News & views from Amnesty International

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

www.amnesty.org.uk     notes from Ian Ross

We are ordinary people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights.

GOOD NEWS

EL SALVADOR      Court rules Evelyn Hernández is innocent

Evelyn Hernández lost her baby after life-threatening health complications, in El Salvador. Inhumane abortion laws mean that she was charged with aggravated homicide and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The sentence was later overturned in 2018. But last month, the Salvadoran Public Prosecutor’s Office decided it will appeal the decision.

Thankfully we received news on 8 June 2020 that The Court responsible for hearing the appeal against Evelyn has now decided to uphold Evelyn’s innocence. The prosecutors do have a chance to appeal this but - for now - Evelyn is officially innocent.

Thanks to everyone who stood by Evelyn by emailing the El Salvador authorities. You have made an incredible difference to this woman's life.

Inhumane abortion laws

El Salvador has one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the world. Abortion is illegal in all circumstances and women are often criminalised for something they have no control over.

Evelyn is just one of at least 16 women in jail or facing charges for losing their baby during pregnancy. These harsh and arbitrary punishments need to stop.

BAD NEWS

QATER: Al Bayt Stadium, one of Qatar 2022’s ‘crown jewels’, expected to stage semi-final

Migrant workers employed on a construction project for a FIFA World Cup stadium in Qatar worked for up to seven months without pay, Amnesty International revealed.

Approximately 100 employees of Qatar Meta Coats (QMC), a design and construction company subcontracted for façade works on the £685m 60,000-seat Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor City, are still waiting to be paid their full salaries.

Amnesty interviewed current and former employees of QMC and reviewed court records and contracts to establish the full extent of the non-payment. Amnesty has also documented how QMC failed to renew employees’ residence permits, putting them at risk of detention and deportation. Most are currently waiting out Qatar’s COVID-19 lockdown in cramped accommodation in Doha, where QMC is providing their meals. 

After Amnesty raised the QMC case with the Qatari authorities, FIFA, and Qatar’s World Cup organising body the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, some employees began to receive part of what they were owed, but none have yet received all of their unpaid wages.

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice, said:

“This case is the latest damning illustration of how easy it still is to exploit workers in Qatar, even when they are building one of the crown jewels of the World Cup.

“Although recent payments will provide some welcome relief for workers, Qatar’s World Cup organisers told us they had known about the salary delays since July 2019. This raises the question of why Qatar allowed workers to continue working for months without pay. 

“For years we have been urging Qatar to reform the system, but clearly change has not come fast enough. It shouldn’t take an Amnesty investigation for workers to be paid what they are owed.

“If, over the past ten years, FIFA had held its World Cup partners to account, and used its clout to push Qatar to fully reform its systems, we wouldn’t be hearing the same tales of workers’ suffering with only two-and-a-half years until kick-off.”

REFUGEE WEEK

Dear Ian,

This week is Refugee Week. But I still do not have my refugee status.
I was imprisoned and tortured back home because I am a gay woman. I fled the country to save my life. I arrived in the UK hoping to be safe and to recover from my trauma.

For this to become a reality, I had to make my claim at the Home Office. 
But the interview process was completely traumatising. It went on for five hours, and felt like an interrogation. It was horrible.
It was exhausting, like coming out of a terrible headache. I didn’t expect that I would stay so long. I didn’t have any breakfast so I went the whole day without eating and drinking.
After all this, they told me: “We don’t believe you.” I received a refusal.  
Do you believe me?

You can read my story and more in Freedom from Torture’s new Beyond Belief report.
Those simple words – “I believe you” – will show me that I am not alone. That means a lot.
I’m working through my trauma now with Freedom from Torture. But I can’t yet afford to think about my future, because I’m still fighting my case in a system that discriminates against people like me. All I’m asking is to be believed.
This Refugee Week, we have to imagine a better future for torture survivors in this country. We can build a better future for refugees. We can treat people seeking sanctuary fairly. We can listen - and believe their stories.

Yours kindly, Hazelle

PS Read the stories of the people who are being failed by the asylum system at freedomfromtorture.org/BeyondBelief


Further Thoughts from Graham

This article from Amnesty International caught my eye and I did some research and was horrified to see the hardship and stress that this lady has been put under. She was raped in 2015, when she was a 17-year-old college student. She did not know that she was pregnant and was afraid to report the rape. In April 2016 she suffered a stillbirth and three days later was remanded in custody charged with abortion. She was released more than three years later, when she was acquitted on Monday 19 August 2019, after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict. But the public prosecutor appealed and she had to go back to court before her innocence was upheld on 8 June 2020, over four years after she was arrested.

Salvador’s anti abortion laws are fiercely upheld and poor single rural-dwellers are particularly vulnerable and often convicted on tenuous evidence. I do not approve of abortion but this is taking things to an unacceptable extreme. So thank you Ian for bringing it to our attention.

When I was studying theology, I wrote an essay on abortion for the Ethics course and I made reference to the number of abortions. To bring this up to date, it is sad that in England and Wales, in 2019, there were 209,519 abortions. Abortions have to be approved by 2 doctors and are granted under specified grounds which include risk of life or grave permanent injury of the woman, affects on other children in the household, foetus with abnormalities. However at 98%, Ground C is by far the largest category and is granted when there is risk “of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.” This can be interpreted in a variety of ways, but lays the way open for almost any abortion when a woman does not want a child.

To decide to abort your child is not an easy decision and can have lasting effects on the mental well being of a woman, which in some cases reaches other generations. Dr Kenneth McAll wrote about this in his book “A Guide to Healing the Family Tree” - do ask me if you wish to know more about this.

It is a sad reflection of our society that the number of Abortions is so high. I pray and pray that there will be a shift in which sex is honoured and kept within marriage, that those who choose not to do this will use contraceptives particularly men who can walk away from pregnant women, that women will have the power to say no to unprotected sex, and will choose this, that there will be firm teaching on biblical principles and social benefits of monogamous relationships within a stable family, that there will be support for those women particularly in their early 20s and in lower socioeconomic groups who have higher abortion rates within the population. I pray that the number of abortions across the world will decrease - we are killing a human being, a person made in God’s image, being formed by God in the womb and that is not good. Finally I pray for the ceasing of the aggressive criminal persecution of Salvadoran women who suffer obstetric complications. Will you join me in this praying?

If this article has disturbed you and you would like to talk with someone do call me or Emma or someone else in our church community.

Blessings

Graham

The Rectory, Plealey Lane, Longden, Shrewsbury, SY5 8ET, 01743 861003