Yearly Meeting Gathering is about using Quaker process to recognise and test what love and truth require of us, as individuals and as a community of Quakers in Britain. Living, working and worshipping together for a week, we will be looking at how we work with others, to build a better world." The programme will help Quakers work out how to hold together their quiet contemplative practice and active engagement in the world. Quakers from Central and Southern Africa, Rwanda and Bolivia will talk about Quaker work in their regions. Another session will be addressed by George Lakey, an American Quaker and long- term activist for social change. He is involved with activist groups at all levels, including Earth Quaker Action Team, a US group working for a just and sustainable economy. He is Professor in Peace and Conflict Studies at the Quaker-run Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania . Interfaith guests will share their insights. They include Bernard Longley, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, Mehru Fitter, a Zoroastrian and former director of Coventry Interfaith Forum and Jatinder Birdi, chair of the Warwick District Faiths Forum and co-chair of the Interfaith Network. * Listen to The Swarthmore Lecture here  The talk will be streamed live at 7pm on Monday 31 July, and available to listen again shortly afterwards. *Follow Yearly Meeting Gathering online here   and on Facebook Follow the event on @ymevent_britain and #YMG2017 Follow @mediaquaker and @britishquakers * Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change. *Quakers in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/ [Ekk/4] [...]



MI6 rendition trial to be heard in secret

Sat, 22 Jul 2017 07:15:35 +0000

The High Court decided yesterday that the trial involving the rendition and torture of a leading Gaddafi opponent and his pregnant wife should be conducted in secret.

The High Court decided yesterday (21 July 2017) that the trial involving the rendition and torture of a leading Gaddafi opponent and his pregnant wife should be conducted in secret.

Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar opposed the Government’s request for a secret trial under section 6 of the Justice and Security Act on the basis that extensive evidence of the CIA torture programme—and of their abduction—has been in the public domain for years. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/24128)

Many key facts in the case and of the CIA rendition programme in general are officially confirmed. These include: the CIA’s use of specific torture techniques on its prisoners; its use of a black site in Thailand; and its use of the specific rendition jet (N313P) CIA to ‘render’ Mr Belhaj and his pregnant wife to Gaddafi’s Libya.  The Metropolitan Police confirmed that MI6’s Sir Mark Allen was the suspect investigated for his role in the renditions and recommended criminal charges.

The High Court found that none of this official evidence required an ordinary, fair public trial. The Court held that an open trial “would cause significant damage to the interests of national security […] irrespective of the current sensitivity of the intelligence itself.”

The Court also expressed doubt that it would be necessary for the victims to know the Government’s case. The Court said it was “very unlikely that [secret] material could be put into open or made available to the Claimants or their legal representatives in a way which would better promote a fair and effective trial than a closed material procedure.“

Cori Crider, counsel for the Belhaj family at the human rights organisation Reprieve, said: “We’re disappointed that there has been no effort by the government to engage with extensive evidence that has been in the public domain for years. We will ask the Court to revisit at the end of the secret disclosure process. ”

Mr Belhaj said: “I went through a secret trial once before, in Gaddafi’s Libya. It took about a half hour, and I never saw any of the evidence against me. Later a guard came to my cell and tossed in a red jumpsuit—that was how I found out that the secret court had sentenced me to die. Fatima and I have stuck with this case for all these years because we believe the British system, unlike Gaddafi’s, can deliver justice. But what kind of a trial will it be if we put in a mountain of evidence and government officials can simply refuse to answer us? It’s hard to see how this fits with Britain’s long tradition of open justice.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




Maldives urged to halt first execution in more than 60 years

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 06:45:50 +0000

The Maldives authorities must immediately halt its first execution planned in more than 60 years and preserve its positive death penalty record, Amnesty International said yesterday. The Maldives authorities must immediately halt its first execution planned in more than 60 years and preserve its positive death penalty record, Amnesty International said yesterday (20 July 2017). Amnesty has learned that three men, whose death sentences were made final by the Supreme Court in 2016, are now at risk of imminent execution as reports emerged that the authorities have been preparing to implement death sentences. Officially, the number and names of the prisoners involved have not been disclosed. David Griffiths, Amnesty International's Senior Advisor on South Asia, said: "The Maldives authorities must immediately halt plans to carry out any executions and establish an official moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty as a first step towards its full abolition. By sending these men to the gallows, the country will do irreparable damage to its reputation. "The country was a leader in the region with an enviable record of shunning this cruel and irreversible punishment at a time when many other countries persisted with it. Now, when most of the world has abolished the death penalty, it is heading in the wrong direction by reviving its use." Amnesty has been raising serious concerns about the fairness of the proceedings that led to the imposition of the death penalty in the country. In the case of one of the three men at more imminent risk, Hussain Humaam Ahmed, Amnesty and other human rights organisations have raised serious concerns about the use of evidence at a pre-trial 'confession' that he retracted as coerced and which led to his conviction and death sentence for murder in 2012. Ahmed Murrath was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2012, and Mohamed Nabeel was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2009. The Supreme Court upheld both men's death sentences in July 2016. The three men have exhausted all domestic legal avenues. They have not been allowed to apply for pardon or the commutation of their death sentences. Amnesty International is absolutely opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances, regardless of the crime or the method of execution. Last year, the UN Human Rights Committee issued a binding order to stay the execution of one of the individuals, pending the consideration of an appeal filed on the prisoner's behalf. David Griffiths said: "When lives are at stake, it is all the more critical that safeguards of due process are strictly observed. It is also concerning that under international law, the Maldives must ensure that death row prisoners and their families are given reasonable advance notice. But in this case, they have even been denied the dignity that is their right." In 2014, the Maldives Government, under President Abdulla Yameen, announced that executions would resume after more than 60 years without the death penalty being implemented. The authorities have since amended legislation, clearing the way for executions to take place, including removing the power from the executive to grant pardons or commutations in intentional murder cases, a breach of their rights under international human rights law. There are 20 people currently on death row, including at least five who were convicted and sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were less than 18 years old. Under international human rights law, it is unlawful to execute juveniles for any crime whatsoever. As of today, 141 countries have abolished the death penalty[...]



Parents face £2.7bn childcare bill this summer, says New Economics Foundation

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 06:26:34 +0000

As schools break-up for six weeks of summer holidays, parents are faced with the impossible task of juggling work, childcare and all its associated costs. Fresh research by the New Economics Foundation reveals the scale of the challenge parents face this summer.

As schools break-up for six weeks of summer holidays, parents are faced with the impossible task of juggling work, childcare and all its associated costs. Fresh research by the New Economics Foundation reveals the scale of the challenge parents face this summer.

According to the think-tank, parents in England are facing a £2.75 billion childcare bill for the summer holidays,  based on the 4.7 million primary school-aged children in England costing £122.00 per week to be looked after.

Parents are faced with a choice between stumping up for childcare or taking a hit in lost wages or lost annual leave, with a knock-on effect on the wider economy.

Lucie Stephens, Head of Co-Production at the New Economics Foundation, said: “This summer and every summer, parents face an impossible choice. Do they take a big financial hit to pay for childcare that doesn’t meet their, or their children’s needs, or are they forced to take time off work? This research reveals the full scale of that challenge.

"Parents shouldn’t have to feel so helpless every summer. We need more affordable and better-quality care for our children, not just glorified babysitting. Parents should be able to work over the summer without taking an enormous financial hit or worrying about the quality of the care their children are receiving – if there is care available at all.

"That’s why we need to support new and better ways of doing childcare. When parents have real control over the design and delivery of the care their children receive, it becomes more affordable and more suitable for their needs.

"Childcare doesn’t currently suit the lives of many families. Parents often want to play an active role in their children’s care but are prevented from doing so by the failures of the system. So let’s give parents real control over childcare and watch the benefits accrue.

"At the New Economics Foundation we are working with parent-led co-operative models of childcare like Childspace in Brockwell or Grasshoppers in the Park in Hackney, which combine decent pay and conditions for staff with real control and affordability for parents who contribute time and skills towards the delivery and management of the nursery.”

Forty-seven per cent of parents believe that in recent years it has become financially more difficult to raise a family. Many parents are now both working full-time in order to cover childcare and other associated costs.Of those using formal childcare, 32 per cent of parents were happy with the amount they used. 29 per cent said they would like to use less and spend more time with their children (a third of mothers and a quarter of fathers), and 17 per cent said they would like to use more but could not afford to.

* New Economics Foundation http://neweconomics.org/

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